No time to focus: the Rollei 35s

Rollei 35s Singapore

Winter in Houston is brief, so to make the most of it I take lunch-time hikes around downtown. I looked around for the smallest manual 35mm camera I could find to bring along with me. That turned out to be the Rollei 35.

What is is good for?

  • Super small - almost as small as a cigarette packet if you remember those. Or two stacked tape cassettes if you remember those.
  • Admiration of clever design. The lens retracts to save space when not in use, the hot shoe and frame counter are on the underside. The meter battery sits above the film cassette in the camera's interior (though I rarely use the meter).
  • Quiet - its leaf shutter makes a noise that is barely noticeable. 
  • No digital equivalent. If you want small, you'll have to get a digital point and shoot or that Pentax Q with the super-small sensor. If you want 35mm equivalent, and are doubling the size of this Rollei at the very least.
  • Fixed lens - Not being able to change the lens means fewer decisions to make before heading out doors, and no further money spent on building a system. 


  • No optical focus aids at all. No range finder, no through the lens split prism. Just a focus scale on the lens. In reality, zone focusing is perfectly fine for most street photography during the day, and I've even practiced my range estimates so I can use the 2.8 aperture indoors. You can read more aboutthe speed benefits of manual camera settings in this previous post.
  • Left handed winding. Unusual, but not a problem.
  • The lens retract button - it is right next to the shutter button. Getting the two confused can cause frustration.
"Not Hiring", near downtown Houston, Rollei 35, Ilford HP5

"Not Hiring", near downtown Houston, Rollei 35, Ilford HP5