Rolleiflex SL66E

Rolleiflex SL66E

Matthew Osborne Photography

Rolleiflex SL66E

I stumbled across the Rolleiflex SL66 E when looking to buy a Hasselblad 500C.  I was weighing up whether the 500C (and it’s lenses) could do what I wanted from the camera and the answer was no so I settled for a Mamiya M645 1000S with a fast Mamiya Sekor 80mm f1.9 lens.  I got the Mamiya 645 then only days later I discovered the Rollei SL66 / SL66E.  On paper it appeared to be the holy grail of cameras and unlike most others I knew of.  The two striking features for me were (1) the lens could be tilted to give a tilt shift style look and more similar to what is seen with large format cameras and (2), every lens can be mounted in reverse to become a macro lens!  Brilliant!  I couldn’t believe my luck on this discovery and bought one from eBay just hours later.  Vintage film cameras hold their value quite well so if I didn’t like it I could just sell it again.

The Rolleiflex SL66 E was manufactured between 1982 and 1992 and is a 6×6 format medium format film camera that comes with a Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 2.8 HFT lens.  It has a waist level viewfinder (which I prefer) and also a light meter though it doesn’t work on my camera.  This is fine as I prefer to meter manually.

My first chance to use the Rollei SL66E was with model Nella.  Here I used 120 Fomapan 400 film and developed in 1:150 Rodinal.  I tend not to read manuals but once I had shot 12 exposures and it continued to take pictures I got a little worried.  It turned out that the gearing in the film back was not always turning as I cocked the shutter resulting in an film overlap issue.  Here are some sample images

Rolleiflex SL66 E 6x6 Film

Rolleiflex SL66E Overlap Portrait

Rollei SL66E Fomapan Portrait

I was gutted about the overlap issue and had big ideas for this cameras so got myself a spare Rollei film back.  The next shoot was a 3 day London portrait photography workshop with models Gina and Katie.  I was counting the exposures and no more overlap problem. Great!  I still await the colour film to return from the lab and have only developed one roll of B&W film so far but here are a few sample images. Katie on 120 Kodak Tri-X 400@1600 in 1:150 Rodinal.

Rolleiflex SL66E Tilt + Tri-X 400@1600

Rollei SL66E Tilt Portrait

Rollei SL66E = Smiles Allround

The Rolleiflex SL66E is much heavier than my 6×6 ARAX-CM (Kiev 88) but I love the ability to tilt the lens.  At last I can do selective focus photos again and it takes me back to my freelensing days with the Nikon D800.

Me & My Rollieflex SL66E

Colour photos coming soon!


Related posts

Hasselblad 500C

Mamiya M645 1000S

Rodinal Semi- Stand Developing


Author: matthewosbornephotography

Coventry, UK studio based Model and Wedding Photographer offering both Medium Format Film and Digital Images. 1-2-1 Photography and Lighting Tuition also available.

14 thoughts on “Rolleiflex SL66E”

  1. Hi Matthew, glad I found someone has the same overlap problem with SL66 as I have too :S
    I have been looking around… But mine was worse because besides 3-4 overlapped frames, the rest were not even exposed. I observed that the frame clocked for looks like 645, could it be some settings need to be put right? The package I received has a 645 film back which make me more suspicious about it. Hope your SL66 works fine now and share some tips with me 🙂 Speak soon.

    1. Hi, my camera just been for repair in London as jammed. Expensive to repair. I hope it will now keep working. I bought a new film back on eBay straight away and this fixed overlap issues. Good luck and I hope to share new samples soon 🙂 Matt

  2. Beautiful images Matt. I hope this camera will go on to give you years of trouble free service after that initial set-back.
    I’ve not used a Rolleiflex but I do use a Hasselblad 500c/m from time to time. I have to say that I find the Hassie to be a very awkward camera to use. Its ergonomics are very poor. Image quality is superb of course. However the tilt feature on your 66 looks fascinating.

  3. Hi!
    I recently stumbled upon a collection of abandoned analogues cameras and I’m trying to buy some of them in the new year.
    There are a Rolleflex sl66 and a Mamiya 645 1000s. Since I have no experience whatsoever with medium format film you post is kind of a gods end for me.
    Which one should I pick? The Mamiya is a comlete set, with 50mm, an 80mm and a 210mm lenses (not sure right now with tele lens) There are some filters, the handle, a second screen, a cord release and a prism view-finder with light meter.
    The Rolleiflex has “only” 3 lenses. No magazine. The 80mm and the tele lenses are from Zeiss, the 50mm is Rollei.
    You have both, which one do you prefer if you had to pick one?
    Im kind of undecided because the Mamiya is a very complete set and a bit younger. The Rolleiflex has better lenses and can do tilt-shift but is older.

    1. Hello congratulations on your find. You can’t really compare the 2 cameras as the Rollei is a level above. Perhaps buy the 645 to use and play with and buy the Rollei as an investment and to use in the future. I have both cameras still but my Rollei needs repair again. The Mamiya 645 is a simple camera and easy to use. But get both I would! 🙂 Cheers Matt

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