Rolleiflex 6008, 6001, 6002, 6003, 6006 – Beyond Hassy?

Rolleiflex 6000’s

I owned the Rollei 6008 non-AF model with 80mm Zeiss lens for years, but I had to borrow specs from Wiki and Philip Greenspun. (and comments on Luminous Landscape to a lesser degree) This is a VERY complicated camera, as you’ll soon see. Very technologically  advanced for its time. And, yes, they do, (at least did), have a model that was fully compatible with digital backs. But I only used film. And I’m not a very techie guy. And when most people think of Rollei’s, they think TLR’s used by Helmut Newton or Vivian Maier.

 

Rollei 6008

 

A Supercharged Hassy

The Rollei 6008 Integral is an SLR for the medium format, available with 6x6cm or 4.5x6cm frame. The 6008 is part of the successful 6000 series which launched in the mid 80’s. There was the SLX, 6006, 6002, 6003,(a cheaper 6008) The 6000-series introduced major electronic features such as multiple light metering modes in body, making it light years ahead of my 503 Hassy. Which had just had a shutter failure. So when I brought it in to be fixed, this was sitting in a display, so I said “what the hey!’

Also had TTL auto flash metering, programmed exposure control, auto bracketing, the build-in roller dark slide, and eventually  autofocus. Although mine was manual focus. The Rolleiflex 6000 series blew away the others at that time , namely Hasselblad and Mamiya. Weirdly, they never caught on in a big way. Probably because they were a bit too automated, and most photographers were uncomfortable depending on the rechargeable batteries they required. Image wise, the Zeiss lenses were identical to Hasselblad in every sense. So, the images were identical,…square format and all. Of course, eventually even Hassy’s had batteries, as do all digital cameras. For the 6000 series, digital backs were also available later. The lenses contain a fast linear motor driven leaf shutter (max. speeds 1/500 or 1/1000 sec.) and motor drive. Almost like a medium format Nikon F4s/F5.

All the 6000s are Awesome

The Rollei 6008 was really an amazing machine, and I think Hasselblad was caught off guard at the time. I had no problems going back and forth between a Nikon F4s and this medium format auto drive wonder.

I want to say they were copying the 6×6 format of the Hassys, but remember, the TLR Rolleiflex used by Helmut Newton was also 6×6. Lenses, film magazines and viewfinders are interchangeable. Each lens was a leaf shutter and diaphragm electronically controlled from the camera body. In fact, you could get Rolleigon, Zeiss or Schneider- Kreuznach lenses. I used Zeiss, but was told (anecdotal), that the Schneider images would cut you like a straight razor. I don’t see how they could have been sharper than the Zeiss, but I thought the pricing was over the top for a ‘maybe’ incremental increase in sharpness or contrast. And, anyway, I shot fashion, not detailed landscapes.

 

Rollei 6008
Miles Davis by © William Coupon

 

The Bad

One bad thing, (back then), was same focal length lenses were about a $1000 more. Nowadays, they are about the same. The other deal is it has a rechargeable battery. This was the main objection by the Hassy crowd. However, I never had a battery go bad or drain on a job. I think the “mechanical” everything guys were trying to over think a “what if” scenario.

Lots of film backs were available, including 120, 220, 70mm, 6x6cm and 6×4.5cm, and Polaroid of course. Moving a handle took care of the dark slide. You couldn’t remove the back without first doing that. What a GREAT idea. No more forgetting the darkslide! The ISO dial coupled to camera making it almost impossible to not get the right ISO dialed in and coupled to the meter.

 

Rollei 6008

 

Backs were also more expensive than Hasselblads. (by a couple hundred bucks)

While the motor drive could only attain 2 FPS, for medium format that was pretty good, and a Godsend for fashion. (and probably weddings)

Autoload Film

Loading film was almost as easy as an F5 with it’s autoloading motor drive. Maximum sharpness was a breeze. (by keeping a totally flat film plane with the autoload. Viewfinders were an easy change from the stove pipe to the 45 and 90 prism finders. When not in the studio, the  Rollei 6008 TTL flash worked well with the Metz and SCA employed. However, with the built in motor drive, 9.6V battery, etc. the camera could get quite heavy. (but much lighter than a Mamiya RB67) The action grip is a must have in my opinion.

