« Spoke Too Soon...Samsung NX | Main | Panasonic Lumix GH1 with Video »

Tuesday, 03 March 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

What a catastrophe. I hope somebody can acquire them. The Rollei 6000 system has served me flawlessly for more than 10 years, and I had planned to buy the 6008AF this year. My 6008i/6003 are the best cameras I've ever used.

Yes, Rory, I sympathize. It's particularly poignant and awful to see on the front page of this site that beautiful Rollei camera right above that creepy little Samsung imager. How'd you like to try taking a picture with the latter in about 50 years? On the other hand, if film still exists at that time, the Rollie, like my Rolleicord and your 6000 will still be firing away making beautiful photographs. That, my friends, is not nostalgia, it is appreciation of quality.

Maybe some kind, rich person will step in and save the company.

Sad times are these. Let us console ourselves with a roll or two this afternoon. (film, I mean ;)

I'm officially depressed.

Funny thing is that I mentioned the end of Rollei to a colleague, and they though they went out of business years ago. Considering what little they have produced lately (rebranded Cosina/Voigtladers?), it is no wonder why he was unaware of the company's presence.

Rollei's financial problems were brought on by their being forced into an increasingly smaller niche of the photo marketplace. At one time Rollei medium-format twin-lens reflex cameras were popular with advanced amateurs.

When the amateur market moved to 35mm film Rollei stuck with medium-format, where it was forced to compete with Hasselblad, Bronica, Pentax, Mamiya, and later Contax. Rollei made high-quality cameras, but the prices were higher than Hasselblad while the U.S. service and distribution were inferior.

When the market shifted to digital, Rollei tried partnering with makers of medium-format digital backs, but the number of photographers willing and able to spend upwards of $20,000 on a camera system is smaller still. Eventually the costs grew too large and there just wasn't enough market to survive on. I'll miss them, but since I could never afford them there's not much I could have done to help.

Oh dear! For those of us who used Rollies as the tool of the day during the late 50s, 60s and 70s this is a nostalgia trip with a very sad ending. One of the best cameras on the market lost in the progress of time. Very sad!

I have written this before.

We are in the midst of the Digital Revolution, and its impact is going to be at least as great as the Industrial Revolution.

A lot of people are going to be hurt, by the time the dust settles. It's unfortunate.

After the demise of Agfa, what else could be worst?

Very high quality has no place these days...

"Maybe some kind, rich person will step in and save the company."

That's what Hans Schmid is & tried to do.



Like you, I think a "normal" lens is too long for everyday use. I prefer something slightly wide. It always puzzled me that Rolleis and the various Flex and Mat cameras had 80mm lenses and no other choices. A 65mm would be just about right.

Anyway, I've got a old beat up Rolleiflex at home. I'll run a roll through it for old times sake.

What can we conclude from this? For one thing, the market obviously does an extremely good job at eliminating companies that are either unwilling or unable to please the digital mass market. However, the funny thing in it is: this does not undermine the need for long-lastig cameras; it reinforces it.

I fall into the camp of ...I thought they went out of business years ago.

I'm such a whipper snapper.

Maybe this should suggest the need for someone to develop an affordable digital medium format system. Is that an oxymoron, or is it possible? Or is there no point in an age of 24mp dSLRs?

"Like you, I think a "normal" lens is too long for everyday use. I prefer something slightly wide. It always puzzled me that Rolleis and the various Flex and Mat cameras had 80mm lenses and no other choices. A 65mm would be just about right."

Yes, I think this has to be put down to German stubbornness tinged with a certain amount of not wanting to listen and knowing best.

Much as I love Leicas and Rolleiflexes, and use both, and can admire what these manufacturers have done, and do do well, there is always that sense of them hanging on to tradition for tradition's sake, even if some obvious improvements or reasonable alternatives could be made without compromising what makes them excellent.

"Like you, I think a "normal" lens is too long for everyday use. I prefer something slightly wide. It always puzzled me that Rolleis and the various Flex and Mat cameras had 80mm lenses and no other choices. A 65mm would be just about right.
. . . . . . . . . . .

So the 55mm model that Rollei made was not good enough then? Or maybe you preferred the 135mm model!

Whatever the model, all were made with a precision and dedication to technical and mechanical excellence which is difficult to find on modern cameras.

