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Rollei 6008

Review by Philip Greenspun, 1997


Surveying new medium format cameras, one finds the following: ancient mechanical mechanisms controlling things more accurately and reliably done electronically; no exposure meters unless one is willing to use a prism finder; cumbersome dark slides and film loading; pre-War industrial design.

The Rollei 6008 (and its sibling, the cheaper 6003) represents a milestone. Combining solid engineering, old ideas from the 35mm world and dozens of elegant and simple original ideas, Rollei built a machine that facilitates creativity and a high percentage of useable shots.

The 6008 is a 6x6 cm. camera in the mold established by Hasselblad in 1948. The camera is a box containing a mirror, motor drive, xmeter, some controls and displays and a microcomputer. Lenses, film magazines and viewfinders are interchangeable. Each lens contains a leaf shutter and diaphragm electronically controlled from the camera body.

Lenses

Texas Falls, Vermont.

A comprehensive array of lenses for the 6008 is available. There are no mechanical linkages between the camera and lenses; all information is communicated through ten gold-plated contacts. Almost all Zeiss lenses available in Hasselblad mounts are also available with Rollei mounts and shutters, making for a line of 10 lenses with focal lengths from 40mm to 500mm. Expect to get reamed on the price, though. For example, in July 1995, B&H Photo listed the Zeiss 60/3.5 for the 'Blad at $2200 and for the Rollei at $3650. The premium on a Zeiss 40 was $2000; on a Zeiss 250/5.6., it was $1000 more for the Rollei mount.

Schneider makes a line of lenses for the Rollei as well. The most interesting are super fast lenses, e.g., an 80/2, a 180/2.8, and a 300/4 ($4500 to $6500 at B&H). I personally owned the Zeiss 50/4, Schneider 80/2.8, Zeiss 120/4 macro, and Zeiss 250/5.6. The Schneider was the sharpest lens and a joy to use, but it has been discontinued. The 120 was disappointingly flare-prone and delivered low contrast results even in the studio with a white background. I initially was very taken with the Zeiss 50 (equivalent to a 28mm on a Nikon) but after the Nikon 20mm spoiled me into going wider and wider in 35mm, I found it constraining and the perspective uninteresting. Note that the Zeiss 50 for the Rollei is $3092 and does not incorporate a floating element; the 'Blad 50 FLE is $2481 and presumably the floating element leads to dramatically better near-far shots.

[Old Rollei 6006 lenses, some of which you can buy relatively cheaply used, work on the 6008, but not very well. Metering modes and finder displays do not all work, but worst is the loud click the lens makes stopping down before each shot. This click gives human subjects enough time to flinch or blink. The newer "PQ" lenses for the 6008 do work nicely on the 6006.]

Note: See this table if you want to know the 35mm equivalents of lens focal lengths for a 6x6cm camera.

Film Backs

Devils' Postpile. Mammoth, California

Film magazines are available for 120, 220, 70mm, and Polaroid film. Square 6x6 and horizontal 6x4.5 formats are offered. The film magazines are one of the best features of the Rollei system. Moving a single handle rolls the dark slide within the magazine, simultaneously protecting the film and mechanically enabling the magazine to be removed. Each film magazine contains an ISO dial that couples to the 6008's meter. If one is using autoexposure, grabbing a shot with a different emulsion takes seconds and there is no possibility of exposure error, dropping a dark slide or other contretemps. The Polaroid magazine lacks the sophisticated laminar dark slide but is otherwise functional. In general, Rollei makes mid-roll film changing easier than any other camera.

Rollei's windowshade dark slide system requires that the film be pushed back and forth when you are changing magazines. This apparently makes it impossible to use simple mechanical registration for film winding. Some kind of electronic encoder wheel is used to see if the film has been advanced far enough. This never works "well" in the sense that frames are evenly spaced, like they are with a 'Blad or even a cheap Fuji folder 645. It seldom fails altogether, in the sense that frames overlap (maybe 1 out of 4,000 frames for a working magazine) a few mm, but can be irritating when you're trying to cut down negs. One of my three backs was persistently bad about film overlapping and required several warranty repairs to keep the problem to a minimum. This can be irksome when you consider that a Rollei back costs $1000, versus $650 for a 'Blad back or $750 for a Fuji 645 that can take 120 or 220 and they throw in a lens plus a meter.

[You can save money by getting a used Rollei 6006 film magazine, but the 6008 assumes ISO 100 film, necessitating use of the exposure compensation dial on the camera body with non-ISO 100 emulsions.] Provincetown Dunes. Cape Cod. Massachusetts.

A motor drive on a 12-exposure camera is surprisingly useful. Photographing models with available light, the 2 fps (2.5 on the Integral) motor drive captures subtle expressions. Automatic windup to frame 1 and windout at the end of each roll are convenient on 20-roll days. The motor drive prevents inadvertent double exposures and unused frames, a classic way to lose with a Hasselblad when you change film magazines before winding up to the next frame. There is also no winding crank on the film magazine for the inexperienced to mistakenly operate, another Hasselblad perennial. For intentional multiple exposures, a convenient knob disengages the camera's winding gear; the motor still runs to operate the mirror, but the film and film counter do not advance.

If one isn't completely sold by the laminar dark slides and motor drive, Rollei also has $85 film inserts that make loading new film as as fast as with a Nikon. The 6008 is a tall camera so film simply travels from one spool to another without doubling back on itself as it does in a Hasselblad or Bronica magazine. One puts the roll of fresh film on the empty side of the insert (where the last roll was pulled out) and winds out enough film onto the takeup spool until an arrow on the insert lines up with an arrow on the film. One finally drops the insert into the film magazine. This operation is itself considerably quicker than loading most other medium format cameras, but what is truly effective is preloading several inserts. Each insert has a slot into which a folder film box top can be inserted. The box top will then be visible through a window in the film magazine. Each insert comes with a reasonably light-tight case so that film can be loaded well in advance.

[Bob Solomon of HP Marketing claims that the Rollei film transport system gives sharper results than with the Hasselblad-style folding over of the film. The film is pressed up against some rails in the body so that the film plane is independent of which back is installed. In a 'Blad or similar, the film plane is in each back, which is why the insert has to be precisely matched to the back itself to get maximum sharpness.]

Photographic Interlude

These images are from my Sierra Mountains series.

Metering

Bodie, California.

Metering with the 6008 is straightforward. A large knob on the left side of the camera selects three modes: center-weighted; 1% spot; automatic average of five spot readings. Don't plan to point and shoot in center-weighted mode. Rollei simply averages and weights toward the center and bottom of the frame. Results are not up to the standards set by 35mm SLRs with their databases of the right exposure for thousands of "common patterns". Expect to use the conveniently-placed exposure lock, the spot meter, or metered- manual in any moderately complex situation. Shooting aperture and shutter speed are displayed digitally at all times. Match-LED metering is displayed in 1/3 stop increments and aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation are both adjustable in 1/3 stop detented increments; this camera was built for the professional shooting color transparency film. One caveat: the older 6008 (non Integral) meter is only sensitive down to EV3 (ISO 100 film, f/2.8 lens), a pathetic performance compared to 35mm SLRs. At ISO 1600, that is an exposure of 1/15th of a second at f/2.8, a shot that might not even require a tripod. The 6008 Integral, introduced in late 1995, goes down to EV0.

