Pentacon Six System
The History of
the Pentacon Six
cameras from other manufacturers, based on the
The principal camera that was directly
based on the Pentacon Six – to the
extent of using the same chassis! – was the Exakta 66
that was made between 1984 and 2000. However,
there had previously been cameras called “Exakta
66”, so we shall deal with them briefly first, to avoid
any confusion, even though they are not based on the
“Exakta 66” cameras
Note that the Exakta 66 of 1984-2000 is
in no way related to three other cameras with the name
“Exakta 66” that were available earlier in the 20th
century. We will therefore here give a brief
summary of the earlier cameras that bore the name
|Exakta 6×6: 1939
|Strictly-speaking, this camera
was never called “Exakta 66”; it was an
Exakta camera for the 6×6 format and so is
sometimes referred to as the “Exakta 6×6”
(pronounced “six by six” in English, or “sechs
mal sechs” in German), although this name did
not appear on the camera, which simply bore the
name “Exakta”. In German it is sometimes
called the “Exakta 6×6 quer”. (In this
context, “quer” is best translated
This camera had a trapezoid
shape like the other Exakta SLR cameras that
had come onto the market between 1936 and
1939. (Hummel p. 77) Approximately 1,500
cameras were produced between August and
November 1939 These cameras proved
unreliable, and many were returned to
retailers between 1939 and 1945 for repairs
under warranty, according to Hummel (p. 134).
As was typical with Exakta
cameras in the 1930s, the Exakta 6×6 has a
wide range of speeds. Speeds from 1/25
to 1/1000 plus B and Time are set on the
left-hand knob, and a range of slow speeds
extending all the way to 12 seconds is
available via the right-hand knob.
The 1939 Exakta 6×6 had a lever
wind! – but oddly-placed (to our way of
thinking) at the bottom of the camera, and for
use with the left hand.
According to Hummel, this was
only slightly changed from the 1939 model, the
main difference being that the waist level
finder could be removed, as a prism was
planned. Assembly began with remaining
parts from the 1939 model plus some
newly-manufactured parts. However, the
film transport problems of the 1939 model had
not been overcome, and the camera never
entered serial production. Hummel
reports that only about 350 cameras were built
(Hummel p. 134)
Illustration to the right from
Hummel, page 134. It is also reproduced
(probably from the same source) in “EXAKTA
Collection” by Aguila and Rouah.
They point out the addition of
two “vacublitz” sockets for flash, and the
re-location of the film advance lever to the
other side of the camera (compared with the
|1953-1954 Exakta 66
This camera was first shown at
the Leipzig Spring Fair in 1953.
It was of a totally different
design from the previous Exakta 66 cameras,
having a vertical shape and a removable film
magazine. In German it is sometimes
called the “Exakta 6×6 hoch”. (In this
context, “hoch” is best rendered in English by
the word “vertical”, even though that is not
the normal translation of the word.)
After production delays, little
more than 100 cameras were produced in
1953. (See Hummel p 116, p.136)
The design does perhaps strike
the modern eye as unusual, but in fact the
shape seems to have been consciously inspired
by that of the popular Twin Lens Reflexes of
the day, especially the Rolleiflex, but with
the advantages of being a Single Lens
Reflex: no parallax problems (mis-match
between the image in the viewfinder and the
image recorded on film), availability of
inter-changeable lenses, as well as bellows
and tubes for close-up work, etc.
In use, it sits extremely
comfortably in the hand (like the
Rolleiflex!), and it is capable of delivering
images of superb quality.
Here, again, are the two shutter
speed dials – but also an unusual winding key
in the shape of a wing-nut, rather inspired by
some movie cameras, I think. A half-turn
suffices to advance the film, cock the shutter
and re-position the mirrors.
More unusual design
features. The camera is modular, with
removable lens, back, finder and focussing
screen – although it is not possible to remove
the back part-way through a film!
In theory, a prism could have
been fitted to the camera, although one was
never produced for it.
Another surprise feature!
The mirror is in two parts and the bottom
section folds down when the shutter is
fired. This allowed for a full-sized
mirror that did not cause vignetting in the
viewfinder even with long lenses – and made
sure that the extra-large mirror didn’t hit
the back of the lens!
This feature was copied by some
Japanese manufacturers. What a pity that
it was not incorporated into the
|A serial production of 10,000
cameras was planned for 1954, but in fact only
about 2,250 left the factory, according to Hummel
(p.136). Some users loved the camera and
produced excellent pictures with it, sometimes
with some of the telephoto lenses that were
available for it. However, problems with the
camera and in the factory led to the project being
abandoned in 1955. (Hummel, p. 137)
Right: A picture of Sam Sherman taken in 1974
with the 1954 Exakta 66 SLR, which gave him good
Here you can see the Meyer-Optik f/3.5 180mm
Primotar lens mounted on the camera.
|Accessories for the Exakta
66 “vertical”? Novoflex
SIXBIG bellows, and ...
In March 2023 Martin Grahl of
Novoflex has sent me high quality images of
Novoflex bellows for the Exakta 66 “vertical”, and
I am delighted to be able to reproduce them here
with his permission.
He tells me that these show “a seldom-seen Novoflex
SIXBIG bellows for the Exakta 66 vertical.
It is the second version of [the] bellows, with
hollow rods to accept the BIGSON bellows lens
hood”. (See the second picture, below.)
Martin tells me that “due
to the very low production numbers of the Exakta
6x6 Vertical, the bellows model is seldom seen.” He tells me
that the SIXBIG bellows seem to have been
catalogued between 1954 and 1961.
My thanks to Fotografenmeister Andreas
Marx of Novoflex for these further new superb
Clicking on each of the images
opens a larger copy of it.
Exakta 66 vertical with Novoflex SIXBIG bellows unit
Novoflex SIXBIG bellows unit on Exakta 66 vertical,
with the BIGSON bellows lens hood mounted
Exakta 66 vertical with Novoflex SIXBIG bellows
unit, side/rear view
|Novoflex SIXBIG bellows,
|As Martin Grahl
explains above, the second version of the SIXBIG
bellows had hollow rods in order to accept the BIGSON bellows lens hood, while the
first version, which can be seen in these two
photographs, had solid rods.
Clicking on each of the images
opens a larger copy of it, although not in
very high resolution with these two
Rear view of the same unit
version, with solid rods, shown with an Exakta
66 vertical of 1953-54
To go to the Bibliography, click here.
To go on to the next section, click
26 The Exakta 66
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section, click here.
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© TRA June 2010 Latest revision: