Rollei 35S review - shooting from the hip!

Today we'll be getting to grips with the Rollei 35 S pictured here with a 50p next to it for scale (50p being the internationally recognised unit of scale) and really just to make the point that this thing is TINY!! I mean really tiny.... look at it.... next to the 50p and everything... tichy...


The Rollei 35S is the exact opposite in many ways to the Muji and whilst a direct compare/contrast is fairly pointless it is interesting to reflect on these two very different approaches to answering the need for a pocket sized 35mm film camera.

I was VERY fortunate to have been gifted this camera by a friend of a friend in the same stash of cameras as the Olympus Mji and a few otheres! Again I am very grateful especially so since I absoltuely love this camera!! At first glance I thought it might be something special and whilst I hadn't heard of a Rollei 35S before I was familar with the brand Rollei as they manufactured the legendary series of 'Rollei-flex' cameras and also some of my favourite 35mm film Rollei 80S (they really like the designation 'S' don't they)? which i have banged on about in a previous blog post HERE so I had high hopes for this camera - and a after bit of googling I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this is a very highly regarded piece of kit. Even without the internet's say so it's apparent from the build quality - this thing is very solidly built and feels well put together with the body being mostly metal, although still fairly light.


The other thing I noticed on closer inspection was the lens - a 40mm f2.8 'sonnar' lens.... again this is something i have heard of, Sonnar being the designation of a Zeiss lens design... Zeiss being the name of the supremo German lens manufacturer who are basically super in short this thing is 1: tiny, 2: VERY well built and 3: has a super sharp lens on the front of it.... that my friends is a win, win, win!!

In practice the control and use of this camera is quite unusual - in fact at first i was a bit put off by it, I'll attempt to explain but take it from me that having shot a couple of rolls of film through this thing now, it's actually really easy to use and it's probably more complicated to explain, or at least it'll probably sound more complicated but trust me it's not really complicated....oh god it already sounds complicated and I haven't even started yet, right.... here goes....

The lens is not connected to the view finder so you have to focus the lens by judging the distance between yourself and your subject and then using the scale on top of the lens to set focus..... so that means that you have to read the numbers of the dial around the lens so looking at the image below we can see that with the lens focussed thusly then at f16 I'd have everything from about 4 feet to about 10 feet in focus -with the centre point being 6 feet - a top tip when shooting with this camera is to keep the aperture small, i generally didn't go below f8 so that you know you've got enough depth of field to compensate for the lack of fine focussing ability and guesstimating the distances (unless you want to go around wth a tape measure and literally work out the distance)! so it took a bit of getting used to but as I said it's actually more difficult to explain than it is to actually do! 


the dial on the left of the pic above adjusts shutter speed and the on on the right of the image does the aperture - it's actually very ergonomically designed and easy to use and adjust settings, the meter is untested as they don't make the batteries for this anymore but my trusty i-phone app is more than up to the job so it's no bother. (I might do a review of the app soon).

As I mentioned using the depth of field to help focus is key to successfully using this camera,  the images above demonstrate - on the right is an aperture of about f4 so only the front portion of the wall is focus whilst the iage on the right is about f11 so a really small aperture and therefore most of the image is in focus - simples!

Becuase the focus is done in this manner and the lens isn't linked to the viewfinder makes the Rollei 35S perfect for street shooting becuase you don't have to hold it up to your eye to focus, it's tiny size also supports this stealthy approach - I've always been a bit self conscious when it comes to shooting street photos and these days folks don't really take too kindly to having their photos taken which kind of kills the 'documenting life as it happens' ethos of street photography - but no longer! with this I can snap away completely under the radar..... it opens up a whole new realm of creative possibilities which I find very exciting!

Enough techno babble! more photos! I've shot two rolls of Rollei Retro 400S with this camera - the first on an afternoon in Leeds City Centre and the second back in what is seemingly becoming my fave street shooting destination... Dewsbury! I developed both rolls of film at the same time using a semi stand development process and I have to say I am very pleased with the results, really great contrast and detail with a good grain texture - it has a painterly feel to it in some of the images which is really appealing....this is my fave development technique not least becuase my time is so limited these days that it's just easier for me to throw the film in the developing tank and get on with something else while the Rodinal does it's thing! Sorry - that was even more technobabble! ENOUGH!


And now on to Dewsbury - different conditions it was quite overcast vs the bright sunny day I spent in Leeds with a much darker feel, I like!