One area where Rollei is head and shoulders above the 35mm crowd is the manner in which automatic exposure is selected. Rather than a complex display and a multi-function dial, Rollei added an "A" setting to aperture and shutter speed dials. Select 1/125th and f/8 and you get metered manual. Move the aperture dial to "A" and you get shutter priority autoexposure. Move the aperture back to f/8 and the shutter speed to "A" and you get aperture priority. Move both to "A" and you get total automation. Note that the 6008 has no idea what focal length lens is mounted, so program autoexposure doesn't shift to faster shutter speeds with longer lenses. No matter what mode you are in, the viewfinder LEDs always show you the shooting aperture and shutter speed.

This parade of technology is powered by a 9.6V NiCd battery. The camera becomes a doorstop when this runs down, which is after about 300 exposures in my experience. A low battery warning appears about 20 exposures before death and swapping in a spare battery takes about 10 seconds. Spares are compact and cost about $165. An amateur might be able to get by without one since a 15 minute charge is good for 50 shots. I used the camera extensively in subfreezing temperatures and never had any trouble with the batteries. All the controls are easily operating when wearing winter gloves. Note that NiCd's work better at low temperatures than disposable batteries.

Viewfinders

Viewing is through the standard collapsible hood, 45 or 90 degree prism finders or a magnifying hood. The view is bright in the Rollei tradition. The standard focusing screen includes a central split image, microprism collar and a 1 cm grid of fine lines for framing. Four other screens are available, but none are marked with precise 8x10 print proportions, which would be helpful for those who like to crop in the viewfinder.

No matter which finder and screen you use, the LED displays are visible and read correctly; the microcomputer electronically mirrors all displays to compensate for the installation of a prism finder. I personally find composing a picture with the waist-level finder extremely effective. Yet Rollei is the only 6x6 SLR manufacturer that combines metering with waist-level viewing. The 6008 is also the only 6x6 camera to display aperture and shutter speed in the viewfinder. The LEDs also signal the use of exposure compensation, meter lock and spot metering.

In the Field

Bodie, California

I shot several thousand rolls over four years with my Rollei 6008 system. It got rained on by sand for six hours in an Arizona slot canyon, splashed with South Pacific surf in New Zealand, handled by hamfisted photography students in a course I taught at MIT, and knocked around in an advertising photo studio. I feel that it is rugged enough for any professional application and 48-hour service is available in New Jersey.

Every feature on the camera has been useful to me on a regular basis. Every electronic bell and whistle has turned out to be practical. The only feature that I never used was the motor drive's autobracketing settings. Autobracketing (up and down 2/3 stop) only works with autoexposure. Whenever a image has been important enough or complex enough to warrant bracketing, I have been using studio strobes or metered manual. Nor do I frequently use the multi-spot metering mode, preferring to average in my head.

Electronic Flash

Rack. Consumer Electronics Show. Las Vegas, Nevada. 1991

Flash photography with the Rollei/Metz C70 adaptor/Metz 45CT-5 combination is disappointing after one has experienced the joys of the Nikon flash system (even before the D metering of the N90). The film speed set on the film magazine does not affect the exposure; only the film speed set on the C70 adaptor. So changing emulsions is no longer such a breeze. Furthermore, I found that chromes were consistently 1/3 to 1/2 stop underexposed with the C70 set at normal film speed. The Metz has a slightly higher guide number than Nikon and Canon top of the line flashes but the Japanese flashes usually have better reach since they've zoomed to match the lens coverage.

When I use a modern Canon or Nikon, I often like to use one hand to hold the flash off-camera and the other to autofocus and shoot. You can't do that with any medium format camera.

Two good things about the Metz/Rollei: TTL exposure is nice for macro work and fill flash is simple. To fill one stop under ambient, simply throw the camera into aperture priority autoexposure. The shutter speed will be set by the ambient light and won't make any difference for the flash, since the leaf shutter syncs at any speed. Set the film speed on the C70 adaptor to twice whatever is set on the film magazine (so the flash "thinks" the film is twice as fast as the camera thinks). The flash will therefore always be one stop under. This doesn't work with ISO 400 film, though, because the maximum speed settable is 400 so you can't set 1600 for two stops underexposure, for example. The 6008 Integral allegedly has a fix for this.

I can't resist showing some more of my photos from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (back when I was stupid, I engineered a product that was exhibited at CES; it so happened that our booth was right next to the prerecorded video porn section). Kathy Bauer and associates at Advanced Digital Imaging scanned these without comment.

The Action Grip

South Beach. Miami.

Included with the 6008 is an "action grip" that facilitates one-handed operation by right-handed photographers. This small handle plugs quickly in or out of the shutter speed dial when the shutter speed dial is set to a special position. The grip has a camcorder-like strap, cushioned with leather, that goes around your fingers. Rotation into any one of four positions is possible. A shutter release and meter lock button fall easily to hand, as does the camera power/motor drive mode switch. The grip changes the way you use this camera: you can hold the camera all day with one hand, yet still fit the camera into a gadget bag. The only other medium format SLRs with this ease of handling are the Bronicas with speed grips. If you go for the 6003 package (a "bargain" at $3600 with 80/2.8 lens), make sure you spring for the grip, which doesn't come with it.

Filters

Rollei offers the advantage of bayonet mount filters, which are such a convenience it is a shame that they are not more popular in the 35mm world. Prices for Bay VI filters, which incorporate ball bearings in their mounts, are shocking -- even more expensive than Hasselblad Bay 60 filters. Heliopan filters are the most reasonably priced and are superb optically. I frequently resort to "cheapo" B+W 67mm filters with a Heliopan adapter. At least most of the lenses take Bay VI filters, exceptions being the 350mm and 500mm, the super fast Schneider optics, the perspective control lens, the zooms and the 40mm.

Macro

Macro work with the 6008 is a pleasure because of the all-electronic lens/camera coupling. Extension tubes, bellows and lens reversing ring all contain no linkages and all preserve every automatic function. The TTL ambient and flash metering come in handy here. I would often go into the woods with a 6008, 120 macro lens and 34mm extension tube. However, Nikon's floating-element macro lenses (infinity down to 1:1) and incredible flash systems made my Nikons preferable for most macro applications, though I suspect Rollei's new Schneider macro lenses are vastly better than the Zeiss 120/4 I was using.

After four years, the only annoyances I really couldn't adjust to were the following:

  • Black bear in a cave shots. I normally shoot on a tripod and hence keep a short electronic remote release attached. Thus the camera has three active releases: the remote, the one by the action grip and one in the traditional lower right corner of the front of the camera. It is easy to take "black bear in a cave" shots when pulling the camera in or out of a case.
  • When the neck strap is slack, the attachment hardware tends to rotate down and obstruct access to the stop-down button, which I used constantly. This was particularly irksome when using a prism finder.
South Beach. Miami.

The bottom line: Is a 6008 system worth buying? Before taking the plunge into any medium format system, one should ask oneself if 35mm or 4x5 equipment wouldn't actually be better. For architecture and tabletop work, a used $500 4x5 outfit is unsurpassed. Low dispersion glass 300/2.8 lenses and super wide angle lenses for 35mm cameras facilitate some fascinating perspectives. If your final product is some sort of multimedia work, keep in mind that a PhotoCD scan for a 6x6 image is 7 to 15 times the price of a 35mm scan.

If you decide that you must have a medium format camera, consider whether you want to shoot 645, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9, 6x12 or 6x17. Michael Freeman's Medium Format Manual includes an excellent comparison of different aspect ratios. Forced to choose one, I would choose 6x6 because of the convenience of waist-level viewing without ever having to rotate the camera or film magazine. I enjoy the flexibility in cropping and the process of experimenting with different crops on a light table. Remember that a rectangular print can be pulled out of the square negative at any angle and still cover a large percentage of the image. And a lot of shots just look better square.

