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Wednesday, 10 June 2009


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Used to have one of these.
During my time in the service it once fell out of my shirt pocket right down on a concrete floor.
Got a big dent on the corner. Worked flawlessly anyway.
Great camera but the fact that you always had to guess the distance was a drawback of course.
And the fact that the frames on the film was upside down compared to my Nikon.

But you get used to it. And for a long time this was the camera that I always carried with me. Got many great shots at my work just because I had my camera with me.

Seems like a good way to select a camera.
Though, to be fair the DP2 and the upcoming Olympus do sacrifice sensor size compared to the "standard" 35mm format.

There were many cameras made like the Rollei 35. My personal companion on my travels is an old Minox 35GT. But to be fair, most of these small cameras seem to work well and have good lenses. Usually they have a 35, 40 or 50 affixed to it.

I still have 2 of the Rollei's tucked away for safe keeping, a 35 S and a 35 SE. I always thought it one of the best camera designs ever, excellent lens, compact, rugged. Quirky. I trekked in the Himalayas with one in my jacket pocket and returned with some outstanding shots. I've often thought the G10 a fair comparison for size and apparent ruggedness, but I think in a drop test, the 35S would win hands down.

The Rollei is of course a brick and extremely heavy.

I just picked up a brand new Olympus Stylus Epic on Ebay, very lightweight, excellent lens, closest distance 30cm, an exposure meter that is usually spot on (it even figures out when fill-in flash is needed) etc.

One of the smallest great little 35mm cameras ever. I even prefer it over the XA.

I know this does not perfectly fit the description, but don't forget the Tessina. When I still lived in New York, I knew a guy who collected them.

Sean Reid sure does provide a detailed review! And, it's all geared toward the serious photographer. After reading about the DP2, I'd seriously consider it if I were in the market for such a camera.

The "modern" version of the Rollei was the Ricoh GR. It was actually thinner than a roll of film except at the grip. Except for being a bit longer, it is the same size as a typical digital P & S, and quite a bit smaller than some like the Canon G.

I guess I don't get the burning desire for a camera like the DP. What really do you use it for? The standard answer on Internet forums seems to be "So I can have it in my pocket when I travel." Really? If you are so casual about photography that you stand around hoping to see something vaguely interesting, why not just carry a small film camera, and if you get a decent shot, any lab in most any city will develop and scan a roll for a few bucks (Really, it's true, in spite of the Internet photo-guy angst). I mean, why does anyone with casual use in mind feel it worthwhile to spend $800 to replicate, and still not perfectly, what a camera like the Ricoh, or a Nikon 35, or just about any old 35mm body can do, especially since it's likely you already have one lying around in a drawer at home? Is there really any difference in the quality of your output? (No there isn't. Scanned Kodak Portra, for example, is fabulous).

And don't get me started on the idea that you need one of these for street photography. Really? You intend to publish your pictures? You will print 11x14s to hang in a gallery? Let me hazard a guess: you will take your Foveon-chipped image and convert it to black and white with Photoshop, fiddle with curves to make the blacks impenetrable and blow out the middle tones, then add a layer of fake grain. Then you will post it on the Web. All so you won't have to take a roll of C-41 black and white film to the Costco lab and have it developed and scanned for you. (Yes, I am assuming you don't know how to develop a roll of TriX.)And you want to do all this with a camera with somewhat clumsy AF?

If you are a paid pro who needs to deliver commercial/editorial JPEGs on schedule you won't use the DP, you'll use any number of excellent DSLR's. If you are a wedding photographer, ditto. If you are a fine art photographer (a real one, with gallery rep) you'll probably use anything but a DSLR. So if all you want is to self-start a project, do something on spec, or add to a portfolio of street/travel shots, why wouldn't you just use film?

I had a Contax T in the early nineties. Yes, you give up a lot of flexibility, but it was a tiny, full format gem with a killer lens that served well for all those times I couldn't/didn't want to carry an slr - even a Pentax MX

It is not really a question of which suck the least, but which suck in the least unpleasant way for you.

