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Rollei 35 Cameras - The differences Explained

I get asked a lot about the key differences about these cameras. Below is a brief outline of the main differences between the main models; the Rollei 35 9Singapore made & German made), The Rollei 35T, 35S, 35TE, 35SE and the Rollei B35.

The main differences are in three key areas, country of manufacture, the lens and the meter. 

Country of Manufacture
The Rollei 35 was launched at Photokina in October 1966 to great acclaim. The production from 1966 to
71 was at the factory in Brunswick, Germany. In 1967 the Rollei C35 and B35 were added to the range.
 Production of the German made cameras is comparatively lower and these cameras fetch a premium amongst collectors.

In 1971 the manufacturing facility for all models was moved to Singapore to reduce costs. Eventually the lens making facility was moved to Singapore with lenses branded 'Made by Rollei' but these were essentially Carl Zeiss lenses manufactured under licence. 

In 1974 the 35T, 35S and in 1979 the 35TE and 35SE were brought into production. The 35T is merely a rebadge of the 35 to distinguish it from the 35S. The TE and SE had new LED meters viewable in the viewfinder. 

The quality of manufacture differences are indiscernible with only minor parts changes, not visible to the naked eye, with no bearing on the function or feel of the cameras made in Singapore.

In 1981 production of these cameras ceased as Rollei went bankrupt and production in Singapore was discontinued. 

In 1986 until 1997 the decision by the new owners of Rollei was taken to resume production of the  Rollei Classic series which was manufactured at the factory in Germany using existing and remaining parts as well as new. These cameras were made in low numbers and to very high standards using a Carl Zeiss manufactured 40mm f2.8 Sonnar lens.

The Lens 

The Triotar Lens

Used exclusively in the C35 and B35 cameras. This is a 40mm f3.5 3 element 'triplet' lens which was the introductory level Rollei 35. An excellent performer better suited to narrower apertures. It is sharp and contrasty if a little soft wide open. 

Tessar Lens Cameras
The 35, 35T and 35TE have a Tessar lens. This is a 40mm 4 element lens made by Carl Zeiss (later ones under licence at the jointly owned Rollei/Zeiss factory in Singapore) with apertures that start at f3.5. Very early German made versions were single coated so can be susceptible to flare when pointed directly at a light source. It is recommended that a UV filter is deployed in these conditions. Later versions.

Sonnar Lens Cameras
The 35S and SE have a Sonnar Lens. This is a 40mm 5 element lens made by Rollei under licence from Carl Zeiss at their Singapore factory.  

The Sonnar lens is slightly faster and therefore offers greater light gathering capabilities along with a slightly shallower depth of field. Cameras with the Sonnar lens are more sought after and are more likely to appreciate in value in the current 2023market. This is not guaranteed of course but prices have nearly doubled for the 35S on certain auction sites in the last two years.

Image quality on all these lenses, whether manufactured in Germany or Singapore is exceptional and the key performance differentiator from other brands. They are sharp, contrasty and unmatched by any other manufacture other than Leica in my opinion. 

There is no hard and fast rule about which lens, Tessar or Sonnar is better. Some people swear that in their experience the Tessar excels at Black and White with the Sonnar excelling at Colour but it really is a moot point. In reality they are exceptional with all emulsions. 

The Meter
The 35,35T and 35S have a match needle analogue meter situated on the top plate of the camera and powered by an EPX625 1.5v battery. Originally theses models required a mercury cell 1.35v battery but these batteries are no longer available. Most cameras have been recalibrated to accept 1.5v's, however there are adapters available on this site for those that have not.  

With the introduction in 1797 of the 35TE and the 35 SE the rotating coil meters were replaced for LED's on the right of the viewfinder. This necessitated the use of a 5.6v mercury cell PX27 battery. As with the 625 these batteries are no longer available, but they can be adapted to 6v or adapters for them are available on this site.

The main difference between the LED meter on the 35TE and 35SE and the analogue match needle meter on the 35,35T and 35S is that the LED meter is visible in the viewfinder necessitating bringing the camera to your eye to meter, with
 a red LED at the top and bottom and a green LED in the middle to signify correct exposure

It should be noted that these meters whilst good are not as accurate as a handheld meter, which given the latitude of Colour Negative and Black&White film presents no problem. However if you shoot Colour Transparency film then I would always recommend either a hand held meter or a Metering App on your phone.

I hope this is helpful.



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