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Rolleiflex Lens Condition
Old 02-23-2018   #1
karateisland
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Rolleiflex Lens Condition

With my tax return and yearly bonus on their way, I'm about to pull the trigger on a 2.8 'flex. However, I have a question before I do.

Though everyone agrees that condition is paramount, I see some disagreement about what level of lens condition is good enough. Some well-respected experts say buy only lenses with no defects at all (not even "cleaning marks" or tiny scratches), and others say that small defects like these just decrease the price, thereby saving the savvy shopper a little bit of dough.

What do you think? Let's say a reputable seller is offering two 'flexes of comparable vintage and condition. One has small lens defects ("light marks") and the other does not--Would you pay $100 more for the "perfect" one?

[Edit: I realize this is a small thing, but very easy to worry about when you're dropping a significant amount of money on a camera you hope to use forever...]
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Old 02-23-2018   #2
x-ray
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I've owned and used many lenses over my fifty years as a commercial photographer. First I wouldn't buy a lens with balsam separation or separation of any kind. I've owned several classic view camera lenses with moderate to heavy cleaning marks to actual moderate scratches and even a lens I highly prized with a major gouge out of the front element near the center. Every one of the lenses produced excellent results and I could not imagine a perfect lens would produce any better results. My 10" Wide Field Ektar had serious cleaning marks on the front element. My very prized B&L Protat VIIa had a major gouge in the glass near the center of the front element. My 12" Dagor had oxidized glass, bloom, on the front and rear elements. I used a Rodenstock Apo Ronar 24" with coatings that were a real mess on the front element. Every one of these produce stellar images and were used for hundreds of color shots for major commercial clients clients. One occasion I produced 4 Cibachrome murals for an industrial client. The Dagor was one of my favorites for shooting Philips Electronics catalogs.

Heavy scratches on rear elements are more of an issue that on the front but unless they're really serious then I wouldn't be real concerned. Depending on finances I'd buy the lower price camera and save the $$ for film, meter or servicing the camera.
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Old 02-23-2018   #3
Swift1
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I wouldn't worry about cleaning marks/light scratches.
My 3.5F Xenotar has some weird internal coating issue, but is probably the sharpest lens I own.
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Old 02-23-2018   #4
Chuffed Cheese
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I have a small mark (you could say chip) on my Rollei 2.8f. It does not affect it in the slightest.
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Old 02-23-2018   #5
Timmyjoe
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As I doubt you'll be buying a Rolleiflex 2.8 camera yearly, if it were me, and everything else was equal on the two cameras, I'd spend the extra $100 for the better lens. If you keep the camera for only five years, and only shoot it once a month, it works out to about $1.66 a month for a camera that you can have complete confidence in the quality of the lens, and focus on other issues to create the photos you imagine.

Everyone is different, but for me, lenses are top priority in my photo gear.

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Old 02-23-2018   #6
f16sunshine
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I can only offer an anecdote.

I've owned 3 Xenotar 2.8D Rolleiflex all with perfect glass and, one Planar 2.8D with all of the front coating cleaned off out to the edges of the lens.
The only time I could see any result of the missing coating was when I was not careful about providing extra shading for the Planar with cross light.
Otherwise Planar or Xenotar. Perfect or no coating.... image quality was near identical.

So the moral for me was that lenses with flaws may occasionally take some extra care in use.

Are un-perfect lenses less capable as compared to perfect lenses.... seldom.... Are they as capable.... maybe not always.
6 or half dozen

Tim above has it right^^^ If the price is close stay with perfect. If you find a major saving for a few small flaws... probably go for it and learn to live with your "custom" Rollei!
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Old 02-23-2018   #7
Robert Lai
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I'd probably get the unblemished lens, just because it would be such a worry that weighted down my joy of having the camera. It's just my personal psychological obsession, but I like having things clean.

I do have a few lenses where the coating is spotty, or there is a tiny scratch somewhere. My Tele Rollei has some lens separation at the edge of the viewing lens, apparently a common problem on the Tele Rollei. The price was good, so I bought it anyway.

However, if I had the choice that you are being offered, I'd just take the cleanest lens that I can get.
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Old 02-23-2018   #8
bluesun267
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I had a 3.5E Rolleiflex with a 2mm gouge in the rear element and it produced some of the best negatives I've ever shot. My Summitar has a separation in the front element and I've never noticed it in a photo--still one of the best 50s I've ever used. It is a psychological burden though, especially since it was caused by my own carelessness (dropped).

In your case 100 bucks doesn't seem like enough of a discount. If it were a $200 difference then the answer would be clearer (for me at least).
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Old 02-23-2018   #9
charjohncarter
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I agree with x-ray and Swift1 and others. I will say that if there is a hint of haze this will effect your photos. This is a 35mm Serenar (Canon) that had haze I had it CLA'd and it came back. I now have to clean it myself. But Rolleiflex lenses are not as easy to get apart for cleaning.


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Or you could wait a couple of months and take your tax cut money and get whatever you want.
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Old 02-23-2018   #10
Beemermark
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Once upon a time I had 3 (!) Rolleiflex 3.5F white face cameras. Two were mint and one had slight cleaning marks. To me cleaning marks are scratches in the coating, not the actual glass surface. I had my own darkroom with a Besseler 4x5 enlarger. I could not discern any difference in 16x20 prints from the 3 cameras. I sold the mint cameras and still have the one with the cleaning marks. I've taken thousands of nice pictures with it.

While I shy away from lens with a real heavy scratch I have owned one or two that had suffered from being scratched with something very hard. Never made a difference. I do shy away from lenses that have any scratches in the rear element.
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Old 02-23-2018   #11
x-ray
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Some folks just can't stand the idea of something that's not perfect but if your not bothered by minor imperfections I'd get the cheaper one. Some people can't deal with the tiniest mark on their camera but the rest of us can take a beater and make gorgeous images. Are you a photographer or collector?
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Old 02-23-2018   #12
karateisland
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Well, this thread has convinced me to go for the cheaper one! Honestly, whenever I buy a brand new camera I baby it at first, but then feel a bit of a relief when I bang it up a little bit. I think that gives me permission to feel less scared using it...
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Old 02-23-2018   #13
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I don't abuse or beat up my equipment but Im certainly not afraid to use it. If it shows wear that's ok.
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Old 02-23-2018   #14
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Angry

Quote:
Originally Posted by karateisland View Post
Well, this thread has convinced me to go for the cheaper one! Honestly, whenever I buy a brand new camera I baby it at first, but then feel a bit of a relief when I bang it up a little bit. I think that gives me permission to feel less scared using it...
It's like motorcycle helmets, good ones are expensive and have really nice paint jobs. But when you buy a new one you just know, no matter how careful, your going to drop it some day and put a big scratch in the paint. Often I think I should just throw on a gravel driveway and get it over with -
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Old 02-23-2018   #15
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I had a 2.8E Planar with lots of deep scratches (not just cleaning marks in the coating) in the front surface and separation around the entire circumference (1/3 of the way in towards the center for most of it). This was just as sharp as my darn near perfect 2.8F Planar, only flaw on the 2.8F is a couple of very light, very hard to see cleaning marks in the front element coating.

There was a minor drop in contrast on "normal" shots in "normal" light, and it flared more easily than the 2.8F does when shooting contre-jour, but otherwise I couldn't tell the shots apart.

I have since sold the 2.8E thinking I would get a 3.5 Planar/Xenotar model but regret it...should have sold my Autocord instead and kept the two 2.8s as I could interchange accessories better than having two sets for the 3.5 and 2.8.
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