If you're sold on 6x6, you're probably debating whether to get a Rollei, Hasselblad, or Bronica. I don't have enough experience with Bronica to say anything, but I know that Hasselblad is a more convenient system for certain applications. Standard accessories facilitate such applications as microscopy and aerial photography. The same film winding knob on the back of each magazine that novices mistakenly wind and waste film becomes useful when one wants to leave space between frames for registration pins. On the other hand, there are areas where Rollei shines. A standard housing and extensive automation make Rollei the choice for underwater photography. With the mirror prereleased, the time from shutter release to exposure is an electronically-controlled 3 msec. on a 6008, thus making possible motion studies that would be extremely tedious with a mechanical camera.

Rollei vs. Hasselblad

Rollei Hasselblad 500 series
meter center-weighted, spot and multi-spot meter in body center-weighted meter in $1500 meter prism
shutter electronically-controlled 30 to 1/500th of a sec, 1/3 stop increments, up to 1/1000th with some lenses, longer times with expensive auxiliary equipment mechanically-controlled speeds 1 to 1/500th, full stop increments, must hold down shutter release during exposures longer than 1/4 sec
film transport built-in motor drive optional motor driven model
handholding easy with action grip moderately easy to handhold
engineering electronic mechanisms that never need adjustment, but fail catastrophically mechanical mechanisms that need regular maintenance that usually fail gracefully
battery constant reliance on custom NiCd pack none needed
changing backs brilliant dark slide design standard (cumbersome) dark slide
changing film drop-in inserts tedious
resale value fair great
automatic exposure aperture, shutter and program AE no meter coupling of any kind
film backs 6x6, 6x4.5 horizontal 120 and 220 backs, 6x6 70mm, 70mm databack and Polaroid back 6x6, 6x4.5 horizontal and vertical 120 and 220 backs, 6x6 70mm, 70mm databack, Polaroid back, sheet film back, 35mm panaromic back
viewfinder info full information; f-stop and shutter speed to 1/3 stop, reminders of mexter mode, meter lock and exposure compensation, flash ready light and battery low indicator flash ready light
service 48 hours in New Jersey walk-in in most big cities
film ISO->meter coupling film backs keyed with ISO data, exposure adjusts automatically must remember to reset ISO on meter prism when swapping film backs
lens/camera coupling electronic, so macro accessories are simple and preserve automation mechanical, so macro accessories are complex and/or sacrifice automation
documentation sketchy owner's manual excellent hardcover book covering entire system
appearance modern, clunky workhorse elegant, classic look of precision
"take my picture" can lend camera to novice for a few shots and expect good results infrequent users manage to find lots of subtle ways to ruin shots
lenses Zeiss lenses from 40mm to 500mm, Schneider 60, 80/2, 150 fixed, 75-150, 140-280 zooms, 55 perspective control, 2x teleconverter Zeiss lenses from 30mm to 500mm, Schneider 140-280 zoom, Zeiss UV 105, Zeiss 250 Superachromat, 2x teleconverters from Blad & Vivitar
renting lenses good luck any big city
filters Very restricted choice of bayonet or 67mm with adaptor reasonably wide selection of filters Hasselblad and third party filters
price terrifyingly expensive shockingly expensive (moving up to terrifying expensive with the 205TCC and associated electronic lenses)
US Distributor Rollei USA LLC
2015 Mountain Road
Unit B
Stroudsburg, PA 18360
telephone 1 570 629 4391
email: bernd@enter.net
Victor Hasselblad, Inc.
10 Madison Road
Fairfield, NJ 07006
telephone (201) 227-7320

Still confused as to whether Rollei or 'Blad is a better deal? For me it was kind of a gut decision. I used Hasselblads fairly extensively but never grew to love them; the Rollei appealed to something I'd picked up hanging around MIT, perhaps.

How does one justify buying a Rollei 6008 system given the extraordinary bargains available in 35mm and the relatively low cost of 4x5 equipment? A fairly comprehensive Rollei system costs about $20,000. If one intends to keep the camera 5-10 years, the annual cost of foregone interest on the money and depreciation is about $200/month. The biggest expense for the serious photographer is time and the second is film and processing. The cost of the Rollei system is negligible compared to these two killers and there are many shots for which a 4x5 is too cumbersome and a 35mm just makes you wish you'd shot in a larger format.

On the third hand, after my Rollei system was stolen in Philadelphia back in 1993, I couldn't justify replacing it. The price had soared from $14,000 in 1989, which seemed exhorbitant, to over $20,000 which seemed absurd. I decided to experiment with some wide-range 35mm zooms and take more pictures of people. I bought a Fuji 617 and a used Fuji 645W to prevent medium-format withdrawal, but I'm waiting for the next generation of cameras before sinking $20,000 into a medium format SLR system.

If someone held a gun to my head and said "you have to buy a medium format SLR right now," I'd probably get the 6008, Schneider 80, Zeiss 40, and Schneider 300/4.

Someone Held a Gun to My Head

Well, actually I just got way too rich building a Web services company (see my Web nerd book if you want to be a $250/hour Web apps developer) and couldn't resist picking up a used Rollei 6003 with Zeiss 80/2.8 from a local wedding photographer. It cost me almost exactly $2000 with the odd bits that I had to pick up from Hadley Chamberlain.

My friend Adriane and I used it to do a fund-raising calendar (September 1998-December 1999) of the MIT men's water polo team. We went into my studio with some Ilford Pan F. Send e-mail to her at age@mit.edu if you want to buy a copy to help the team (cost will be $10, available late August).

Of course, after a year or so with the 6003, I couldn't resist playing with some of the superb new lenses. The images below are from summer and fall of 1999...

The Schneider 40mm lens

The Schneider 180mm lens

The Schneider 90 macro lens

Compare these to similar pictures above taken with the 180.

Where to Buy

The USA version of this camera is stocked by Adorama, a retailer that pays photo.net a referral fee for each customer, which helps keep this site in operation. For additional retailer information, see our recommended retailers page and the user recommendations section.

If you'd like to see some additional photos taken with this camera, check out

If you want to buy a new Rollei and don't like the staggering prices at the photo.net recommended shops (it isn't their fault), then send email to Hadley Chamberlain ( www.hecphoto.com; HEChamberl@aol.com), who has been selling used Rolleis for 25 years (I bought a like-new UV filter from him for about 40% of the price new).

If you have a broken Rollei of any kind, you can send it for service to Marflex, 39 US 46, Pine Brook, NJ 07058 (telephone: (973) 808-9626).


Portions of this appeared in PhotoMethods magazine in 1990. Article and photos copyright Philip Greenspun.

Article created 1997

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Stephen Lehmann , January 20, 1997; 06:48 P.M.

Well Phil I just read the Rollei review and I had the opposite View as I am a long time Blad user and I love the simplicity of it and hated all the bells and whistles OTHER than the metering.I think I feel more in control with the Blad. I'm the guy that always has the Battery run out so I don't have that solid 'Nothings ever going to go wrong with my Hassy (Canadianism). I have a T* TLR Rollei 2.8 that still keeps on producing great shots when I'm not rushed.

alex presilla , June 15, 1998; 08:27 P.M.

I recently bought a 6008i and the camera went dead after 2 weeks of using it. I took it back to marflex corporation and they had to replace the main board of the computer. I like to know if any body has had the same or similar problem. the camera otherwise has been working fine and it is a wonderfull equipment but I wonder if it is going to let me down in any asigment in the future

Jonathan Martin Rosen , July 12, 1998; 12:17 P.M.

i would like to put in my two cents for Bronica. it is cheap compared to hasselblad and rollei and it is good. the systems are comparable to rollei in terms of extent. the lenses are sharp i have been using a bronica etrs and etrsi now for about 10 years and it is a good camera. plus it has nifty 35mm panoramic backs. which make a 52mm long neg on 35mm film. the electronic shutters in the lenses are extremely accurate and if the battery dies you still have 1/500th

Jim Chow , April 07, 1999; 12:54 A.M.

