How to fix Rolleiflex Automat, Setting focus

After the front cover is removed, you can get a look at some of the camera’s internal workings. The shutter mechanism is built around the taking lens, and the controls to adjust the Aperture and Shutter speed are accessible. Adjacent to the viewing lens is a small mechanism that controls the self-timer.

Set the viewing lens focus


The goal is to adjust the viewing lens so that it matches with the taking lens. To do so, use a spanner wrench (Not a set of calipers like i did) to loosen the locking collar below the viewing lens. Once the collar has been loosened, you should be able to turn the taking lens with your fingers. If needed you can completely unscrew the viewing lens and remove it to clean the elements, but this is not necessary for adjusting focus.



Set up the camera for checking focus as described in the previous post. To keep the shutter open with the front cover removed I wedged a small piece of cardboard into the shutter release opening to hold open the shutter. Using a magnifying glass move the camera back and forth until the taking lens is perfectly focused. Without moving the camera turn the viewing lens until the image in the viewfinder is also focused correctly. This can be quite fiddley, and I had to turn the viewing lens in and out a few times to find the proper position. Double check that both of the lenses are properly focused. Without turning the viewing lens, tighten the collar against it so it can no longer turn freely.


The viewing lens and taking lens should now be properly aligned. Compare the two at different focus distances and see if they consistently agree. Don’t worry If the stated distance on the focusing knob is not accurate, that can be easily adjusted later. If the taking lens and viewing lens do not correspond at all focusing distances, then the whole lens board may be out of alignment or there is another problem. In my case, once the two lenses were aligned, they corresponded regardless of focusing distance.




Once you are satisfied that the focus is as it should be, putting everything back together is fairly straight forward.  Here are a couple things to watch out for.



  • Be sure that the settings on the cover plate (Aperture and Shutter speed) match those on the shutter mechanism

  • Remember to put the pin back in the shutter button, and screw in the flash sync cable.

  • Check that the washers between the faceplate and the camera are properly aligned.

  • When tightening the 4 main screws, be sure that you can easily adjust the camera settings with the wheals on the faceplate. The first time I tightened them too much and could hardly move the dials. I ended up adding some additional thin washers to give the gears a it more space.


Setting the distance scale

To do this you will need to loosen the focusing knob and rotate it to line up correctly with the distance marks on the camera body.



Depending on the year of the camera, the focusing knob may have a round leather piece covering it, or a machined cap with two small holes. If it is leather, you will need to carefully peal it up to reveal the holes. I used a set of dividers inserted in the holes as a wrench to unscrew the cap. Under the cap is a single nut holding the knob to the focusing shaft that extends into the camera. Loosen the nut, and rotate the knob so that it indicates the proper distance. When satisfied, tighten the nut and reattach the cap. I punched two small holes in the leather covering on my cap so that I can access it again if needed.



The camera should now be focusing properly, and the distance indicator should be accurate. Go out and take some pictures to be sure!


Write a comment

Comments: 6
  • #1

    gaillard (Saturday, 22 February 2020 20:06)

    hello, i opened my rolleiflex 2.8 E and the inside is different, there is no locking collar bellow my viewing lens. do you have any instructions for adjusting viewing lens for my camera? thank you

  • #2

    John-Michael (Sunday, 23 February 2020 11:08)

    I’m afraid I can’t help much with the 2.8E. I have a 2.8C, but as it works fine, I have never opened it up. And even if I had, I don’t know if the 2.8C and the 2.8E have the same construction.

    I found a diagram on this forum, might be helpful:

    It looks like the whole viewing lens screws into the focusing plate like on the older model, but I can’t see what keeps it in place. There may be a small retaining screw, or a locking collar may be on the inside (under the focusing screen). The idea is to figure out what is locking the lens in place, and loosen that so you can screw the lens in or out to adjust focus, then lock it in the proper position.

    I hope this helps a bit. Fell free to email me if I can be of further assistance.

  • #3

    Daniel (Sunday, 31 July 2022 19:09)

    Thank you for sharing the information. I could readjust the focus on my Rolleiflex 3.5 mx thanks to it. Have exchanged the original focus screen against one of a broken Mamiya RB67. Because of the slightly different thickness of the screen one needs to readjust the taking tense after that. The information you are giving here is very helpful for that process!

  • #4

    Jean-Philippe Fahrni (Monday, 03 April 2023 21:33)

    Don’t use your caliper as a spanner, please

  • #5

    John-Michael (Monday, 03 April 2023 22:18)

    Good point Jean-Philippe Fahrni, thanks :)

  • #6

    Mat (Tuesday, 01 August 2023 02:49)

    Wonderful article. Any tricks to loosening the nut on the focusing knob? I have Rolleicord IV, the knob had a screw in cap that covers the nut, easy to remove with a spanner. However, the nut itself is impossible to remove. I tried dabbing it with acetone and other solvents in hopes of loosening a possible lock-tite adhesive, I also applied heat with a soldering gun to the nut - it does not help. The nut is starting to chip away and I worry it will break. How do I loosen it?