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Rollei 35 RF

Style, film format 35mm interchangeable lens (Leica M mount) rangefinder system

Lens, shutter Coated 40mm f/2.8 Sonnar, vertical metal

Photo quality Excellent

Ergonomics Very good

I know that the Rollei 35 RF is a virtual clone of the Cosina Voigtlander Bessa-R2.

The question is: Does a Voigtlander clone deserve to wear the Rollei name? This is Rollei’s first rangefinder camera since the Rollei XF 35, a miserable little machine that I owned for about 10 minutes in the late 1970s.

The camera kit comes with the 40mm f/2.8 Sonnar -- honoring the lens that graced Rollei's excellent 35S. Until recently, the lens couldn't be purchased separately; it could only be purchased with the body. The appeal of this camera is the Sonnar lens. Why else would you pay more than $1,500 for a Bessa-R2 clone?

Two other lenses were announced: the 50mm f/1.8 Planar and an 80mm f/2.8 Planar. The 50mm Planar was the standard lens for Rollei's 35mm cameras in the 1970s and 1980s, while the 80mm Planar needs no introduction to users of Rolleiflex twin-lens reflexes or the SL66.

The camera is very solid and is an improvement over the Bessa-R. On the downside, it also is a heavier camera, but it's a worthwhile tradeoff.

The 40mm Sonnar features a 39mm Leica screw-mount and includes an M adapter. The quality of construction of the lens is outstanding. Focusing is probably among the smoothest I've encountered in a lens. It's surprisingly heavy, letting you know that there's plenty of brass, steel and glass inside.

The Rollei 35 RF viewfinder is identical to that of the Bessa-R and R2. That is to say, it's large and bright and easy to use -- especially for photographers who wear glasses.

The shutter, by the way, is still too noisy. Cosina should make an effort to muffle the sound. It's not a horrible racket, but for a mirrorless camera, it's much louder than it needs to be.

The photos that I've taken with the Rollei 35 RF have always been very pleasing. Exposure is right on, and the lens records wonderful images that showed excellent contrast and sharpness right to the corners.

This somewhat pricey camera from Cosina and its Sonnar lens proudly carry on the Rollei name. The camera, which is no longer in production, remains available on the used market and probably "new in the box" on some dealer's shelf somewhere on this planet.