I have the Rollei 6008 integral with the schneider 40/3.5 super angulon, schneider 90/4 APO symmar makro, and the schneider 180/2.8 tele-xenar. All three lenses are excellent, and, IMHO, among the best available in medium format. The schneider 40/3.5 is a clever design, weighing about 1/4 lb less than the Zeiss 40/4, yet it's only 1 cm longer than the Zeiss 80/2.8 planar. There are only 8 elements (vs. the Zeiss' 11 elements), and all elements are fully floating, so there is no outer dial to adjust depending on whether the subject is between 0.5m-0.9m, 0.9m - 2m, or 2m - infinity as on the Zeiss. Also note that the minimum focusing distance on the schneider is 0.4m vs. the Zeiss' 0.5m, and it takes standard 77mm filters. Recently, Rollei has introduced the 40/4 FLE distagon with floating elements.

The 90/4 is my all-around lens. It's a big lens (95mm filter, 104 bayonet), yet the front element is located way down near the back and is only about an inch across in size. Despite what the specs say, the lens seems not to weigh much more than the 80/2.8 planar. IMHO, the best aperatures are at f11 and f16, where it's incredibly sharp. This lens isn't a true macro lens in the sense the maximum magnification is only 0.5x. I also have a 67mm extension tube which brings it up to about 1.25x. I'd recommend that one use the focusing rack with the extension tube, as the entire focusing range of the lens with the 67mm tube is probably less than 1/4", meaning you have to reposition the camera to get the subject in focus.

The 180/2.8 is a big lens, about the same diameter as the 90/4 (101mm, 95mm filter), but that's a front element that's 95mm across! The lens weighs about 3.5 lbs. The accompanying hood is a 104 bayonet.I bought the lens since it was sharper than the Zeiss 150/4 (which I subsequently sold) and 1 stop faster for more DOF control. This lens does take some getting accustomed to due to the shallow DOF. At the minimum focusing distance of 1.8m (at this distance, you can get a head shot that includes the shoulders), the DOF is about one inch at f2.8. Since the DOF is shallow, it's very quick focusing...almost binary!

A quick note to the 6008i vs. the 6008 SRC 1000 (what is reviewed in the article). The 6008 integral comes with a high-definition screen, which is easily bright enough to focus in a room illuminated only by candles on a dinner table using the 90/4. There is no grid on the screen except for horizontal/vertical cropping lines for 6x4.5 shots. The center-weighted metering is actually basically 5 weighted spots, one at each corner and one at the center. I find that I use this matrix mode about 95% of the time since it's very accurate.

When I decided to buy the Rollei, I also seriously considered the Hassy 203FE, which would have been about the same price. The decisive factor for me was the ease of use.I also preferred the leaf shutter over the focal plane shutter.There are some shots when you barely have time to set the aperature, focus, and shoot (i.e., candid shots at a wedding, where many photographers will use a 35mm SLR). This, IMHO, is the forte of this design.

Since I've written my first response (above) to the Rollei 6008i, I've added a second 6008i (purchased as a kit with a zeiss 80/2.8 PQ), the 1.4x Schneider teleconverter, a polaroid magazine, and the 300/4 apo tele-xenar lens. The polaroid magazine doesn't work in TTL flash mode, as the reflectivity of the film is different, causing shots to be overexposed. I tried to compensate for this, but the amount of compensation doesn't seem to be consistent. Anyways, I use it in manual mode, mainly for checking for unwanted shadows/reflections. The 1.4x is a truely exceptional tc, as there is no discernable loss in image quality. It was specially designed for the 80/2, 180/2.8, and 300/4 lenses.

Rollei introduced a new 6001, which has no meter but has a TTL flash meter, a laminar drawslide magazine, mirror LU, and fixed autobracketing modes.However, the deal I got on the second 6008i was only a few hundred dollars more than the 6001, so the additional capability of the 6008i is well worth the small price difference.

Some other notes to update the 6008i over Phil's review of his older 6008. First, the present models (6003 pro, 6001, and 6008e) are derivatives of the technology in the 6008i. They all have TTL flash metering via the SCA356 adapter. Unlike the older C-70 adapter, on the 6008i, you set the SCA356 adapter to iso 100 all the time, and the camera gets the iso information from the magazine setting. It also has what the manual calls a "fill flash" by setting the exposure comp. knob to -1/3 EV or lower while in one of the auto modes, but I've only used this outdoors on a limited basis, as I'm not absolutely convinced that it's really a fill flash instead of an ambient fill flash (as the shutter speed in the display decreases just as with normal exposure compensation to -EV). Outdoors, when I want fill flash, I do it the old fashioned way and use manual mode, which always syncs the flash regardless of the shutter speed, and set the iso on my Metz flash to x stops over the actual film iso. This gets around any potential problem of the TTL flash meter getting fooled by dark/light backgrounds, which will happen with any TTL meter.

Second, the autobracketing in the 6008i works on both the manual and the auto modes. The bracketing is 2/3 of a stop over and under. This can be altered on the 6008i using the master control. There's also a sports mode which I don't use, but upon locking the exposure value and mirror LU and pressing the stop-down aperture button, the camera will go into an auto mode whereby the meter automatically locks up for the next shot as soon as the current exposure is completed. (It would seem more useful to me if there were a lever to lock up the mirror like on the Contax RTSIII).

Third, the 6008i can accept the master control, which is a separate, calculator-sized electronic device that plugs into the port on the side of the body. The master control can do things like shoot up to 10 exposures on a single frame in 1 sec (for sports photography), change the amount of delay between pressing of the shutter release and the shutter opening, set any arbitrary-length exposure up to 2 hrs or so in 1 sec increments, change the self-timer delay, use rear or front curtain flash sync (the only 6x6 MF camera that does this), turn off the center meter weight, etc. There are a number of other electronic gizmos like a wireless IR remote that can trigger several 6008's off in various sequences from 100 yards or so away, etc.

Finally, Rollei has recently changed the zeiss 40mm and 50mm to incorporate floating elements, and has introduced a new 110/2 PQ planar and a trio of more economical versions of the zeiss 50/4 distagon and 80/2.8 planar and 150/4 sonnar called the "EF" line. In the past 1.5 yrs, I've taken my 6008i so far on twelve trips, eight of which were overseas, and have shot in conditions from blowing sand in Death Valley to the heat, humidity, and monsoons in Thailand in July to -15 C temp's during the Olympics in Nagano, and the 6008i has been completely reliable. --Jim

Rotem Eren Rabinovich , June 13, 1999; 07:01 P.M.

The Rollei vs. Hassy price situation mentioned in this article has somewhat reversed itself. Looking at the widely accepted photo.net standard of B&H Photo Video, the exact same lenses usually cost at least a little less in Rollei mount, and the ones that don't are very close. For example, the Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 PQS costs $1,600, while the CFE version costs $1,788. There are more dramatic changes at the more extreme focal lengths, like the 140-280mm f/5.6, which costs $5,400 in PQ and $6,428 in CF. Even more amazing are the price differences found between the shutter-less FE lenses and the super-speed Schneiders. The Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 costs $278 more than the Schneider 50mm f/2.8, despite the leaf shutter that is built into the Scheider. Also, looking at Hassy and Rolei begining packages, one finds that Rollei's prices are only just slightly higher than the all manual leaf-shuttered Hassies, and are actually lower if you add some neccesary features to the Hassy that are built into the Rollei. A 503CW with A12 and 80mm f/2.8 costs $4,211 while a Rollei 6008 Integral outfit with 120 film magazine and all power related accesories costs $3,352. Add a PME90 metering prism to the Hasselblad for $1,193 and the total is $5,404. Add an 80mm f/2.8 PQS to the Rollei for $1,600 and the total is $4,952. Those are about as close in features as you get without making the Hasselblad much more expensive. Regardless of the specifics, it is worth knowing after reading this review that new Rollei equipment is not far removed in price from new Hassy equipment.

