The Praktisix & Pentacon six series is a medium format film SLR system camera manufactured by KW later VEB Pentacon and Kombinat VEB Pentacon, Dresden, former East Germany and produced between 1957-90.

Arsenal Kiev 60 is also with Pentacon six mount. But there is no relationship between the Praktisix/Pentacon six and the Kiev 6C/60. They share a common lens mount and film size but they are in no way the same and the Kiev is not the same mechanically.

There are large variety of Carl Zeiss Jena [1] and Schneider lenses for the Pentacon six mount. Also, a large variety of viewing screens, from simple matte to grids or fresnel lens microprism 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.

There is an incredible amount of inaccurate information circulating on the Web about the Praktisix/Pentacon six series of cameras. Indeed, they have some serious problems.[2]

The original manufacturer of these cameras was Kamera Werkstätten in 1959 they became VEB Kamera and KinoWerke Dresden, in 1964 they became VEB Pentacon and finally in 1970 Kombinat VEB Pentacon. VEB (Volkseigner Betrieb) roughly translates as "People owned Industry". Initially the cameras and accessories had a stylized "KW in a diamond" logo and later the "Pentacon tower" logo.

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.

Models[edit | edit source]

Six major models were produced. These cameras are a series of improvements from the first Praktisix. But, other than the name changes there are minor changes from model to model, and the bodies are the same in general appearance.

Praktisix[edit | edit source]

  • Introduced 1957
  • There are three versions

Prakisix first version

Praktisix second version

Praktisix third version

Praktisix II[edit | edit source]

  • Introduced 1964

Praktisix II

Praktisix IIA[edit | edit source]

  • Introduced 1966

Praktisix IIA

Pentacon six[edit | edit source]

  • Introduced 1966

Pentacon six TL (early version)[edit | edit source]

  • Introduced 1968
  • Lens release ring white

Pentacon six TL (late version)[edit | edit source]

  • Produced between 1968-90
  • Lens release ring black

Specifications[edit | edit source]

  • Format: 120/220 roll, picture size: 6x6cm
  • Lens: Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Biometar 80mm f/2.8 MC,
  • Automatic diaphragm, w/ DOF preview lever, 5 elements in 4 groups, filter thread 58mm
    • Standard lens of the system and all models
    • Mount: Praktisix/Pentacon six bayonet Breach lock
    • Aperture: f/2.8-f/22; Focus range: 1-30m +inf
  • Lens release: by black milled ring behind the lens on the lens flange, turn counter clockwise and remove the lens
  • Focusing: via simple matte glass screen (standard screen of the system), interchangeable
  • Shutter: focal plane rubberized cloth shutter, horizontally travelling, speeds: 1-1/1000 +B
  • Shutter release: on the front side of the camera, w/ cable release socket and safety locking milled ring
  • Cocking lever: also winds the film, long stroke
  • Frame counter: on the cocking lever, additive type, auto-reset
  • Disconnecting lever: for unlocking the locked cocking lever after 12/24 frames, thus the film can be rolled to the end by short rocking movements, beneath right side of the cocking lever
  • Mirror: not instant return
  • Viewfinder: waist level finder, w/ magnifying glass and two framed sports finder, interchangeable
    • Opens by a knob on the back side of the finder
    • Finder release: by a small silver knob on the left of the top-plate
  • Flash PC socket: on the lower right of the lens flange, X synch 1/15, w/ safety locking ring for flash plug
  • Others: Memory dials, Self-timer; Tripod socket 1/4 inch; Strap knobs; Plate on the bottom plate Made in G.D.R; Hinged back cover; Serial no. beneath the back cover opening latch
  • Body: metal, Weight: 1366g

The last of the series is Praktiflex TLs

  • Introduced 1984
  • A modified camera, made specifically for making pictures of portraits for identification cards (ID card).
  • A version for Tschechoslovakia.
  • Very rare and little known
  • Format 120, picture size 4X4.5cm. Photos in [1]

Operation[edit | edit source]

Frame spacing[edit | edit source]

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 shutter[edit | edit source]

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.

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. Zeiss lenses for these cameras are not copies of original Zeiss lenses. The real Zeiss personnel made them in the original Zeiss plant with the original Zeiss designs. Although quality suffered due to lack of material under the communist system and cosmetics were not perfect, in general the optics are excellent.
  2. The most common problems with all of these cameras:
    • Never allow the film advance lever to snap back after winding the film. This has been the cause of breaking more of these cameras than every other problem combined.
    • Never release the self-timer when the camera is not cocked, again a common way to break the camera.
    • Improper frame spacing is exceptionally common. This can be caused by a broken film advance but the most common cause is improper film loading. Incorrect film tension will cause frame spacing variations due to the film moving different distances with each advance. Part of this problem may also be that new 120 spools have a smaller diameter than the older East German ORWO spools which were used in these cameras. Try using FUJI film which has larger spool diameters.
    • The design of the tripod screw socket causes another problem. The socket is shallow and three small screws attach the threaded portion to the camera body casting. This allows for easy conversion between the two standard screw sizes by merely replacing the socket but caused two common problems. If the tripod screw is too long and excessive force is used attaching the tripod either the three small screws will break or in extreme cases the screw will go through the body casting. Notes 1&2 are from Communist Cameras by Nathan Dayton

Links[edit | edit source]

Repairs and technical info[edit | edit source]

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