Rollei 35


The Rollei 35 is the biggest success of the company in the 35mm camera market, thanks to a style and a form that remained inimitate to date, combined with the mechanical precision and high performance levels typical of Rollei (or Francke & Heidecke) products. Introduced originally in 1966 as the smallest 35mm camera in the world it is still today, nearly fifty years later, a model of unparalleled ergonomic, though it is a rectangular block with nearly sharp corners.

In its commercial history, which lasted until the ’80s, the original concept has seen a succession of different models, with some additional features or with simplifications to make it more economical and suitable for beginners, as well as a whole range of versions for special celebrations. The various standard models, except for the special ones, are as follows:

  • Rollei-35 (Germany or Singapore): the first version, reviewed here, with Tessar or Xenar 40/3,5, CdS exposure meter
  • Rollei 35-B: with Triotar 40/3, 5 and selenium meter
  • Rollei 35-C: model B without exposure meter 
  • Rollei 35-S: with Sonnar 40/2, 8 and CDS exposure meter
  • Rollei 35 T: the original model  renamed after the release of S
  • Rollei 35 LED: with  Triotar 40/3,5 and LED indicator in the viewfinder 
  • Rollei 35 TE: the Model T with the new LED indicator
  • Rollei 35 SE: the Model S with the new LED indicator and different battery

Rollei 35 original Singapore The camera was widespread in all its versions and is a omnipresent model wherever they are in the sale of quality photographic equipment; there are over 2,000,000 copies produced. It was generally marketed in two aesthetic variants, a chrome band with black center and a completely black one, built with solid metal and assembled with absolute precision and accompanied by a practical leather case with belt loop; were, of course, developed a whole series of accessories such as flash, filters and mounting brackets.


La fotocamera con obiettivo rientrato
The camera with retracted lens

When using the Rollei 35 classic it’s easy to find that some of the operations we are expected to perform on a compact camera should be reviewed, because of the particular design philosophy that has been followed in order to achieve such a level of miniaturization . First of all, the lens: it is a retractable model, which helps to further reduce the size of the camera when storing it. To unlock it you have to bring it to full extension and then turn it slightly until a block: if you do not complete this operation, the shutter won’t release. Once fired, at the time of placing the camera, you must arm the shutter to close the close, which otherwise will remain in his position: to do this, after loading by the winding lever, you have to press the button placed on the upper cap and turn slightly the barrel to release the lens; after that, you can push in the rest position.

La calotta superiore
Top of the camera

On the upper cap, in addition to the release button of the lens, there are the shutter release button, the winding lever (that is, unlike most of the existing cameras, on the left!) and the exposure window of the lightmeter; this is a CdS cell powered by a mercury battery MR9 1.35 V. The circular window of the cell is placed on the front of the camera, while on the upper window a mobile needle indicates the light reading, without references; it must be matched with a second mobile element (orange) by acting appropriately on the adjustments of shutter speed and aperture. The meter is quite accurate and has a limited consumption so that the battery can last decades.

The focus is adjusted using a wheel on the front of the lens and partially protected by a plastic cover; the values ​​of the distances are  printed on the outer ring of the dial and must be read from above. The distance adjustment is continuous between 0.9 m and infinity, with a brief excursion indeed between 6 m and the maximum value. The values ​​2m and 6m are screen printed in red to indicate the typical adjustments for which, playing with the hyperfocal, you can  always have a clear picture as long as you use a sufficiently closed aperture (typically f / 8).

Comando i regolazione tempi e promemoria pellicola
Speed setting wheel and film reminder

The speed and aperture are set by two special wheels positioned on the front of the camera, a solution which is not common and certainly unsettling at first glance; to adjust the shutter speed, you have to turn up to coincide the desired time with the white silk-screened triangle: you can choose shutter speed 1/2 sec to 1/500 sec. The values ​​are screen printed on the outer ring of the wheel, so that they can be viewed from above without turning back toward the camera.

