Hasselblad vs. Mamiya vs. Bronica vs. Rollei

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by alec, Mar 16, 2004.

  1. Hey All,

    Ok, I know it is unfair to throw in Rollei since they make TLRs, but
    you get my point. Hasselblads are great, and you pay for it. So what
    about the others? The guy at the B&H used department told me that
    Mamiya was the next best in line and that Bronicas had some problems.
    I'm not looking to start a flame war here, but I'm curious about what
    the word is on the street about alternative medium format cameras
    before I upgrade my high-end Holga.

    What I'm looking for is a 6x6 medium format camera with manual focus,
    non-prism viewfinder (I want to look down), manual wind and built-in
    TTL metering. (Built-in TTL Metering is really important to me....) I
    don't care about 120 vs. 220, I think I'd like to change lenses, and
    the idea of multiple backs is appealing. Most of all I want it to
    hold up for quite some time. After the Canon A2E command dial thing,
    I've decided that poor design/workmanship is unacceptable for high-
    ticket items. (Duh, but it left me REALLY mad.)

    So what are your thoughts? What do you think of the lens quality of
    the various manufacturers? Is there indeed a problem with the
    mechanics of Bronicas? Is there a manufacturer on here that I've
    overlooked? My apologies for my long-winded question.

    Sincerely, Alec Simonson

    PS: Ok, right, price. Let's stick to 2K & under.
  2. "Ok, I know it is unfair to throw in Rollei since they make TLRs, but you get my point."

    Rollei makes high quality SLRs too, you know?
  3. Actually, no, I didn't know. So much for my hours of fauning over B&H catalogs....
  4. I just bought a whole Rollei 6x6 outfit from Ctrades.com, and
    think that the Rollei is an incredible value compared to
    Hassleblad. It is very overlooked here in the US, but has
    gorgeous Leica like workmanship, and great lenses -Zeiss and
  5. I love my Bronica system, but if you don't really know what you want forget about Bronica -that boat's already left.

    Hasselblad is your best bet. Get an entry level Hasselblad kit, then wait 18 to 24 more months for Hasselblad film based camera market to drop really low too, then might be able to afford some extra backs and lenses.
  6. Well, the obvious suggestion is the excellent Bronica SQAi or SQB. The latter won't support
    metering prisms (only plain ones), and has recently been discontinued - you might pick up
    a bargain.

    As Patric pointed out, Rollei make MF SLRs too. The 6008 Integral is the top end manual
    focus version - there is also an interesting but expensive autofocus version. Rolleiflex
    6000 series SLRs may well be a good fit for you - they are waist-level by default, but have
    a motor wind, and integral metering. I know I've had to fight against my urge to buy a
    second hand 6006 Mk II on more than one occasion.
  7. I lost that fight, and DID end up buying a 2nd Rollei 6006. I also have an SLX body that I picked up for effectively free (I got the body, with 150mm Sonnar and 45% prism finder for $600, and the finder and Sonnar lens by themselves were worth more than that.

    I personally agree that right now, Rollei SLRs are better values than Hassys in the 2nd hand market. But Mamiyas might be the best values of all.
  8. 1. Rollei makes SLRs too (the excellent 6000 series cameras with the very same Zeiss lenses that you get for Hassies)

    2. keeping in mind the price you've indicated I'd go for Bronica SQi piece. New series of Zenzanon lenses are of very high optical and mechanical quality. And are much more affordable, than Zeiss (but guess you know that already ;-)

    3. as an option I'd consider Mamiya (although it is 6x7 body - thus bigger - you can use 6x6 mags)

    I found Mamiya less smart in design and less handy in handling compared to Bronicas. And heavier. I found Bronicas bodies reliable if handled with care and cranked without overpower on your fingers. No camera is heavy duty as long as your hands are harsh on it and you push too much on crank for that matter. Things break, tear off and fall apart. It is just matter of amount of money you've invested in the equipment that will set the level of your sorrow when it must go to repair shop. And as stated in many on-line discussions here and elsewhere, the more expensive stuff you have, the more you are likely to pay for repairs. And that one day every piece will need repair, clean-up job or overhaul.