Sanjeev Arora , August 16, 1999; 08:47 P.M.

Regarding "handholdability" of Rollei vs Hassy, it must be noted that the Rolleis with 120 magazines (instead of inserts) are quite heavy: close to 4.5lb. In fact, a 6006/6008 kit (with 80/2.8) is almost as heavy as a Hasselblad 501CM kit + a second small lens (such as the 150/4).

Of course, for people who need the winder and other electronics of the 6006/6008, the relevant comparision is not with the 501CM but with one of the more expensive (and heavier) Hasselbalds. Phil and others have done this comparison above. Personally I prefer the lower weight.

Sanjeev Arora

Howard Sprague , November 26, 1999; 04:20 A.M.

My first venture into medium format was with a Lubitel-low tech to be sure. I knew I had to get something more functional, so went to my local photo supplier and spent a day and a bunch of film testing lenses. I did resolution and color tests in both perfect conditions (tripod, pre-release mirror and stop etc.) as well as 'normal' hand-held conditions. While all of the cameras I tested performed quite well, the Rollei was noticeably better than any of the other SLR's I tested. I think this went beyond just lens quality. The Rollei seems to dampen mechanical vibrations better than the others.

I concentrated on the 50mm, 80mm, and 180mm (or closest similar) lenses in each system. I also tested some TLR's and WA as well. (Ektachrome 100S and Macophot ORT 25 were the films I used). My results:

*Linhof/Alpa decidedly had the best images. I think that is because of excellent optics, engineering, and low vibration. *The Rollei TLR 2.8GX came in a close second *Rollei SLR (6008) next-the Schneiders generally offering a little advantage over the Zeiss lenses *Hasselblad (Both Mechanical and Electronic were similar) close to the Rollei, but still noticeably a lesser image *Lubitel 2 TLR-slightly less than Hasselblad (really!) *Contax 645 SLR-very close to the Lubitel, better in some ways, but in autofocus mode, definately lower than the Lubitel (manual mode ties image with the Hasselblad, except for the telephoto, where the 'blad wins out) *Fuji-similar to the Contax for all of the models I tested, with appropriate adjustments for the 680 lenses to be similar perspective to the 6x6 stuff *Bronica/Mamiya somewhat lesser than the Fuji (all of their current SLR's and Rangefinders performed about the same). *Mamiya TLR (C330-certainly not a current body, but there are alot of them out there)-The 180 super was about the same as the Hasselblad for performance. The other two (55mm, and 80mm) were OK, but not as good as the Bronica *Pentax-noticeably the 'not best' image of the bunch.

So, I started out with the idea that I wanted a Hasselblad or the new Contax. After screwing around with all of these cameras, and seeing the results on film, the Rollei won-no contest. It is a better camera, and very functional to use. I didn't care about metering in the camera, but I've found it to be useful. The idea of depending on a battery was a little bothersome, but has turned out to be no problem. And it's certainly the best solution to a battery of any of the other electronic cameras that are available.

Rollei obviously listened to what people wanted or didn't want, and did something about it. While the Hasselblad 205FCC is a very capable camera, I'm not fond of it. The 503CW is a joke. I really liked the capabilities of the Fuji GX-680, and the Mamiya RB/RZ were kind of nice too-I think I would take them over a Bronica. Considering the competition and the results I got, Pentax isn't worth bothering with at all. Linhof and Alpa are really nice, and produced noticeably better images than any other device. I did include a Leica M6 and R8, as well as a Contax RTS III in my testing. Ignoring film size, the M6 ranked with Contax 645, the R8 around Pentax-land, and the RTS III with Bronica. My feeling is that vibration in the camera plays a big part in image quality. Lens-wise, I think Rodenstock probably makes the best lenses (not Leitz).

The best images were noticeably sharper with better color rendition. The Alpa results looked more like Kodachrome than Ektachrome. Looking at all of the film and comparing it to one another, it was really easy to see differences in quality. The TLR's and Rangefinders seem more portrait-friendly. They are quieter, less imposing, and the slightly softer lenses work well with people. I can see having both an SLR and a TLR. All in all, Rollei makes great cameras.

Scott Gant , February 14, 2000; 11:53 A.M.

I wish Howard Sprague would elaborate on some of his comments he made...such as saying the Hassy 503 was a joke. How so?

Also, elaborate on how he came across all these camera models to do all these extensive testings. Were they in-store testing? What was the name of the local photo supplier that let you do all this testing because I'd like to go there and do the same tests that you did. Do they have a web site?

Also, I think some of his comments are very suspect...for one comparing both Hassy and Contax to the Lubitel in terms of image quality. Also suspect is that this is the only comment that Mr. Sprague has ever posted here at photo.net. I'm not implying anything mind you, just seems a little weird.

Michael F. Heidecker , June 06, 2000; 07:58 A.M.

Short Version:

Had a Hasselblad 501 and a 2003 FCW plus some lenses. Had some Nikon F3s and later F4s. Stepped up to the F5. Hence got spoilt for the Blad-world. Became VERY unhappy with the handling of my Blads. Read Phils article about the 6008i, tested it and spontaneously liked it! Meanwhile changed completely. Full stop.

Okay, the long version: From my point of view the Rollei enabled and in some ways empowered me to do things with a MF system I normaly did with my Nikons. I really appreciate the Rolleis quick handling and fool proof design. For instance I don't know how many slides for the rollfilmbacks I lost, bent, left and so on. The Rollei has a simple cannot-be-lost solution. I don't know, how often I had to meter and remeter externally with my fantastic light meter and calculate and so on. The Rollei has multi-spot metering AND automatic modes (yes, sometimes I use them). And the best thing is none of my two Rollei bodies (or lenses) has ever seen a repair shop thus beeing round the world with those. (My 2003FCW was in repair several times, but I am aware that the focal plan shutter design of the Blads always was a bit risky...) Meanwhile I couldn't imagine to work with a Blad again.

From a mechanical prospective I had some trouble with specific Hasselblad Zeiss lenses. My 2.8/80 CF hat A LOT of trouble with the shutter (it often got stuck) and my 50mm Distagon (F) had some trouble with its diaphragm. (According to some expensive repair reports). I had A LOT of trouble with some of my A16 back and one A12 back, which didn't keep the spaces between the frames and sometimes made some nice overlays.

With the Rolleiflex I can use the Schneider lenses, which I really like. I started with the 2.8/80 PQS (Zeiss, of course), added a 180mm Tele-Xenar (Great lens!) and a Schneider Longar and - thanks indeed to Jim Chow! - a 90 mm Apo-Symmar, which is a really great lens. A few days ago I decided to go for an additional 40mm Super-Angulon, which seems perfect for me.

In the beginning I was very afraid of powerfailures but in the meantime I've learned a lot about what to do and what not and how often I have to recharge. Even on trips through the "backyards of the world" I had no trouble with power.

Another concern was the weight, but as soon as I recognized that there is really no difference between my Nikon gear and the weight of the Rollei I broke up this mental barrier and hadn't had any further (mental!) problems with this topic.

