I’ve read more than once that the Schneider 90mm f:4 Apo Symmar Macro PQS lens for the Rollei 6xxx and Hy6 systems is the best lens in medium format. Hasselblad owners may take exception to this. Their 100mm f:3.5 Planar is an excellent lens that is measurably sharper than the 80. Of course the Mamiya lenses for the 6 and 7 series rangefinders are notably high resolving lenses. But the Schneider 90mm f:4 Apo Symmar Macro PQS lens excels in more areas than these other lenses.
The Apo Symmar boasts unbelievable sharpness from close up to infinity. It focuses to 1:2 without extension tubes. The lens is sharp wide open and stopped down. It renders very detailed images with fantastic color and pleasing bokeh. In fact, somebody high up at Phase One told Eric Hiss from Rollei USA that this is one of the sharpest lenses in medium format. It’s also light weight, and doesn’t need a hood due to its deeply inset front element. The lens looks like a 55mm Micro Nikkor on steroids.
The Apo Symmar is a manual focus lens. The focus is silky smooth with a long throw. As a PQS lens it features a 1/1000 second leaf shutter made of carbon fiber blades.
Downsides? The lens is BIG. Like Hungry Man Soup can big. The filter size is 95mm. It’s not heavy but does fill up my camera bag. It’s also not cheap. There are some bargains in this system. The 90mm Apo Symmar is not one of them. The lens sells used for about half its original $3995 USD retail price. Still, a high quality German lens with exceptional qualities for $2000 may be a good value, if not a bargain.
A quick comment or two about the Rollei 6xxx system. I’m not going to say much , there have been some excellent reviews online such as https://www.35mmc.com/11/05/2021/rolleiflex-6000-a-passionate-review/ and https://casualphotophile.com/2017/10/06/rollei-6008-professional-medium-format-slr-camera-review/. I apologize if I missed anybody.
One area I’ll mention that isn’t discussed much online is how Rollei spent a lot of effort on the backs improving the film flatness compared to their competitors. This adds to the sharpness of the system.
As I said, there are some bargains in this system if you are patient. I picked up very clean non-PQ Zeiss 50mm Distagon and 150mm Sonnar lenses for $350 and $250 respectively. They work with my 6008af but I lose some the metering and automation. I meter manually anyway so this doesn’t affect me. I also picked up an almost mint 6001 body for $350 as a back up body. This doesn’t have the metering and automation. If that’s OK with you you could certainly piece together a manual system with an older 80mm Planar for quite a bit less money than Hasselblads are going for today.
I stand squarely in the gear-doesn’t-matter camp. To prove my point, last Summer I shot a number of images with my 6008af and the 80mm Xenotar and then the same image with my 65 year old Minolta Autocord. I made 14×14 prints and showed them to half a dozen photo colleagues, all of whom have decades of shooting experience. Nobody could reliably tell me which camera shot which print. I bet if I repeated that test with my 90mm APO Symmar the results would be different.
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