The Rollei 35 is a 35mm miniature viewfinder camera manufactured by Rollei between 1966-1974. It was first introduced in 1966 at Photokina, the world’s largest photographic and imaging fair. At the time of its release, the Rollei 35 was the smallest full frame 35mm camera in the world. Although it no longer holds that title, the Rollei 35 still remains among the smallest of the full frame 35mm cameras today. The Rollei 35 series enjoyed a time span of 30 years in production. During that time over 2 million cameras in the Rollei 35 series were manufactured.
The Rollei 35 was created by camera designer and engineer, Heinz Waaske. He initially worked for Wirgin, creating such cameras as the Edixa Reflex, but later worked as an engineer for Rollei. The development of a compact 35mm camera was prompted during the onset of 16mm subminiature cameras. Waaske was inspired not so much by the size of the 16mm film, but by the compact nature of the subminiature cameras. It was his goal to create a full frame 35mm camera that was 1/3 the size of contemporary viewfinder cameras. When Wirgin rejected the idea, Waaske later presented the idea to Rollei where it was met with much success.
The Rollei 35 features a compact, all metal construction. It is a solidly built camera, and was originally offered in either black or chrome. The Rollei 35 was initially manufactured in Germany, but production was later moved to Singapore in the early 1970s to reduce costs. The Rollei 35 also features a coupled CdS meter with a readout on the top of the camera, a Rollei Compur shutter with speeds from 1/2 to 1/500 of a second and a Carl Zeiss Tessar 40mm f3.5 lens.
When not in use, the lens retracts inside of the camera. Because of the limited space around the lens, the use of a common shutter was not possible. Instead, Heinz Waaske created a new type of shutter that involved two separate parts (an unmovable clockwork shutter mounted in the camera with shutter lamellas mounted in a moveable sliding tube). Waaske also created a space saving five sprocket wheel for the film advance, as opposed to a six sprocket wheel that was normally used. The Rollei 35 is a great part of photographic history and a nice collectible camera!