    Have been using Bronicas for 6 years with no defect, no problem and good results. Mostly in rough, muddy, shaky and dusty construction site conditions. The only things I needed once in a while was professional lens cleaning (front and rear glass surface, not inside) as I didn't feel very competent to do the thorough clean job myself. I did regular lens cleaning/blowing after every shooting though. The rest was just fine.
    But: I never dropped it, never let rain on it, never let other people using it and never exposed it to extreme temps as there is some plastics and electronics in it. No roughing, smashing and trashing whatsoever. In last two years of my usage I always carried the gear in R.A.P.S. wraps from RoadWired to gain more protection for the electronics and fine mechanics inside. And I never drove in the car with my photo bag/case in the trunk or on the floor of the car. Always on the seat buckled up. Yep! ;-)

    [Sorry for the bit of off here, but it illustrates some background of my positive experience with Bronica. Also, I believe it is not always the actual use of the camera that causes the deterioration/tear/wear of its parts. It is often the way it is put down on table/ground, how attached to tripod, how the tripod with camera mounted is put on the ground, the way it is transported between locations etc.]

    Bronicas got excellent focusing screens, very good TTL metering (although as a matter of photographic practice I prefer manual hand held metering) and reliable lens mechanics. Focusing was smooth all those years, shutter kept exposure times precise (incl. the long ones) and no heavy tear or wear was noticed. I did some 5 to 7 thousands shots/exposures a year.

    This is my first-hand experience. I did much less work with Mamiya RZ67. Thus the reliability is not what I can measure/compare here. Just the handling that I didn't find satisfying and few design flaws were putting me off from using it more or investing into more accessories.

    Just my 2Cs /
  9. Something you're going to run into is that for most MF SLRs, the meters are only put in the prism finders, not the waistlevel--the Rollei SLRs are an exception here, and may be the only one.

    Now, some of the Rollei TLRs have meters on them, and I think the one that you can buy new has TTL metering.
  10. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    There's a huge difference in ergonomics between these cameras and you should really pick one that feels good to you. Otherwise, your camera will end up as one of those really good deals on ebay.
  11. Less fauning (sic), more research. Spend some time here:

  12. Given that you want to "look down" and have TTL metering, you have one choice: Rollei SLR. That would be 6008i (or some previous versions) or 6003. You can hold your head high (and still look down) if you carry a Rollei 6008/6003/6001 :)

    BTW: I belive Rollei TLR (latest) has some kind of metering. I don't know if it is TTTL (Thru the taking lens).
  13. If you're interested in Hasselblad, but want integral metering AND a waistlevel finder,
    you'd have to go to the 200-series. The 203FE is an amazing camera and seems to
    satisfy your requirements.

    I don't agree that the lenses for the Rollei and Hassy are the same, particularly with
    regard to the 80mm 2.8 Planar. Both have significantly different bokeh characters,
    even though they're both Zeiss Planars. I don't know the construction details, but
    having looked at a number of sample images, i'm convinced that there's something

    With Rollei, you can choose amongst both Zeiss and Schneider lenses. Many have
    asserted that the Schneider glass is better/sharper, but again, i believe both have
    different 'signatures,' and the sharpness issue is probably moot at that level of glass.

    Why do you need manual winding? If that's a deal-breaker, that eliminates Rollei
    already, no? Mamiya doesn't make 6x6, but you can always crop a 6x7 or a 6x4.5 to
    square, although the latter is not a good idea.

    Although Rollei SLRs are generally well-appreciated in Europe and Asia, in the US
    they're not as highly regarded. Their presence on B&H shelves is sketchy, and dealers
    here don't represent them well. Used-camera departments will often say they won't
    even consider buying them. This is rather perplexing to me, as the Rolleis are all
    spec'd very well. I just saw in the KEH catalog a 6008 kit for less than $1500....

