The camera type was derived from the Ihagee-EXAKTA for rollfilm 4×6.5 cm (127 format), an earlier SLR-creation of Nüchterlein. The Kine Exakta was presented at the Leipzig Spring Trade Fair in 1936.
Different from its rather simple medium-format predecessor (shown above), the Kine-Exakta was very compicated; the word Kine derives from its use of 35mm cinema film.
At least two variations of the Kine-Exakta exist: the earlier one has a round loupe (magnifying glass) in the hood; later ones have a rectangular magnifying glass.
Early Kine-Exaktas had a fixed waist-level viewfinder, but later models, starting with the Exakta Varex, had an interchangeable waist- or eye-level finder.
Most controls - including the shutter release and the film wind lever—are on the left-hand side, unlike most other cameras. The film is transported in the opposite direction to other 35mm SLRs.
In classic Exaktas - made between 1936 and 1969 - two film canisters can be used, one containing unexposed film and a second into which is wound the exposed film. A sliding knife built into the bottom of the camera can be used to slice the film so that the canister containing the exposed film can be removed while preserving the unexposed film in the main canister. The knife was omitted in the Exakta VX500, one of the last "official" Exakta cameras.
The shutter release on classic Exaktas is on the front of the camera, rather than the top. It is pressed with the left forefinger. Most later Exakta lenses, known either as "automatic" or "semi-automatic", included a button in an extension that would align over the camera body's shutter release when the lens was mounted. The diaphragm of these lenses remained fully open, providing a bright viewfinder image, until the button was depressed halfway, when the iris would be stopped down to the shooting aperture; pressed farther, the lens button engaged the camera's shutter release button, tripping the shutter.
There was a full line of specialized equipment available for these 'system' cameras that included microscope adaptor, extension bellows, stereo attachments, medical attachments and various specialized finder screens. Equipment is fully compatible between all models manufactured between 1936 and 1969.
The spelling found on cameras has traditionally been Exakta, but some early Kine-Exaktas were marked Exacta specifically for marketing in France, Portugal and the U.S., perhaps for copyright reasons; and certainly a great number of American collectors refer to the whole range as the "Exacta."
A related line of smaller, simpler cameras with limited shutter range was the Exa line (from 1951); these, too, existed in several variations. The Japanese Beseler Topcon line of 35mm cameras used the same lens mount as the Exakta.
Examat and Travemat through-the-lens metering prisms were introduced in the mid-1960s.
In the early 1970s the Exakta RTL 1000 was introduced; it accepted the older models' lenses but had its own range of viewfinders, which included a model with through-the-lens light metering. Because of this lack of backwards compatibility the RTL series is generally not regarded as part of Ihagee's Exakta line; most collectors consider the VX1000 (shown above) the last "official" Exakta camera.