My Rollei 35 LED

The Rollei 35 is probably best described as ‘quirky. It is about the smallest you could possibly make a 35mm film camera, and yet presents you with as many controls as a typical 35mm SLR camera. I bought mine for about £60 from a classic camera store in Manchester to see if I could really get SLR performance from such a tiny little box.

The version I have is called ‘LED’ as the exposure meter is coupled to the lens and shutter and uses red and green LEDs in the viewfinder to indicate under-correct-over exposure. The camera has no automatic mode, so shutter speed and aperture must be adjusted until the meter lights the green LED.

Rollei 35 LED

The lens is a collapsible 40mm f3.5 lens (a better f2.8 lens is available on the higher spec models I think) that you have to pull out from the body and lock into position. This caused me much confusion initially until I read the manual and figured it out. The lens has a shutter speed ring around it where it joins the body, and aperture and focus rings around the front element.

As you are not seeing though the lens you have to guess the focus distance, or use a smaller aperture and the marked depth of field scales to set a zone of focus. It’s not too hard to get the hang of, especially with fast film loaded so you can use f8 or f11 most of the time.

rollei35led_1

It’s a neat little thing to shoot with and feels very solid and well built without being at all heavy. I do have two issues with it though.

Firstly, the meter is designed for an older type of battery that is no longer available so While a modern battery fits it is of slightly the wrong voltage. From my negatives this seems to manifest itself as a slight underexposure (the extra voltage could be over-amplifying the signal from the meter cell) although nothing too serious as the exposure latitude of film makes it possible to rescue the images in Lightroom.

My second issue of that most of my images came out with wonky horizons. I can’t exactly blame the camera for this! But it was strange as I am normally good at framing my pictures squarely.

rollei35led_6

It was great being able to carry such a small camera around knowing I was getting a full frame of film to scan afterwards. The 40mm lens could be a tiny bit wider for my taste but it gives nice results and doesn’t seem to suffer from any major distortion issues.

The images shown here are from my first roll of film and they took a fair bit of post-processing due to the under-exposure. However, I really like the look produced as they are quite dark and moody with an old fashioned feel to them. This is a result of a wonky tone curve as I tried to pull the highlights back to white without blowing out all the mid tones.

rollei35led_2

A bit benefit of the Rollei 35 is that it is small and discrete and almost looks like a toy camera. I found this made me less self-conscious while out and about shooting, leading to some interesting photos I may not have stopped and taken with more ‘serious’ gear.

It is an intriguing camera to use and certainly hasn’t disappointed me in terms of the quality of the images produced. There is a bit of luck and guesswork involved, but that being said I don’t see any out of focus of badly mis-exposed frames on my 36exp roll of Tri-X so anyone with a modicum of photographic intuition should be at home with it’s controls.

 

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12 thoughts on “My Rollei 35 LED”

  1. Nice toy. I have one, too, and really love shooting with it, especially for street photography. As you said, I take pictures I wouldn’t have captured with bigger or heavier cameras.

    1. I would not say this is a toy. It is a fully functioning camera. I bought a Minox 35. That was a big (no pun intended) mistake. Offcourse the shutter did not function (common fault).
      The battery in my Rolleifle can be assembled from 2 others, I let a battery expert do that for me, and it is now working perfectly with original voltage.
      I was lucky enough to get both a lens cover and a pouch for mine, although only f 3.5. This camera is by far my smallest, I use Hasselblads, Nikon F5 (heavy!), Yashica 6×7 and so forth. It is good to always have a camera companion with me! Wherever I go, there goes my Rollei.

  2. I bought mine new in 1979. It has been all over the U.S. and Caribbean. It still gives me excellent negatives and transparencies. As to the battery issue…a 1/2″ od thin clear plastic tube trimmed to length as a batt. holder / spacer, and four corner druggist #675 button cell hearing aid batts. will work nicely. Each 675 is 1.4v and x4 will give you exactly the voltage of the original v27px mercury, which is no longer available. I have also used an orderable but pricey v27px silver oxide batt. available through battery specialist stores ( about $18.00 U.S.+ shipping ).
    OTC is MUCH cheaper !!!
    You can really use any cell(s) that fall in the 5.6v to 6v range as long as they fit well in the bat compartment, hence the plastic tube holder. It keeps the four cells tight, flat and in good contact. It also acts as a spacer as the button cells are smaller in diameter than the camera’s batt. compartment. Note here: Using cells of higher combined voltage may require a recalibration of the metering sys., but it can be done fairly easily and at moderate cost, so be mindful of the voltage you intend to use. The Rollei 35 LED is calibrated for 5.6v, but I have used the 6v v27px silver cell with no issues.
    Good luck

    Old Racer

  3. This was one of the posts that inspired me to get my own Rollei 35 LED a few months ago. Unfortunately, I had a problem with it, but managed to fix it. I’ve even documented it in a post: http://sjp.id.au/oldgear/minor-repair-rollei-35-led/
    I have yet to use the camera, but am certainly looking forward to it. The capacity to make photos candidly and quickly was one thing that attracted me to it in the first place. Thank you for your informative post. It helped 🙂

  4. Thanks for your post, it’s helped me a lot. I inherited a Rollei LED 35 from my Dad and I have been trying to figure it out. One question I have, the green light that indicated that exposure is correct, does is light up solidly or does it flash in sequence with the red lights, right to left? I hope that makes sense!

    1. Mine always lights up right to left. Overexposure will just light red. Correct exposure will flash red and then light up green. Underexposure will flash red, flash green and then light up the second red. If you half-press the shutter button and twist the aperture dial you’ll see – for correct exposure the green LED in the centre should be on constantly, with no reds either side.

      1. Thank you for your reply. I took the camera out and about last weekend and was able to manipulate it to achieve the solid green light. I have a couple of exposures left to finish the film. It’s all a bit of an experiment. The film I am using was my Dad’s too, it expired in 2002!!! The results are going to be very interesting 🙂

  5. I have got this camera on eBay. I am dying to use it but really cannot figure out how to load film on it. I kind of have an idea where it would be loaded from but it wouldn’t unscrew. any idea on how I can remedy this?

    1. There is a ring with two serrated parts around the tripod mount that your turn anti-clockwise, then the top of the camera body will slide off.

  6. hi, thank you so much for writing this. i recently inherited a rollei35 led. like you mentioned, the old 5.6 v batteries aren’t made anymore from my understanding (or they’re rare), so i bought 4 1.5V LR44 alkaline batteries. i believe i put them in properly, but i don’t see the corresponding red and green lights for the light metering system. is there anything i need to do in order to activate it? or is it possible my camera’s light metering system is broken? thank you so much for your help!

  7. Just sourced one from eBay in the USA. Stellar, like new condition. This is a full-featured camera with manual capability, metering and even a threaded shutter release for tripod use. Quite a capable little machine really. It is amazingly small and light, almost hollow feeling. Nothing like the density of my Leica M4-P of similar vintage.

    I’m guessing the small sensor above the lens is the meter. Any idea what the metering pattern is?

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