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Opinions on the Rolleiflex T
- Subject: Opinions on the Rolleiflex T
- From: mlphillips illips)
- Date: Thu, 09 Jan 1997 16:32:20 -0400 (EDT)
>>At 11:11 AM 1/8/97 -0800, William Lawlor wrote:
>>>What would be the most "affordable" Rollei model with prism capability and
>>an excellent lens?
>>2.8F Type 1 in good user condition will be under $600, and a like 3.5 will
>>be under $500. These prices are for beaters -- clean glass, full functions,
>>but some scarf marks on the body and the like, proud marks of hard usage by
>>former satisfied owners.
>>A later 'Cord V has the Xenar lens, which is certainly not as nice as the
>>Xenotar or Planar in the E's and F's. But these will take the prism and
>>cost half or less what the 'Flex will run.
>Might I add: The Rolleiflex T is an excellent choice, often overlooked
Some additional (and opinionated) comments on the Rolleiflex T:
The Rolleiflex T is a personal favorite, a camera that I feel has been
often under-rated. Marc James Small has a description of the Rollei T on
the Rollei website regarding the camera's features and history; my comments
will address some of the pros and cons of selecting this model.
The Rolleiflex T was introduced as an intermediate model, between the
Rolleicord Vb and the Rolleiflex E and F models. Consequently, many of its
features are a mix of those found on those other cameras.
Like the Vb, F, E2 and E3, the Rolleiflex T has a removable hood that can
be replaced with an eye-level prism. The finder screen is also easily
removed, making it a simple matter to install a Beattie (or similar) screen
to brighten up the viewfinder. Unlike the F and E models, but like the Vb,
the hood on the T does not have an eyepiece or mirror for eye level
focusing when using the frame finder.
Many find using the T with a prism easier than other combinations of
Rolleis and prisms, because the repositioned and angled shutter release on
the T makes for a more comfortable, secure grip. This can be true of using
the camera at waist level as well; personally, I prefer the T's release
over that of the other Rolleiflex and Rolleicord models.
Like the Rolleicord Va and Vb, the Rolleiflex T offers the option of
alternative frame formats. With its own 16-exposure mask set, the T can be
switched from a nominal 6x6 cm, 12 exposure format, to one that is slightly
smaller than 6x4.5 cm, yielding four extra frames per roll. The same Rollei
T 16 mask set can be used for making 4x4 cm superslides, which will fit
into a standard 2x2" slide mount. The frame counter on the T will switch
over automatically for 16 exp. when the mask is inserted, unlike the
Rolleicords, which required the counter wheels to be removed and replaced.
The Rolleicord Va and Vb did have a 24 exposure mask set that was not
available for the T. The Rolleiflex E's and F's, as well as earlier models,
did not accept mask sets for alternative formats, aside from the Rolleikin
35mm set. Early run Rolleiflex T's did not take Rolleikins; later ones did.
Certain late model Rolleiflex F's and E3's will accept 220 film. It has
been reported that some Rolleiflex T's also accepted 220, though this has
been disputed in other texts. I've never seen a Rollei T that accepted 220,
nor have I ever seen any mention of it in Rollei's promotional brochures,
but the fact that I've never seen it doesn't necessarily mean they don't
exist. If they do exist, they're rare, and I'd imagine priced that way.
(Personally, I've never found the ability to use 220 justified the camera's
The Rolleiflex T is similar to the other Rolleiflex models with its crank
film advance and coupled shutter cocking. The Rolleicord models all have a
knob for film advance; the shutter had to be manually cocked after winding
before it could be released. Unlike most other Rolleiflex models, the T did
not have the sensing roller for automatic positioning of the first frame on
the roll. Like the Rolleicord, and the recent Rolleiflex GX, the T required
that arrows on the film's paper backing be lined up with index marks inside
the back of the camera. When Rollei released the GX, it was reported that
the sensing roller had been dropped from that model because variations in
film thickness could cause this feature to malfunction. I have never
experienced this with my Rolleiflex E's, but with the T it will never be an
Rolleiflex E's, F's and earlier models, as well as the Rolleicords allow
intentional multiple exposures. The Rolleiflex T does not.
