Germany 1966 – Reflex SLR – 120 film – Rare.
The Rolleiflex SL66 is a legendary camera. It is Rollei’s first single lens 6×6 camera (SL66 stands for Single Lens 6×6).
It entered the market in the fall of 1966 and has been the only Rollei model ever to stay in production for over 25 years.
At the time the SLR market had been dominated by Hasselblad and its Japanese competitors for about 10 years and Rollei, that had so far concentrated on Twin Lens Reflex (TLR), invested heavily to enter that league. The development of the camera is said to have cost over 3.5 Million Deutsche Marks at the time (presently about 10 Million euros). It was an enormous investment, making the SL66 the “Super Rolleiflex” on which the brand was betting a part of its future.
The SL66 was built based on the basic elements of a Rollei studio camera, with the focusing rail on the left side, so Rollei TLR users would feel comfortable to find all operating elements in the same place. The camera itself is a masterpiece of engineering, counting over 1000 single parts, all in metal with very few exceptions. It is entirely mechanical and operates without any battery. Very distinctive features are the ability to tilt the lens up and down (8 degrees) to compensate for deformations or to reverse mount the lens, making it defacto a macro at no extra cost.
The SL66 is considered a far superior design than its direct competitor, the Hasselblad, but was significantly more expensive and lacked the 10 years track record. Both reasons explain why it fared poorly in sales.
Nonetheless, like all exceptional engineering devices, the SL66 has its cult and is the witness of Rollei trying to create the best camera possible without really looking at the bottom line. In that regard, the SL66 is said to be the medium format equivalent of the Leica M3.