Rollei 35mm film camera began with the very good selling Rollei 35. The SLR model was in the market in the year 1970. The last production model was 3003 and ended production in late 1990s or early 2000s. The various SLR models were as follows:
SL 35 (1970-1976)
The very first model. Horizontal travel cloth shutter. Flash sync at 1/60. A very basic camera without much unnecessary features. Need to stop down for metering. Work with QBM 1-pin lenses. The stop down metering feature in my opinion made this body ideal for working with M42 auto lenses. Hot shoe was not part of the camera and need to be added on as accessories and cannot fire the flash directly. Meter would only work with 1.35V cell. Modern 1.5V cell would cause metering errors. In my opinion this body is still the best, reliable and basic mechanical workhorse. Top shutter speed is 1/1000. The camera in the above picture has been fitted with a hot shoe holder but cannot fire off the flash directly.
SL 350 (1974-1976)
A very rare model with open aperture metering. I have not seen one physically myself. Very hard to get in the second hand market and price is normally high due to the collector value of this model. Hot shoe was now included. Shutter was still cloth horizontal travel type.
After all these years I managed to get one black SL 350. A very nice though very basic SLR body. I thought Rollei should have developed from this model rather than the Voigtlander SL 35 M/ME type.
SL 35 M (1976-1980)
Seemed to be a direct clone from the older Voigtlander mechanical body. I do not find this model particularly interesting. The body was bulky but with a very large viewfinder. Features were still very basic. Flash sync speed had dropped to 1/40. Shutter was of the cloth horizontal travel type.
SL 35 ME (1976-1980)
An electronic/mechanical version of the SL 35M. When batteries failed there were still a set of usable mechanical speed. Cloth horizontal travel shutter.
SL 35 E (1979-1982)
Finally a modern looking and sexy camera from Rollei, in my opinion. Very nice looking body with LED indication of shutter speeds. Mechanical indication of aperture in the viewfinder. Flash sync was 1/125 but no TTL flash metering. Shutter was the metal vertical travel type with top speed at 1/1000. AE mode was incorporated so can use in aperture priority mode. Flash would not fire if shutter speed higher than sync speed was selected. Multiple exposure switch was incorporated in the SL 35 E model but not in the VSL-3E. The body could accept winder and motor drive. I was told the motor drive for some reasons never got to work. So you are very unlikely to find one working motor drive in the used market. Together with its Voigtlander clone VSL-3E, this model suffered from very serious electronic reliability problems and most of them would fail at some point of time. Those in the used market that are still working probably are the good ones on the other side of the quality normal distribution so they might be able to survive for the rest of the decades.
Almost identical top layout of the SL35E (below) and VSL-3E(top).
The SL35E has a green battery check button and a variable speed self timer.
At the back, the SL35E (left) came with a film holder and there is a multiple-exposureselection on the film rewind switch. VSL-3E was not offered the multiple-exposure function. The VSL-3E shown was fitted with a SL35E film back.
The original Voigtlander back did not have a film card holder.
SL 2000F / 3001 / 3003 (SL2000F 1981-1986, 3003 1984-1994, 3001 1986-1991)
Finally Rollei built the most reliable 35mm body. The SL2000F made a big breakthrough in terms of reliability. The body was also full of features, modern and up-to-date. I will talk about these models in another article.