Earlier this year I had the chance to purchase an excellent-condition Rolleiflex 3.5 (K4A) with full set of filters (coloured, U/V, etc.), a Rolleinar close-up lens, everready case, leather bag, and original papers for a total of $635 AUD ($445) on eBay. It was a great opportunity and an even better deal.
The image-taking mirrors and light sealing in old Rolleiflex cameras can begin to show degradation, so be aware of that if you purchase second-hand or via the internet. The Rolleiflex is largely user-serviceable if you have a general grasp of mechanical repairs and feel comfortable tinkering with mechanics.
My Rolleiflex features a 75 mm f/3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens, and shutter speeds from 1 to 1/500, bulb, and a working self-timer. The lens shows great colours and contrast, and provides sharp images when shot open at f/3.5. The viewing lens makes it easy to focus and compose images, and I do not find myself focusing back and forth excessively.
The Rolleiflex K4A is relatively simple in physical operation; shutter speed and aperture selection clearly visible on the front of the body while you look down into the camera and operate the focus. The shutter is silent and smooth, and a convenient lock undeneath the button allows you to prevent misfires and wasted frames.
Loading film can be tricky, and requires removing the leather case to access the back of the camera. This can be difficult in a hurry, and is worth considering. The design and operation of this camera otherwise make it easy to carry and incorporate into life; it is not bulky or heavy like a Hasselblad setup, and is so simple to operate.
The colour photographs in this review were scanned by Halide Supply, at 24 Peel Street in Collingwood, Melbourne. Halide Supply can develop camera film in Melbourne with a Fuji FP363SC, and they scan 35 mm and 120 film in Melbourne using a Frontier SP300 and Frontier SP500. Check them out for film developing and processing in Melbourne.
I absolutely recommend this camera for anyone that wants to explore the Rolleiflex line-up - or are currently condering changing from another 120 platform - and think it is the best way to enjoy medium-format photography. The results are worthwhile, and a reason artists throughout time have chosen the Rolleiflex and TLR design.
Rolleiflex 3.5 F (K4A) with Portra 400 (Film developed by Hillvale Photo and scanned by Halide Labs) - The Rolleiflex 3.5 F (K4A) is easy to carry around in day-to-day life for snapshots and street photography. The TLR design allows you to capture many different angles and moments.
Rolleiflex 3.5 F (K4A) with Portra 400 (Film developed by Hillvale Photo and scanned by Halide Labs) - Photographs from the Ukrainian community in Melbourne’s community event. Large, busy crowds can make it tough to operate a camera effectively. The small body of the Rolleiflex made it easy to take photos and work around people.
Rolleiflex 3.5 F (K4A) with Portra 400 (Film developed by Hillvale Photo and scanned by Halide Labs) - The 75 mm Zeiss lens on my 3.5 F is great wide open, and easily manages flare. Colour and contrast are modern, and the rendering of non-focused areas is smooth and pleasing to the eye. The mechanical shutter is silent, and does not ruin the moment.
Rolleiflex 3.5 F (K4A) with Tri-X 400 (Film self-developed and scanned on a V700 with Better Scanner Holders) - The Rolleiflex system has a number of great accessories. I recommend the Rolleinar attachment (which I used to shoot the photo of the trinkets on the left), a hood, and a set of coloured filters (specifically Yellow) for black-and-white.
[Header Image via Google Images]
Bryce Wilson is a photographer, filmmaker, and freelance photojournalist from Melbourne, Australia.