What does "coupled meter" mean? Rolleiflex TLR

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SkipA

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I am researching TLR cameras in an effort to understand their features and the pros and cons of various design elements. I'd prefer a TLR without a light meter in order to save on weight, bulk, and complexity. But some of the cameras I find most appealing for other reasons frequently have meters as well. I may have to accept a meter.

One thing that I've come across, for which I haven't been able to find any explanation, is the difference between a coupled meter and an uncoupled one. What does "coupled meter" mean? If you don't want to have to use the meter at all but you get stuck with it nonetheless, which type of meter is easier live with?

I hope that makes sense. I don't know much about TLRs yet. Right now, if I could have my pick, it would be a mint Rolleiflex 3.5F type 3 with body serial number greater than 2299547 (accepts both 120 and 220 film) and Planar six element lens with lens serial greater than 2753002, and no meter.

Since it may take me a while to find that camera, I'm looking for a Minolta Autocord to get started with the TLR experience.
 

2F/2F

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A coupled meter is hooked up to the shutter and aperture settings of your camera. You can meter and set the controls simultaneously; they do not need to be separate acts. You really don't even need to know exactly what the settings are (though you "should"), because you are just aiming to match two needles, get a needle in the middle of a scale, etc.

A non-coupled meter is basically a hand held meter, but built in to the camera. You must transfer readings to the camera controls once you have taken the reading.

Almost every in-camera meter is a coupled meter, and has been for a long time.

Finding a Rollei without a meter should actually be easier than finding one with a meter.
 

MattKing

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An uncoupled meter is one that indicates the proper setting (f/stop and shutter speed), but requires the photographer to manually set those settings on the appropriate dials. It performs just like a separate hand-held meter, except it is actually part of the camera and therefore always points the same way as the camera.

A coupled meter is one where adjusting the settings on the camera affects the display on the meter. Typically the photographer adjusts either the f/stop or the shutter speed on the camera until a mark on the meter face is moved to line up with a needle or LED or LCD indicators are made to centre.

EDIT: 2F/2F types faster than I do.
 
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Thank you both for the lucid explanation. That makes it clear to me. My Minox B has an uncoupled meter. The Voightlander VC Meter II that sits atop either my IIIc or my M3 is an uncoupled meter. All my other cameras that have meters have the coupled variety. I can see that I'll have no problem with either type if it happens to be on the camera.

I'd just prefer not to have the meter at all for a couple of reasons. They add bulk and weight and complexity to the camera. It is probable that the majority of them, all CdS type cells I believe, are no longer accurate. They add unattractive clutter to the otherwise appealing lines of the TLR body.

2f/2f, in the brief time I've been watching ebay, the majority of 3.5F bodies I've seen have had meters. Maybe the folks with the unmetered bodies are hanging on to them.
 

2F/2F

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Hi, I didn't know you were specifically searching for a 3.5F. It is true that they will be more likely to have a meter than the majority of Rolleiflexen, but they still came without them.

My 3.5F/Xenotar has a meter, but I would prefer it did not. However, it isn't bothersome, and I don't think it adds any weight to the camera that it worthy of note. I wouldn't spend extra for a model with a meter, but I also wouldn't let a good buy escape just because it has a meter.

Also, since you are looking for 3.5F's, be aware that some of them take 220 and some of them do not. The fact that mine takes 220 was the major selling point to me, as that is what I shoot most of the time when using color film.
 

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There is almost no advantage of not having a meter. You won't really be losing all that much weight or bulk since there isn't that much circuitry in most TLR meters and they don't take up much space, especially on the Rolleiflexes. I shoot with a Yashica Mat LM which has an uncoupled selenium meter (which is still actually fairly accurate), but I don't use it since I don't like way it affects my workflow. Instead, it just makes my TLR look a bit cooler with the selenium cell on the front face, more so than the regular Mats with the standard nameplate. :laugh:

My point is, don't worry about this and base your decision on other far more important factors. Good luck!
 

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Coupled meters are against the law in Arkansas. :whistling:
 
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Hi, I didn't know you were specifically searching for a 3.5F. It is true that they will be more likely to have a meter than the majority of Rolleiflexen, but they still came without them.

That's not the only TLR I'm interested in. But if I can find an excellent quality 3.5F with six element planar lens, provision for 220 film, removable/replaceable ground glass, the ability to accept the glass plate back, and no meter, for a price I'd be willing to pay, then I'd be all over it. :smile:

Now that's a lot of conditions, so I'm actually willing to deviate from that quite a bit. For example, I could live without the glass plate back capability since I just want to try that for fun after I learn how to coat a dry emulsion on glass. A late serial 3.5F type 3 (preferred), or a type 4 or type 5 would do. The types 4 and 5 lack the ability to use the glass plate back.

Also as I mentioned, there are others on my short list that I would be less picky about, such as a Minolta Autocord in good condition.

My 3.5F/Xenotar has a meter, but I would prefer it did not. However, it isn't bothersome, and I don't think it adds any weight to the camera that it worthy of note. I wouldn't spend extra for a model with a meter, but I also wouldn't let a good buy escape just because it has a meter.