What I like most on the 6008i:

- The handling and the handgrip. This piece makes it quite simple for me to do quick and journalistic work for me.

- The metering. Spot and Multispot are a godsend.

- The motor. Quick and not louder than the Hasselblad winder (which I always found somehow clunky...)

- The 1/1000 sec flash sync. Great Great Great!

- The range of lenses.

What I hate most: The price of the accessoires and the lenses, but, hey, I also buy these AF-S lenses and have a Leica M6. So why cry?

Worst thing: even in Germany it is hard to find Rollei dealers where you can drop in and buy equipment and even in Germany it is VERY hard to find things on the second hand market. (The Schneider lenses are VERY VERY VERY hard to find, maybe this is because nobody wants to sell these... ;-)

Michael

PS: Heard a lot about electronic failures of the Integral but cannot confirm this from my side...

Tom G , June 15, 2000; 12:29 P.M.

As a Newbe to this group,but not to photography equipment. I recently purchased a 6008 and regarding a comment that the Hassy 503 was a joke, is just not true. The 503 is a different animal with different features. As far as someones question regarding the location that would allow you to test all the different cameras I live in New York City and because their are so many photograhic suppliers, I was able to use different cameras at different shops to test their abilities, however, B&H is not one of them. Thanks

Greg Stone , August 21, 2000; 05:31 P.M.

I am a photojournalist who shoots quite a bit of MF. Previously we used the 553ELX and have switched over to the 6008i for a number of reasons including the rather good internal metering and overall ergonomics. While I accept the used market for Rollei is more limited than Hasselblad, the fact is equipment may be found if one is persistent. G.M. Stone

Rob F. , December 09, 2000; 11:52 P.M.

I was also disappointed in the 120mm f/4 Makro-Planar, but for a different reason. I didn't run into flare problems, but I did find that although the lense is wonderfully sharp in the closeup range (as it's supposed to be), it was rather soft in architectural shots at infinity. Enlargements of 20x20 or so showed that architectural details were soft. I traded it for a 150mm Sonnar CF, which I find sharp in landscape/cityscape shots, even at wide apertures.

Jorge Diaz , December 28, 2000; 01:04 P.M.

I was kind of shocked by the comment of liking the Lubitel over some other expensive machinery.I have a Lubitel.Payed $25-new in 1980. And toying with it I got spectacular shots.In 1980 the Lubitel was my first MF and I had no point of reference, but something looked right in a cheap camera as the Lubitel is.It maybe cheap to us (the body is crap that will shatter like a film prop beer bottle-yes it happened to me)but the lens/shutter assembly is definitely a bargain.Maybe we are so used to put down soviet stuff so much we do a lot of chucking the baby with the bath water... Anyway later I added Rolleis,Mamiyas, Yashicas(No Hassies yet)and got ok shots but it's just now that I can reasses why they just looked ok...I was comparing them to the Lubitel(picturewise) which in the back of my mind it was absolute crap.Reassesing I can say that the pictures of the later cameras were good, not excellent but good(this photographer claims no special talent)but so were the Lubitel's.It was to my underamazement to read Sprague's comment about it.I shot a dog buddy of mine with the Lubitel , in motion,kodacolor 100 in the tree shade of a sunny day and the resolution is remarkable(1981).The dog is trotting towards me 8 feet away and you can count paws,whiskers ,hairs.I epoxied the Lubitel and still have it.Still works. How's this related to the 6008i? I lust for one but the "catastrophic"failure stories complected by the customer service refusal to work on anything suspected of being bought on the gray market(I read stories of refusals on equipment personally bought overseas...with anger in their eyes and hearts on both sides of the issue)keep me hoping for a new set of news about it.I have been tempted recently to buy the demo on a show for $3K(with the 80mm!)but knees got weak.Stagnant water under the bridge...So I would appreciate comments on the issue(Rollei people forgive me).I respect the marque...I have a tlr with a scratched Xenar that still delivers stunning shots after so long but the plunge unto those dark and cold waters seems indeed cold!

Vijay Nebhrajani , April 14, 2001; 05:35 P.M.

A comment about the reliability of "electronic" cameras like the Rollei 600x. In general electronic circuits are designed to have MTBF (mean time between failures) of several hundreds of years under constant use (i.e., NEVER shutting the circuit OFF). In other words, if you were to never shut it off, a circuit should last, literally hundreds of years. Things that cause electronics to fail are usually

1. deterioration of things that are exposed to the elements (PCBs, wiring, connectors etc.)

2. things that drive mechanical components - such as a motor. If you tried to prevent a motor from rotating (say by holding the rotor), the electronics will see a load much higher than what they were designed for and may give up. A well designed system, however will have a mechanism to detect overloads and shut the system OFF.

3. mechanical components themselves. The electronics at this point may not be designed to accomodate such a failure and may die, or may misbehave.

4. power cycles. Funny as it may sound, switching an electronic on and off many times causes electrical stress - and if the circuit is not designed properly can cause premature failure.

5. chain effect - one electrical short at a critical place can "fry" almost every component on the circuit. Again, designers should have taken precautions.

6. Random events - like a sudden burst of alpha particles or a strong electro magnetic field (however rare).

7. Design bugs.

As a professional electronics engineer, I can assure you that most electronics are relatively poorly designed, compared to the precision of mechanical systems. First, we electronics people can always rewrite the hardware or software (so we tend to be more careless), and second, electronics does not offer direct feedback (bugs can go undetected). Imagine a bridge engineer making a mistake in a bridge causing a section to fall into a river. It does not happen.

How is all this relevant to the Rollei (and other electronic cameras)? Now that you know the weak links in the electronic chain, you have to evaluate the risks. I imagine that camera manufacturers put their systems through rigorous tests, making sure that the most obvious bugs are ironed out. In other words, it is unlikely that basic electrical control systems (winding of film, shutter, diaphragm) of a camera will fail because of purely a design bug. Matrix metering is more likely to have design bugs, but a user can never catch them because he does not have the design specs to compare the results with.

So we are left with the first six causes of failure. Deterioration of PCBs, wires and connectors is a real phenomenon, but better materials have ensured that you do not need to worry about this for 30-50 years. More dangerous is poor soldering (solder deteriorates FAST), but this is generally rarer with automated soldering and subsequent lacquer coatings. I imagine that only 1 in a million units will have soldering problems on a good soldering line.

Things that drive mechanical components are probably the most vulnerable to failure, and it is hard to estimate the MTBF for these cases - but I suppose that about 200,000 cycles is in the conservative ballpark. In other words, about 200,000/12 (or 36 for 35mm) rolls of film for winders; about 200,000 frames for shutters and diaphragms, and about that many for the mirror. This gives you about 17000 rolls of film; or about 17 years of photography (at the rate of 1000 rolls/year). However, since this a MTBF number, you could have some cameras failing in 5 years, and some not for 25.

Mechanical components are also likely to last the same amount (though I am not an expert in mechanical engineering).

I presume that good electronics can withstand at least a million power cycles (if that alone can be isolated as a cause of failure). That is certainly more than the mechanical components will last you.

Chain effects are more common. Say you have a faulty lens-camera contact that shorts the drive circuit to the diaphragm. Since such drive circuits operate at higher voltages as compared to their controllers (12 volts/5 volts), a short like this may cause a chain reaction, where several circuits see a higher voltage than they should, and "fry". Another scenario is salt damage (humid, salty conditions) that could cause a failure like this. Hopefully the more vulnerable circuits are sealed. You could even cause a chain effect failure by dropping a camera.

