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Rollei XF 35

Rollei XF 35

Style, film format Fixed-lens 35mm rangefinder

Lens, shutter Coated f/2.3 40mm Sonnar, leaf shutter

Photo quality Film is in the camera

Ergonomics Ergonomics good. Build quality is mediocre.

I owned a Rollei XF 35 briefly in the late 1970s. I bought it used at a camera store in Pittsburgh. It stopped working moments after I walked out the door, so I returned and got a refund.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and all of a sudden these seem to be in vogue again. Could I have been wrong?

I found this camera at a thrift shop for $7.95, and at that price I figure that I couldn't go wrong, especially when they are selling for $40 or more on eBay.

The first thing I noticed is that the rangefinder was off. I got it close, because the mechanism seems to have a lot of tolerance. It seems to drift in and out. Not a good sign. While the camera doesn't use foam to seal the back, the overall quality of construction seems only average.

Operating the camera is simple enough. It uses the older 625 mercury cell to run the meter. The metering system is a trap-needle, program in which pre-selected apertures are mated with certain shutter speeds. You can think of it as a fixed Exposure Value (EV) system.

Like most of these cameras, the film speed indicator is on the faceplate of the lens. The lens, by the way, is a speedy f/2.3 40mm Sonnar. We'll see if the Sonnar in this camera lives up to its storied reputation.

Loading the film is uneventful, and using the camera offered no surprises, except for the rangefinder. At infinity, distant objects sometimes were in focus and sometimes weren't. This doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in expectations that items will be in focus. I would recommend using fast film to give you plenty of depth of field to compensate for possible focusing errors.

I've just picked up another Rollei XF 35, and I'm curious to see if the rangefinder system has less tolerance than in the first camera. (Update: The rangefinder in the second camera seemed to be the same as the second.)