I’m charmed by small cameras. The Rollei 35 B is a small camera, just 3.75″ x 2.75″ x 1.5″. Therefore, upon encountering it I was charmed right out of about $50. I felt pretty good about it, though — that’s less than half of what these usually go for. Not that this one is perfect. A corner is slightly dented, and the zipper’s broken on its leather case. But I figured neither flaw would affect its ability to make photographs.

Rollei 35B

As the lower-spec sister to the highly regarded Rollei 35, the 35 B was produced from 1969-78 in Germany and later in Singapore. Strangely, this camera’s original name was B 35; Rollei changed it in 1976 to match its overall camera naming scheme.

Rollei 35B

This is one quirky camera, beginning with opening the camera to load and unload film. The back and bottom come clean off the camera. The latch is on the bottom, cleverly disguised as the tripod mount. To open it, grasp the knurled edges on either side and twist counterclockwise. Then pull the back and bottom of the camera down and off entirely. The film pressure plate is hinged under the main camera body, another quirk. You have to flip it down before you load film, and flip it back up after.

Film loads from right to left, upside down. Insert the film leader into the slot on the takeup spool, and then turn the serrated wheel at the bottom of that spool in the direction of the arrows until the film is wound on. Then fire the shutter and wind a couple times. The winder being on the left is still another quirk. Slide the back of the camera back on and lock it in place.

Rollei 35B

You have to extend the lens before you can make your first shot. Grab the lens barrel by the two knurled pads on the focusing ring and pull, then twist clockwise until it locks. To retract the lens, press in the button near the lens barrel, twist the barrel counterclockwise and push it in. If the barrel won’t twist, wind the camera. This cocks the shutter and frees the lens to retract. I am surprised by this — I store my other cameras with the shutter deliberately not cocked. It seems better to me that the mechanism is not at tension when the camera is not in use.

Rollei 35B

The 35 B offers a 40mm f/3.5 Rollei Triotar lens, a triplet design that’s a a step down from the 35’s four-element Tessar lens. It’s coupled to a leaf shutter that operates from 1/30 to 1/500 sec. Its selenium light meter needs no battery, but it’s uncoupled and its usage isn’t obvious. First, set your film’s ISO (25-1600) by turning the chrome dial in the middle of the larger plastic dial. Then aim the camera at the subject and look for the white needle to appear along the aperture scale. If the needle doesn’t appear, there isn’t enough light; turn the dial counterclockwise until the needle appears. Any needle-matched aperture/shutter-speed combination will do.

Then you have to set that aperture and shutter speed on the lens barrel. Setting aperture is easy enough: twist the aperture ring on the lens barrel until the aperture you want lines up with the | symbol. (The two dots on either side of the | show the depth of field at f/8 and f/16, respectively.) Shutter speed is trickier to set. You don’t twist the ring — you press one finger into the serrated outer edge and then push or pull. Line your shutter speed up with the | symbol, too.

One last quirk: when you’re done shooting, the rewind crank is on the bottom. Unfold it, press the nearby release button, and crank away.

By the way, if you like little 35mm cameras check out my reviews of the Olympus XA (here) and XA2 (here). If you’re a Rollei fan, I’ve also reviewed the A110 (here), which takes 110 film. Or just check out all of my camera reviews, here.

I loaded some good old Fujicolor 200 and took the 35 B with me here and there over a few weeks’ time. I had it along on a visit to New Augusta. Check out that light leak on the left. It showed up in a few shots — to my surprise. The camera back fits into the body via deep, tight grooves. Where is the light getting in? Also notice how the left side of the image is faintly lighter than the right side. You can see it right up the middle of the tracks. But I liked the color and sharpness I got. I shot this same scene a minute later with my Konica Auto S2 on Kodak Gold 200; compare the results.

Tracks at New Augusta

I shot this from my front stoop on a rainy day. The lightness on the image’s left side was back.

Wet day

Three shots on the roll came back with an extreme blue caste, to my puzzlement.

My blue heaven

Not every shot was so affected. Here’s an old train station in New Augusta.

Augusta Station

The 35 B does a nice job negotiating light and shadow. It was early evening and the light was delicious. Welcome to downtown New Augusta.

Downtown New Augusta

I took the 35 B along on a chilly cloudy-day walk through Coxhall Gardens in Carmel with Margaret. Here’s a mansion on the property.

Mansion at Coxhall Gardens

When the camera worked, it worked well, returning good sharpness and detail even on a gloomy day.

Wild Wild West

My exposure was off on a few of my photos. I suppose that will happen sometimes on a camera where you can’t set exposure while looking at the subject through the viewfinder. Fixing exposure in Photoshop on this photo darkened vignetting in this photo. Several shots had some level of vignetting.

Margaret at Coxhall Gardens

See more from my test roll in my Rollei 35 B gallery.