Agree. I'd accept that compromise.

Also, since you are looking for 3.5F's, be aware that some of them take 220 and some of them do not. The fact that mine takes 220 was the major selling point to me, as that is what I shoot most of the time when using color film.

I would like the 220 capability too as I also sometimes shoot 220, but it's not a deal breaker.
 
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There is almost no advantage of not having a meter. You won't really be losing all that much weight or bulk since there isn't that much circuitry in most TLR meters and they don't take up much space, especially on the Rolleiflexes. I shoot with a Yashica Mat LM which has an uncoupled selenium meter (which is still actually fairly accurate), but I don't use it since I don't like way it affects my workflow. Instead, it just makes my TLR look a bit cooler with the selenium cell on the front face, more so than the regular Mats with the standard nameplate. :laugh:

I understand what you are saying, but to me, there's almost no advantage of having a meter on a camera if it is a Selenium cell that is old and failing or of questionable accuracy. If I could replace it with a modern silicon meter, then that would be fine. I carry a meter with me since I shoot other cameras that don't have meters.

Now whether it looks cool or not is a matter of taste. I prefer the look of a meterless TLR.

My point is, don't worry about this and base your decision on other far more important factors. Good luck!

I agree with that. The presence or absense of a meter is definitely not a deal breaker. And thank you.
 

Chan Tran

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I too don't like a camera with poor meter and prefer one that doesn't have the meter but it's purely esthetic and nothing to do with functionality, weight, bulk.
 

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I have the OP's dream camera that I purchased new in 1971. I find the meter very accurate (as long as the contacts are cleaned periodically) and a great convenience. The one disadvantage is that the plastic meter housing is fragile and exposed leading to many cameras having cracked ones.
 

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I'd suggest not fixating on the Planar lens. The Xenotar leaves me with absolutely nothing to be desired. I cannot imagine it being much better. And they cost about half as much as the Planars.
 
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That's a good point 2F/2F, and I've read many similar comments. Planar or Xenotar would be fine so long as the lens is in excellent condition and the iris blades and shutter are all working properly.

hidesert, you're not looking to sell, are you? :smile:
 

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You could probably get a nice example of the camera you want, with Xenotar, for $500 or less.

I would consider selling mine (3.5F, meter, 220 capable, with prism), but it is probably too beat up to make it worth my while. Still takes great pix, just looks ugly.
 
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Not on ebay. Perhaps at one time, but not now. Do a search for Rolleiflex 3.5F Xenotar and you'll see what I mean.
 
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michaelbsc

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I would consider selling mine (3.5F, meter, 220 capable, with prism), but it is probably too beat up to make it worth my while. Still takes great pix, just looks ugly.

No sense having an ugly camera. Just send it to me and I'll take care of it for you. :wink:

Michael
 

John Wiegerink

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Xenotar or Planar

I have both and I'll take a Xenotar over the Planar. I was doing a camera show in Indianapolis, In. years ago and talked to a Rollei expert about this very topic. I told him I had a 3.5E with a Planar lens that looked like it was caught in a light sandstorm. It still took great pictures, but you didn't want to look at the lens. Of course that's why I end up with it dirt cheap 'cause nobody else wanted it. He said both the Xenotar and Planar were great optical designs, but he would choose the Xenotar since it had coatings that were of a harder nature than the ones on the Zeiss Planar. Over the years I have seen more Planar lenses with marks/scratches in comparison to Xenotars so he might be right. I also ask him about the difference between the six element Planar and the five element Planar and he said that the whole six vs. five element thing was blown way out of proportion. He said the six element was nothing more than a UV piece of optical glass and I had no reason to doubt him at the time. About two years later I was riding to a Chicago Collectors show with a former Rollei employee from Germany and ask him about what I was told. He confirmed the coating theory, but said he liked the output from the Zeiss coatings better. He also didn't disprove the UV filter thing either, but did say it was slightly more than just a UV filter. Then I ask him if the six element was actually better than the five and all he said was, "it depends". I ask what it depended on and he said, "many things". That's pretty much where we left it and from that point on I preferred the Xenotar for the price savings. Of course that savings is shrinking as we speak. JohnW
 
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That's an interesting story about the lenses, John. In the short time I've been watching ebay, I've seen far more 3.5E and F cameras for sale with the Planar lens than with the Xenotar. I wonder if more cameras were made with the Planar? I'd also love to know why the cameras were offered with a choice of lens, how the differences were pitched from a marketing perspective, if a particular lens was favored for particular photographic objectives, whether there was a cost difference when the cameras were bought new with one lens or the other, and any test data showing what the actual differences were.
 

John Wiegerink

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That's an interesting story about the lenses, John. In the short time I've been watching ebay, I've seen far more 3.5E and F cameras for sale with the Planar lens than with the Xenotar. I wonder if more cameras were made with the Planar? I'd also love to know why the cameras were offered with a choice of lens, how the differences were pitched from a marketing perspective, if a particular lens was favored for particular photographic objectives, whether there was a cost difference when the cameras were bought new with one lens or the other, and any test data showing what the actual differences were.