    All i can or would say about the "lens quality of the various manufacturers" is that
    there are differences in their characters, which are more or less evident depending on
    how you use them. Sharpness issues are probably insignificant at the medium format
    level, and will vary anyway from lens to lens. If you require a great portrait lens, you
    might want to steer toward that particular lens. If you want a great wideangle with a
    specific focal length, you should go in that direction. It's probably a falsehood for
    anyone to assert that ALL of anyone's lenses are superior to a different

    You haven't said what you want to shoot, how, where, and why....
  14. So I went to the beach to take some engagement pictures with my Rollei 6008i and this crowded beach (Corona Del Mar, California)cause it happens to be the most popular spot in my area to take sunset kinna setting with rocks and the ocean as your background, so I was walking and every other photographers that day were asking what kind of camera I have? they mostly use Hassy and Mamiya.It's just nice to be different but don't get me wrong I didn't choose my Rollei just because to be different and not so many people here in US use this camera but I like their features (TTL metering, etc), lines of lenses, ergonomic and hand grip, yes hand grip is the most obvious Rollei is better than Hassy. But again it's only my personal choice, others might say different things.And sytle of your photography will also be your factors when choosing camera.So good luck with your choice and happy shooting!.

  15. IMHO, Rollei cameras, lenses and accessories are fine, even outstanding. But Rollei USA is a worthless support/distribution/repair representative of the cameras, in terms of providing the level of support needed by working pros. As a result, I don't think that a serious pro could use the system without having a backup body, and other spares for any frequently used items.

    That being said, I really like the 6006 system (6008i is quite nice too, but I have never felt the need to upgrade).

    I also own Mamiya RZ67. It's a great system as well, but not anywhere near as ergonomic as Rollei 600x system for working rapidly. OTOH, Mamiya knows how to support pros, and the bigger negative is nice to have.
  16. OK, lets sort this out once and for all. BRONICA is nowhere near the quality of
    ROLLEI or Hasslefad. I used Bronica years and years ago and they are fine
    but honestly, for the price of a 6001 body, which I use a lot, and some
    secondhand HFT lenses, the ROLLEI is the superior choice.
    Hassey's are overpriced and they are not as comfortable to use as a ROLLEI.
    You get the drive built in etc, exceptional. I'll never use another camera again.
    If you go through the right channels then the service is second to none.
    Ctrades !!! Mike is really a nice guy and the service and prices are excellent.
    Look into it Alec, honestly, even the new assistants I use on occasional jobs
    are like ROLLEI, why do you use that stuff for. By the end of the shoot they
    want to by one.

  17. Mamiya RZ/RB 6x7 are much bigger than Hasselblad V-series, I would not dream of handholding those (I do it with my Hasselblads).

    Rollei 6000-series needs charge of the batteries. If you don't uses they much and often, you still have to charge the batteries once in a while. A Hasselblad without built in motor is always ready to use, but the 2000FC and 2000FC/M needs a working 6V battery to work, also with the lens shutter. The newer 200/2000-models can operate with lens shutter in the C, CF, CFi CFE-lenses even without a batteri.

    Hand held meter is great (if you can't afford a 203FE). 501CM, 503CX(i), 503CW, 2000/201 are great cameras.

    Some exellent Zeiss-lenses are spesial for Hasselblad, as my CF100/3.5 and the Superachromats (250 and 350).

    I advice to use new backs from 1993 and later.

    The 45 degre prismes from 93(?) and later are great.