I found the non-standard usage of the Rollei 35 B kept taking me out of the moment. I was forever thinking about the camera, because so many things about it were different from other cameras. But it sure was easy to take along during the chilly days as winter faded into spring; it fit into any coat pocket. Try that with an SLR. If it weren’t for the problems this camera obviously has, it might be nice to just leave film in it and take it along anywhere I go.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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12 responses to “Rollei 35 B”

  1. Mike Avatar

    You got some nice shots from that neat little camera in spite of the leak.
    The shot of the camera with the back open seems to show a bent shutter leaf which might be the source of the problem.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Good eye, Mike. I tried to recreate that condition in the camera today but am unfortunately unable to.

  2. Christopher May Avatar

    A friend used to have a Rollei 35. I played around with it for a little bit and decided that it was almost *too* small. It’s interesting that I’ve found the same thing with some digital cameras.

    For awhile I was tossing around the idea of getting a Micro 4/3’s kit that would be easier to grab when I didn’t want to drag the Nikon kit around. I tried both the Panasonic GM5 and GX7 and came to the conclusion that the former was again too small but was a fan of the latter. Other things came up and I didn’t have the money to sink into the m4/3 kit. If I were to do it now, I’d probably be looking at the new Olympus Pen F (the new digital one…I don’t understand why companies insist on reusing names and making internet searches difficult) or the Panasonic GX85.

    Of course, in the process of getting stuff packed to move, I’ve come across my old Pentax Espio 120SW. I’ve thrown a roll of Fuji Superia 200 (good to see that I’m not the only one that uses that!) in it and will be curious to see how it does. I remember being enamored with it when I got it because of the 28mm wide angle lens, but then I found a good deal on the Espio 24EW which was one of the rare P&S cameras that had a 24mm wide angle lens. I gave the 24EW to a friend years ago, but the 120SW sat on my shelf, forgotten. I’m crossing my fingers that it might be what I’m looking for as a small carry everywhere kind of thing for the time being.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Christopher, my everyday camera is a Canon PowerShot S95. Review here:


      It’s the same height and width as the 35 B! It’s only about half as thick, though. And I like it. A lot. I’ve done even better work with it since I wrote the review. I don’t know how I didn’t know for the first few years I owned it that it shoots RAW, so that’s my default now, and I Photoshop away on the images.

      One of my other readers also shoots a Lumix GX7 and says she gets her best shots ever from it.

      When I want a compact take-anywhere film camera I like my Olympus XA (or XA2) or even my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80. They’re all small enough to put in a jeans pocket (if the pants aren’t too tight).

      I assume Fuji Superia 200 and Fujicolor 200 are the same thing. The Fujicolor 200 I buy doesn’t say Superia on it anywhere, but the reviews around the Net suggest they’re the same film. Anyway, I like it a lot — it’s cheap and decent. I like Ektar more, but I can’t get Ektar for $2.50 a roll.

  3. sobershutter Avatar

    That line your seeing in some of the pics is the shutter lagging. A lot of older film cameras will do this when ancient lube turns to goo. A have at least a half dozen old cameras with this problem including a Russian FED2. Still a nice old Rollei tho.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. I love to shoot these old cameras but I’m still learning all the things that can go wrong with them!

  4. Ron Avatar

    I picked up one of the first generation Rollei 35s at an antique fair last fall for $20. It took a week to get the battery cap loose, but after that, it’s been one of my favorites. Beautiful outdoor shots. I tried it indoors with ISO 400 at the Lane Motor Museum. Those weren’t that great. Fun camera for biking and hiking.

    I picked up a 1/2 frame Olympus Pen-EE that’s about the same size as the Rollei the other day. I suspect the Rollei is better in multiple ways.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Ooh, $20! A great bargain. Hope I find one for that kind of money someday.

  5. Bill Bussell Avatar
    Bill Bussell

    I wonder if cleaning the shutter with Ronsonol would solve the problem? The comparison picture link is not good compared to the Rollei. At least on my Ipad. This camera is very good compared to many. I am sure you know about light leaks from light seals that need replacement. I think I might take a lazy approach and cover light leak areas with black tape to see what happens. You could also throw this problem at your favorite camera store folks, and see if the shrug their shoulders or actually offer something of value. I would be curious to know their reaction.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      if I shoot the camera again, I’ll definitely try using electrical tape on all the seams. I haven’t looked at the camera in a while, but my memory is that the shutter wasn’t easy to get to, and so it might be time consuming to be able to do the lighter fluid trick. I’ve got to admit, I’m not a huge fan of camera repair, and tend to shy away from it unless it is obvious and simple how to do it. But I do like miniature cameras like this one, which increases my willingness to give it a try.

  6. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I have had my finger on the eBay trigger more times than I can remember on Rollei 35 auctions. Never gave in to the temptation.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve never done a full-on 35, but I wasn’t enamored of the 35 B. Its weird usage just never felt natural.

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