With the Rolleiflex SLX of the seventies the factory introduced electronics in medium format photography. From a commercial point of view the electronics were revolutionary. By present technical standards the (outsourced) electronics are quite primitive and even for the seventies measure they were not as good as they should have been. There were quality issues with the first series. The cameras that still work today will be good ones. Never the less the electronics are quite old by now.
First attempts aimed at a smaller, lighter, simpler, cheaper version of Rollei’s fully mechanical SLR, the SL 66. No bellows, no tilt option, no focal plane shutter but a leaf shutter. The camera was already named SLC 66. It turned out to be a difficult project. Smaller could also be lighter but smaller also meant that hardly any parts of the SL 66 could be used. Cheaper was out of reach. Another desire was electric film transport next to the traditional crank. Eventually a completely new camera was designed without detachable film magazine. The crank was dropped too. The film transport was electric only. The name of the new camera was SLX.
The film back - that can not be removed before a film is fully exposed - made the SLX less desirable to professional users. The exchangeable film inserts are a positive point. The un-exposed film can take the place of the exposed film. There is no need to move the empty spool. The insert has two transport gears and can be used either way. All major camera functions are electronically controlled and the common mechanical leaf shutter is replaced by an electronically controlled direct-drive shutter capable of exposures of 1/500 s. The shutter is an original Rollei design and unique in photography. The aperture too is set by a direct-drive motor.
Rolleiflex System 6000
The SLX developed into the Rolleiflex System 6000. The camera has a detachable film magazine. At the time of introduction the 6008i was the most sophisticated MF camera on the market. Thanks to electronics the price was competitive with respect to the Hasselblad camera that still was a fully mechanical camera. Unfortunately that was also the case with the SL 66 and the System 6000 mainly killed the SL 66 and not the Hasselblad.
For studio use a model 6001, lacking most of the refined multi-system auto-exposure module, is even more competitively priced. A unique feature of the 6008i is the 4560 magazine for 4.5 x 6 cm exposures. The 4560 magazine can be positioned for landscape or portrait style exposures.
In February 2002 a new Auto Focus Rolleiflex 6008 AF came on to the market. A world first in 6 x 6 cm photography! With new Schneider Kreuznach optics it features full Auto Focus, faster than 645 cameras by other manufacturers. With non-AF Rollei System 6000 optics the camera showed "in focus" confirmation. In medium format AF lots of glass have to be moved when focusing. That makes medium format AF a bit slower than 35 mm AF. At present (2019) the 6008 AF is difficult to repair. The electronic boards are unavailable. The situation for the 6008i is better.
This is not a complete listing of all SLX and System 6000 cameras. The range began with the SLX. Then came the 6006, 6002 and the 6008 professional, 6008 professional SRC 1000 and the 6003 professional SRC 1000. The numbering is quite confusing. I have omitted the SLX and 6002 from the list. I feel there is not enough room for another column. Another reason is that the features of these basic models are quite different from the listed models and having them in one list would be complicated and even more confusing.
The present list is partly based on work by others. The origin is uncertain but I have found a System 6000 Data Sheet that could be the original source. Several web-versions were in the public domain for years. The present list is updated and edited. I have listed the focusing screen that was original to the body but that does not guarantee it is still in the camera. The screens of the Rolleiflex TLRs GX and later, the SL 66 and all SLX and System 6000 cameras are interchangeable. "yes" means: function available or accessory can be used. "no" means: function not available or accessory cannot be used.
Magazine 6000 120 6×6 mounted on a Rolleiflex 6008i. The dark-slide is down and the film is
transported to exposure 1. The film type window is empty, no information was put into the film insert
Photo © 2020 F.W. Stutterheim.
Film Magazines and film backs
Magazine or Back
Film magazines are designed to be changed in mid-roll without losing film. Film backs are designed to stay on the camera. Backs should only be detached at the end of the film when it is completely wound. Backs have no dark-slides. Both use film inserts. The general idea is to change inserts at film-end and change magazines only while in mid-roll. On cameras that were designed to be used with backs, the backs cannot be replaced by magazines without an upgrade of the camera. Magazines for the 6006 can be used on later cameras but its use is not advised. In this situation both camera and magazine lack the option of setting the film speed and the system defaults to ISO 100 (ASA 100, 21 DIN). The desired film speed can be only obtained by adjusting the exposure compensation switch. Magazines for the 6006 are labeled as such. Magazines for later models are labeled as ‘Magazin 6000’. SLX backs cannot be used on 6000 cameras. Even so 6000 backs are not suitable for the SLX camera.
The sophisticated Magazine 4560 was introduced in October 1996. It is possible to switch between landscape and portrait format by simply turning the back. There is no need to turn the entire camera 90 degrees! Attention: this goes for the backs labelled “4560” only. There is an earlier 4.5 x 6 cm back without the turning feature. The Magazine 4560 is suitable for cameras having the third generation micro-processor and a detachable film stage. In other words: the 6008i and later cameras. Earlier cameras could (still can?) be adapted at the factory but in todays market it would make more sense to purchase a suitable camera body.
Power supply systems
The Rolleiflex SLX and System 6000 camera’s are completely power dependent. A number of power supply systems are or were available. Batteries and chargers are the basic system. The power supply is described in an addendum. The links in this paragraph will take you there.
Coded Serial Numbers and Index
in 1982 Rollei began to use coded serial numbers instead of a sequential numbering system. The coding system is explained on a separate page. The digits placed in the second and third position of the coded number are called the Index.
When the camera leaves the factory the firmware level is represented by the Index number. Later upgrades of the firmware are not shown by an updated serial number. For the user there is no way to read the actual firmware level after an upgrade has taken place. Although all 6008i cameras are outfitted with the third generation electronics and the detachable film stage and therefore are capable of using the Magazine 4560, they need the firmware of Index 3 or higher. That can be either a camera with value 3 or higher or an Index 1 or 2 Rolleiflex 6008i with upgraded firmware. When buying these lower index cameras the only way of knowing is to ask the seller about the use of the 4560 magazine. Even better is testing the 4560 before committing yourself. The serial number of my 6008i begins with 204.. That makes it an Index 4 camera of 1997. The 6003 Professional of 1996 also having the 3rd generation of the micro-processor and the detachable film stage needs an Index of 2 or higher to use the Magazine 4560.
In a modular camera system with backward compatibility exposure modes of a camera and lens combination depend on the supported modes of both camera and lens. The most limiting factors determine the capabilities of the set. The original lenses designed for the Rolleiflex SLX offer only shutter priority AE and manual metering. When mounted on a more sophisticated camera of the System 6000 that is no different. PQ lenses have an aperture simulator and offer not only shutter priority AE and manual but also aperture priority AE and program mode. All this only with cameras that support these modes. The studio camera Rolleiflex 6001 for instance only supports flash metering. PQS lenses offer all these modes with a higher top speed of 1/1000 sec. The higher top speed however can only be achieved with camera bodies that were designed to support PQS lenses: all 6008, both 6003 and 6001.
- Rollei Report 5, Rolleiflex SLX und 6000 Report, Prochnow, Claus, ISBN 3-89506-183-2, Lindemans, (2000).