The Rollei 35 RF: Between Analog Tradition and Optical Innovation

Last Updated on January 4, 2024

The Rollei 35 RF, unveiled in 2002, is a testament to the enduring appeal of classic rangefinder cameras, yet it offers a modern twist in functionality and design. Engineered by Cosina and marketed by Rollei Fototechnic, it bears a resemblance to the Cosina Voigtländer Bessa R2, yet distinguishes itself in several key areas.

Rollei 35 RF camera

Rollei 35 RF Specs

Canon AE-1 35mm Film
The iconic 35mm camera stays as relevant as ever, boasting its AE (Automatic Exposure) system and focal plane shutter.
Year of Release2002
Camera TypeRangefinder camera
Lens MountLeica M-mount
Film Type35mm (135 format)
Shutter TypeMetal focal-plane
Shutter Speed Range1 to 1/2000 seconds, Bulb mode
Exposure MeteringTTL (Through-The-Lens)
Framelines40mm, 50mm, and 80mm
Construction MaterialDie-cast Aluminum
ISO Range25/15° to 3200/36°
Film AdvanceManual, with double-exposure lock
Lens CompatibilityZeiss lenses (Sonnar 40mm, Planar 50mm, Planar 80mm)
ViewfinderBright rangefinder viewfinder
Batteryx2 LR44 / SR44 batteries
Film LoadingStraightforward and manual
Close FocusingSome challenges reported

Key Features

At its core, the 35 RF is designed around the prestigious Leica M-mount, a feature that immediately signals its commitment to optical excellence and compatibility with a wide range of high-quality lenses. The camera’s shutter is a precise metal focal-plane type, offering a broad spectrum of speeds from 1 to 1/2000 seconds, including a bulb mode for extended exposure opportunities. It’s worth noting that its TTL exposure metering is reliant on battery power, a consideration for those shooting in remote areas or over extended periods.

Design

The 35 RF diverges from the R2 model in several aspects, including its aesthetic and functional design. It boasts a higher price point, attributable in part to its refined appearance and ergonomic enhancements. The grip has been redesigned for improved handling, and the shutter speed knob has been fine-tuned for better tactile response. Additionally, the camera offers framelines for 40, 50, and 80 mm, catering to users who prefer these focal lengths, particularly beneficial for individuals wearing glasses.

Lenses

Optically, the camera is compatible with a range of Zeiss lenses, known for their sharpness and contrast. The selection includes the Sonnar 40mm f/2.8 HFT, Planar 50mm f/1.8 HFT, and Planar 80mm f/2.8 HFT. Each lens is recognized for its unique rendering and optical characteristics, providing users with a variety of creative options.

Metering

The 35 RF’s construction is robust, featuring die-cast aluminum, which ensures both durability and a premium feel. Its center-weighted TTL average metering is a reliable choice for various lighting conditions, and the camera includes a film advance with double-exposure lock to prevent accidental multiple exposures. The ISO range is notably flexible, accommodating films from 25/15° to 3200/36°, allowing photographers to shoot in a wide array of lighting conditions.

User Experience

In terms of usability, the Rollei 35 RF is appreciated for its rangefinder experience. The bright viewfinder, straightforward film loading, and distinct loud shutter sound contribute to an engaging shooting process. However, some users note challenges with close focusing and visibility of frame lines. The camera is often used with black and white film, which accentuates its vintage appeal and the distinct quality of the photographs produced.

Price

  • A Rollei 35 RF body can range from $500 to $800 US dollars.

It must be said that the Rollei 35 RF can be a good alternative to a Leica, just like a Voigtländer Bessa would be. The only inconvenience it has is that it can be hard to find in the American market, as Rollei hasn’t had a marketing campaign outside of Europe/Asia.

Rollei 35 RF Photos

Conclusion

The Rollei 35 RF is not merely a camera; it’s a blend of heritage and modernity, designed for photographers who appreciate the tactile experience of film photography, the quality of Zeiss optics, and the reliability of German engineering. Its place in the lineage of rangefinder cameras is firmly established, offering a compelling choice for both seasoned photographers and those new to the rangefinder system.


Author: Jorge Ferrufino

Written by Jorge Ferrufino

I am a fashion photographer and an analog photography enthusiast since the beginning of my career (15 years ago). I have had the opportunity and honor of showcasing my work in various galleries and publications around the world.


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