Look at the size of the optical viewfinder on the Rollei! Now why can't the manufacturers produce a micro4/3 or APS-c sized sensored digital camera with that sized viewfinder with good enough optical relief for eyeglass wearers?

how can an autofocus camera be compared to an all manual metal camera?
all we need now is an actual digital version of the Rollei..though its very unlikely.. or even if there is one it will be very expensive.

What I want is a small camera to carry with me,
which has an optical viewfinder,
an APS-C size or bigger sensor,
a fixed prime lens between 35 to 45mm equivalent with an F2 or bigger maximum aperture,
and independent dails to control shutter speed, aperture, ISO, WB, and the focus.

To be better, all those dials have an "Auto" position. ^_^

And yes, a shutter feels like that on an Leica.

Ho Hoo!

- Frank


From Robert White's site in the UK -
Voigtlander Bessa III
The BESSA III is a high portable, folding bellows camera that allows extremely high-quality images to be taken using a high-performance lens unit. The camera is equipped with an unique mechanism for switching between to film formats.

May be you will get your DM Camera this year after all.
Big deep pockets essential!!


I object to the characterization that those small cameras of old sucked. I grew up with a Rollei 35. I learned to to _think_ with the camera. It was all manual, even to the extent of setting the subject distance. Depth of field and hyoerfocal distance? I could rattle equivalencies off the top of my head!

My Rollei was a little jewel. I learned to love its 40mm lens, and the big bright viewfinder showed me what was happening outside the scene. Cameras today may be expensive diamonds but they have no luster.

I took good pictures with my old Rollei and I took them at first crack. Now picture taking with my fancy digital equipment seems to have devolved into a process of successive approximation. Take the shot, examine the image and the histogram, take the picture again and/or recompose, repeat cycle... In the end I get what I want and I usually get it better, but did my old Roillei suck? No way! If I could slap a digital back on that old body I'd toss every other piece of equipment I own!

So if technology is that great, why can't we have a full frame digital camera that small?

Lots of good opinion, andy

After reading your post I read the review of the Ricoh GR on dpreview - impressive on the control and optics side but dissapointing somewhat on the sensor side.

Does anyone here have experience with the more recent variations of this Ricoh compact? Is the IQ improve a fair bit? I'm curious about that latest CMOS sensor in particular.

While the Olympus Epic, Nikon 35Ti, and Contax T are all wonderful cameras, none of those will operate without a battery like the Rollei 35. If film is still around in 50 years, the Rollei 35 camera has a better chance of being usable.
Also, comparing sensor size to film size is unfair since a full frame 35mm digital is closer to a medium format film camera in terms of image quality. Perhaps the new Olympus micro 4/3 camera that OP leaked would be more comparable to the Rollei 35 in terms of quality and ingenuity. We'll see.

"Sean Reid sure does provide a detailed review! And, it's all geared toward the serious photographer. After reading about the DP2, I'd seriously consider it if I were in the market for such a camera."

Thank you Dwight. What I've published so far is Part One of what will be an even more extended review. I thank Mike for mentioning it.

When thinking about the DP2 and the Rollei 35, some may find it interesting to look at this page (http://www.rolleiclub.com/cameras/35classic/info/index.shtml) from the Rollei Club site and consider the ways in which Waaske's goals for his camera somewhat parallel what Sigma has tried to do with the DP series.


Sean Reid

I like what Andy had to say about film point-and-shoots. I'm always wondering the exact same thing.
You get "full-frame", clean ISO 3200, true B&W, excellent battery life and the satisfaction of doing your part for the environment by recycling an existing product instead of adding another hunk of plastic to the landfill.

I have a couple of Rollei 35s, both with the Tessar 3.5. I used to call them my "pocket Leicas" though they aren't used much these days. The little Rollei 35 is really not a pocket camera like the Olympus Stylus Epic, which might be the best engineered P&S ever. The Rollei is a bit of a brick but a very delightful brick. Estimating focus is a easy thing to master and does away with a delicate rangefinder mechanism. It may be about time to pick up a few rolls of Ilford XP-2 and Fuji Reala and have at it.

