Camera talk – the Rolleiflex 6008, should I stay or should I go

There is one piece of German engineering that is hopelessly overdone, heavy, bulky to call out a few things and you don’t really want that thing in your house: the Rolleiflex 6008, a powerplay that can be used to shoot square photos on medium format film as well. But it seems, I can’t really sell it either. Some voice is saying “keep me, keep me, I’m worth every penny you paid for me”. Hope dies last and I still resist to hit that “sell” button on eBay.

The thing that bothers me the most is weight and form factor. While a Hasselblad hugs your hands smoothly and quietly hangs lens down when not using it, the Rolleiflex drags you down like a pair of cement boots while shooting and is always in the way somehow when not. What I mean is that a Hasselblad’s weight is distributed horizontally and it’s almost like a sleeping baby in your hands. The Rolleiflex with its motor drive and prism finder tends to be more vertical and the heavy lens makes it hang on your shoulders like a sack of potatoes. Believe me, the camera is always in the way. 

Another very annoying thing is that the camera has some kind of malfunction. Randomly the camera would open and close the leaf shutter in the lens as it’s supposed to do. However, the mirror doesn’t go back down, the shutter stays close and the film wouldn’t advance. The entire camera is stuck for a random amount of time. At some point pressing the shutter again will bring the camera back to life. The problem with the Rolleiflex 6008 is that everything is electronic. The lens has ten contacts to the body, the film back six and the battery four. The first thing I did was to make sure there is always a fresh battery in the camera. Sometimes these old electronic parts have high leakage and the battery runs down much faster. However, that wasn’t the issue. Then I cleaned all the contacts and it seemed to work in the dry run for at least two weeks. I even shot one full film without the malfunction occurring. When I put in the next film it happened again and I was back brainstorming. Checking all the contacts again, one pin going to the film holder was shorter than the others hinting a loose spring. I fixed it with some aluminum foil and finished the roll without issues. Now, I’ll be back on the dry run and at some point I’ll load the next film without removing the back. 

It seems the camera really drives me nuts while it also has its perks. The 80mm HFT lens is one of the sharpest I’ve ever shot with. It even beats the Hasselblad 80mm Planar and I wouldn’t complain about it at all. The camera also has three metering modes. I have to say the matrix metering is quite good and the 1% spotmeter comes in very handy. There is another mode that calculates the average of five spots as well. As far as I can tell this is pretty advanced for a MF camera and the metering hasn’t failed me. I also like the film Magazin with the built in dark slide. It is most certainly one of the more brilliant strokes the German engineers had designing this camera. How often did you misplace a dark slide of the Hasselblad?

I’m still not sure to keep it or sell it. The camera is not the same fun like my Hasselblad 500c/m and of course it’s not good to always worry about the malfunction occurring again. But sellin* it on eBay as defect would score me almost no money anymore. I just can hope the aluminum foil fixed the issue with the shorter magazin to body contact. 

I’ll also throw some ballast off shooting the next film. The so called action grip as well as the prismn finder have to go. Maybe using the camera in a Hasselblad fashion will help me to like it more. 

Enjoy the images below. They are shot on Fuji Superia 400 which isn’t available for MF any longer. I don’t shoot a lot of color but that’s a film I really like. 

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2 thoughts on “Camera talk – the Rolleiflex 6008, should I stay or should I go

  1. JWM

    Wow. Another junkie trying to not end up with a great camera becoming junk.

    The engineering on this series of cameras is amazing. Sadly, the complexity somewhat overwhelms the feature of ruggedness… which is odd for a German-design. I have two 6008 bodies… an Integral and a Pro. Differences? Don’t ask… ’cause I really don’t see any. The bodies were cheap. The lenses were not. I have a 50, 80, 150 and 250. FIrst 3 are PQ’s and the last was meant for the SLX. And yes I have two of those. I’m going to sell (more like “give”) the SLX’s and their lenses to wean my shelves. But these things – all of them take amazing photos… whenever it is they decide to work.

    I figured how to rebuild the batteries… another 6008 user and I have a thread on this over on Photrio.org (see: https://www.photrio.com/forum/threads/the-power-of-volts-and-milliamps.105128/page-2 ) using drone batteries that fit in and provide nearly 3 months of power. Your issues may in fact be related to lack of juice. For my part, I’ve numbered every figgety piece of equipment so I can debug the system. And sadly, it needs debugging. Had to junk a back and an film insert… ’cause not every piece is up to the job. But I’m thinking once that’s done… it’ll be a great system.

    Fair enough… if it were my only MF-120 system, I’d probably go nuts. Haven’t worked with it enough since March to know if I’m there yet. Meantime, I picked up a Rolleiflex 3.5F just to do some manual shooting and as much as I thought these stoplight look-a-like cameras weird, they’re amazing, small and really tack sharp. So the 3.5F has become my workhorse travel cameras and I’m using the 6008’s increasingly for tripod designated shots and whenever I need another focal length… especially tele. Form factor is similar. Compared to a Bronica SQ-A that I was using before, the 6008 is amazing, portable and light. Never tried a Hassy… but the rep of the Rollei lenses is actually as good you suggest… by the Zeiss designer’s own notes, “…the sharpest in any medium format ever designed by Zeiss.” Period. So there’s a premium for getting this stuff to work… if you have the patience. FWIW, I like the grip.

  2. Ijon Tichy Post author

    That is the best comment on any blog I’ve ever read 🙂 thank you for taking your time to do that. Any chance to follow you on twitter, fun, g+ if I don’t already do so?
    I guess being a German engineer I know what the guys went through developing this camera.
    I thought about the power being the problem and got brand new pack. However, the problem remained. Anyway, I guess I get it to a repair shop and let them check what’s wrong.
    Thanks, IT

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