Gear Upgrade! Rolleiflex 2.8E - Test Roll / by Ray Phung

Sometimes I have to stop and say to myself, "Ray, don't you think you have enough old crusty cameras?"  Short answer is Yes, I do probably have too many.  But at least I shoot with most of them in my rotation.  With replacing carpet, refurnishing my house, and other miscellaneous expenses that have come up over the last few months, I have indeed been really good lately about not buying unnecessary stuff.  But I came across a deal I couldn't refuse.  

Cruising the classified ads of APUG (Analog Photography Users Group - awesome organization), someone was selling a Rolleiflex 2.8E at an amazing price.  The main issue with the camera was there was a large spot of fungus in the taking lens, as well as some mild lens separation.  Otherwise, it looked like it was in great, if not perfect, condition.  Granted,  I already own a Rolleiflex MX-EVS, which has a Tessar 75mm 3.5 lens.  But this was a definite upgrade.  

First photo to test out my new Rolleiflex.  A self portrait through a mirror in my hotel room when I was in Los Angeles.

For starters, it's 2.8 max aperature is 2/3 stops of light faster than the 3.5, which really means a slight advantage in low light scenarios and a narrower depth of field (more bokeh!!!).  The lens focal length is also 5mm longer (80mm vs 75mm, meaning even more bokeh!!!).  It also has an old school selenium cell light meter, so no carrying around a stupid handheld meter.  The Zeiss Planar lens design is an uber classic, and is the same design as the Planar lens on my Hasselblad (which is the best lens on the planet).  

After my new toy arrived, I opened up the lens and easily cleaned out the fungus.  The lens separation, however, was troubling. When you look into the lens at just the right angle, you can see a faint ring around the taking lens which has a subtle mirror-y sheen.  This is usually caused when the glue that holds the two lens elements together starts to degrade, and unfortunately, this is fairly common with these cameras.  To unglue and re-cement the lens was going to set me back around $300.   I put in a roll of fresh film to see if everything is functioning correctly and if the separation was going to ruin my pictures.  

My work sent me to Los Angeles to attend a workshop and I used this opportunity to fire off a few test shots.  The first shot I took with this camera was a self-portrait taken in the mirror of my hotel room.  I then met up with my friend Lesley, who took me up to Griffith Park for a nice little hike.  This is a large, beautiful park that rises high above the city, and also houses the Hollywood sign as well as a big observatory.  We caught the last bits of the setting sun, when I was able to get some lovely blue hour photos.  

In my last post, Surfwax America, I posted a few pictures from a surfing adventure I went on.  I took my new Rolleiflex with me in addition to my DSLR, and these are a few of the photos I captured from that.  

These last few pictures were taken on a photo walk I took with Seth, this pretty rad guy who works at my coffeeshop.  You should check out his work at

Seth, a fellow photographer, taken a photo of the US National Bank, downtown Portland, OR

I liked the way the sun was bathing the sidewalk, so I snapped a shot of a gentleman's silhouette as he was walking towards us.

Throughout this test roll, I tried to use the camera lens in a variety of different shooting conditions to see if I can make the lens separation show up.  So far, I haven't seen any evidence of it yet, which means I will probably hold off sending it in for repair.  I ended up posting the 3.5 Tessar Rollei for sale on APUG and sold it, making back most of the money spent on the new one.  No use of have two similar cameras around, and I think it went to a good home.  As a side note, I did break self-timer.  It's sort of a stupid design, where they used the same lever for the flash modes to wind the self-timer.  Apparently I didn't know my own strength and forced the lever too far.  Oh well.  Maybe I will have to send it in anyway...

The filmed used to test the camera was Kodak Ektar 100, taken obviously with a Rolleiflex 2.8e.  The first photo was taken with my Canon 7d.