Lots of chatter about Rolleinars lately, I’ve only had mine since October ’15.
A Rolleinar is a set of close-up lenses that fit on the front of your Rolleiflex. This shortens the working distance to your subject at the cost of minimal distortion and arguable loss of quality. The magnifier goes down below on the taking lens and another magnifier with an oriented prism (the Rolleiparkeil) goes on the viewing lens to correct for parallax. Rolleinars come in four strengths, depending on the series of camera they’ve been made to fit. 1-4, with an ever decreasing working distance. You can also stack them, if you’re mad.
The only thing I could fault the Rolleiflex for is the lack of head-and-shoulders portrait ability. You can get close enough for a pleasant portrait, but you’re not filling the frame with your subject. It’s a limitation of the camera’s construction, it just doesn’t extend like a Mamiya TLR, but also not the brute either. So what we have here is some minor inconvenience and a much more flexible camera.
The Rolleinars are compatible with other like Bay series filters and lens hood. They bayonet on and off, you just need to ensure the upper set are lined up with the red dot facing straight up. The Bay1 Rolleinar 1 and 2 weigh in a 28g each and as you’ll see they let you make a beautiful image. So theres no excuse not own a set, apart from the cost. Thats where things get a little hairy. I’m a lucky Rollei owner, since I went for the “good enough” 3.5A, K4A or MX, depending on where you’re reading this from. My camera uses the smallest and cheapest Bay1 accessories. Bay2, Bay3 and Bay4 tend to climb in price by multitudes. Even at Bay1 prices, I didn’t get it until I used it. Now I get it.
I shot a roll in a very scientific way in hopes of putting the Rolleinar 1 through its paces. My method consisted of using it for some shots, not for others, recording nothing and trying to make sense of it weeks after when processing. So, lets begin with the most scientific of images on the internet, the Kitty Shot.
These are both shot at nearest focus distance, first bare lens and the second R1. It was hard to get this barn cat to stay still. She just wanted to be all over me. What can I say?
Now, I love the Rollei for it’s rendering anyhow, but the R1 shot shows just how much is in it. The Rolleinar needs no exposure compensation, no voodoo. Attach and go. Ive dumbed these images down a lot so they’re not burden to work with online, and they’re still pretty sharp. The negatives are excellent. The transition from sharp focus to blur is even.
And finally, my favourite critter of all…
After shooting a proper test roll, I’ve come up with the following. I got my little sprog to model for me. Same conditions, one group at F8, one at F16. Green filter installed for this roll, and a lens hood, always. This will show the different working distances and DOF you can expect with the R1 and R2. Definitely a helpful tool to have in the bag.
I chose smaller apertures simply because the DOF at very large apertures leaves parts of the face very sharp and some out of focus all together. This is neither useful beyond novelty nor flattering to your subject, IMO.
My favourite images from this experiment happen to both be at F16. First with the R1, second with the R2. Sharp, but not clinical. Still excellent separation from the background. Certainly flattering.
The Rolleinar isn’t the right tool for every job, granted. But it’s so small, so light and so easy to nail why wouldn’t we all have one? To rebut the haters online, I see no loss in sharpness, no distortion and no reason to worry. I’ll be doing many more rolls with this little bit of Teuton Sorcery.
Monotone images in this set are courtesy of the Rolleiflex MX F3.5 Xenar loaded with Ilford HP5. Processing and scans are Ilfosol3 and Epson Perfection 3200 Photo. Color images are Apple iPhone 6.