The Pentacon 6 is a medium format system camera, a SLR that takes 6×6 pictures on 120 film. It has been called an "SLR on steroids". Its predecessor was KW's Praktisix with which it shares the bayonet mount. The famed Carl Zeiss Jena plant made lenses for this Pentacon Six mount. The Soviet factory Arsenal made a closely related camera called Kiev 6 and later Kiev 60.
A basic kit consists of a Carl Zeiss Biometar 1:2.8 80 mm lens, a simple matte screen and a waist-level finder. This is a system camera and lenses from a 30 mm fisheye to a 1000 mm mirror objective are available. Lenses are still made and sold by Arsenal in Kiev (Arsat brand) and the Czech company Hartblei.
Excellent Carl Zeiss Jena and Schneider lenses can be found at reasonable prices from the usual used-camera sources. A variety of viewing screens, from simple matte to grids or fresnel screens, are available. The waist-level finder can be replaced by non-metered or metered prism finders. The metered prisms were introduced in 1968; from this point onwards, the camera was called Pentacon six TL. Nothing had changed in the camera itself; the only thing new was the availability of a metered prism allowing TTL metering.
Operation and frame spacing
After the 120 film is put in the hinged door is closed and the film is wound to (1) on the framecounter, you can start taking pictures. The Pentacon Six has a small switch under the advance lever to allow the use of 220 film. This film advance is reported by users on the internet to be the camera's weak point.
Uneven framespacing or overlapping frames have been reported. The frames are positioned with rather little margin between them. This is said to have been a design choice that would allow a thirteenth frame on 120 film.
Another uncommon thing about the Pentacon Six compared with other 6×6 cameras is that the film moves horizontally through the camera. Most medium format reflex cameras transport the film from top to bottom (or reverse), not from left to right. When looking at your developed film this has the pleasing effect of being able to read a sequence of shots from left to right (rather than from top to bottom).
Framespacing is largely determined by how tightly the film is wound. Users experiencing overlapping problems should calmly push the advance lever until further movement is blocked, not let this lever jump back, and adjust the three white metal strips in the back to press the film more tightly (see picture). In most cases this will solve the problem. If not, a German company (see links) offers a modification that guarantees to solve it.
The Pentacon Six has a focal plane shutter with speeds of 1–1/1000s. It has a "B" setting and flash synchronization at 1/30s. This top shutter speed is not bad for a medium format camera from the 1960s. Most medium format cameras use central shutters, usually with top speeds of 1/500s. This focal plane shutter makes lenses cheaper to produce since there's no need to build in a shutter in each lens. An added advantage is that it's easier to build larger aperture lenses this way.
|Pentacon Six with waist level finder or||with metered prism.|
|images by Dries van den Elzen (Image rights)|
- Pentacon Six website by TRA
- Pentacon Six at medfmt and review by Danny Gonzalez
- Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 120mm f/2.8 Lens Gallery at www.mflenses.com
- PDF manual for Pentacon Six TL PDF manual on www.orphancameras.com
- Pentacon Six TL on www.collection-appareils.fr by Sylvain Halgand
- Praktisix, Pentacon Six cameras and lenses information at Praktisix.com
Repairs and technical info
- Baier Fototechnik has tips and technical information about the overlapping frame problem and sells devices to fix it
- How to remove the top plate and attach strap lugs and how to make an adapter to mount Kalimar lenses, in Rick Oleson's website
|Praktisix and Pentacon Six lens mount|
|Exakta 66 | Pentacon Six | Praktisix|||||Kiev 6C | Kiev 60 | Kiev 88СМ | Arax|