instantphoto.eu              Rolleiflex Instant

The Rolleiflex Instant is the third version of the Mint TL70 camera. The TL70 was launched in spring 2015. It is widely inspired by the Rolleiflex, even the dimensions are similar, but it has a plastic housing and a very inferior lens. It is real Twin Lens
Reflex camera. The ground glass of the first version was quite dim. A year later, in 2016, a 2.0 version was introduced with a much brighter screen. To achieve this, Mint sought and got the help of the Rollei engineers. Obviously they kept contact with the Rollei firm and Rollei granted the permission to launch a third version under the Rolleiflex name.

So in april 2018 a Kickstarter campain was started. They got more than 10 times their goal and by the end of the year the cameras were shipped. It is said that the screen is still brighter and there were other minor impovements. The camera is badged "Rolleiflex" and the German address of Rollei is on the packages. I do not know whether Rollei will grant service for these cameras. Besides the brighter screen there is now a tripod mount.

Technical Specifications (with info from the Mint website):

Film Format: Fujifilm Instax Mini Film
Exposure Area: 62mm x 46mm

Aperture: f/5.6, f/8, f/16, f/22, Bokeh
Lens: Aspherical lens with 3 elements, f=61mm
Focal Range: 48cm ~ infinity
Shutter Speed: 1/500 - 1 second (Mode A) | max. 10 seconds (Mode B = slow shutter)
Viewfinder: Twin lens reflex viewfinder with an eyepiece magnifier to lift up
Exposure Control: EV+/-1
Flash: Integrated, electronic flash with automatic light emission control
Power Supply: 3AA Batteries (1.5V)
Film: Instant film magazine 54 x 86 mm (w x h)
Dimensions: 141 x 102 x 80mm
Weight: 525g
Box set includes: Rolleiflex™ Instant Kamera, user manual, warranty guide, and 3 AA batteries

Some pictures of the camera:

The box.

What's in the box. The camera with cap and instructions + warranty papers. Film not included.

Camera with cap taken off. Under the lens is a little window that shows the aperture chosen. Shutter button on the left lower edge.

Left side. Tiny frame counter window.

Back side with back opening button.

Right side. Tiny flash button on the flash housing. Automatic/B switch on the viewer base. Focussing wheel and EV +- switch. Ejection button.

Battery compartment, takes 3 simple AA batteries. Tripod mount. Under the lens: aperture selection.

Back open.

The flash unfolded. Press the flash button and it jumps open and loads. To switch it off you have to push it back into its housing.

Viewer unfolded. There is no on/off switch, unfolding the viewer switches the systen on.

The viewer is bright indeed. You can swing out a magnifier for precise focussing, but it's fiddly to grab it and not leave your fingerprints.

Just to give you an idea, some photos, taken with this camera, aperture noted on the rim:

My Cologne atelier. There was a nearly black first photo without flash although the room was well lit. So I tried the flash for this one. The flash doesn't cover the scene entirely.

Outside photo, heavily underexposed.

After 4 black or nearly black photos in a well lit room, I tried EV+ which seems to be OK.

Flash again, even at this distance the flash does not cover the whole photo.

My Cologne house, bright day. Totally overexposed.

Same photo, EV-. What a difference!

At F22 there is heavy vignetting.

At F16 still quite some vignetting.

Same photo at F5.6. OK but still a hint of dark corners to the right.

As close as 1m. Focus on the big box. Sharpness isn't impressing.

An evenly lit scene with no bigger light or dark surfaces at F8 gives the best results.

The camera can't cope with the dark leaves. Should have been EV+.

These were the first picture tests. As I have a Mint RF70 which is a superbly working Instax Wide camera, I thought the TL70  would be easy. But no, on the first pack 9 out of 10 photos failed more or less. You have to choose the diaphragm, between 5.6 and 22, the shutter is automatic, between 1/500 and 1 sec. There is a red and a green light next to the viewing screen, that's all. If it's green, everything should be fine. But no, it isn't. It overexposes, it underexposes. The flash doesn't help either.

So I looked at the TL70 tests on the web, there are only 2 or 3, the rest is copy and paste from Mint material. And there you are, it's delicate, unreliable and not easy at all. If you look at the pictures in the Mint ads closely, they chose the subjects well so that you can't see the vignetting and the print size remains small, so you can't judge the sharpness.

I took 3 more packs to see. The results were not much better, but at least I could foresee the biggest problems and not waste so many photos. The scans are 400 DPI with no post-treatment. The settings are noted on the rim of the photo.

To be fair: the pictures shown here are more than life size. If you hold them in your hand and look at them, they seem sharper. So one about life size first:

About life size, it's the scond photo.

