Rolleiflex 3.5F Planar Test Images

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“Sunday” 2017. Baby basking in the Sunday morning light with her YouTube nursery rhymes on her iPad. Rolleiflex 3.5F Planar, Kodak T-Max 400 developed in T-Max RS Developer.

Many of you who read these pages would probably know that I’ve always been a huge fan of Rollei and in particular the Rolleiflex TLR cameras. My favorite of course is the glorious Rolleiflex 2.8C with the Schneider Xenotar lens which I wrote about here.

Even though I’ve shot my many various Rolleiflexes and Rolleicords which were f/3.5 models, I admit I have a peculiar fondness for the 2.8 models.

It may even be some kind of unconscious snobbery, but I (as I’m sure many of you) have a thing for fast lenses and in the world of Rollei TLRs, f/2.8 is IT.

Now this is not something exclusive to the Rolleiflexes or TLRs, it’s everything! I mean, think of how many of you will perceive a 70-200mm f/3.5 zoom lens versus a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom? Of course, many will gravitate towards the f/2.8 version. That half stop means alot!! At least in the mind ๐Ÿ™‚

But the fondness for fast lenses is not just something we want for no reason. For me at least, I prefer shooting in natural or available light, sometimes in less than ideal conditions. A faster lens would allow me to choose a faster shutter speed, minimizing the chances of blurry images. When you’re shooting at f/2.8 and ISO 400 film in dim or available room light, believe me, you’re going to want all the light you can get. There is a method to our madness, a reason after all!

With that in mind, and being that I already have the 2.8C model, I’ve always kept the 3.5F Rolleiflexes out of my mind. The 3.5F just like the 2.8F is also a top-tier model. Both also offer the option of either the Planar or Xenotar lenses.

However the problem for me was that these cameras are also nearly as expensive as the 2.8 models and if I were going to pay that price, I’d just get the 2.8! Now I got the 2.8 fairly cheaply back in 2008. I wouldn’t be able to get one these days with my current finances ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

So how did I come across the 3.5F? Maybe a little luck and like I said many times before, the cameras come to me! I was looking for something else entirely when I came across an ad for a Rolleiflex 3.5F in what was described as “user” condition. The party said he was selling for his uncle. I asked for detailed pictures and negotiated a price of $200 which was all I could afford at that time.

When I got the camera, I got the sinking feeling that this might be a piece of junk! It looked a little shabby, but I felt I could clean it up. The main thing that troubled me was the shutter didn’t have a reassuring sound. It seemed all the speeds sounded almost the same, and very weak at that. TLR’s generally have soft, quiet shutters anyway, but this one somehow felt different. On top of that the camera didn’t feel as robust as I’ve been used to from my other Rolleiflexes.

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“Brother Fro” 2017. Gotta love the hair on Brother Fro! Rolleiflex 3.5F Planar, Kodak T-Max 400 developed in T-Max RS Developer.

I came to the conclusion that the shutter speeds were not accurate, but I decided to pop some film in it and give it a try. Not expecting much, I just shot randomly around the house using my usual “kid test” that I’ve mentioned before. I didn’t think I’d have anything worthy of posting for you good peeps! I said might as well try some film in it before I put it on the shelf while saving up for a CLA.

When I developed the roll, I said…WOW! This lens is SHARP!! It may even be better than my beloved 2.8C.

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“Sunday” 100 percent crop of the top image. Unaltered, sorry for the dust! But note the detail on the baby’s shirt and the fabric. It’s probably better seen on a computer versus your smartphone.

It’s not all positive though. I believe I was right about the shutter speeds not being accurate. They all appear to be a little slower than their rated speed. How much I can’t determine. Many of the images that should’ve been good were underexposed.

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“Kodak” 2017. Rolleiflex 3.5F Planar, Kodak T-Max 400 developed in T-Max RS Developer. An example shot showing the typical underexposure I experienced testing this camera. Admittedly, this is a bit of a tough lighting scheme and I’m probably to blame for my “guesstimation” exposure. But note the studio light to the right and the spoon on the table to the left. They are sharp. Oh, as a result of my imperfect development, somehow the word “Kodak” from the film strip is etched into this image, and seemingly in the right place for it! ๐Ÿ™‚

But the ones that came out sharp, man they were sharp! And contrasty too. This lens made a better impression on me than the 2.8F Planar I tried back in 2004.

I’m going to try another roll in it. Maybe shoot some street with it. I think this lens would be great for that. Will keep you all posted. Till then, Happy Sunday! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Photo Of The Day: “Strong Coffee”

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“Strong Coffee” 2015. Mamiya C330, Mamiya-Sekor 65mm f/3.5, Tri-X 400 developed in Caffenol straight scan, no enhancements. Messy, dusty, but it worked! ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re in the blizzard zone and stuck home this weekend, I hope this will give you extra reading material ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve been developing film for quite a few years and although I don’t consider myself an expert at all, I’m familiar with traditional developers such as Rodinal, D76, T-Max, HC-110, etc, etc.

One developer that I’ve heard about, but never tried till recently was a home brew called “Caffenol.”

This is a process where you use instant coffee, washing soda, and vitamin C powder to concoct a mix that actually develops film.

When I first heard about this years back, I laughed it off thinking it was a big joke. When I investigated further, I was totally shocked that you can develop film with instant coffee!

The photo above is a result of my first Caffenol experiment. Now I know it’s far from an award winning result, probably not the kind of result anyone wants, but to be honest with you, I’m just thrilled that it worked! ๐Ÿ™‚

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A 100 percent crop of the above image. I am unsure why, but I am not getting the option to show the image full size as I used to have. I am trying to get to the bottom of this and will fix it, if possible. If you could see it, you would see the glitter around the glasses well resolved.

Above is a 100 percent crop of the original scan. I adjusted the contrast levels to better show the details. I was quite amazed that the result, while messy, actually holds a lot of details!

The image was shot in 2015 with a Mamiya C330 and a banged up Mamiya 65mm f/3.5 lens that I got for $23. The film was Kodak Tri-X 400 which is my go-to for an easy to develop, classic film.

If you search the web, you will find many fine examples from Caffenol connoisseurs who have posted results much better than this.

As I said, I’m no expert at this. The hardest part is finding “washing soda” so I made it myself by heating up baking soda, not certain whether I did everything right. Also in the darkroom, I made the mistake of turning on the lights when I didn’t have cover on the tank with film in it, allowing for possible light contamination.ย Something I’d never done in all the years that I’ve developed film. Because of these issues, I was even more amazed that it actually gave me something at all!

I am now eager to experiment more and to perfect this process. However, that would mean I would have to waste a lot of rolls of precious memories so I have to be sure that each roll I process with Caffenol is really “disposable” to me, so to speak.

If you haven’t tried this process, take a roll of film that you think you could part with and try it out. It’s a lot of fun and could potentially save you money from buying traditional developers. It’s quite a kick to take the instant coffee on your kitchen shelf and turn it into a film developer, it really is! ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a blessed day and I hope you stay safe in you’re in the zone of this major blizzard.

Best, Sam

Note: I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong or something changed with WordPress, but people used to be able to click on the photos to see a larger version, but now it doesn’t give me that option. If anyone can tell me why, I would appreciate it!