Kodak's focus on the amateur market was convenience beginning with its first Brownie camera. In the 1960s, Kodak introduced the 126 drop-in plastic film cartridge, and not long after other manufacturers jumped into the game. Most were simple view-and-click cameras, but several camera makers (mostly German) went above and beyond what others offered. The German-made Rolleiflex SL26 is one of those cameras.
Featuring a lineup of three interchangeable lenses (actually, front lens groups all based on the Tessar design), a sturdy metal body and easy match-needle metering, this was one of the better SLR designs in the 126 film format.
Compared with other SLRs, it was small and boxy. The tip of the right-side film advance sits neatly above the viewfinder. The shutter button is where you expect it to be. There is no need to rewind the film, which made for a very clean top deck.
The film advance requires a very long throw, and requires a medium amount of force. But it has to advance the film, as well as tension the Synchro-Compur shutter. The camera, unlike other German cameras, has a rapid-return mirror.
Despite its small size, I found the camera very easy to use, and images snapped in and out of focus quite easily in the viewfinder, which is plenty bright. There is no split image, just a central spot, so it does take some care. A true hot shoe makes it easy to use almost any flash unit.
A 625 mercury cell (now using a zinc-air battery) provides power for the cadmium-disulfide meter. The shutter is purely mechanical, so if the battery dies, you can continue shooting. Like most Synchro-Compurs, it offers an expansive range of speeds for a camera of this type running from 1/2 second to 1/500 plus B.
The camera itself isn't particularly quiet. In fact, it's loud, considering that it uses a leaf shutter. In a prior disassembly, I know why. There is an incredible amount of machinery packed into this camera that allows for open-aperture match-needle metering and its rapid-return mirror -- all coupled to a leaf shutter in a small SLR.
In addition to the stock Tessar, there were two others lenses: a 32mm wide angle and 85mm portrait lens. I have the wide angle, and I've been very pleased with its performance.
It's a nice little camera, hampered only by the limited availability of 126 film and processing.