I don't know why they would have offered both, but I suspect it might have to do with exportation. Remember the Kodak Retina came with several lens options, but the German options were Schneider Xenars/Xenon and Rodenstocks Heligon. The Schneider's were made for exportation and the Rodenstock's were not. It's much harder to find a Retina with a Rodenstock in the U.S. or even on eBay. I could be wrong about this and maybe Rollei only wanted to give people a choice between the two. I also heard rumored that Rollei was "so called" forced into supplying both. The rumor went that Schneider threaten to pull out of some other contract if Rollei didn't supply a certain amount of camera production to its lens division. I, myself, don't buy this rumor, but who knows. JohnW
 

Lightproof

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In terms of usability just buy a Rollei and use it! There is way too much discussion about the various lens types. Just buy the one that fits your wallet and don't worry, be happy!

The following might be of interest for techies.
I have a limited selection of 2.8F Rolleis, and I think John is right about the coatings. I have 3 of them, two with a Planar and one late version with a Xenotar.
All Cameras are in great overal shape, but both Planar lenses have less-than-perfect coatings on the front element of the taking lens. I can not clearly identify these imperfections as cleaning marks, but the rear elements are perfect in either case.
The Xenotar lens is perfect on every single surface and the anti reflective coating seems to be more efficient when one can evaluate this by comparing the reflections caused by light sources.
 
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SkipA

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I like the discussion of lens types just for its own sake, Lightproof. In the meantime, I have to wait and watch for the 3.5F camera I want. I'll know it when I see it. I can afford to take my time and be selective because I did go ahead and buy an older Rollei Automat type 4 to hold me over. It should be here, I hope, by the end of the week.
 

John Wiegerink

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I like the discussion of lens types just for its own sake, Lightproof. In the meantime, I have to wait and watch for the 3.5F camera I want. I'll know it when I see it. I can afford to take my time and be selective because I did go ahead and buy an older Rollei Automat type 4 to hold me over. It should be here, I hope, by the end of the week.

Skip, the Automat is a fine camera if it isn't beat to death. I won't buy a Rollei with big dents on the front or sides. Wear is one thing, but dents I stay away from. I have owned three "F" series cameras, but sold all of them and stuck with the "E' series Rolleis instead. I like the 3.5E3 the best, but I don't even have one of those anymore. To me the "E" series are just as good as the "F"series cameras and are much cheaper. Of course the "F" series cameras can use 220 film, but I'd be willing to bet that 220 film will be a gost film in a very short time. 120 film will be around much longer, but that's just my opinion. The Rollei 3.5 E3 also has a removeable hood to allow the Rollei prism to be mounted. If you have never used the base handle and prism on a Rollei your truly are missing a real speed shooting machine. I'll stick with my cheap old E's and let the folks with money to burn grab the F cameras. I know my scanne:Dr or enlarger can't tell if a negative was shot with a E or F Rollei and that's all that counts for me. JohnW
 

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My thoughts...
I have 3 Rollei TLRs, two are F models (both Planars, and both with meters) and a recently acquired 2.8D (Xenotar, no meter). I'm generally using my Sekonic meter anyway, so the lack of meter in the D is fine, and actually perhaps preferred now. As mentioned above, the rather exposed meter window is so often cracked and/or scratched badly in many examples. The meter windows on my two F models are currently perfect but I do fear for them at times.

During my most recent spate of ebay perusing, and researching lens versions, etc., I was left with the impression that more Xenotars have had issues with deteriorating coatings (at least with older examples such as those in the 2.8D, 2.8C and so on). Not sure if this is correct, who knows? In any case, I like the output of all my Rolleis (and my Xenotar has some noticeable "cleaning marks").

Lastly, I heartily recommend the book "The Classic Rollei - A Definitive Guide" by John Phillips. Published just last year, it is a great resource for any Rollei TLR fan. Every model, in the order of production, is discussed. And it provides excellent information about the various lens offerings, examples of test target shots for several different lenses, a listing of accessories, historical info, and more. Really good stuff. Good luck in your search!
-James
 
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SkipA

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I have owned three "F" series cameras, but sold all of them and stuck with the "E' series Rolleis instead. I like the 3.5E3 the best, but I don't even have one of those anymore. To me the "E" series are just as good as the "F"series cameras and are much cheaper.


The more I research, the more I think I'd be happy with a 3.5E E3 also, John. Removable hood is a must, since I do want to get a prism finder. I believe all the 3.5E models above serial 1870000 have removable hoods (E2 type 1 and later).

The capability to use 220 film in 3.5F Type 3 or later cameras with serial 2299547 or higher would be nice, but not required, and the option to use the glass plate back in the 3.5F type 3 would be fun (I'd have to coat my own dry plate emulsion), but not required. The important criteria are excellent glass, sound mechanics, light tightness, good looks, and smooth and reliable operation. A bonus would be a camera that fit those criteria and had no meter.

The Automat I bought to get my feet wet with TLRs looks pretty good in the pictures, no dings or dents, leather mainly intact, some brassing and wear, but the seller says it operates properly and the glass is good. It has some wear and some cosmetic issues, but doesn't look beat to death. Keeping fingers crossed.
 
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