 

Rollei 6008
Rolleiflex 6000 series with ‘Action Handle”

 

The meter LED’s were quite visible, even in bright sun. And metering was always spot on! Spot, Center Weighted, and Multi-Pattern. Almost like a Nikon F5. (Nikon was better on the Multi,…but, along with TTL, that was always their forte)

 

Rollei 6008
© Federico Mastrianni with 80mm Zeiss lens on Rollei and Kodak Tri-X

 

Rollei 6008 (and others) Joy

In essence, the camera was a joy to use. My only caveat would be that it is an electronic camera. And failure would, in all likelihood, be catastrophic. But then, so would your 5D. A PDF datasheet from Rollei for the 6001, 6002 and 6008 is available HERE.

Rollei made the 6001, 6002, 6003, 6006 and 6008 models. They are all equally awesome. And cheap right now.  Rollei 6000 Series

 

 

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thanks for posting this.
    I also own and use a 6008i with great joy. I have the camera body, plus action grip, and the 45° prism. My glass: the Zeiss 40 f/4.0 FLE, Distagon 50mm f/4.0, Planar 80mm f/2.8, Makro-Planar 120mm f/4.0, and the Schneider Tele-Xenar 180mm f/2.8. The 50mm and 80mm are the EL version which meant that the glass came from Zeiss but were assembled by Rollei. These lenses were cheaper than the proprietary Zeiss version and lacked the 1/1000s shutter times, and the bayonet filter mount. They reach ‘only’ to 1/500s and use a threaded filter mount, but I am not troubled by that. I realize that I am a lucky bastard with these beautiful optics. Although I must add that I bought the 120mm and the 40mm second hand. I remember that in 2001, when I bought my gear, the 40mm went for a RSP of 5400 euro, ough! I luckily got it a few years later, used, for a third of that.

    I shoot the 6008i regularly, as hobby, and mainly shoot slide film Fuji Provia, and Kodak Portra. Having to use a battery isn’t such a bad thing. My first battery has been refurbished. There are a couple of German companies who run this service. I don’t have any battery issues and mine works fine, although I don’t shoot much, maybe 20 rolls per year. Using my camera is a great joy. I must admit that lugging it around with my complete lens set is an endurance test of my 1.9m non-fit frame, but strangely enough that sort of in my mind goes together with using 6×6. It is heavy gear and it does take an effort. Even doing a hand-held portrait session using only the 180 mm f/2.8 is a small workout. Camera, prism, and Tele-Xenar combo then weighs 4.5 kilo! Nevertheless, the results are amazing. When viewing slides on the light table, I am always astonished by the image quality.

    The kicker, however, is projecting slides on a screen at least 1.5 x 1.5 m. For this, I also went overboard and bought the Rollei 66 dual P projector included with the AV-Xenotar 2.8/150 mm HFT. Oh goodness! Once a year I run a 6×6 slide show for my digital shooting photo friends. When they watch 6×6 slides projected for the first time, or even for the umpteenth time, they always fall of their seats as they get hit in the face by the tone, depth, sharpness, and overall awesomeness of medium format in this digital age. The reactions of my friends to the projected images are priceless.

    The camera was and is always overshadowed by Hasselblad, Mamiya, Pentax, and Contax. Try to find more than one comprehensive video on the 6008i, or even the whole 6000 series, on YouTube? It’s not there. There’s a short one in Italian, and an English one showing how to load film. That’s it. But there must have been thousands of owners of these cameras!? Maybe it doesn’t have the cool-factor in the eyes of the cool-dude-hipsters who run the YouTube channels. They don’t know what they’re missing! The Rolleiflex 6008i has all the hallmarks of a classic.

    Happy shooting!

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