Saturday, March 30, 2024

Spotlight: Rolleiflex SL35 E


The Rollei Rolleiflex SL35 E is a 35mm SLR from 1978. I picked up mine at the Chicago Photorama camera show last month. In short, my curiosity got the better of me, and I traded 75 bucks for the camera and a standard 50mm f/1.8 Planar. A pretty decent price, I think. 

The SL35 E is a small, handsome camera with a nice finish. It possesses a few unique features that set it apart from the myriad of other mid-range SLR's of its period. For one, the shutter speed dial is completely clickless. You can smoothly and quickly change speeds (16 seconds to 1/1000) with your right index finger while your eye is to the finder -- it feels like a precursor to the now standard command dials on modern digital cameras. In the middle of that shutter dial is a huge, comfy shutter release. It's threadless, but there is a separate cable release thread right next to the shutter dial which doubles as a shutter locking switch. 

The other unique feature of the SL35 E is its focusing screen's central focusing assist. Instead of a standard horizontal split image assist, the Rollei has an unusual diagonal assist. Rather than having two images that move horizontally and converge, the image assist is made up of three zones. The middle zone will twist around until it matches up with the two outer zones. The outer zones are also microprisms. It's as weird as it sounds, and I didn't really care for it, especially in lower light. I tried to illustrate how it works in the photos below, but you kinda just have to try for yourself to understand it. 

As you can also see from the above photos, the Rollei has a nice full information viewfinder. The light meter is easy to use, with steady diodes lighting up next to the shutter speed you have selected, and flashing diodes indicating the speed the camera thinks you should use (based on your aperture, ISO, and available light).  In addition to manual exposure, there is also an automatic aperture priority mode. 

The film advance lever is smooth and ratcheted (a premium touch), and multiple exposures are possible via a small switch on the back of the camera that also functions as a rewind release. 

And that's really all there is to tell. Besides the bizarre focusing assist that I didn't care for, the SL35E was a pleasure to use. I shot a roll of very expired Kodak Tri-X 400. I'm not sure whether it was the old film or a light leak in the camera, but my negatives did not come out great. The whole roll turned out very dense and grainy. See for yourself below. Thanks for reading!