The end of Rollei. Sigh

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by vick_ko, Jul 22, 2009.

  1. From the Leica Users Group:
    Sad news

    Yesterday, the business section of the Hannoversche Allgemeine, reported that the last remaining employees of Franke & Heidecke (formerly Rollei Fototechnik) in Braunschweig have now been made redundant,

    The company filed insolvency in February and the liquidator now sees little chance of the company recovering, as it has as good as no assets (its premises are rented and the machinery is leased).

    He did, however, mention that certain parties are still interested in maintaining the production of Rollei Professional cameras - who they are was not disclosed, nor was how they intend to operate.

    Good news for the 16 apprentices at the factory, they have been promised an opportunity to complete their apprenticeships at other companies in the region.

    So, it looks like the professional segment of Rollei has now ended its long history after a brave attempt to keep it afloat by messrs Franke and Heidecke (descendants of the original founders of Rollei).

    The name of Rollei continues in the marketing organisation that was spun off a few years ago to market Rollei-branded digitals manufactured in Asia and moved to Berlin.
  2. A very long sigh. I still remember my eagerness in waiting for the 6008AF and my excitement when I finally got it in 2002. Tak
  3. The only way for survival of Rollei is to move to another country where taxes and the like aren't that high or non-existend. Then they could make camera's that people could afford. If a Rollei new TLR wasn't that expensive I would certainly buy one.
  4. That camera is already made. It is called Seagull.
  5. "That camera is already made. It is called Seagull." What?!
    Mr F Stutterheim, we are talking about Rollei TLR, the finest in precision engineering and 1st class optics.
    The only thing the Seagull has in common is its general configeration.
    It's like comparing a Kiev with a Hasselblad.
  6. Something between the Seagull and the Rolleiflex would be appealing. Maybe Cosina could think about it.
    Actually, given their interest in German marques (Voigtländer) maybe they could acquire the Rollei name.
  7. I use my TLR occasionally (MinoltaAutocord) for its multiple exposure possibility, but find the TLR format too incovenient to use for most work, compared to SLR or RF cameras of the same format. Unfortunately, Hasselblad was probably too ingrained (esp. in NA, not as much in Europe) in the minds of professionals for Rollei to capture enough of the market to be profitable.
    You can't survive building nostalgia cameras (TLR) alone. Rollei should have aggressively pursued the digital MF with their 6000 series camera body. Unless I am mistaken, they didn't.
    Cosina is in bed with Fuji at the moment (Fuji 667). Leica moved much of their production to Canada in the 1950s when it made sense economically to do so. Whoever buys Rollei (if it is kept intact for that) needs a new site of manufacture that has technical and economic advantages, as Ontario once had for Leitz. Probably not Asia, as Rollei tried Singapore for their famous small Rollei 35 series, slide projectors, etc., in the 70s and 80s and that apparently did not work out (it should have).
    With the right design team and philosophy, and closer attention to the market, Rollei should (or should have?) persist(ed) in some form. Pity that the company know how might disappear.
    Completely different subject, and off-topic, but that is also what happened (loss of expertise) when the advanced Avro Arrow fighter aircraft was cancelled by Dief the Chief (for Bomark missiles) in the mid 20th century, and eearlier, the world's first commercial passenger jet plane (Canadair, in the late 40s) never got into serious production (the company was much later bought by Bombardier, and finally do make regional passenger jets, of course).
  8. In the early 1960's, my Mother helped me purchase a used Rolleicord Vb. Paid her back in less than 6 months from photos that I took and sold.
    Wonderful camera. Had it serviced in the 1980's and it still serves me well.
  9. I am afraid it was a wrong move of theirs to have developed the Hy6, with all the expenses of the R&D, and the wasted components that would assemble into the 6060 backs which never have been, and the essential accessories like the new RC120 which never come to the shelves.
    The 6008 is a mature system. A good digital back will bring the whole thing to the frontier of technology.
    In 2002 I have all the reasons to upgrade to the 6008AF. But having owned the AF, I was not able to convince myself that I need the Hy6.
  10. I think accepting to work on the Hy6 was a very good decision.
    It is where they could have made money.
    Yes, the 'old' Rollei was well matured, and liked. But no longer liked enough.
    It didn't bring in the money. It was not what the market was spending (big - and they asked a lot for the 6000-series) money on. That is why Rollei let go of it in the first place: no income selling the 6000-series.
    There are enough of them around to satisfy the demand. People looking to buy something new are looking for things like the Hy6.
    The digital back market has moved away from open systems (not even all versions of the Hy6 were compatible).
    Backs are 'hard wired' to work with certain cameras, and those cameras alone. I think that too, though not good for the consumer, was a good thing to do.
    In that market, there is nothing better they could have done than to accept getting paid to develop a platform for digital backs. As long as Sinar and Leaf would have stayed in business, F&H Mk II would have been able to earn a living.
    F&H Mk II would have been able to sell cameras, because they were hard wired to backs. If backs would work on any old camera, people would indeed use any old camera, and not put money towards a camera maker like F&H Mk II.
    (Ironic that the end of F&H Mk II also ended one of the companies that could have kept F&H Mk II alive: Leaf)
    So the Hy6 (and anything that would have followed it) could have meant a long and prosperous life for F&H Mk II.
    As the first press release said, it were the 'Altlasten', the weight they already had on their shoulders, that broke their back.
    Taking them on was the original, and biggest bad decision Franke and Heidecke Mk II made.
  11. Yes. That makes sense to me. But in any case this is sad and unfortunate.
  12. I love my old Planar F/2.8 E 2. The pictures it takes are full, round and 3D. I understand the 6000 series was superb but the old TLR are collectible and take fantastic B&W images partly due to lens contrast. There is no commercial market for film cameras. Those who know need to inform the younger generation to try something different than digital. Everyone can do digital but how many people can print gelatin silver prints. Silver prints look rich in the hand. Completely different than digital.
  13. This is a bit more complicated than first look suggests. Rollei did pursue digital backs - quite early - with scan backs, and even trying for alliances before the modest Phase connection. The 6008 camera system suffers from a full motor, not needed for a digital back, and a vertical orientation out of whack with the horizontal direction of a thick digital back. Also, the AF on the 6008 was only modestly successful, IMHO.
    The AFI was (of course) undercapitalized - enough to get into production, but not enough to provide it with all the lenses, and accessories needed - cable release, 6x6 back, etc.
    The errors are not so hard: Phase should have been let in the door. They should have priced it like they did the 6003 package way back - an entry price to get the cameras out in hands. And yes, a good US distributor would have helped - not separate ones for Sinar, Leaf and Rollei. Although Calumet had it here, and liked it - it wasn't going to move.
    Unfortunately the sales model is the high-end German one that Leica is now pursuing: we'll build the best, you come to us. Not a convincing one in the American marketplace, but hey, if it works, fine.
    Some suggest it was the debt - who knows? And what debt is this, how big was it, etc.? My sense is that high quality, but marginal players are not making it today. That's true in lots of industries, not just photo. By the way, there is a detailed look at Hassy's mistakes with digital, and how it pretty much sank them too, if you are interested. I think its on LL. So its not just Rollei - this tsunami is taking lots down. Leica, Sinar may be in the same boat.

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