Most Rollei T's came with four element Zeiss Tessars, with the exception of
the very late and rare run with Schneider Xenar lenses. The Xenar, also
used on the Rolleicord, and the Tessar are very similar in design and
should, in theory, perform comparably. I have noticed slightly more
sharpness falloff at the edge of the negatives at larger apertures shot
with a Xenar than with my Tessar equipped T's. (But this is only comparing
one sample to another. I wouldn't reject the Xenar out of hand because of
it.) My other Rolleis have six element 75mm f/3.5 Zeiss Planars, considered
by some to be the best of the Rolleiflex lenses. For most shots printed
smaller than 11x14, I'd say it was very difficult to spot the difference
between the Tessar and Planar. The Tessar may not have the prestige of the
Planar, but its still a very fine lens.
An added bonus of the Tessar is the wide availability and lower cost of the
used bayonet I filters. Many other manufacturers twin lens cameras shared
this filter size with the Rolleiflex T and Rolleicords. Finding certain
filters in the larger sizes II and III isn't impossible, but is more
difficult and disproportionately more expensive.
The Rolleiflex T was designed to be a lower cost camera than the E's and
F's, aimed more at the amateur market. Its construction is not as heavy (it
weighs about 10 oz.'s less), and one might assume, would be less robust.
The T's shutter and aperture controls are not as seductively smooth. After
30+ years my T's are still going strong. The occasional CLA service visit
is a good preventive measure. If there is a potential weak spot in the T,
my experience indicates it is the frame spacing that seems slightly more
inclined to go erratic than on the better Rolleiflex's.
Because the T was pitched as an 'enthusiast's camera', it can be easier to
find clean versions of it than with the E's and F's, which were more likely
to be thrashed by a working professional. The premium Rolleiflex models
were covered in genuine leather; the T in either a gray or black
leatherette. The lighter gray coverings are more likely to show dirt and
wear, but some people prefer the different look. I prefer black. I find
that the leatherette coverings, though not as elegant as the genuine
leather, show less wear.
The T was available both with and without an uncoupled selenium meter.
These meters, IMO, are nearing the end of their life expectancy and are
becoming difficult-to-impossible to repair as the parts disappear. I would
look for a meterless camera, myself.
I'd say that the biggest perceived drawback in the Rolleiflex T's
operation, compared to other Rolleiflex models, is the design of the EVS
lock. Like the Rolleiflex T, the Rolleiflex MX-EVS, 2.8D, and E models, and
the Rolleicords V, Va and Vb had an EVS coupling that linked the aperture
and shutter controls. On these other models, the shutter and aperture have
separate controls and the EVS is more easily over-ridden. The T, however,
uses a single lever to control both shutter and aperture. First, one sets
the exposure value, then chooses a shutter/aperture combination for the
shot. The Rollei T's EVS lock makes exposure bracketing cumbersome. And
some people just never really develop a feel for it. For the unfamiliar, it
can be an annoying extra step: instead of thinking in terms of two number
sequences, now there are three. In practice, I found it was less of a
problem. It was just a re-education.
EV numbers refer to the ambient light level. Set it, and you have a whole
range of speeds and depth-of-field at your disposal. If you routinely use
the same film speed, and are paying attention to the EV numbers that keep
coming up under a given situation, you'll probably find that in many
situations a meter is no longer required. Recently I found myself in the
Yucatan and my meter in Virginia. Based on my experience with the Rollei's
EV coupling, out of 30+ rolls of XP2, only 4 negatives were more than a
single stop over- or under-exposed, as proven by my contact sheets. And
those 4 were shot with a polarizing filter. I would have preferred to have
my Gossen security blanket, but I really didn't need it.
I own 2 Rollei T's, a 3.5 E and now a 3.5 E3. I've also owned in the past
Rolleicord models III and Vb, another T and another E. I've found the
combination of the T's features and value hard to beat.