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New (to me) Rolleiflex 3.5A
Old 04-08-2019   #1
kkcsm
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New (to me) Rolleiflex 3.5A

Today I just took possession of a 1950-something Rolleiflex type K4A.

I've been shooting digital for quite some time, but have not shot film since high school (back in the '80's). I've been intrigued by these for quite a long time and decided to jump in.

Purchased via Ebay, as-is, so there's a chance it's worth nothing. However, the lenses look clean, and everything seems to work. I loaded and shot a roll of film this evening without issue. We'll see if it focuses accurately and if shutter times are reasonable. If it's close I'll play with it for a while before sending somewhere for a CLA. If not I'll send it immediately for a CLA...

Either way it requires a CLA, things seem to work but not as smoothly as I imagine they should.

The camera came with a lens hood which fits on the outside of the shooting lens, and a Tiffen #522 Series #5 filter adapter that mounts on the inside. And a filter full of haze which is in the trash. But the size of that #5 filter looks way too small for the lens. Has anyone used such a thing? Does it block the corners?

Before understanding that the filter adapter was coming, I preemtively ordered a bay 1 to 46mm filter adapter (why is there no bay 1 to 39mm? I have a bunch of those!). Do any of you use such a thing? What about hood? This looks promising:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/prod....t=BI:514&smp=Y

I enjoyed walking around the back yard this evening experimenting with an iPhone light meter app, comparing shutter speeds with what my digital leica comes up with and shooting with the Rollei. I knew to expect the horizontal reversal through the finder, but I did not expect the extent to which it would discombobulate me! Yow! It seemed to take for ever to get things right! And I kept screwing up the horizon. Fascinating how this tricks my brain; hopefully with some practice it won't be so alien.

I'm excited to figure this thing out!

-K
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Old 04-08-2019   #2
Greyscale
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Congratulations, you bought one fine film camera. The K4A is the model that Vivian Maier used to make her street photograph in Chicago. The Compur-Rapid is a good and dependable shutter, generally any problems would be with slow speeds. Here is a tip that will help with framing, use a neck strap, and when framing, hold the camera so there is no slack in the strap. Then turn your body to frame the shot. This will also help you to straighten your horizon.
I would invest in some Bay 1 filters, that way you can use them with the Rolleiflex lens shade, and using the shade is almost a must. Enjoy your camera and have fun with it.
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Old 04-08-2019   #3
Greyscale
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You can also use the direct finder to focus, and then the sport finder to compose. This will allow you to compose with a non-reversed image (read the manual for instruction).

https://www.butkus.org/chinon/rollei...ex_automat.htm
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Old 04-08-2019   #4
kkcsm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greyscale View Post
You can also use the direct finder to focus, and then the sport finder to compose. This will allow you to compose with a non-reversed image (read the manual for instruction).

https://www.butkus.org/chinon/rollei...ex_automat.htm
Thanks for the hints Greyscale. Iíll give this a try.
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Old 04-11-2019   #5
kkcsm
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First roll of test shots back, I'm impressed. I did not do any systematic testing, just shooting around the back yard. Mostly with a narrow aperture as it was pretty bright.

But the lens looks good and the shutter seems mostly accurate. I did do one focus test inside with wide aperture and it was back focused quite a bit. Error could be mine, I'll need to test further. But it would not surprise me if the viewing lens and shooting lens are not in coordination.

Scanning was a bit painful (Epson V700) but the results don't seem too bad. Low res scans from the lab were underexposed and over sharpened; If I get something worth printing large, I'll need to work with them.
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Old 04-12-2019   #6
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kkcsm View Post
First roll of test shots back, I'm impressed. I did not do any systematic testing, just shooting around the back yard. Mostly with a narrow aperture as it was pretty bright.

But the lens looks good and the shutter seems mostly accurate. I did do one focus test inside with wide aperture and it was back focused quite a bit. Error could be mine, I'll need to test further. But it would not surprise me if the viewing lens and shooting lens are not in coordination.

Scanning was a bit painful (Epson V700) but the results don't seem too bad. Low res scans from the lab were underexposed and over sharpened; If I get something worth printing large, I'll need to work with them.
Your best way to check is to place a ground glass across the film rails of the camera and patiently compare taking and viewing lenses at infinity. Be very studious in assessing contrast of target image through each lens. If this appears satisfactory repeat check at a target approximately five feet away. I've always used a few black fridge magnets on my white refrigerator door for this task.

