For most of 2019 my go-to medium format cameras were a Weltaflex and a Pentacon six TL. Then in November, I found a Rolleicord III at a very reasonable price. Having shot 15 rolls of film with the Pentacon, 7 with the Weltaflex (and 31 with a previous Weltaflex until that died) and only three with the Rollei, I decedided to run a quick test to see how they compare in mostly identical situations. Now, I’m not one for methodically running „proper“ equipment tests under precisely controlled conditions. I just loaded up all three cameras with a roll each of Ilford HP5+, went on a little walk around my home town and took several similar shots with each camera. I then processed the films with the same recipe.
Weather conditions, framing the shots, exposure settings, and some choices while scanning and editing all contribute to the fact that this is not in any way a „scientific“ comparison. It’s just a personal experiment to find out which camera I’m most comfortable with in terms of handling and results. The results are presented „as is“ and with no claim to generality whatsoever.
My initial plan was to use exactly the same settings on each camera but while the Pentacon and the Weltaflex use a 1/125 setting, the Rolleicord has a 1/100 shutter speed. I decided that that’s close enough for my purposes.
All three cameras have measuring film advance mechanisms. Pentacons are notorious for bad film advancement but I have never had any problems. Apparently, the vendor gave this one a good CLA. This Weltaflex’s mechanism doesn’t stop for the fourth frame but I usually try to take the shot anyway by stopping the spool when the number 4 is in the frame counter. It’s a bit hit-and-miss, though.
The Pentacon has the brightest, sharpest viewfinder, the Weltaflex the darkest. I used the Pentacon with the optional waist-level finder.
The Pentacon cocks the shutter when advancing the film. The Weltaflex has a separate lever for cocking the shutter. The Rolleicord cocks and releases the shutter with the same lever. The Rolleicord doesn’t have a double exposure lock.
Even before looking at the results, I noticed that I forgot to advance the film on one frame of the Rolleicord. Also, I accidentally turned the aperture ring on the Pentacon once.
All films were developed in HC-110, dilution B for five minutes. The films from the Pentacon and the Weltaflex were processed in the same tank, the film from the Rollei in another session. The negatives appeared to have pretty much the same density. But the Weltaflex seems to have had some trouble with film advancement and not only on frame 4. This is the first time this has happened. Maybe I didn’t load the film carefully enough.
I usually scan my negatives with auto exposure. I considered using manual settings for this test but seeing as the negatives seemed fairly evenly exposed between cameras, I decided that using auto wouldn’t invalidate the results I was hoping to get.
The vertical line in some photos isn’t actually in the negative but is a problem with my scanner. I actually know how to prevent this, but this time, I forgot.
I did made some adjustment to brightness and contrast. In each case, I made the adjustments on one of the images and copied the adjustments to the other two versions of that image so results should be more or less comparable. There was some dust removal done individually for each image.
First I took some shots to make sure I remember which roll is from which camera. Obviously it’s the one not shown in the shot 😉
Next, some architecture, tricky lights and shadows, lots of detail. The Weltaflex is not transporting the film properly.
The old railway bridge, now a bikeway. Weltaflex having trouble.
Town hall tower. The frame I have to manually position on the Weltaflex. I was a bit off. also, this is the shot I double exposed on the Rolleicord.
Railway bridge from a different angle. Aperture is 22 on the Pentacon, 16 on the others.
The promenade, backlit. Sunlight changing slightly between shots.
Railway bridge yet again. And the river Ruhr.
Town hall, from the river.
Sandra. Didn’t pay enough attention to the light.
The Pentacon yields the sharpest images and the best contrast. This hardly comes as a surprise as it has the most modern and sophisticated lens. The Rollei holds up pretty well. The Weltaflex is noticably soft.
Both TLRs seem to have some trouble with stray light in certain situations.
With its SLR-style film advance lever and working double exposure lock, the Pentacon six was hassle-free to handle (Yes, they are notorious for being error-prone but so far, mine works like a charm). The Rollei is easy to handle but I really need to adopt a stricter regime of advancing the film after each shot.
Even before this test I was annoyed with the Weltaflex and its problem with the fourth frame. The results of this test confirm my decision to sell it.