My Rollie led broke a small spring broke, I put in a ziplock bag with the intention to get it fixed, that was 10 years ago and I have no idea where that camera is today. One of the dangers of a very small camera.

"Look at the size of the optical viewfinder on the Rollei! Now why can't the manufacturers produce a micro4/3 or APS-c sized sensored digital camera with that sized viewfinder with good enough optical relief for eyeglass wearers?"

Ken, optical relief was good enough for eyeglass wearers, but a sharp-edged part of the camera adjacent to the eyepiece kept scratching my eyeglass lenses. So I sold my 35SE. Probably should have kept it and put some tape over that sharp edge...

Lubo, I was referring to the film version of the Ricoh GR. Still trades at about $250, and, unlike digis, is pretty much depreciation-proof, though you still take the risk its old electronics will fry and make it scrap.

My first 35mm camera was a Rollei 35, and I still have it. It was compact enough that I could carry it around all the time, and as a result I shot a lot of good pictures with it. The lack of a rangefinder meant that I had to learn zone focusing, which simplified things greatly when I eventually got a Leica. I think the Leica CL shares some design DNA with the Rollei 35---their film loading is identical, with the bottom and back of the camera sliding off.

Loved Andy's rant!
As regards the Rollei it's interesting to read the critique of it at Cameraquest - I had the suggested Petri Color 35 alternative for a while and was impressed.
http://www.cameraquest.com/petri35.htm Sample shot at

Cheers, Robin

"I object to the characterization that those small cameras of old sucked. I grew up with a Rollei 35."

I didn't say they sucked absolutely. I said they sucked to some extent. Granted, I could have put it more politely, but I stand by my basic sentiment: Small cameras of this type have some significant quirks and limitations. The Rollei 35, for example, had the flash shoe on the bottom of the camera and the film wind lever was on the left side rather than the right.

Despite these quirks, the Rollei 35 was capable of producing excellent photographs. I know because I used one while I was high school. But just because someone CAN take great photos with a camera like this doesn't mean that it's well designed for the purpose.

Andy's 'rant' makes a lot of sense. But, in the argument against (compact) digital, in favor of film, there are still some valid reasons for preferring digital.

1. Instant review. Perhaps i'm not as good as everyone else, but i value the ability to see and then correct my 'mistakes' on the spot. I'm not one of those people who can say i "know i got the shot" when i shoot film. I don't have that confidence (or narcissism).
2. There are a lot of situations where i may want to take pictures, but not spend any money to see if there's anything worthwhile to print. Social situations/parties, etc., for instance. Maybe there will be a nice moment, but most times, i'm just taking pictures for the heck of it, hoping for something. Or, because i want to save some small, insignificant moments.
3. I also don't necessarily want to wait until i've finished an entire roll to be able to see/share/post the results. This comes into play the more different cameras you use. If i have eight cameras, five or six of them might have half-shot rolls in them.
4. At typical snapshot print sizes, a DP2 will still give you sharper results than any Portra scan.
5. I shoot more frames with digital than with film. Because i enjoy the immediate feedback. I then take the opportunity to move on to something else, or experiment more, when i can see that i've done what i meant to do. More exposures means a greater bank from which to edit/select.

That all said, i owned the DP2 only very briefly. I returned it, and bought a Fuji Klasse W film camera. The Fuji feels tenfold more like a 'camera,' and i now do not have to concern myself with making digital files look like scanned Reala/APX100/E100G/Tri-X. I gotta say, though, that if the DP2 had reasonable AF, i'd have happily kept it. That sensor does have a bit of magic about it.

The Rollei 35 allowed you do everything at waist level before you raised it to your eye — aperture, shutter speed, and depth of field at waist level with its match needle lightmeter. Then compose and shoot at eye level. No information in the viewfinder. Beautiful design!

I still have an Olympus XA. Tack sharp 35mm lens and a coupled rangefinder make this a pocketable beauty.
Mine still works just fine. As for being quiet, a Leica M7 sounds like an elephant breaking wind next to the little Olympus.

Isn't that the camera Stephen Shore used for his American Surfaces pics?