Random events are random - you cannot really control them, and if your camera dies during a solar storm, thats that.

From all this, it should be easy to see that a well designed electronic system should outlast its mechanical cousins - even in real world situations. However, random problems like shorts seem more common with electronics (how often does a spring break randomly?) - but even then, are quite rare. It would therefore surprise me to actually see a story of "catastrophic failure" that others have alluded to for an electronic camera. In other words, I feel that the fear that an electronic "gizmo" is less reliable than "simple" mechanics is rather unfounded. Solid state electronics is actually more reliable than mechanical systems - compare the number of failures of your phone, fridge, TV, VCR, DVD player, computer, music system, quartz watch, pager.... all combined with those of your car.

Richard Fateman , June 29, 2001; 02:48 P.M.

Noises:

It may not be clear from PhilG's review of the Rollei 6008 what that noise is from the older (non-PQ/PQS) lenses. On the 6006, the metering is stop-down. So before you take the picture, it stops down the lens trying to find the right balance against the shutter speed you have chosen. Any camera body using these original 6006 lenses must do the same thing, and so the older lenses make extra noise even with 6003 or 6008i. The PQ and PQS lenses seem to have more electrical contacts to enable open aperture metering.

PRICES (1/1999) If you are interested in getting into the Rollei SLRs, the prices for used 6006 and 6006-model II are low enough so that you can pay $1000-$1400 for a complete kit. The add-on prices are not so terrifying, e.g. 150/4 lens (used EX++ from Hadley Chamberlain) about $800. The lenses that are appropriate for the 6006 (labelled HFT -- the Rollei multi-coating designation and missing PQ or PQS designations) are in some cases identical glass.

"BLACK BEAR" Shots. I too have taken some blanks, putting the camera away.. you have to remember to turn it off.

Finally, 2 selling points for Rollei vs Hasselblad, rarely mentioned somehow.

The Rollei mirror is instant return.

The shutter release on the Rollei is precise and soft, something that is very hard to do with a mechanical camera.

Jan Peeters , November 29, 2001; 05:18 P.M.

I would like to ask Philip to re actualize his review of the 6008 camera, a camera he first reviewed in the mid 90's. After all the 6008 he reviewed is not the same camera as the present day 6008 integral that can be bought new now (quality = better, price = lower, reliability = higher the camera's are now sold with a 3 year factory warranty)

Jorge Diaz , January 04, 2002; 03:37 A.M.

I just bought a 6008i kit and would like to get the people who complained of failures update their experiences .I intend to do likewise.

james kerner , January 24, 2002; 02:59 P.M.

For good deals on the Rollei 6008i or other equipment be sure to contact Poon at Hong Kong Supplies(etefore@netvigator.com). He has an impeccable eBay rating (400 positive, no negative ratings the last time I checked), is very knowledgeable, and saved me about $2K on an entire Contax 645 system; the savings for Rollei would be even higher. He insures everything, provides tracking numbers, and the shipments show up in around 3 days. I have had no surprises and recommend him highly.

Jorge Diaz , March 06, 2002; 03:03 P.M.

Update.I have been doing T Max and several color films with the kit and yes it is all that one would expect.It is great!The standard Planar is a performer.Even wide open.Difficult shots in dim light show intricate detail by the corners.Even if those corners are dimmer than the center.I have since bought a 645 back which is a joy to use.I have also bought a B+W Circ.Pol with a Bay VI adapter and those winter landscapes of bare trees have never been the same.I have also bought the 2x extender and it delivers as promised.Makes a standard Planar a 160mm and no perceptible drop in image quality for a fraction of a 150mm lens price. You can say I'm happy. I bought the kit from amhlee(ebay)of Hong Kong and the service has been highly dignified and civil.The only drawback I see from buying Hong Kong is that if you want to sell your stuff the extra complication of the Hong Kong warranty may not be welcomed by the buyer.Other than that the price differential is compellingly good.The performance of the system has been flawless.Not a glitch.Makes me think that those early tales of woe are behind us in production run adjustments and corrections at the factory.... I am of somewhat muscular build and find the system very totable.An old Hasselblad bag soldiers on comfortably.Whipping the"little monster"out of the bag to shoot does tend to catch attention.Some get intimidated ,some get awed by it.

Roger Williams , May 17, 2003; 08:50 P.M.

As to Rollei USA not servicing overseas/gray market:don't worry. I bought an 6008I kit in Hong Kong with a Rollei Int'l Warranty. Shortly after buying this system,I managed to drop the camera from tripod height. Rollei USA was more than happy to check out the lens, body damage/battery and sell me a demo body and plus through in an extra battery for only about $1200. Don't worry. Rollei won't pass on repair money, regardless of what the US Importers tell us.

Jorge M. TreviƱo , August 04, 2003; 07:26 P.M.

My first MF camera was a hasselblad 500CM vintage '76 with 80/2.8 C lens, which at the time seemed to me like heaven on earth. The quantic jump from 35mm (even _superb_ 35mm) to 6x6 was so impressive that I tended to ignore the quirkiness and demanding nature of the hassie. Need an external meter? no problem, I added a meter knob and later a spot/flash meter... No instant return mirror? same as before, I learned to shift my (aged & tired) gaze from the screen to the subject. Nevertheless, when the novelty wore off, I started yearning for something -how should I say?- amiable. After toying and shooting a few rolls with practically everything on the market, I narrowed to the Rollei 6003 for several reasons:

1. It's the easiest and most intuitive camera I've used. PERIOD.

2. After suffering Hasselblad's imprecise framing, the almost 100% view on the screen is a joy for someone who likes to get the negative borders on his prints.

3. The optics. Having used the Planar 80/2.8 and the Distagon 50/4, I knew I wanted to keep shooting through Zeiss glass.

4. The exquisite Bauhaus design, at the same time modern and classic, that shames all other MF offerings.

Now I've gone and bought me a new 6003 and I'm terrified... On one side, a week of extensive use (26 rolls of color & b&w 120) has already turned me into an addict, even tho I've only put six frames through the enlarger but on the other side I've been reading those dreadful stories of electronic catastrophe that I'm sure to give me nightmares. Of course I'll have a spare battery as soon as I can get it from B&H, of course I'll try to baby it as much as I can, but will I have to keep the trusty crusty hassie by its side for that -hopefully never to be- day when its silicon soul goes to electronic limbo?

I'll be back in a year when supposedly I will not have anything to report but photographic bliss.

Best,

--Jorge.

---- August 4 2003 update ----

Well, not one year but more than three have gone by since March 1999 when I wrote the above comments. Since then, I have added a couple of lenses, a Distagon 50/4 and a Sonnar 150/4, which pretty much encompass my needs. I have also converted the 6003 to accept 6008 interchangeable magazines so now I can go back and forth betwwn color and b&w at the same scene. Why didn't I get the 6008 in the first place, you ask? When I got the 6003 it was $1000 less than the 6008 and I was short on cash. The magazines came through ebay at $400 each so I'm almost even. My camera has been performing flawlessly and my only gripe is that two batteries ceased to work after I dropped them from waist level, requiring chirurgical intervention (re-soldering of connectors).

Alec Simonson , January 04, 2005; 11:54 A.M.

Well, the prices have totally reversed since the original review of the 6008 above. Rollei is WAY cheaper than Hasselblad, on nearly all points.