Maybe the nostalgia is not just about the cameras but also the engineering one was buying into, the fact you know it was built to last and of course not least the quality of negative it produced.

Regretably I suspect the digital age may be bringing with it an element of lower requirements, specifications and quality.

Its still a sad day.

"Like you, I think a "normal" lens is too long for everyday use. I prefer something slightly wide. It always puzzled me that Rolleis and the various Flex and Mat cameras had 80mm lenses and no other choices. A 65mm would be just about right."

Actullay made wide angle and tele model Rollieflexes Link to tele rollie: http://www.pacificrimcamera.com/pp/rollei/tele/tele.htm

link to wide angle Rollie:http://img.alibaba.com/photo/104619954/Wide_Angle_Rolleiflex_Distagon_4_55_mm_Lens.jpg

With regard to comments from Kevin & Rob, I too prefer a 35 or 40mm FOV on smaller cameras but once you have a square to compose with the rules somehow seem to change - very happy with the 75mm on my Minolta Autocord.

Of course this is just the most recent of the many disasters to hit the Rollei brand over the years, there will be a few upset customers again this time. I chose a Rollei 35mm SLR over a Contax at the beginning of the 80's just before they went bust - doh!

Cheers, Robin

Some historical perspective...

Medium format became a small niche market many years ago. Improving film (and lens) quality is what did it. For example, 40 years ago you couldn't make a really good color print from 35mm. 30 years ago it was possible. 20 years ago it was routine. 15 years ago wedding photographers started to migrate to 35mm in a serious way, as they discovered that most of their clients were quite happy with the quality of the photographs.(That isn't saying that medium format wasn't better, it's saying that 35mm was good enough for the majority.)

Portrait photographers started to follow suit. The medium format business, which could be measured in a handful of percent compared to 35mm even in the early 1980s, was an ever shrinking market.

That's not to say that digital photography didn't nail the coffin shut. It did, and most emphatically; digital workflow was a much better fit for wedding and portrait businesses, and that was almost the entire medium format market.

But it's not like digital was killing off a robust market. There were certainly many medium format cameras available into the 90s, but how many of them came from companies for whom that was their dominant camera business? The market was already feeble and diminishing.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

In fairness, the "Rollei Wide" and "Tele-Rollei" were never really mainstream options. They were made in small numbers, were always relatively costly, and of course with non-interchangeable lenses you had to commit a whole camera purchase to the one lens, which was more than a lot of photographers were willing or able to do.


"Maybe this should suggest the need for someone to develop an affordable digital medium format system. Is that an oxymoron, or is it possible? Or is there no point in an age of 24mp dSLRs?"

John Rettie, who is a working pro, has written about this several times. He wrote that the Alpha 900, Canon 5DII and 1DsIII are overkill for the majority. How many of us regularly print larger than 11x14, or even larger than 8.5x11 as a matter of course? 99% of my photographs are 8.5x11, and when I used film, 99% were printed as 8x10. And then there's storage. An 11x14 tiff file is around 100mb from these three; the raw is around 80mb. That gets expensive if you cannot write off the cost of a RAID.

Don't get me wrong. I have 3 TLRs: Yashica, Autocord, and a Lubitel. But my Oly dSLR is just right for 90% of the market, just like 35mm was the majority when film was the common media.

It's something I would like to see, too. But I doubt it. We have a market economy. Time will tell.

Can someone post a link to a German-language version of the news?


You can find it posted on Monday March 2 on this blog:


Also here [WARNING: PDF link]:



On his website, Dante Stella recently wrote a poignant and poetic essay with the title "Verichrome, I do mind dying".


I believe it to be appropriate to Mike's posting as well as many of the comments TOP received regarding the sad demise of Franke & Heidecke GmbH.

Packard, a now defunct American producer of not only luxury, but also high quality automobiles bought Studebaker. Studebaker had "hidden debts" which eventually caused the combined company to quit making Packards but struggled on, compiling more debt making lower quality, unpopular Studebakers. It isn't just stubborn Germans who do not recognize market needs or are fooled by shifty accountants and lawyers.

All hail, one of the titans has passed. The Rolleiflex was perfection itself.

Re: WA & Tele Rolleis - please, some respect for these famous & famously-used cameras! Until the SLR era, Rolleis were the camera of choice for fashion photographers like Avedon. When working for Fortune, Walker Evans had a case to hold all three models. Arbus started her 6x6 work with a WA Rollei, & it was among the artifacts in the traveling Arbus retrospective a few years back. Though I can't confirm it (can anyone?), I assume that many of Lisette Model's famous people-pictures were made with a Tele model.