    Good luck!
  18. When considering Bronica, remember that ALL 6 x 6 are discontinued (SQ-Ai in September, we had a thread here some weeks ago - Bronica has anounced it on their Japanese website, and some representatives don`t know about that until now). That means you invest into a dying system. And the used market for Bronica is much smaller that e.g. Hasselblad.
  19. The older Rollei SL66E and SL66SE offers TTL metering (spot for the SE) and are fully mechanical cameras with manual wind. The meterless SL66 is more common but the E and SE models do show up from time to time. The SL66s have FP shutters and bellow focus. The lenses are the same Zeiss designs as for the SLX/6000 and Hassy but often sold for much less. But you have to be carefull when buying lenses since the older ones do not suppport the meter of the E and SE.

    Siu Fai
  20. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    The sensible advice is to look at some, hold some, fiddle with
    some and if possible use some before deciding. All we can
    achieve here is to get you a smaller short -list.

    Mamiya don't have a 6x6 , so exclude them.

    There is much, much more difference in reliability between one
    example of a Hasselblad and the next than there is between
    Rollei, Hasselblad and Bronica as brands. You can't exclude the
    possibility of breakdowns by making a particular brand choice,
    and in truth you probably can't even influence it much. What you
    have to do is understand how to get things fixed if they go wrong
    and there may well be a big difference in the efficiency and user
    friendliness of these. For instance I've rarely heard a good word
    about Rollei's repair service. My choice of Bronica is not
    disassociated from the fact that the UK importer/repair facility is
    ten minutes from my home and I get rapid service there.

    Whilst I think Bronica quality is as good as anyone's, all the
    square format models are discontinued. There's still plenty of
    new stock around and you might get a bargain; but some people
    just feel better about owning a current camera, car or whatever.
    But Bronicas don't have built in metering. Period. The metering
    comes with a prism. You can't even use a prism on a SQ-B. If
    you want sophisticated TTL Bronica isn't for you- the metering on
    the "look down" chimney prisms is just average I think. Even the
    most modern eye-level prisms are not as flexible as the results
    you'd get from use of a hand-held meter like a Sekonic.

    I think you can materially ignore differences in lens quality.

    I think if I were you I'd be checking out Hasselblad and looking at
    lots of old Rollei threads to see whether they are the sort of
    organisation I was happy to deal with.
  21. Hello Alec,
    your question involve so many variables that a satisfactory response is virtually impossible (kind of photograph, studio/location, handheld/tripod, fixed/changeable lense ....).
    However this my 2cent. Sorry, I haven't experience with Bronica, but I recently compared Mamiya RZ 90 f/3.5 against the celebrated Rolleiflex TLR Planar 80 f/2.8 in perfectly equal shooting conditions (tripod, same speed and aperture, same film, same subject). Color of Rollei is pleasingly warmer (de gustibus non disputandum est), sharpness and contrast of Mamiya are definitely higher. Maybe recent Rollei 6000 series SLR lenses are better than old Planar. If ultimate image quality is what you are searchin' for, take it into account.
    Hope this helps.
  22. I would suggest a second-hand Hasselblad, something like 500 C/M. The ergonomics of Hassy are very good for hand-holding. I have used a Hassy with 40, 50, 80, 150 and 180 mm lenses as well as a Mamiya RB (6x7) with various lenses, toyed with a Mamiya 6 and various TLR Rolleiflexes.

    Hasselblad is incredibly small considering the format, with a 80 mm normal lens on par with a TLR. Rollei SLRs are considerably larger.

    It all comes down to what you are photographing and how. If street photography is your cup of tea, I'd suggest a TLR Rolleiflex. No mirror slap and black-out enables one to follow the scene and use longer shutter speeds. If you are looking for an all-round camera, then get a Hasselblad. It can also be used for street work, even if the almost mandatory mirror pre-release creates all sorts of problems as regards focusing, framing etc.

    As for the build quality of Hasselblads, well, that's legendary. Built to last. And last. Jamming is not a problem, if one follows the instructions to the letter.