Couple extra thoughts:
I got the 6008 SRC1000. My gut instinct was to get the 6008i, and I should have followed that. Here are some cons of the 6008 that potential purchasers should be aware of:

  • Weight. The 6008 is a tank. Use the neckstrap and you'll feel like an overworked pack pony.
  • Noise. If you want to shoot pictures inside cathedrals, you'll quickly become aware of the noise factor. As will everyone else. The 6008i with the Master Control Unit has the potential to make the camera quieter, though I haven't heard it.
  • Metering sometimes can't calculate the exposure. Nothing new, but you'll need to carry a secondary meter with you. Not too big of a problem, but see bullet #1.
Am I still happy with the 6008? You BET! The Hassy equivalent is the 203FE, which is thousands more. The lenses rock. The ease of loading film is incredible. My biggest gripe is noise and obtrusiveness, but a secondary VF camera like a Leica would pretty much fix that. But if you do go to buy the 6008, get the 6008i. I'm finding myself wishing I had the master control unit...

Geoff Goldberg , March 03, 2005; 06:08 A.M.

I've had a 6003 for over ten years, and never had any failures, shut downs or the like. A spare battery helps, but that's about it. Have the 60 mm Schneider (fantastic), 90 mm and 150 - also sharp, very. Picked up a user 55 PC, but its a bit of a monument.

While 4 x5 is clearly better for architecture, I like to shoot urban street scenes. A TLR is smaller, better for travel, but the combinations in the 6003/8 series are pretty unbeatable. The motor drive is a bit noisy, but very useful. Meter for me has been incredibly spot on - never been able to beat it.

Bottom line: I have gotten consistently better images from the 6003 than any other camera owned. Good things happen when you use it. I cannot ask for more than that. So I'm voting for a great film camera, and scanning for digital printing.

Walter Reichert , March 21, 2005; 10:39 P.M.

It is my impression that the images from my Rollei have a certain "look" that I don't find with my Pentax 6x7. I use the Pentax when I'm backpacking or out in the boondocks where I don't have good access to recharge the Rollei batteries. Otherwise I favor the Rollei. The motor drive is really a nice feature. I'm sticking with medium format and film, and then scanning images for prints.

Larry Rose , May 18, 2005; 07:51 P.M.

I've owned a Rollei 6003 for about 7 years and while only shooting as a hobby, never had a problem with the camera or lenses that someone described. Now that I've retired, I'be been asked to shoot some architecture, so am looking at the X-Act2 with use of the lenses I already have (40, 80, 180.) I've not seen on these posts anyone's experience with the X-Act2 while using the camera's Rollei/Schneider lenses rather than large camera lenses. Wonder if they maintain the same great quality. Also, if I add the Phase One 16mp digital back, will the lenses remain the same focal length? Larry Rose

cory Lum , January 26, 2007; 05:13 A.M.

its interesting how many people are commenting pros and cons on a rollei et al. i think to give a true perspective on how well equipment works for everyone is the images. proof is in the pudding. we can all blahblah about how great this camera is. in an earlier response, pentax medium format was quote, "not bothering with". actually i'm a working photographer. i use many many different cameras with lenses. i found particularly there is no perfect camera system. somedays i prefer rectangle (pentax 6x7,fuji 6x8 or mamiya 6x4.5). some days square (rolleiflex 2.8 planar). somedays (fuji or linhof) 6x17 or 6x24cm or 6 by the length of 220... with a seitz 220 pano camera. i have used all the above.

particularly, i've had images shot with a pentax 6x7 with shall i humbly say as good as any zeiss or schneider quality(or even rodenstock). if i made enlargements or scans the size of 3 meters by 4 meters, u can be the judge. if the frame is sharp, its sharp. relatively. even with pentax glass. hehe. just my humble 2 cents. if the shoes fits, wear it. heeh.

A Petkov , August 05, 2007; 08:56 P.M.

Actually you can change film on the Hasselblad by swapping inserts only. No need to detach the back.

Darius Jedburg , July 10, 2008; 03:46 A.M.

I just picked up one of these, at a fraction of the prices mentioned above. It is a 6003 Professional. My first impression is that it is extremely well put together. The screen is not as bright or easy to focus as the Hassy screen though. Also it is noticeably heavier than the 501C. All in all, the camera is taking some getting used to.

Gregg Matthews , September 12, 2008; 04:57 P.M.

I have some focusing issues with the 600 Series. The "High D" original with my 6008i did not suit me for field-focusing because the image looked focused within a wide range of barrel twisting. Plus, it had no microprism aid, and, a way too-tiny split screen for critical focusing. So when I found out that some users find the "High D" to be bright with not enough bite, I bought the OEM 6003 screens thinking they'd have more "bite", plus they have a microprism ring and a larger split-image focusing aid. Well, that didn't solve my problem, nor did sending them (6003) to Brightscreen for optical 20/20 conversion. They still didn't have any bite. I did buy an accessory loupe (I can't recall the maker) that screws onto my 45 prism eyepiece and can be flipped out of view when composing. I magnifies the split-screen and microprism so I can achieve critical focusing... but what a pain to have to keep flipping it up and down between shots. Otherwise, I have noticed that I have an easier time focusing the Schneider lenses than the [Zeiss copy] EL lenses.... even 40mm. I have the EL lenses in 50, 80 and 150mm, and they are the most difficult to focus because they don't snap into focus... they creep into focus. The EL lenses are sharp on film, but I think the helicoid focus ring is too slow to give a confident image on the focus screen. Since it's been 8 years since I've looked into this, I'd love to hear if Rollei has come out with any new screens for the 6008i that will improve focus confidence.

Gregg Matthews , September 12, 2008; 05:00 P.M.

Besides the focusing issue I stated above, I also don't have much confidence in the batteries. They don't hold their charge long, and run out of juice too quick.

Malcolm Stewart , November 20, 2008; 04:30 A.M.

Gregg,

I wonder if your film magazine/insert is getting tired? I've got a 6006 and the battery life seems very dependent on what resistance has to be overcome when advancing the film.

Malcolm Stewart, Milton Keynes, UK

Eric Hiss , January 09, 2009; 02:23 A.M.

Greg, I solved my focusing issues with a Bill Maxwell focusing screen - but the problem with mine seemed to have been a cupped or dished shape instead of being flat. I don't know if my screen was stock or not as I bought my camera second hand. But something to look at. Once I got the new screen I had my camera calibrated for focus - it was off by a little bit maybe because of the defective screen? Anyhow all good now.

RE: batteries - I read many posts about batteries not holding much charge but it doesn't have to be that way. I get easily several hundred shots on my batteries now after having bought a Maha charger that discharges the batteries fully before recharging. I put my older batteries through several discharge and recharge cycles and it brought new life to them. I think the newer style Rollei 6000 series chargers do the same with a full discharge before recharge and also something to consider.

Regards, Eric

charles mcguire , August 06, 2009; 05:48 P.M.

Rollei or Hasselblad? I couldn't decide, so have both. Typically, I only use one or the other in conjunction with digital. Which one should I sell?

William H. Logan , October 30, 2009; 10:34 P.M.

I am a long time Rollei user and collector ( 22TLRs, SL66, 6008i,6001, 3 Rollei 32's) + 2 Fuji GX 680's. I Also have and use 3 Bronica SQa's. Retired makes this possible. In reading the long and well done pages on the 6008 I am encouraged to try the 6008i again. I had all but given it up for the SL66, a truly lovely MF camera. Batteries always seem to be the problem. Lenses never are. All Zeiss. Good stuff there. Size and weight are something of a mess being handicapped, but I can live with that, too. But I just want to thank the author for the excellent work and research in this paper.

Edward cheung , December 13, 2010; 11:05 A.M.

This review is from 1997, and I read it last year and bought myself a 6008 i2, then got a 40mm last year. Beside the weight of it, there is nothing to complain about it. Amazing quality, and the handling is so well, it is as easy to use as any SLR. 


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