6x6 Format Camera Overview
By Danny Gonzalez
New to this Overview is some limited info on the newly intro'd Exacta 66
Format size: Approx. 55x55 mm's
These are the 66 format choices that are available today:
- Hasselblad 501c, 503cx/cxi/CW, 553ELX, 201f/203fe/205T/fcc and 903SWC
- Rollei 6003/8/integral, GX TLR, a very few SL66se's (Hansen in NY has two)
- Bronica SQai/b
- Exacta 66m3
- Mamiya 6/6mf
- Lubitel TLR's
These are the older choices:
- Exacta 66/66m2
- Bronica S2/S2a, EC, ECT/L, SQ/SQA/SQam
- Rollei 6002/6, SL66/e/x/se
- Hasselblad 501c, 500c/cm, 500el/elm/elx, 2000fc/fcm/fcw, 2003fcw
- Kowa 6, Kowa 6MM, and the Kowa Super 66
- Many, many different TLR's.
The Rollei SL66 is another camera that tempts. Excellent build quality
along with extremely smooth and quiet shutter and mirror operation make the
SL66 a great handheld camera. It's larger than the equivalent H'blad but
about the same size as Bronicas S/EC series cameras. The Sl66 incorporates
a bellows focus extention system (Like the Rz); unlike the Rz, the SL66 (In
its various incarnations) has a unique tilting front that works from the
rear end of the focus rails. This has the effect of emulating a tilting
front standard (though the lens doesn't tilt on axis, so it works kind of
like a front tilt with some rise or fall added). The tilt only works when
the lens is racked out about a half inch or so and you gain progressively
more movement as the lens is racked out farthur. The SL66, being the only
slr 66 offering this kind of movement (H'blad has an interesting
contraption called the Flexibody that does some more direct view
movements), is a camera for serious table top/nature photogs to consider.
Another notable feature is a reverse lens mount that works as-is
with most every lens allowing greater than lifesize capabilities into every
camera. The Achilles heel of the system is the notoriously unreliable back
system. Problem was that you had to cock the camera before you replaced the
darkslide; when people try to force the slide in, it breaks/stresses an
internal gear. If used correctly, the backs work fine. Another problem area
is the slow flash sync (1/30th) but the camera did take a fairly complete
set of leaf lenses.
These days the Polabacks, Electronically coupled backs, 40mm and
electronically coupled lenses (for the E/SE/X) are all very hard to find
and very expensive. The E model added a light meter and the aforementioned
electric lenses and backs, the x added TTL flash(lost the ttl meter though)
and the SE had both the features of the E and X as well as spotmetering
capability. This was a great camera and it's a shame that Rollei let it
The Mamiya 6, and it's other, newer incarnation the 6MF, are the
only current rangefinder camera's in 66 square. The feature set is the same
as the Mamiya 7 with the addition of a collapsible front standard (Fixed
parallel though) and the exception of a different lens set (except for the
150 4.5, which is optically the same) and the lack of a superwide. Both
cameras (the 6 and 7) have leaf lenses and so, sync at any speed. It's
Automatic, with AE lock mode and manual overides. It has a 2 stop exposure
compensation range settable in thirds; shows the shutter speeds in finder
and is fairly simple and straightforward in operation. This is a wonderful
camera to use being fast, silent and flexible. The lenses are very, very
sharp though none of them focus closely enough. The 150 specifically, needs
to be focused from the close distances back to correct focus (don't ask me
why, I have no idea but this does fix a focus problem I was having with
There is a close up attachment made for use with the 75mm lens. I haven't
used this, so would appreciate user comments.
The only caveats of the 6 series cameras (and they're fairly big ones) are
that the meter tends to underexpose and, because of in-finder reflection
(mostly from large areas of sky) is not as dependable as most SLR meters
are. There have been improvements made to the viewfinder light baffling (in
later Mamiya 6's and all 6MF's) that make quite a large difference still,
I've yet to use a 6 or 6MF that meters as well as a Mamiya 7. Quirks do
make a camera interesting .....
The Exacta 66, the newer 66 model 2, and the recently introduced
model III, are Pentacon 6 cameras in disguise (a very much prettier
disguise). Being of East German descent, they're quirky right out of the
box. 'Unreliable' doesn't quite do justice to these but its really the film
transport that breaks . Most of the problem comes from the frame counter
reset switch (the other big problem is frame spacing); when this goes, the
camera works fine but you'll never know what frame you're on and you have
to guess as to where the beginning (and end) of the film is. There is one
great benefit: you get a thirteenth frame!!!