It wasn't until the end of the '70s that the WAs passed from the hands of users into those of collectors. By then, all but a few had been worked to death by professional photographers. And also by that time, the old 55 Distagon on the WA Rollei no longer held its own for resolution. But these cameras certainly had their day!

And don't forget the Mutars. I don't remember their magnifications, but there was a Tele-Mutar and a Wide-Mutar, both made for the Rolleiflex 2.8.

They bayonetted on and locked in place. They were made by Zeiss and they worked, offering a fixed-lens camera two more focal length options.

I don't think Rollei ever made a piece of junk.

The company's venture into the 35mm SLR market was a nice but also-ran design. There was the Rollei 35 and the Rollei 16, both beautifully built and special. And always the TLRs.

And now "hidden debts" bring them down--just like Cyrano's "lackey with a log of wood."

For shame.

Didnt they manufacture the Hy6 Medium Format Digital camera for themselves, Sinar and Leaf? What happens to Sinar/Leaf and where will they source theyre medium format camera now?

Specifically who will own the manufacturing rights for Hy6?

Well, it's a sad day, but most of us saw it coming. F&H has been hanging on by their fingernails for the past few years. For me the camera world was always made up of four titans. Leica, Nikon, Hasselblad and Rollei. Rollei was unique in that category, due to the TLR.

I liked the 6000 series, but it made a Hasselblad look cheap in comparison. Leica should take note.

I have two Rolleiflex 2.8/80, that will have to be pried from my cold dead hands.

My biggest worry for the future is the continued existance of a reliable repair shop. Harry Fleenor (www.rolleirepairs.com) does brilliant work, but just like F&H, he won't be in business forever.

Mayybe I should cough up the cash and buy a set of Rolleiflex tools, when they have the fire sale...

Like Agfa, Rollei never figured out the US market. Distribution and sales effort have been spotty at best for 30+ years. The TLR came to the end of its design life long ago, their 35mm SLRs were uncompetitive (and some were junk), and their 2-1/4 SLRs never could compete with Hasselblad. I'm sad to see them go. But the TLR will stand forever as a pinnacle of design and build quality, in a very functional (and beautiful) tool.

The problem that companies like Rollei and Leica have is that their older products are of such high quality that we still buy and trade them -- in fact the older Rolleiflexes are better than the recent models (same for Leica mostly) -- so not only did they have to compete against the mass market, but their most loyal fans and customers rarely bought anything new. When a nice user 2.8 Flex goes for $1000 versus a somewhat lower quality new FX or GX model for $3500 plus, it's only common sense to buy used. I bet the used transactions for old Rolleis dwarfed their new sales by a factor of 100 or 1000x.

Hopefully a few key employees will be able to maintain a spare parts and repair business. There are enough vintage Rolleis and Leicas in circulation to answer supply, and if anything this is good news to Rollei owners as their cameras' resale just became more valuable.

Does this mean I can take the Rollei logo and make t-shirts and hats now?

John L: You suspect digital is bringing in lower quality standards? I suspect just the opposite. I cite as evidence the replacing and updating of classic lenses to meet the new requirements particularly in the Canon and Nikon lines (where relatively old lenses are routinely used on digital bodies).

Also, a lot more people are pixel-peeping because it's so easy now, which leads them to try to avoid problems that don't necessarily even show visibly in prints -- a "raising" of standards in some sense, but not necessarily a useful one.

Huh, I didn't know about either the "Mutars" or the tele and wide Rollei variants. I'm pleased to know they existed; the story makes more sense with them in it.

I found three cameras in my parent's basement in 1969, and had a choice. My dad would have let me use any of them. I chose Grandpa's Leica M3 over the Contax SLR (no quick-return mirror) and a Rollei (less portable, fewer shots on a roll).

Zeiss and Leica have had problems entering the digital era. Leica has perhaps kept up the best. I have an M8 now, but I still have the old M3.

That M3 is built to last, unlike some of the Panasonic digital point and shoots with Leica lenses. However, those cameras are another way Leica keeps afloat financially. Not everyone can afford $3100 (used)- $5800 (new) for a digital camera.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007