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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 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 ones that still work today will be good ones. Never the less the electronics are quite old by now.
The SLX developed into the Rolleiflex System 6000. All major camera functions are electronically controlled and the common mechanical leaf shutter was replaced by an electronically controlled direct-drive leaf shutter capable of 1/1000 s exposures. The aperture too is operated by a direct-drive motor. The shutter is an original Rollei design and unique in photography. 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 was still a fully mechanical camera. Unfortunately that went for the SL66 as well and the 6000 killed the full mechanical SL66. 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.
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 omited 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 SL66 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.
Film magazines are designed to be changed in mid-roll without losing film. Film backs are designed to stay on the camera. Backs can be detached but with the loss of film, they have no dark-slides. Both use film inserts. The general idea is to change film 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 (100 ASA, 21 DIN). The desired film speed can be only obtained by adjusting the exposure correction switch. 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.
The original charger that came with the SLX was the Charger G. I do not know very much about it except that it was a rather basic instrument. With the later Charger N came “ trickle charge”. Now there was no risk of over-charging: when the battery was fully charged the charger revered to pulses rather than a continuous current. The problem that remained was the “memory” behaviour of NiCad cells. In order to keep their full capacity NiCads need to be fully discharged before being re-charged. This is very unpractical to photographers who tend to re-charge before starting a job regardless of the state of discharge. Having a number of spares is not a solution either. Charged spares self discharge over time.
Independent manufacturers like Maha offered chargers with a discharge circuit that could be activated before re-charging began. I still use a Maha MH-C777. They became popular with Rolleiflex users and could even be used to recondition old batteries with memory defects. It took the Rolleiflex factory a while but eventually the Charger N was replaced by the Charger C. The C performs a status check of the battery cells and also has the discharge option. The C model still is the preferred choice for NiCad cells in the light of their “memory’ behaviour.
By modern standards the NiCad battery is completely obsolete. Today high capacity NiMH batteries are available from dealers and repair shops. Apart from buying a new battery (around €135) you can have them rebuilt at listed repair shops (for around €84). DIY kits from the Far East are sold on the internet. A serious problem with replacing the cells is that they fit very tightly in the battery housing. Quite some users ended up with cells that were slightly too wide for the housing. Battery packs are sometimes taped together before being forced into the housing or improper soldering is done instead of spot-welding. All this causes the battery housing to bulge and it cannot be inserted into the camera anymore. My local battery shop used properly spot-welded cells of the wrong capacity and returned a bulged battery. I had warned them about some type of cells being too large but they simply forced into the housing whatever they had in stock. Have the job done by someone who not only knows about battery cells but also about System 6000 Rolleiflex cameras.
According to Mr. Paepke of Paepke Fototechnik in Düsseldorf, Germany, the Charger G is unfit for charging modern NiMH batteries. Both Chargers N and C are fit but the discharge circuit of the C-type should not be used. The whole point of NiMH is that partial re-charging can be done and discharging is not needed. The Charger N has three switch-off conditions. A time lapse of 1 hour, or “battery fully charged” or “battery over-heated”. The NiMH cells he uses for replacements are charged for 95% after one hour. That will be good enough for most people but it is possible to remove the battery from the Charger N and put it back after a minute or so to reset the timer and start a new session of up to 1 hour. Off course the charging time will depend on the capacity of the cells used. I have the impression that the second condition, “battery fully charged” does not cause the charger to revert to trickle charge when NiMH cells are used. Charging continues for another full hour. I suppose there is the risk of over-charging.
With the introduction of the SL 66 E Rollei started to use coded serial numbers instead of a sequential numbering system. The coded serial number has 9 digits, #004230028 for instance. The first digit plus "5" (the key) represents the year of manufacture, in this example 0+5=5. One has to guess the decade and the century! Knowing that this number belongs to an SL 66 E manufactured between 1982 and 1986, the year of production is 1985. The digits placed in the second and third place, (in our example "0" and "4") are for factory internal use and represent the engineering level. They are called the Index.
The digits in 4th and 5th place minus "20" give the calendar week in the year of production. In our example the digits 4 and 5 are "23". 23 minus 20 is 3, so the camera was manufactured in the third week of 1985. The digits 6 to 9 stand for the sequential number of a camera built in that week. In our example "0028" means that the camera was the number 28 manufactured in the third week of 1985 with an engineering level of 04.
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.
All listed cameras were meant to be used with PQ (Professional Quality) and most of them with PQS (Professional Quality ‘Schnell’ meaning Fast) lenses. PQ lenses have a top shutter speed of 1/500 sec. PQS lenses fire at up to 1/1000 sec due to lighter shutter blades. When the 6008 Professional was introduced in 1988, development of the new PQS shutter was well on its way but the PQS lenses were not introduced until 1990. The 6008 Professional was built for timing shutter speeds up to 1/1000 sec right from the start but this was not formally announced. ‘1000’ is not engraved on the shutter speed knob. Past ‘500’ there are just three unnamed marks. This is confusing because the name of the later 6008 Professional SRC 1000 suggests that the faster top speed first came with that model. Not so. PQS lenses cannot be used on cameras introduced before 1988. The second generation linear motors draw a higher current and cameras like SLX, 6006 cannot handle this.
In the trade the original Non-PQ lenses for the Rolleiflex SLX are often referred to as ‘HFT’. (In the trade one does not like to advertise the lack of a feature.) In fact all lenses made since 1971 including the PQ(S) ones are marked HFT. It is the registered trade-mark of the Rollei multi-coating. The trade designation ‘HFT’ implies that no other designation is applicable. SLX lenses can be recognised by the absence of either PQ or PQS. PQ or PQS is engraved or printed in red on the barrel just to the right of the aperture scale. HFT is printed in red on the front ring of the barrel.
A word about auto-focus lenses. The 6008 AF needs ‘AF’ lenses (with aperture ring). ‘AFD’ lenses (without aperture ring) are meant for the Hy6 only.
In a modular camera systen 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.