One minor surprise about all talks of having an AF signal that can be seen when using external finder, the pictures of Sean was taken mainly using scale focus like Rollei 35. Also, while it is not a comparison of Rollei 35 vs DP2, it really give you that feel.

All of the major camera companies produced compact 35's in the 70's. If I remember, the Rollei was smaller than the others though. I Had an Olympus rc, which was an absolutely wonderful camera. I took many of my favoriye shots with it. This was mainly because I ALWAYS had it with me because it was so compact. Like they say, the best camera is the one you have with you.

the recent article on the "year with leica" had me fondling my rollei 35S wondering if it would serve the same purpose. I suppose it would. rollei 35S, 50' of Plus-X, and XTOL. sounds like a plan. (now who can I sucker into scanning all the negatives?)

while I really like my XD11, if I'm anywhere populated, I tend to take my 35S since it's a bit less obtrusive. dimension-wise, it's about the perfect size. any smaller and the controls would be hard to work. any larger and it loses any semblance of pocketability. I dig the 40mm wide angle as well.

my complaints about the 35S are that it's a brick, there's no rangefinder, and batteries for the meter aren't exactly conveniently available.

the comparison of DP2 to 35S definitely makes me want to take another look at the DP2.

I fell in love with the Epson Stylus and Stylus Epic. Hard to beat with some Tri-X loaded and spot metering on the Epic.

This was my choice...


A favourite of mine too. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the bottom mounted flash shoe though. I always turned it upside down if I used flash.

"I like what Andy had to say about film point-and-shoots. I'm always wondering the exact same thing.
You get "full-frame", clean ISO 3200, true B&W, excellent battery life and the satisfaction of doing your part for the environment by recycling an existing product instead of adding another hunk of plastic to the landfill"

I won't say a ISO 3200 film like the Tmax 3200 is clean, although the grain characteristic is different and more preferable compared to digital noise.

Dennis Ng wrote:

"One minor surprise about all talks of having an AF signal that can be seen when using external finder, the pictures of Sean was taken mainly using scale focus like Rollei 35. Also, while it is not a comparison of Rollei 35 vs DP2, it really give you that feel."

That's absolutely true about my use of scale focus/zone focus. As I wrote about in the review, I think the real sweet spot for the DP2 (for me) is when it can be used at smaller apertures (F/8 for example) and zone focused with estimated distance set using the camera's excellent manual focus wheel. Used this way (with an external finder) the camera is fluid and can respond instantly to the photographer. Therefore it can sometimes be useful to treat the Sigma as if that manual focus wheel was its *only* focusing system.

Once the DP2 needs more precise focus (via the AF or via MF using the magnified view in the LCD) its responsiveness slows down and one must work in a way that allows focusing and shutter release to be two discrete steps separated in time by one or two seconds.

One can certainly work that latter way but it changes the working method and will suit some photographers/subjects/pictures more than others.


Sean Reid


ten years ago, i carried the Rollei 35S from Berlin to New York City, to take some shots. Since years and years i was waiting for a digital equivalent. Perhaps now, with the new Sigma ore the Micro Four Thirds Olympus, it has an end - perhaps. All about feelings - all about subjective and objective. The camera, which is the best, is always in your hands, whereever you are.

Best regards, titus

andy's rant is interesting, and a a certain level I agree with it, but I also feel that ultimately it is wrong. Among other things:

I guess I didn't realize having a pocket camera while traveling equalled being casual about photography.

Nor did I realize that because I don't hang my photos in a gallery and haven't developed a roll of film in over 30 years (and, by the way, don't want to start over again) that I should use BW400CN in a Ricoh GR-1 and get the film developed at Costco.

In fact, the last camera I used before the digital age was a Leica CL with a 40mm Rokkor, which I carried on numerous backpacking and fishing trips in the late '70's and early '80's. I used exclusively transparency film, and I took almost 15,000 photos in 8 years. During that time, I may have produced a dozen prints. But I guess that doesn't make me a "real" photographer because I didn't produce prints for a gallery.

