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wpe70.gif (121029 bytes)  Petri's Masterpiece: the Color 35 Family

Simply put, the 1968 Petri Color 35 is a design masterpiece.  Elsewhere I complain about the Rollei 35's odd, hard to work design. The Petri Color 35 came two years later and is the camera that the Rollei 35 should have been.  Where the Rollei 35 is odd and hard to work, the Petri Color 35 shines in originality and ease of use.  Of course all of this is VERY odd, since saying a Petri had a much better design than a Rollei is something like saying Yugo had a much better design than Ferrari.    I don't have a clue how the Color 35 design came to Petri, but I bet it's a fascinating story.    According to the Collector's Guide of Japanese Cameras, the Petri Color 35 has the distinction being the first Japanese camera to have the distance scale and exposure scale in the viewfinder. Most Color 35's are chrome.  The harder to find black enamel finish is more desirable.

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The chrome version with black lettering is the most numerous Petri 35 in the US. Even though a small camera, the controls are large and easy to use, especially the film rewind lever.  The chrome button to the right of the shutter and aperture dials is the battery check.

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Top Plate Design Award: 3 easy to grip dials control shutter speeds, f/stops and focus, focusing dial also collapses or  extends lens,  large easy to use film advance lever and film rewind lever, hot shoe, film counter on back edge near hot shoe, shutter release threaded for cable release.  The small window on the back edge of the top plate, below the accessory shoe, is the film counter.

Petri Color 35 D

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In my experience the "D" or Color 35 Deluxe is the rarest version in the US, even rarer than the black.   It has a higher 1/300th shutter speed, and is prominently marked on the finder.   I am unsure if black 35 D's were produced, I have never seen or heard of such an animal.

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Black Focus Dial on back center of camera focuses lens, as well as collapsing lens back into the camera body.  Camera will not release shutter with collapsed lens.  Shown here are two of the rarer Color 35's, the red lettered "Color" and the 1/300th speed "D."

Petri Color 35 E

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The Petri Color 35 was followed up in 1970 with the Color 35 E.  Built on the same body, the 35E was unfortunately a much more conventional and more forgettable design.  The 35 E added programmed only exposure and a Guide Number flash system,  while taking away user selection of f/stops,  shutter speeds, and exposure control.   Instead of the Color 35's more precise geared system of retracting and extending the collapsible lens, the 35E used a simpler and less expensive  friction pull / push design.  Apparently having an elegant design like the Color 35 was too much for Petri:  they had to screw it up and go back to their normal Petri standard  with the "improved" 35E.  Early 35E's had one strap lug, later ones had two strap lugs to escape back to normalcy in camera design --- argh.   Thankfully the shutter is locked until the lens is extended into shooting position.

Petri micro compact

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In 1979 the "micro compact" appeared, a cheapened all black Color 35E with basically the same features.  The metal lens base on all earlier versions was replaced with cost saving plastic.

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Petri Beats Leica M in the compact department!  OK, so the race was rigged.


Was the elegant Petri Color 35 Petri's best ever design?  Well, I guess that depends upon who you talk to, but in my eyes, it wins hands down.   If you like "different" cameras with noteworthy features, this little Petri may become a favorite of yours too.


Petri Color 35 Rollei 35
Advance lever Top Right Top Left
Shutter Speeds Dial on top, easy to operate at eye level Dial on front, can not operate at eye level
F/Stops Dial on top, easy to operate at eye level Dial on front, can not operate at eye level
Meter Match Needle readout IN finder Match Needle on top, can not operate at eye level
Meter Cell CDS next to lens, automatic filter compensation, inoperative meter will remind you to remove lens cap CDS cell on body, no automatic filter compensation
Battery Easily available silver D76 bad boy Mercury 625
Meter Switch Meter switches  on with film advance, off with shutter release no meter switch
Distance Scale IN finder, easy to see at eyelevel On lens, can not see  at eye level
Focus Dial On top, easy to operate at eye level On lens, can not operate at eye level
Hot Shoe On Top, easy to use On Bottom, hard to use.   You have a choice of shadows in the wrong place, or getting used to using the camera upside down with flash.
PC connection Yes NO
Rewind Lever On Top, easy to operate On Bottom, not so easy
Film Counter Easy to See at back of Camera Oddly placed on camera bottom
Lens 40/2.8 Petri, no other lens choices,  a sharp lens, but not as good as the Rollei Sonnar or Tessar, collapses halfway into body 40/2.8 Sonnar, 40/3.5 Tessar, 40/3.5 Triotar in various models.  Lens quality edge goes to Rollei with the Sonnar and Tessar, probably not on the Triotar. . Collapses almost completely into body.


simple leaf shutter 1/15th to 1/250th, no slow speeds 1 second to 1/500th. Rollei did a great engineering job getting a full shutter speed range in a camera this size

Construction Quality

Typical high quality of a well made medium priced Japanese compact 35 of the late 60's

Legendary quality that the Rollei 35 is famous for, the best mechanical fit, finish, and precision in any compact 35

List Price 1972

$89.95 $195.50

Ease of Use

Extremely well designed and easy to use, given the confines of late 1960's mechanical technology.  All shooting controls -- focus, advance, shutter release, shutter speeds, and f/stops can be operated at eyelevel by  right hand.   Perhaps the most amazing thing is it's a Petri -- not a Rollei, not a Leica, not a Nikon.

A strong candidate for the "worst" ergonomic 35mm camera design  ever. Most controls are in the wrong place, translating to a slow working camera which is hard to get used to, but gives great results due to their great Zeiss lenses.


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Petri Color 35 and Rollei 35: the ignored better designed camera, and the famous badly designed camera with the great lens.


SIZE Petri Color 35 Rollei 35S
Weight, with battery, no film 14 oz 12 oz
Length body 4 1/16" 3 13/16th"
Height Body Casing 2  9/16" 2 10/16"
  Height Body including dials etc 2 5/8" 2 3/4"
Width Lens Collapsed 1 19/32" 1 7/8"
Overall the Petri is slightly larger and 2 oz heavier, with  LOTS more features


Petri Color 35 variations include:

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Revised: November 26, 2003 Copyright � 1998-2002  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.