Rolleiflex SL35 -- Rollei TLR Quality in a 35mm Camera

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ic-racer

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For years I have wanted a German construction SL35. I have plenty of the Singapore and German Electronic Rolleiflex cameras but no mechanical German 35mm Rolleiflex.
What I was hoping to find was something nice to hold in the hand, with precision controls and a high quality feel. Essentially a 35mm camera with the mechanical quality of my Rolleiflex TLR.
I finally found one in fantastic working condition. Here are some pictures.

thumbnail_IMG_1113.jpg
 
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The main reason I was seeking another Rollei body was for my Zeiss Distagon 18mm/f4.
That lens is the older style metal barrel. It is converted to so called "3 Pin" to work on the SL3003 and show the aperture in the finder. However, the image is so dim it is a little hard to use. The image on SL35E and SL35M are both better for focusing but the numbers on the aperture ring are not in the right place to see them with the little prism.
Since that lens is of the same era as this first generation SL35, I thought it would be a perfect mate.
 
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I thought that the SL35 was perhaps the most unreliable 35mm slr made? Or was that the later electronic models?

There are plenty of those (unreliable) in the Rollei 35mm history, both mechanical and electronic, but this is the one that stands out above all the rest. This is the keeper. The SL35 is first one they designed and made in Germany. After this model, production was moved to Singapore and the remaining German made cameras became electronic.

For example if you wanted just one Rolleiflex 35mm in your collection, this would be the one you'd want.
 
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There are plenty of those (unreliable) in the Rollei 35mm history, both mechanical and electronic, but this is the one that stands out above all the rest. This is the keeper. The SL35 is first one they designed and made in Germany. After this model, production was moved to Singapore and the remaining German made cameras became electronic.

For example if you wanted just one Rolleiflex 35mm in your collection, this would be the one you'd want.

Excellent info!
 
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There's also a Singapore made mechanical Rolleiflex SL35 (not 35M) which is also supposed to be good and relatively cheaper on eBay than the German one.

QBM mount lenses are quite nice and as they can be adapted to Canon EF mount, they can be used with EF mount cameras. There's an oddball manual focus EF mount camera called Canon EF-M which is a good match for the adapted QBM lenses. I used this camera with Distagon 35mm lens for some time. :smile:
 
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As I remember looking at this camera in my favorite camera store, back when it was introduced, the camera failed at the market place because it was too expensive compared with more advanced, better built cameras at the time. That doesn’t mean that used camera wouldn’t be a bargain today. Have fun!
 
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I had been looking at
As I remember looking at this camera in my favorite camera store, back when it was introduced, the camera failed at the market place because it was too expensive compared with more advanced, better built cameras at the time. That doesn’t mean that used camera wouldn’t be a bargain today. Have fun!

I believe a similar issues (too expensive to manufacture) brought and end to the Leicaflex SL, a similar West German 35mm mechanical SLR from the same time period.

(I don't have a Leicaflex SL...Picture is from the internet)

Leicaflex SL.jpg
 

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For years I have wanted a German construction SL35. I have plenty of the Singapore and German Electronic Rolleiflex cameras but no mechanical German 35mm Rolleiflex.
What I was hoping to find was something nice to hold in the hand, with precision controls and a high quality feel. Essentially a 35mm camera with the mechanical quality of my Rolleiflex TLR.
I finally found one in fantastic working condition. Here are some pictures.

But... does it really have the quality of the Rolleiflex TLRs? Because that's a very high bar. I consider the Rolleiflex TLRs to have a higher build quality than, say, Leica rangefinders. But, to put an example Rollei product: The Rollei 35 cameras are far from having such quality. (And yes, i've owned a German-made Rollei 35 with Made-by-Zeiss lens.)

I thought the SL35 cameras weren't up to that standard, no matter where they were built. But then, i've never held one!
 
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I thought the SL35 cameras weren't up to that standard, no matter where they were built.

I have been using and collecting Rolleiflex equipment and literature since the early 1980s and have never heard or read or witnessed anything to support that.
 
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Some quotes from the SL35 Service Article for repair technicians:

The Rolleiflex SL35 looks like an SLR for the purist. Its price tag - $379 [ $2,686 2022 dollars] - reflects the quality built into the camera, as many of the frills common to today's SLR are missing. For example, the purist will appreciate the clean look to the focusing screen which doesn't reveal shutterspeed or diaphragm settings. And he'll relish the light weight and trim lines.

What the SL35 lacks in trinkets...it makes up for in genuine quality features - most of which can't be seen from the outside of the camera. For example both the opening and closing curtain tapes run on teflon rollers...and both curtains are well cushioned by damping springs that contact the curtain bars.
...and if you've been known to lament cost cutting tricks in camera manufacture that make the equipment easier to buy but a headache to service - you'll find [repairing the SL35] a pleasant one.
 
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Inspection and cleaning. Nice thing about this camera is that it had never been opened before.

DSC_0005.JPG
DSC_0004.JPG
 
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There was some play in the meter stop-down mechanism. I suspect from someone pressing too hard, trying to take a picture with the meter button (not an unlikely situation, based on where the meter button is positioned on the top of the camera).

I made a small spacer to take up the gap.

DSC_0007.JPG
 
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The frame counter window was clear, but for some reason the ASA window was dull.
SL35 dull window 2.jpg

SL35 Dull window.jpg
 
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18mm F4 Distagon mounted and ready to go. Zinc-air cell for the meter and it reads similar to my other cameras and meters using patience allowing the meter to slowly stabilize as expected with conventional CDS cells.
Viewfinder, mirror box cleaned. Back of camera inspected and cleaned, no foam rubber to replace. Cocking mechanism is light and smooth. Pressure plate inspected and cleaned. Shutter speeds all within reason, no need for further disassembly at this time.
SL35 and 18mm Distagon.JPG
 
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I have had this retro-adapter for years but could never use it. All my Rollei lenses have auto aperture that is always full open when the lens is un-mounted or reversed.
Turns out my SL35 came with a very early German 50mm 1.8 Planar with the "A/M" aperture lever that will stop down the lens when reversed.
DSC_0014.JPG
 
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Unlike the camera body this lens has been severely damaged by a 'cave man' approach to disassembly. The rear element is cracked.
What we will do is steal the rear element form a Singapore-made similar lens. Singapore lens on the left, German lens on the right.
DSC_0010.JPG
DSC_0009.JPG
 
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Everything is a comprimise. The German lens, though cracked, is clearer, as the Singapore lens has just a tinge of fog at the perimeter.
DSC_0012.JPG
 
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The hybrid lens is mounted on the reversing adapter. You can see when the "A/M" selector is set to "M", the aperture pin moves in and stops-down the lens.
Again, of my fifteen or so Rollei lenses, this is the only one with this feature.
Also note with this lens design, the focus helicoid does not change the distance between the lens elements and film plane when mounted in reverse. However, racking the barrel out does provide a lenshood effect for the rear (now front) element.
reverse lens 1.JPG
reverse lens 2.JPG
 
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I had been looking at


I believe a similar issues (too expensive to manufacture) brought and end to the Leicaflex SL, a similar West German 35mm mechanical SLR from the same time period.

(I don't have a Leicaflex SL...Picture is from the internet)

View attachment 311956

Back then, while examining the new Rollei 35 I indeed did buy a Leicaflex SL. The two did not compare in quality. Rollei TLR is in a league by itself. The Rollei 35 was just one of many 35mm SLRs in a crowded market at the time.
That being said, you are enjoying your newly acquired Rollei, which is more important than quibbling over minutiae. I admire your ability to open up camera to make adjustments,metic.
Have fun!
 
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