1959 Rolleiflex 2.8E – Shooting family, friends, fashion and famous!
By Andy Jackson
Thanks for all your great dedication to your site bringing us all sorts of articles, new gear, digital or film and your never-ending enthusiasm! So, about four years ago you published a Daily Inspiration from myself, shots from my Leica CL. The images were mainly of my son, who was about 2 years old at the time. After reading your write up on the Rolleiflex Hy6 (which to be honest, I didn’t even know existed!) I thought I could do a User Report on my 1959 Rolleiflex 2.8E.
My friend Ludi – this was shot on Rollei Retro 400.
I’d shot film/transparency for a long time as a photographer working on a snowboard magazine and acquiring the Leica kind of reignited the idea of shooting analogue again. This time I was more interested in shooting black and white and was partly inspired by another article on your site by Max Marinucci about home processing. My late Uncle also had an influence on me from an early age, with his camera in hand, his slides and his black and white prints of me as a kid. I’d done darkroom work at my first job many moons ago at a design company in London, so I knew how it went, but had never done it at home. Having bought the necessary bit and pieces and some chemicals (totaling €80!) I started to develop the negatives from the Leica. Yup, the same grin factor as getting my transparencies back after a snowboard shoot but with the extra satisfaction of doing it myself! Now, I’m not even going to go into the practicalities or convenience factors of digital over film, as to be honest, as you said in your article “Analog is a different beast than digital in almost every way.” If I’m processing film or going through a digital shoot on the computer I like to get ‘in the zone’ – cup of tea and some decent tunes on the stereo and off I go!
Branko from Croatia, I used the Rolleinar close-up lens for this.
My good friend Doris, a yoga teacher. We’d been for a hike on the mountain and I had the 2.8E in my bag along with a Hassy 500cm, this is from the Rolleiflex.
So on to the Rolleiflex! After searching around on Fleabay and websites and doing some homework I realized I was going to have to spend a decent amount of money for a good one. At the same time I bumped into a friend here in Innsbruck who’d seen some of my film shots online. He told me his mum used to be a professional photographer and that she had a few old cameras left from her working days. I asked if any had two lenses on the front, he said he seemed to remember playing with something like that when he was a kid and he’d ask his mum. Two days later he calls me and tells me she still has her old Rolleiflex. He gives me the serial number and I track it down to a 1959 2.8E. Oh yes, the Carl Zeiss Planar. He’d been online and checked out the prices, not cheap really, a good one is at least €1000. He offers to sell it to me for €250 – I can hardly contain my excitement. So, off I go to meet his mother, she’s actually thrilled to be able to sell it to someone who’s actually going to use it, it’s been doing nothing for about 40 years. As you can see from the shot, it’s in pretty good shape. I sent it in for CLA to a company in Salzburg, it needed some work, lightmeter was replaced and some bits in the shutter – €400, so in the end I still have a sweet deal and the camera stays in the area.
Preparation and handling.
The Rolleiflex is not a heavy camera. It fits nicely into my Lowepro Event Messenger 150 bag, leaving enough room for the Leica or my FM2 or OM2, lightmeter and film in the front pocket. I’ve replaced the old leather strap with a modern one, this puppy is not gonna end up on the floor. Once you get used to it, it’s a quick camera to pull out and start to shoot with. Take a light reading, set aperture and shutter speed, flip the lid and focus. So, we have aperture from 2.8 – 22 with half stops marked. Shutter runs from 1 sec 1/500th plus B. Loading film isn’t too tricky, just remember to put the paper through the bottom rollers then close the back and start winding on with the lever. There’s a mechanism that ‘senses’ when the film goes through these rollers and then the exposure window starts to register, wind on and it will stop on the first frame. Ready to rock. I’ve also acquired a Rolleinar 1 close-up lens for it, these are rare as rocking horse pooh because of the Bayonet 3 mount and some people ask silly money for them – I paid £120 for mine, I’ve seen ‘em go for a lot more.
Looking through the viewfinder you realize everything is in reverse, this takes a bit of getting used to, especially trying to keep things level. We get twelve shots and twelve shots only, so patience and practice will pay off!
I shoot the odd landscape. Dolomites, Italy.
Francois, from, er, France. My friend was looking after his Indian motorcycle that broke down on a run here in England. He came back to pick it up. How could I not shoot this portrait.
Shooting family and friends and others.
I use this camera a lot for shooting images of my son. Sure, I could use my 7D and autofocus as he runs about (and I do) but over the last few years he has learnt that when daddy points the two eyed black box thing at him, he must stay still! It’s not about getting the right camera for the child but training the child for the camera ;-) Sometimes he’s not in the mood for stillness, so I leave it for a bit. Using a TLR at the right time though, I think is the secret. When he’s focused in on something or climbing a tree, I just ask him to stop and look up. Nine times out of ten he does. Candid racing about shots are best suited to newer technology, what I want from my Rolleiflex is the more thoughtful images, maybe even posed, if you can call it that. I prefer to look at it as shots where I have his attention, where we have our connection. Having the twelve shots makes me choosy about when I hit that shutter, I really have to be sure it’s what I want. I usually take one shot of a ‘scene’ and leave it at that then move on. Sometimes I don’t even move on, a roll can sit in the camera for days or a week or two. There’s no rush with this camera, no incessant need to snap everything in sight, it’s way more about gathering some great memories for me, of my little man growing up.
Rolleicord. My son Noah on a rainy afternoon.