And now some pictures from my last pack, shot on a bright summer day:

Cologne, Old Tax Offices. No compensation. The bike in the foreground is fine, The building, made of dark bricks, is overexposed.

Cologne, New Tax Offices (1950s). -1, F5.6. OK.

Same photo, -1, F16. Even a bit better in general, but vignetting from smaller aperture.

Cologne, St. Pantaleon, outer gate. OK, seen the heavy contrasts.

Cologne, St. Pantaleon. Extreme backlight situation and heavy contrasts, so it's OK.

Cologne, New Tax Offices, heavy contrats, so it's fine.

Basically: you need a bright day. If the subject is dark, you have to set EV+, otherwise the picture is underexposed, if there is some bright sky in the picture, you have to set EV-, otherwise the picture is overexposed. Only with a large aperture there is no vignetting. At F16 and F22 it vignettes badly. Contrasts are not great, sharpness is not terrible either despite the reflex viewfinder. Moreover, the viewfinder image is square, it does not show the bottom and the top of the picture!

To give you an idea, I mounted the camera on a tripod and took an electronic photo of the screen and then the real photo with the camera.

https://www.subcompactcam.com/scans/instant/220701rfi/rfi_screen_compa.jpg                    https://www.subcompactcam.com/scans/instant/220701rfi/Reinhard_02.07.22-RFi-2_screen_compa.jpg
The screen, crop of an electronic photo, inversed for comparison and the real photo with an approx. red line of the screen.

Although the picture is inversed, the screen of a TLR camera should show you what you get, more: it should be exact. It's the essential advantage of a TLR over a rangefinder. This camera fails heavily, a strip of the right side is missing on the photo, whereas the top and the bottom of the photo are not visible on the screen. This should have been masked. And there is another bad point: the camera has no parallax compensation, not even a mark, as on a cheap rangefinder. Real Rolleiflexes have parallax compensation since the 1940s. Without compensation photos at closer distance are only a guess. On my camera the distance indication on the wheel is not up to the scratch as well. At 3.5m distance from the subject it indicates 2m!

The flash, which is confirmed by the manual, has a range of only 2 m (!) and is badly oriented, the flash is horizontal, the image is vertical, the top and bottom are badly illuminated. Indoor shots without flash will be difficult. Despite ISO 800 and exposure times of up to 1 second, it seems to expose for a long time, but still underexposes, as if the lens would be far from the f5.6 chosen. And yes, a tripod is absolutely necessary.

General handling: it's a good idea to couple the unfolding of the viewfinder with switching the cameraon. The finder is really bright, but it doesn't show the whole picture (see above). Swinging the magnifier in is fiddly, you have to pry it out and you will certainly touch the glass and leave your fingerprints. All of my medium format TLR and SLR cameras, even the oldest ones, have a better solution. Ejection is fine and strong. The camera doesn't eject automatically, not even the dark slide, but on the other hand double exposure is easy. Exposure is automatic, there is no manual mode, which is a pity. Automatic exposure is very unreliable. You will waste at least half of your photos. The flash is really bad, it does not even cover the picture at 1.5 metres. Its switch is too tiny and black on black. Same for the automatic/B switch, it's black on black, hardly visible. The counter is tiny too, you need good light to see it. Same for the aperture window. Sharpness and contrast are not better than a simple and cheap Fuji Instant Mini. The vignetting at F16 and F22 is simply unacceptable.

The taking lens seems to have an inner Bay filter mount, the viewing lens has none. All Rolleiflexes since the late 1930s have special bayonet accessory mount with an inner mount for filters and an outer mount for other accessories. It is usually referred to as Bay mount, depending on the size it's I to IV, I and II are the most common. The Mint accessories are quite expensive, so you might wish to use standard accessories. This is not possible. The mount is neither I nor II, it's in-between, another point of deception.

To make it clear: I am an artist photographer and I still own more than 40 Instant cameras + more than 100 others. I know what I'm talking about, look at my websites. The camera is very expensive, Mint still sells it (2022) for 430€ and you will have to add more than 100€ taxes in Europe. The TL70 2.0 is a bit cheaper and pay attention! they still sell the first version! A Fuji Neo Classic is sold for ~140€ in 2022, a third of the price. It makes automatically impeccable photos, it has flash off setting, bulb mode and double exposure. It gets it right, you don't waste photos. You can see it here, some photos shot with it included.

This camera is obviously not for me, I tried hard, but I give up and will sell it soon.And I think it's a shame that this camera is allowed to bear the famous Rolleiflex name. I own 2 real Rolleiflexes, so again, I know what I'm talking about...