There is a brand new Rollei film camera coming "as early as possible" this year: the Rollei 35AF.
Designed and developed by Mint Camera – boutique manufacturer of some of the best instant cameras – the Rollei 35AF started in 2022 as a project to apply Mint's ability to engineer brand new instant cameras to the world of 35mm film. At that time, however, it was merely a camera inspired by the classic Rollei 35; the brand wasn't involved in the project.
However, after sporadic updates in 2023, Mint started the new year with the exciting news that the Rollei name will be front and center.
"It's official. The name of this camera will be… *drumroll*… Rollei 35AF," wrote Gary Ho, founder of Mint.
"Yes, you read that right. We are thrilled to announce that Rollei has graciously granted us permission to use their logo. This collaboration marks an exciting step forward for all parties involved. The Rollei brand will undoubtedly increase awareness for this camera. After pouring our hearts and souls into this project, I really hope the Rollei 35AF becomes accessible to a broader audience."
Rollei 35AF: specs and info
While the latest post was light on other information, details about the camera have been revealed in earlier updates.
We know, for example, that the Rollei 35AF will feature lidar – the laser-based focusing system used by smartphones, drones and the recent DJI-Panasonic collaboration. This, no doubt, is where the "AF" in the name comes from: autofocus.
"What truly excites me about the [Rollei 35AF] project is that we're using a new autofocus technology in a 35mm film camera, which has never been done before in any 35mm camera," wrote Gary Ho.
"The best thing about using lidar is its accuracy and impressive range capabilities. This is particularly useful in large apertures, where the depth-of-field requires precise focussing. Plus, it's safe to use."
The original Rollei 35 family was famously challenging to focus, as it could only be achieved by guesstimation or using an external rangefinder.
"Not everyone can master the manual zone focus system as the focus can only be guessed," Ho said in the most recent update. "I know many analog friends had high hopes when purchasing the original Rollei 35, attracted by its appearance, only to discover that the developed pictures weren't exactly what they expected. We are about to change that."
In November, it was announced that the camera will cost $650-800 and will be available "as early as possible" in 2024, "unless something goes terribly wrong." It was also noted that the R&D costs have been astronomical, and that, "basically Mint is risking the whole company to get this project off the ground."
With the Pentax film camera project also reaching fruition, and Leica teasing another film body after revealing a 900% increase in film camera sales, it really does seem that film cameras are experiencing a renaissance.