Rollei 6008 Integral – a Taster

The Rollei 6008 Integral with the Waist Level Finder open.

The Rollei 6008 Integral with the Waist Level Finder open.

Background
During my professional photographic years 2¼ inch square was the principal format, the workhorses being Hasselblad and twin-lens Rollei. For my own personal photography I’ve always preferred 35mm with a Leica, but I’ve always loved a 2¼ square negative for formal portrait work, using a camera on a tripod.

Since retiring, I’ve often thought about buying a Hasselblad, Bronica or TLR Rollei but could never justify the outlay for what would be a small part of my interest and output. However, in 2014, the opportunity to purchase a Rollei 6008 Integral with a waist-level finder at a great price was too good to miss, so I took the plunge.

Body Beautiful
The first to be said is that empty of film with a Planar f2.8 80mm PQS lens, battery and grip, the 6008 Integral is a solid lump weighing in at 2.241kg (4lb 15oz). Second, that it is all-electronic: with a dead NiCad battery it makes a substantial doorstop. It has a reassuring Teutonic solidity that gives the not unreasonable impression that with it one could hammer a 2 inch nail in a piece of four-by-two with no trouble at all. Lightweight it is not.

This said, the camera is not unwieldy (much!), though left-handers might have something to say as the grip can be affixed to the right-hand side of the body only. Remarkably for such a camera it can be used as a point-and-shoot, as with PQS lenses the aperture and speed can be set to ‘A’ (programmed AE) to allow the camera itself to decide on the aperture and shutter combination. Or one can choose aperture-priority AE, shutter-priority AE or manual. For the most part I use aperture-priority.

All controls are clearly labelled, fall to hand where one would expect them and seat into their respective indents with firm and satisfy precision. The Integral is engineered and built for hard, demanding professional use; no corners have been cut regarding quality of materials, manufacture or assembly.

Metering
One of the glories of this camera is the sophisticated TTL metering, which can be set to multi-zone centre-weighted, 1% spot or multi-spot. The five groups of cells are situated behind the semi-silvered instant return mirror, so that the lower two-thirds of the frame where the main subject usually is located is given greater weight than the top third or peripheral areas. With multi-spot selected up to five separate readings can be taken to assist with tricky lighting. Additionally, there is an auto-bracketing feature that allows three exposures to be made in ±⅓ EV steps.

On the top front edge of the viewfinder screen there is a red LED readout that gives aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation (each in ⅓ increments, including how far the exposure is off in manual mode), battery charge status, metering mode, dark-slide status, finished film status and error codes – the readout is clearly visible in bright sunlight.

The screens are interchangeable, and the standard screen perhaps not the best in its class, especially in dim light. I prefer the micro-prism alternative, which brings in focus with a snap.

Shutter
The shutter can be released via the green button on the front of the body, the green button on the grip (my preference), with a mechanical cable release or by Rollei’s remote, electronic cable release. Also, there is a self-timer, and the mirror can be locked up prior to exposure. Continuous shooting is possible at a maximum of 2 frames per second depending on the shutter speed.

Marked speeds on the dial around the grip run in increments from B, 30 to 1 second through to 1/1000 and A (auto). Considering the size and weight of the mirror, and the attendant electronic motors that are engaged when the shutter is tripped, the Integral is, surprisingly, pretty vibration free for such a heavy camera.

Depending on the speed, at times it sounds like an asthmatic pensioner dropping a walking stick and picking it up. Though quiet in operation considering its size, be under no illusion that this is the type of camera that can be sneaked into a concert hall or church ceremony hoping that you can fire off candid shots without being heard and noticed.

Planar f2.8 80mm HFT PQS Lens
My version was made by Rollei, and is a stellar performer in every sense. This lens produces images that are full of subtlety and richness of detail, bokeh is progressive and creamy-smooth, which really makes images pop: a classic medium format lens that is fully up to the very best in the field. Markings are clear and precise, apertures click at ⅓ stop intervals and it focuses to 0.9m (3ft) – taking three-quarters of a turn from infinity. A class act.

Loading
The removable Magazine 6000 with its integral dark-slide make for simple loading. As one would expect for a modular system, 120 and 220 are catered for both in 6x6cm and 6×4.5cm. Interlocking safety features ensure the magazines cannot be removed from the body unless the dark-slide is closed to prevent fogging film.

Films are loaded into a separate film insert, which is symmetrical, so that the empty spool from the last film does not have be swapped around when loading a new film. Inserts can be pre-loaded with films and kept in their own cases, ready for use when required. Once a film magazine is loaded with an insert, the magazine can be changed at will on the body; the ISO dial, exposure counter and place for a film box tab are integral to the film magazine, so that magazines holding different films can be identified clearly and swapped when needed without additonal faffing about.

The Rollei 6008 Integral Components. L to R: Magazine 6000 Film Back, Integral Body with Viewing Screen attached, Planar f2.8 80mm PQS Lens, Hand Grip, Waist Level Finder.

The Rollei 6008 Integral Components. L to R:
Magazine 6000 Film Back, Integral Body with Viewing Screen attached, Planar f2.8 80mm PQS Lens, Hand Grip, Waist Level Finder.

Conclusion
I would hazard a guess that those considering a SLR medium format system would first think of Hasselblad or Bronica. The Rollei 6008 Integral is, perhaps, under-appreciated and a less well-known system than others.

Perhaps potential owners are put off by the fact that the Integral is completely battery-dependent, using an old-fashioned NiCad, which is not up to the latest types (they can be swapped at will and take one hour to charge fully). However, there are companies that will renew Rollei’s 6008 batteries – a quick web search will find them.

Also, the reliability of the electronics might put off some, but this is a camera designed and built for the uncompromising and stringent demands of professional use: used sensibly, mine has never missed a beat, whatever the weather from winter, storm-lashed coast to desiccating, summer heat. The Integral reminds me of a piece of over-engineered military hardware rather than a camera.

Given that it is all-electronic, I accept that at some point it has to fail, and therefore will possibly become irreparable, but this no different to many sought-after, all-electronic cameras whose virtues are extolled.

The Rollei 6008 Integral is one hell of a camera for a reasonable outlay that can be had for a fraction of its price when it was new. Many are up for sale simply due to their owners going digital. Good examples are not hard to come by. Given the considerations above, it is a pity to overlook and dismiss the Rollei 6008 Integral. Certainly, I wouldn’t be without mine.

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