    Lens quality leaves nothing to be desired. The out-of-focus characteristic (bokeh) of Zeiss lenses is also legendary, and well deserves that status. On par with Leica M (have that as well), if not better, since with more film area the various hues are more accurately reproduced. IMO Mamiya or Bronica cannot compete in this area, the OOF background tends to be a bit on the harsh side, bit like Nikkors (use also that system).

    Whichever you choose, have fun!

    Jaakko Koskentola
    Helsinki, Finland
  23. Buy a Mamiya C330 and you will be able to get most excellent negatives, buy many lenses, loads of film and have $1,000's left over to use to feed poor children around the world.
  24. "The out-of-focus characteristic (bokeh) of Zeiss lenses is also legendary, and well deserves that status."

    Maybe, maybe not.

    For some lenses in some circumstances I'd certainly agree, but the five bladed Zeiss/Hassie iris can give some very intrusive geometric shapes if the background blur includes highlights.
  25. "....but the five bladed Zeiss/Hassie iris can give some very intrusive geometric shapes if the background blur includes highlights."

    That's why I like to use my CFi100/3.5 with or without 2XE converter at full stop with my 2000FC (fast shutter speeds) :)
  26. ...with my 503CW I often must stop the lens down.
  27. I checked out Mark Anderson's web site & all I have to say is WOW! I would definately love to be shooting all the celebrity portraits that he gets to. Though, I'm sure Mark has put in his dues over the years to get to where he is now. Nice edgey lighting techniques that perfectly suit today's style. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks so. The magazine editors must also agree. Great stuff.
  28. I know the question was broad, but these resposes are exremely helpful. I had this image of Rollei camera's being TLRs only, and probably never would have considered them. Now they sound like a great choice and I have a new path to research.

    As per Derek's response, I'm not bent on manual wind, I just don't care either way. If it winds, great, if not, whatever.

    As per David's advice, I certainly will spend some time holding them to pick one that "feels" right, but if there were 5 posts about how badly the XXXXXX camera sucked I'd likely just steer clear.

    As for what I'd be using it for, that's hard to answer. I haven't really picked a specific discipline yet (Macro, Landscape, Portraits, etc), and while I've been encouraged to, I really can't choose. But I don't want to (or plan to) baby this camera. It won't be sitting on a shelf somewhere to be carressed with canned air from time to time to keep it shiny. Yes, I'll take care of it, but I plan to use it wherever and whenever I'd like. Wind, rain, salt air, mud, yadda yadda yadda. That's where the durablility factor really kicks in.

    Again, thanks all for keeping on focus. This was a pretty broad question but I got a lot of the answers I was looking for.
  29. Hold them in your hands and see how they feel. To me Hasselblad wins "hands down" (pun intended). Sure it's nice to have a build-in motor with the ROllei, except, that you ALWAYS have to carry it, making the camera significantly bigger an uncomfortable than the Hassie, and in most situation you can as easily just crank the winder. To me, the pure simplicity of a Hasselblad is a true joy.

    Also, Hassie's used market prices or gey imports are very reasonable these days! Buy it, and sell what you don't like on eBay...
  30. I believe the new Rollei TLR's (2.8 GX or something like that) are made w/ the Rolleicord chassis. Back when Rollei went defunct, the original 2.8F machines were lost/destroyed. The 2.8F is the classic TLR...more heft, but no metering. IIRC, the 2.8GX has some kind of metering plus TTL flash. I almost bought one, but got a second 6008i kit since I got a good deal on it.

