|Exakta 66 with waist-level viewfinder|
image by Michael Wagenhäuser (Image rights)
Heinrich Manderman, founder of the Beroflex firm, started the "Projekt Exakta 66", with the belief that a reasonably priced camera could still be produced in limited runs in Germany, especially in medium format. Principles for the project were that the camera should be qualitatively first rate, but not neccessarily offering the latest technology. Importantly customers used to the 35mm-format should not face any hurdles due to the shape of the camera, or the price. Finally the lenses, a central component of the concept, should be of professional quality, and from Schneider-Kreuznach (recently acquired by Mandermann). Harold Brochmann, writing in Exakta Times, emphasizes that it was difficult to sell east-bloc cameras in the West at the time, and that Manderman exploited the rules regarding country of origin. I.e. by having sufficient parts of production in West Germany, the camera could be marked as "Made in West Germany". According to the same source, the Exakta-name was bought from Cosina (who had purchased the name from the previous owners, Ihagee West), the camera back mechanics were designed by Schneider's departement for precision mechanics and the viewfinder was designed by Harwix in West Berlin.
The project manager was Dr. Otto Stemme from Durst, earlier Rollei and the Munich camera plant of Agfa. Several of Stemme's colleagues or partners in Munich were also part of the team, including the design-firm Schlagheck & Schultes, which earlier had designed several Agfa cameras. The design was not entirely original, but an external update of the Pentacon Six camera, in an attempt to keep costs down. The design was said to represent a "macho "rancher"-style camera that doesn't need to be treated too politely". This was also reflected in the advertising of the camera, stating that it was made "For heaven and hell and all things between. Six by six for men". It was announced by the West German Ihagee Kamerawerk (Ihagee West) at the 1984 Photokina, and sold from 1986.
The original version was followed by a model II; then in 1996 a model III offering mirror lockup. These were marked as "Mod 2" or "Mod 3" in the center of the advance lever.
The exact number of Exakta 66 cameras produced is not known. From January 1985 a monthly production of 200 cameras was planned, i.e. 2400 cameras per year. In August 1990 Heinrich Manderman admitted that the camera sales initially had been a flop, and that 600-700 cameras were sold per year, or about 25% of the original target, with production only requiring one employee at that point. Assuming constant sales, this rate would amount to about 3600 cameras sold up to that point. From observed serial numbers, it seems that the Exakta 66 cameras originate from Pentacon Six lots produced between 1985-86, totaling a bit less than 12 000 cameras, indicating an upper limit (though this number includes cameras which ended up as ordinary Pentacon Six TL cameras). On this basis, and assuming declining sales through the 1990s, a guesstimate would be about 5000-6000 cameras produced.
|Lens||Lens construction||Filter diameter||Overall length||Diameter||Minimum focusing distance||Weight||Number produced|
|Schneider-Kreuznach 40mm Curtagon MF f/4 (announced)||9 elements in 8 groups||109mm||104mm||0.5m||700g|
|Schneider-Kreuznach 55mm PSC Super-Angulon FM f/4.5||10 elements in 8 groups||157mm||104mm||0.5m||1650g|
|Schneider-Kreuznach 60mm Curtagon MF f/3.5||7 elements in 7 groups||67mm||81mm||84mm||0.6m||570g||615 (uncertain)|
|Schneider-Kreuznach 80mm Xenotar MF f/2.8||7 elements in 6 groups||67mm||72mm||84mm||0.6m||500g||1547|
|Schneider-Kreuznach 150mm Tele-Xenar MF f/4||5 elements in 5 groups||67mm||101mm||84mm||1.5m||760g||547|
|Schneider-Kreuznach 250mm Tele-Xenar MF f/5.6||5 elements in 4 groups||67mm||168mm||84mm||3m||900g|
|Schneider-Kreuznach 75-150mm Variogon MF f/4.5||15 elements in 13 groups||95mm||171mm||98mm||1.8m||1770g|
|Schneider-Kreuznach 140-280mm Variogon MF f/5.6||17 elements in 14 groups||86mm||240mm||95mm||2.5m||2070g||105 (uncertain, serial group shared with 250mm f/5.6)|
- McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). P.439.
- Instruction manual for the Exakta 66 (1984?) on Mike Butkus' site
- Other P6-mount cameras at pentaconsix.com
|Praktisix and Pentacon Six lens mount|
|Exakta 66 | Pentacon Six | Praktisix|||||Kiev 6C | Kiev 60 | Kiev 88СМ | Arax|