But when digital came along, I saw an opportunity to reproduce a workflow that duplicates, to a great extent, a transparency/slide workflow. I can do it with less hassle, time, and cost, than I could with transparency film. And, when I want, I can produce prints, and hang them in shows, and even sell a few, which I have done. In fact, last year I produced more prints than I did in 8 years three decades ago.

But to consign a photographer to a creative scrap heap who doesn't photograph the way you think they should seems ridiculous to me. If pushing Tri-X through a Ricoh GR-1, developing the film, producing the prints and hanging them in a gallery and selling them floats your boat, and fills your pocketbook, great! If you use a Sony A900 and never produce a print, fine. If the DP2 with it's Foveon sensor is what you have to have, so be it. But, geez, film isn't "better" than digital, and digital isn't "better" than film. They are different, that's all. And there's no "right" way to produce a photo, whether anyone else ever sees it or not. If the photographer + camera = a photo, and the photo expresses what the photographer wanted, and he/she is happy, what else is there? We might all look at the photo and think it's crap, but that doesn't matter, really. So what camera and capture medium you use to get a photo doesn't matter either.

My father (a professional) could have had any camera (and did), but he LOVED this camera. 'Nuf said.

I had one on loan from a friend for almost a year. A good friend! I think the Rollei 35 design sucks. Heavy, odd, including the hot shoe on the base, controls difficult to use, focus by estimation, difficult to achieve, plus focus scale almost invisible, lens Ok, just Ok, bad metering.
I couldn't manage a sharp picture at 1/15, even if I did it all the time with my SLR and bigger toys. So it was a relief to read Stephen Gandy's review at Cameraquest, already mentioned on this thread. I bought a Petri color on his advice and the camera proved him right.
My personal favourite is the Olympus Mju (Stylus Epic)with the 35 mmm f2.8 lens. Simple, light, fast even being an autofocus camera, good metering (hey, it even has a spotmeter) and a great lens. Bought it after reading a review on Pop Phot who proved it resolved 90 lines per mm. or something in that league. I also own a Pen which revived my interest in photography.
The surprise was a Rollei Prego Micron, also loaned by a friend. Tack sharp and fab colours. I think it is some type of Ricoh in disguise, with a 28mm lens and a panoramic mode that makes it a 24mm. It's easy to cut the shades and use the 24 on the full neg. It's the one I would recommend nowadays, and for as long as there is film...

I never understood all the trash talk aimed at the Rollei 35's. Extremely heavy?? Compared to what? I hear Leica folks praise the zone focusing abilities of their cameras but the poor Rollei gets busted for being a zone focus camera. Odd hot shoe location? Leicas have 1/50 sync speeds so Leica folks say "natural light please. Same for the Rollei please. I have the odd model with the 3.5 Xenar and it's one of my favorites. Picked it up off the auction site for $70 a while back in Ex condition with a smooth working meter. It's a well made camera that's perfect for classic B&W street photography. Beautiful, silent and inoffensive are 3 adjectives that describe it best. Actually I think I'm going to take you up on your "One camera challenge" and use my Rollei 35 loaded with Plus-x as my weapon of choice. Wish me luck. ( I'll have a fair amount of cool equipment sitting around for the better part of a year.)

"The Rollei is of course a brick and extremely heavy."

I just weighed mine.

35B - 400 g
35S - 480 g

my mobile phone - 280 g

they are larger, but not very significantly, than a pack of cigarettes.

Gandy also points out that Rollei sold 2,000,000 of them and that it was a revolution in size and quality at the time. He still says that he doubts there is a better built camera of that size.

Clearly you can look at it today and say that it is badly designed, but over 40 years ago this thing was ground-breaking, and I would guess that all the great small cameras since would not have appeared when they did if Rollei hadn't made this.


flash syncs at all speeds as well......

"Using a pocket camera is like using a pocket computer (such as a cell phone with keyboard): You give up a lot of control and flexibility in exchange for convenience."

That's true, but only to a point. The difference in screen/controls size is much bigger in the computer world than in the camera world. I've taken a lot of my best photos with pocketable cameras, but don't use any palm-sized computing devices.

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