If any one photo sums up why I love this camera, it’s this one. I took one shot of this scene, kept my fingers crossed that I’d nailed the focus and kept the camera steady, 1/30th of a second.
Zeiss Ikon Nettar. This camera is small when folded, very small for 6×6. Beautiful results.
Shooting friends is a little easier, they know how to sit still. The Rolleiflex instills a sense of wonder in everyone. I get the usual question – “Do they still make film for that” and the remarks about how beautiful it is. I’ve used it a lot at weddings, it’s a talking point for guests, certainly breaks the ice. Bride and Groom are always super stoked on receiving a set of hand printed images, the Rolleiflex shots are the highlight without a doubt. I’ve noticed people feel way less intimidated with the Rollei than they are with a DSLR.
Like the Leica, the Roleiflex has it’s own brand of magic dust it sprinkles on your images. The awesome depth of field, that ‘otherworldly days gone by’ vibe where your natural light shots look like from another era, which in a sense they are! 6×6 analogue is affordable for nearly all of us, whereas digging into our pocket-money for a digi Hasselblad or Leica S2 isn’t such a do-able proposition (well not for me at least!) I love the 2.8E, I love to photograph people with it, I love the results and I love the fact that I have a fixed lens (with option of close-up). It takes 25 minutes to develop a roll of film, then about half hour to hang up and dry. Scanning is painless on my Canon flatbed 9000f and results are ok – it’s no Nikon Coolscan but I get 50cm by 50cm scans out of it. My favourite shots I print in my darkbathroom ;-) but that’s another story.
Stephen Bartels, gallery owner of the same name, London.
Sir David Rodiagn, MBE (left) and his agent Ricky McKay (right). David is a living legend Reggae DJ, radio DJ (BBC), famous throughout the world. Ricky presented him with a 50cm x 50cm framed print of this shot for his 60th birthday. Proud moment indeed.
Terje Haakonsen, one of the world’s most famous snowboarders. This is part of a series I made of Snowboard Legends in 2013 and was published in a couple of magazines. This is one of my few flashed shots with the Rollei.
Tomi Toiminnen, ex pro snowbaorder, shwoing his tattoos ‘Never Forget’ one for an old friend of his who died too young, the other for a friend of ours who lost his life in an avalanche.
If any readers have ever thought about getting into analogue medium format photography but are put off by the hassle of processing their own films, don’t be! It’s way easier than you think and once you’ve successfully hang up your first roll to dry you’ll be hooked. As for colour. Well, that’s turning out to be a pricey business these days. Colour negative processing has just doubled in price here, about €8.99 per roll, so include the film cost and you’re looking at €18 at least for twelve shots (without scans). My friend has just started doing colour at home because of this and is really happy with the results, I will go the same route very soon.
I’d like to also mention two other cameras as a much cheaper alternative to a 2.8e or such like. I acquired a Rolleicord IV with a 75mm 3.5 Schneider Kreuznach Xenar for €120, see attached images for comparison. The other camera that really surprised me is the Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 with a 75mm 3.5 Novar-Anastigmat – I picked this up from a local flea market for €35 in fully working order! This is a zone focus camera so I got my hand on a Voigtländer rangefinder that attaches to the cold shoe, this helps loads. The images form this camera are also sublime though a bit slower to use than the Rolleiflex, the output is worth it.
Lisa Marie, test shot for her model agency. Available light coming in through a window.
Viktoria. Test shot for her agency when she was starting out two years ago. She’s all over the planet now.
So, in conclusion, I use my 2.8e for just about anything and everything as long as it’s not running. It’s light and very, very quiet. It can be discreet as you can just stand in the street looking down and press the shutter and no one really knows (I guess this is how Vivian Maier took a lot of her shots). There’s still plenty of specialists servicing and repairing them and has a strong enthusiast following and collectors worldwide. Shoot one roll of film on this and I’m sure you’ll be hooked. At the end of the day it’s just another tool for us to realize the images we want to create and like each of us has our own favourite bits of kit to do the job we all end up in that ‘special realtionship’ with one or two cameras. Happy shooting people
All the best,
Shoe repair dude, Goodge Street underground station, London. It was very dark.
Paul Clements, photo journalist, Beatles and Dylan fan, guitar and sitar player at Stephen Bartels Gallery, London (with our 3 Leicas huddled together)
Feeding the duck and goose on a rainy afternoon in the Lake District, Cumbria, England on a visit to my mum this year.
Reflection in a pond.
Ice cream on a Sunday.
Rolleicord. Kayla, my Siberian Husky and test model, never to be trusted off the line in a forest, or anywhere for that matter. Highly successful hunter.
Ingemar Backman, Swedish snowboard legend shot at the Air & Style contest here in Innsbruck. Google him for insanely high backside air shots!
A friend of mine asked me to shoot a wedding shower for her friend. Grandma showed up and watched the proceedings from this chair. One of my favorite shots ever despite the light leak.
This is Glenn, I used to work with him on the snowboard magazine. He works in Thredbo Ski Resort in the Aussie winter then travels around Europe to visit his adoring friends. The man is a legend.
Rolleicord. Forest scene. A much cheaper alternative but not the build or lens quality of the 2.8. Still not bad at all!
. Gabrille du Ploy shot in her gallery, Zebra One, that specializes in music photography amongst other things. That’s part of the complete set of original images shot for Beatles Abbey Road sleeve on the wall. And you thought a Leica was expensive…
Sort of street photography shot in Charlie’s mens hairdresser in Camden, London.
Alex, a yoga teacher friend of mine, we did some shots in the forest near me. A reflector was used to light the face.