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5 Frames with Rollei 35S and Ilford XP2 – Bike Trips Around Singapore – By Tsang Tsang

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The COVID pandemic has changed the way we work and play. I picked up shooting film again last year after a 20+ years of hiatus. I stumbled across the 35mmc website and was inspired by the articles here where hobbyists shared their experience in shooting different cameras with different films. What caught my interest were the articles on the Rollei 35 family of cameras, a tiny camera is much more than the point and shoot cameras of the late 80’s and 90’s. I was able to purchase a good condition Rollei 35S last year and have been learning about zone focus shooting. The size of this camera makes it a perfect companion for travel.

Earlier this year, I relocated to Singapore and cycling has been my way of daily commute and weekend pastime. As the pandemic has grounded everyone, cycling has emerged as a new form of recreation for many here in SG. Over the years, the government has built many new bike trails around the island and converted an old rail track to bike and jogging path that stretched from the south shore to the northern end of the island near the Malaysian border.

Rail corridor

The old Tanjong Pagar – Johor Railroad now converted to a bike and jogging track. The shot is unintentionally overexposed.

The Rollei 35S is a nice small piece of gear to carry in the handlebar pouch of my bike. The Zeiss Sonnar lens is especially sharp and contrasty, producing results comparable to much more expensive M mount glasses. I bought a yellow filter and small hood from eBay and loaded the camera up with the Ilford XP2+ to capture the scenes while I travel around the island with this camera on my bike.

Alexander Canal

Alexander canal in River Valley with bike tracks on both sides of the water. This shot has the nice contrast that I like.

I quite like the Ilford XP2+ film. The film has the type of contrast that I prefer and even at ISO400, the grains are like ISO100 films. The other benefit is that I film can be processed with C41 makes it much more convenient and cheaper to develop. I have yet to develop BW films myself here in SG where the ambient temperature is always around 30 degrees. Probably need lots of ice to make a 20 degrees water bath.

Singapore River

Singapore River with a boutique hotel converted from an old warehouse

One may notice that some photos are overexposed. I am using some silver oxide SR44 batteries with a convertor in place of the mercury battery that the camera was designed upon. With time, the batteries drained and the needle moved less with the same amount of light. With the battery around 9 months in the camera, the meter now is around 2 stops overexposed. I should have realised this by using the sunny 16 rule and not rely on the meter only for exposure. However, the design of the camera made it impossible to change the battery in the middle of a roll. My subsequent shots I used an iPhone app to do the metering. Unlike digital, films tolerate overexposure much more gracefully.

Esplanade Park

Esplanade Park at the mouth of the Singapore River

Overall this is my favourite camera for travel landscape photos. In daylight and a fast film, I can stop down on the aperture and get pretty sharp pictures even if my distance estimate is not 100% accurate. The camera can tuck nicely into small backpack or bike pouches and take great pictures that rival expensive rangefinders. I have to thank 35mmc for introducing me to this nice gem and helping me rediscover the fun of travel photography.

Bukit Timah Station

Bukit Timah Station. Last train passed here in 2011.

Thanks Hamish for creating this great website for photo enthusiasts to share their work. Travel photography while biking is a fun way to explore a place.

You can find more of my humble works on Instagram.

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