    As for lenses, I think the Schneiders have a more Leica-like bokeh than the Zeiss. OTOH, the 110/2 planar for the Rollei seems to have a similar bokeh to the schneider 180/2.8 tele-xenar, but why would one use the 110/2 when you can use the 90/4 makro-symmar, which is sharper, lighter, and has macro capability? I also like the pistol grip on the 6008i (makes the heft feel a little more manageable). If you go w/ the hassy, I'd probably go w/ the 503CW for the TTL flash (very handy) and gliding mirror (so the field of view for tele lenses doesn't get cropped...you want to see as much of the frame as possible, right?:) ). The 2000 series is way overpriced for what you get, plus I don't like those cloth focal plane shutters (yeah, I know you can use leaf-shuttered lenses in them, but you lose the TTL metering...the entire purpose for getting it!). I also like the built-in winder on the Rollei. Sometimes, one doesn't have much time to get off a bracketed series, and there's no time to install an external winder.
  31. I guess one last thing to mention is, get whatever is the most versatile. Since I've owned my Rollei, the type of photography I do with it has changed from landscape to more portraits (I use the 4x5 and pan for landscape). So I'm glad I have TTL flash capability w/ interchangeable lenses (why I think a TLR is limited).
  32. Jim,
    My 2.8F DOES have a meter. Analog, non-TTL. Match the 'pin' to the 'hoop.' Didn't
    Rollei add that to the 'later' Fs?

    And, i'd disagree about Schneider bokeh being similar to Leica's. At least, not in the
    many examples i've seen. True, the Zeiss signature is quite different from Leica -
    much more 'graphic' instead of 'organic.' But, i've only usually seen rather schizo
    bokeh from Schneider lenses on Rolleis. I'd love to be convinced otherwise, as that's
    one of the two primary factors that convinced me to get the 203FE instead of a 6008
    last year. The other factor was US dealers' apathy toward the Rollei MF SLR system.
  33. Alec,

    You might want to read my remarks in this discussion:
  34. Mark Anderson's site obviously displays his qualifications. But I have to dissagree about his Bronica assesment. Afterall, no one shooting supermodels (and doing it so well as he) would be caught dead with anything other than a good German MF 6x6 camera next to Cindy Crawford. Be laughed out of town.

    Look at David Henderson's site. The trees in his beautiful landscapes won't complain or be turned off by his Bronica.

    Bronica is for a photographer who relishes 'bang for the buck' over concerns of the image you project with your camera. FWIW, the Bronica SQAi, which I own, is built rock solid.
  35. I heard that some of these supermodels, especially the ones Walter Iooss Jr. shoots, just care about the size of the guy's Canon.
  36. Derek, I may have been thinking about the 3.5F over the 2.8F or whatever...too many models to keep tract of (I think the 3.5 has the tessar while the 2.8 uses the planar). I presume the meter is one of those older types like in my SL35?

    I got my 6008 systems when I was living overseas...never bought any Rollei stuff in the US. I did manage to successfully re-cell my own Nicads, though, so the battery availability thing is a non-issue for me. :)
  37. Just a small note: If you want to look down at the focusing screen (no prism) AND want TTL metering, the only way to get both with a Bronica SQ series camera is to go with their metered chimney finder. They were never very popular and so they are a little hard to find on the used market, but work quite well, IMO.
  38. Hasselblad much better than Bronica? I think not. Side by side printed 20X30 the differences are minimal. If you want to argue that I've got a duff CFi lens then please do.

    Hasselblad broke down 1 year from new. Bronica (ETRS and GS1) never did.
  39. Andre is correct, I'd never work in this town (LA) again if I used a Bronica, that's the
    sad truth. Bronica are excellent quality at a good price, no doubt about it.
    But the way my gear gets treated, I really need to know it's going to work, everytime.
    I've never had a problem with the Rollei, and I've been using them for over 16 years.
    I'm shooting a book at present and man, the gear is getting pounded like crazy, lots
    of BIG location shoots, but it keeps on ticking.
    And they are really not that much more expensive than the rest when you look into
    the 6001's, which I use all the time.
    It all depends on what and who you shoot. In my business I can tell you that the
    celebs are VERY impressed when they see my Rollei's. I would think in many other
    avenues of Photography it would be equally impressive, say, wedding photograpy?

    Also, thanks for your kind comments everyone.

    Take care,

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