The History of the Pentacon Six
Detailed design principles
and solutions – the Praktina
In a different suburb of Dresden, Niedersedlitz, a different camera company, Kamera-Werkstätten, was designing different 35mm single-lens reflex cameras, each with Prakti- as the first part of the name. “KW”, as it called itself on its logo, had been founded in 1919.
The new administration in the Soviet sector of Germany was run under orders from the Soviet Union, sometimes using as puppets German communists trained in the USSR over the course of the preceding decade or a little longer. It set about turning the Soviet-occupied sector of Germany into a communist state with a centralised economy that was claimed to be operating on Marxist principles. In 1946 the owners of KW were expropriated by order of the Soviet military administration (Hummel, p. 102), and the company was nationalised, being re-named VEB Kamera-Werkstätten Niedersedlitz. “VEB” stands for “Volks-Eigener Betrieb”, Newspeak for “Government-owned”. (The literal translation is “People’s Own Works”.)
The first post-war 35mm SLR from KW was a slightly-modified version of its 1939 Praktiflex, produced in 1947 with a 40mm × 1 screw thread lens mount. (Hummel, p. 115). A year later, the Praktica was launched, with a 42mm × 1 screw thread lens mount, but no prism.
The Praktinas had a breech-lock bayonet lens mount, which by 1956 incorporated an internal lever to stop down the aperture of the lens automatically just before the shutter was fired.
Accessories included two different types of motor drive (one electrical, the other using a spring that could be wound up), a 17m film back that enabled 450 exposures to be made, bellows, extension tubes, waist-level, magnifying and prism finders (one with an external light meter), microscope attachments, specialist accessories for medicine, astronomers and scientists in many fields, electric and radio-controlled firing of the shutter (which, with an attached motor drive, could be re-cocked for the next shot).
In short, the Praktina represented the pinnacle of camera design at the time. It was the Praktina that provided the world-wide market success and the technical solutions that led to the production of the KW’s first medium format SLR in 1956.
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© TRA August 2010