The model one has a framed focus screen that shows only about 1
7/8ths inches of the frame (out of 2.25) and though the model two cuts
pieces of the frame away, it doesnt take it completely away. The prism (for
both cameras) only shows the area of a superslide (1 1/2 inches square).
The model 2 offers some other improvements:The shutter flash syncs at a
30th instead of a 25th and the wind lever through has been reduced from a
220 degree throw to 180 degrees, the mirror has a bit more damping foam;
still, they're pretty much the same thing (as is the Pentacon). All Exacta
66 models have a 1000th sec. shutter setting and both models 1 and 2 are
capable of mating with a special LCD meter prism ($900!!!<ouch>). The
Pentacon meter prism also mounts/works but I haven't used the combination.
One thing I do notice about Pentacon prisms is that the view has a
distinctly yellow tone. It's a bit disconcerting but they do provide an
otherwise clear view.
The model three has been updated with a mirror lock up switch (I'm not sure
whether it's a 'pre-fire' or a manual 'swing up' lever. I'll report back
after I've seen one in the 'flesh'). AFAIK, The only other change is that
Cambridge camera is the new distributer of the Exacta 66 line. Yes that
Cambridge and no, I do not recommend buying a thing from them mail order.
In use the camera is reasonably quiet and smooth but the long throw
of the advance lever is a pain (the mod2 has a somewhat shorter throw). You
do have to be careful not to let the advance lever snap back as the shock
chips the teeth on the wind cog, eventually stripping the cog, allowing
slippage. That's what causes the notorious frame spacing problem.
Additionally, the Exacta/Pentacon cameras don't have instant return
mirrors; add the lack of built on strap lugs and you've got a good set of
negatives that make the thing fairly inconvienient as compared to other
Another Exacta quirk is the 120/220 switchable pressure plate. When
it's in the 120 position it has a habit of favoring the left side spring
instead of laying flat. If you leave it like that, it puts one side of your
film out of the depth of focus, resulting in a soft sided photo (maybe
better said as photos because it'll do it to the whole roll). The fix is to
put it in-between the two settings. I've found that after having the
mechanics adjusted for frame spacing, the use of 220 film stresses the
frame count roller and messes up the spacing again. Needless to say, I now
consider the Exacta 66 to be a 120 only design.
The absolute saving grace of this camera is the Schnieder lens set.
Considered by many to be the finest in MF, they're the same designs that
Schnieder made available for the Rollei 6000 cameras. The older Pentacon
Zeiss lenses fit as well and many of these are of notable quality (the 120
2.8, 180 2.8 and the 50/4 come to mind) .Many companies make an adaptor to
put all of these lenses on your Mamiya 645 ( without Autodiaphragm
The results are great.....
SteVP@aol.com wrote (On the Kowa cameras):
"There are three models of the Kowa. The Kowa 6, Kowa 6MM, and the Kowa
Super 66. All models are SLR's and use the same lens mount. There are
three different view finders a waist level, 90 degree prism, 45 degree
prism, and 45 degree metered prism. Again the finders will fit any model.
All models take 120 or 220 film."
"The Kowa 6 was the first model and has no removable back. It is a
comfortable camera to hold and the controls are well placed. The Kowa 6MM
was an updated version of the 6. It allows for double exposure and mirror
lock up. The Super 66 is the only model that has a removeable back. I
guess it's a L shaped back that is difficult to remove if the camera is
mounted on a tripod. But other than that most of the posts on the 66's
have been glowing."
"None of these models have been produced for many years. Even though you
might find one at a bargain price, I'd look for one that has been recently
serviced. On the recommendation of a Kowa owner that had service done by
Ross Yerkes of L.A. (advertises in the back of Shutterbug), I called Ross
and found that he also sells Kowas that he has fully reconditioned."
"There are a full range of lenses for the Kowa. I've misplaced my list
right now but they range from a 55mm to a 250mm. Most can be had in good
condition from $250-$400."
Editor's note: Kowa lenses I can confirm are: 19 fish, 35 4.5, 40 4.0, 55
3.5, 85 2.8, 110 5.6 macro, 150 3.5, 200 4.5, 250 5.6.
For an amazing collection of information on the Mamiya TLR series
cameras, go to this address:
http://www.rdg.ac.uk/AcaDepts/sl/Sed/Graham/m_faq.htm [moved?: http://www.btinternet.com/~g.a.patterson/m_faq01.htm
A few test results on medium format lenses are available at this address:
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