with the Exakta 66
Pictures from fotoMagazin,
||Heinrich Mandermann, who ran the firm that
for decades imported East German photographic equipment into West Germany,
and who had purchased the Schneider-Kreuznach optical manufacturers, introduced
some improvements to the Pentacon Six in the mid 1980s with his version,
which he named the Exakta 66, but he failed to address the two core issues:
He tried to make potential buyers think that they were buying
a new camera design, when in fact they were buying a 30-year old design,
coupled with superb, but ultra-expensive, Schneider Kreuznach lenses.
Not enough people were taken in, and so ultimately the Exakta 66 was not
a commercial success. Minor improvements were made in the 1990s,
but without a bold re-design of the key points named here,
the camera was doomed to fail, and eventually production ceased in the
the shutter design
the size of the focussing screen.
Interview with fotoMAGAZIN
In August 1990, the West German “fotoMAGAZIN” published
an interview with Heinrich Mandermann, whom it dubbed “the German camera
king”. As well as discussing the future of Rollei, Praktica and other
brands with which Mandermann was involved (or owned), they asked him about
the Exakta 66, framing the question in the following way:
“Is the Exakta 66 the only child that you are still
Mandermann’s reply was interesting: “The Exakta
is a sort of hobby of mine. I must admit that initially it was a
flop, but it is paying its way since I rationalized the production here
to one man.”
By “here” Mandermann must have meant in West Germany (as
it still was at that point in time). The body came of course from
East Germany and other components came from other suppliers, apparently
in West Germany, so the one man was essentially involved in final assembly
(rather like the one lady who assembled Hasselblad’s SWC/M cameras for
many years – see here).
fM’s next question was: “How many cameras can the One-Man-Team
produce per year?”
Mandermann: “We sell 600 to 700 cameras a year.
After the discontinuation of the Pentacon Six the Exakta  now has somewhat
of a unique position in the market, which should take care of the additional
push in demand.”
[Translation by me]
Medium Format camera sales have never been on the same
scale as 35mm sales, so annual sales of 600 to 700 do not sound that bad.
However, with Mandermann viewing this camera as his “hobby”, it is perhaps
not surprising that there was not a single advertisement for the camera
in fotoMagazin in the whole of 1990.
It is also not surprising that, according to reports,
some of the people at Schneider Kreuznach resented their prestige lenses
being associated with a camera body that they considered was not being
taken seriously by the company’s owner nor by professional photographers,
who were the main market for their products – although there was a new
advertising campaign for the “Exakta” range of photographic products (most
of which were imported from manufacturers in the Far East) in 1991.
A high-quality four-page full-colour advertisement appeared in fotoMAGAZIN
(and elsewhere) in November 1991. The Exakta 66 featured prominently
in photos on two of the pages, and in the text on one of them.
It is a credit to the original design that, 54 year years
after the Praktisix was first sold, examples of the Exakta 66 and even
of the Praktisix are still reliably producing outstanding photographs.