When doing the close range test, treat it as exactly what it is—a check of two different lenses. Ie a blind test. So rather than checking the ground glass and comparing it to the screen image—spend a few minutes fine tuning the ground glass image using a high powered loupe. Get it as critically sharp as you possibly can. "Looks good enough" isn't good enough—it must be perfectly sharp. Note the precise position of the focus knob relative to the reference scale. Then, return the knob to infinity and dial it in to perfect focus through the focus screen. (I have a loupe I use for ground glass focusing which also just fits inside the waist level finder of a Rollei, making it possible to achieve a greater degree of magnification compared to the standard magnifying lens of the finder.) Once you have the screen focus absolutely spot on—check the knob position again. If it is in the precise position it was when you set the taking lens—this is a pass. If it diverges by any amount visible to the naked eye (Ie 0.25mm or less, depending on your eye, but certainly you should be able to note at least 0.25mm variations) test fails.

Contrary to some suggestions it is actually possible to achieve factory level of Rollei lens pair calibrations at home with the above basic equipment. (Which does not necessarily mean everyone who carries the adjustment out will achieve this level of accuracy). But it's contingent on practice, patience, and an experienced and critical eye assessing the image on the two glasses. It can take me a good hour to perform a lens calibration including setting up the camera level and parallel to the close target then checking and re-checking the absolute sharpness of each image both at infinity and close distance. Of course if a camera fails the close range check, infinity then needs to be re-checked and potentially adjusted until both lenses perfectly agree at distance and up close.

Bear in mind prior to tackling this you can generally reach the taking lens primary focus adjustment being the collet nut around the focusing shaft inside the knob. But correcting an out of calibration viewing lens will dictate removing the front panel or shroud over the lenses with the associated peeling back of leatherette and removal of Eg flash lock or release lock levers to get to the securing screw or ring locking the viewing lens on its threads (depending on model, I'm not particularly familiar with the 3.5A). And that unless both lenses agree with each other perfectly but are simply off a little at infinity—it will almost certainly be necessary to remove the front components to access that, because, by definition, whenever you adjust the taking lens focus, you are also altering the viewing lens at the same time (they move on the same lens board).

If you're not up to this you may carry out a focus check but will need to find someone to make the necessary calibration for you.
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Old 04-12-2019   #7
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Ther'e a simpler way to adjust the lenses: the upper (viewing) one is in a deeply threaded mount. generally just removing the trim ring from the lens (even that may not be necessary), allows threading the viewing lens in and out to adjust it to agree with the taking lens. Pretty sure this is how Rollei adjusted them at the factory. This applies to the E and F series, not sure about earlier ones, but presumably so.
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Old 04-12-2019   #8
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EdSawyer View Post
Ther'e a simpler way to adjust the lenses: the upper (viewing) one is in a deeply threaded mount. generally just removing the trim ring from the lens (even that may not be necessary), allows threading the viewing lens in and out to adjust it to agree with the taking lens. Pretty sure this is how Rollei adjusted them at the factory. This applies to the E and F series, not sure about earlier ones, but presumably so.
Trim ring? You mean the viewing lens is secured in place at the front near the bayonet mount like, say, a Tele? I think you will find the older models require the removal of at least the outer finishing frame (the black piece that covers the sides of the lens board opening) if not the front plate with the bayonet lugs itself. But I'm happy to be wrong, it would be easier if you're right.
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Old 04-12-2019   #9
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Thank you for the suggestions. TBH, I'm just going to enjoy the camera for a while then send it in for CLA. The key answered questions at this time are, is the camera functional? and are the lenses clear? Those two questions worked out the way I had hoped, so I'm happy.

I'm more than happy sending a working camera to an expert for adjustment.
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Old 04-25-2019   #10
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Another report. I have two rolls back, two more I'm waiting to see. I'm very satisfied with the quality of the images and the camera itself. I'm pretty convinced that the shutter speeds are accurate. Sharpness is quite good. I believe the back focusing at large apertures mentioned above was mostly my fault (although it may not be perfect). Scans of the negatives with my V700 return great images.

The only issue I have is ergonomic/age related (me age, not camera age). The little window above the viewing lens that shows the aperture and shutter speed has very fine print and is difficult for me to read. I was out tonight shooting in light about ISO1600, f4.0, 1/50th (not *super* dark) and had to find a street light to read the settings.

Larger bolder print would make this camera a joy! Are there other models that are easier to read? Has anyone had similar issues?

-K
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Old 04-25-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kkcsm View Post
The only issue I have is ergonomic/age related (me age, not camera age). The little window above the viewing lens that shows the aperture and shutter speed has very fine print and is difficult for me to read. I was out tonight shooting in light about ISO1600, f4.0, 1/50th (not *super* dark) and had to find a street light to read the settings.

Larger bolder print would make this camera a joy! Are there other models that are easier to read? Has anyone had similar issues?

-K

I take a lot of dusk/low light photos with my Rollei and just illuminate the settings with the light on my phone if they are difficult to see.
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