In the front part of the wheel are shown the indicators of the type of film  (black and white negative , color negative, color daylight and tungsten), which can be selected by acting on a second smaller wheel installed in a concentric position with respect to that of the speeds.

On the opposite side of the lens, always on the front of the camera, there are commands for adjustment of the diaphragms and the film sensibility. The system is the same used for shutter speeds.

I comandi di regolazione diaframmi e sensibilità
Apertures and film speed settings

The aertures are adjusted by means of a release button located at the bottom of the wheel and by turning the same until the desired aperture in the range f / 3,5 and f/22 is chosen. The reading takes place, also in this case, from the top on the outer ring of the command.

The speed of the film is adjusted instead with the second and concentric smaller wheel, setting the desired value on a double scale with ​​ASA / ISO and equivalent DIN. This is not a simple reminder but a real adjustment that directly affects the reading of the exposure meter.

The design surprises are not finished: on the bottom of the camera, in addition to traditional elements such as the threaded mount for the tripod and the back release button, we find others that are usually located on the upper side of cameras . They are located on the back, in fact, the frame counter, where its window is positioned concentrically with the tripod thread, and the rewind pawl of exposed film. The pawl works in rewind once a lever placed in the upper part of the back, near the viewfinder, is set on R position. 

Il ricco fondello della Rollei 35
The rich bottom of Rollei 35

But above all even the hot shoe is in this position, which is very unusual and almost unique; this means that in case of its use, the flash will be below the camera and, worse, it might be impossible to use tripod and flash simultaneously.

The bottom is one piece with the back and is separated from the camera by pressing the release mechanism located on the bottom between the flash shoe and the tripod mount. Once separated we can see immediately how the battery compartment is accessible only while camera is open and empty: it is, in fact, placed in the upper part inside, where it goes to position the spool of film and, to this end, the lid has a particular form with recess to allow the accommodation of the 135 canister. In addition the pressure plate is not installed, as typically occurs, on the inner wall of the back, but is hinged to the camera body and must be placed over the film before closing the back, an operation which requires no particular expertise but which nonetheless must pay attention.

Il pressapellicola, l'alloggio batteria e la leva di sblocco del riavvolgimento
Pressure plate, battery slot and rewinding unlock lever

For the rest, once you get the hang with all these “quirks”, the use of the camera is very nice and quite fast; the image in the viewfinder is quickly composed, thanks to the little frame that trace the limits of the picturee, which is also the reference mark for shooting at a short distance. The Rollei 35 falls perfectly in your hand and is easy to get a firm grip that allows handheld shooting even down to 1/8 sec.

The above features join the undisputed optical quality and it can be said with certainty that the great commercial success that the little Rollei has encountered, as well as the approval that is still read today in discussions among fans, are well deserved.


Model: Compact with Galilean viewfinder .

Format: 24×36 on 135 film.

Lens: Carl Zeiss Tessar 40/3, 5

Aperture : from f / 3.5 to f/22

Focus: continuous from 0.9 m to infinity

Shutter: central shutter speed 1/2 sec to 1/500 sec and B mode.

Exposure modes: manual mechanic, bulb.

Viewfinder: Galilean.

Self timer: no.

Multiple exposures : no.

Flash: hot shoe.

Size: Length 95 mm; height 65 mm; depth of 405 mm.

Power : 1 stack mercury MR9/PX625

Weight: 390 gr.


Elegant design;

Building material:


Optical quality;

Accurate focusing.


No self-timer.


As mentioned, the Rollei 35 is widespread, both in the Germany and Singapore made versions but, that does not mean that prices are particularly low. Generally, the price stood  between 150 and 200 euro for well-preserved specimens made in Singapore and up to 250 € for the made in Germany, with a small increase if the models are in black color. Quotes are commensurate with different characteristics for other models  listed at the beginning of article.

The example images below are shot on film Rollei 400s processed in Xtol stock:

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