The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

The History of the Pentacon Six

The Exakta 66 (1980s on)


Dates: 1984-1992 (?)

This camera was announced at Photokina in Cologne, West Germany in 1984, but appears not to have been available to buy until 1986.  It remained in production until the year 2000, but with modifications for Mk II and Mk III versions in subsequent years (see next two pages).


[Mk I_1.jpg]
After more than 20 years of continuous use, this camera,
which was bought new in 1989, not surprisingly shows some signs of wear.

Features

The Exakta 66 was based on a Pentacon Six chassis manufactured in Dresden, and used the glass from pentaprisms produced by Carl Zeiss Jena for the Pentacon Six.

Improvements/changes from the Pentacon Six were:

  • A completely different cosmetic appearance, with a black finish and a thick rubber coating for most of the body, apparently inspired by the shock-resistant coverings applied at the time to binoculars designed for use by the military
  • A metering prism with all-new electronic design, with LCD readouts within the prism and on its top surface outside
  • Electrical contacts on the body to transfer shutter speeds to the metering pentaprism
  • Lenses from Joseph Schneider of Bad Kreuznach in (then) West Germany that transmitted their aperture values to the metering prism
  • An allegedly-improved two-position film pressure plate for 120 and 220 film
  • A brighter (but smaller!) focussing screen
  • A film-type reminder holder on the camera back.

[Mk I_2.jpg]
Note in both photographs the rectangular release buttons on each side of the metering prism.

The transfer of lens apertures and shutter speeds to the metering prism was a major advance that speeded up open-aperture metering enormously.  Coupled with Schneider Kreuznach lenses of outstanding quality, the Exakta 66 offered a Medium Format camera with fast handling and the potential to produce images whose quality matched that of any other Medium Format camera on the market.

Some internet sources claim that the metering prism was only available with the Mk II version of the camera, but this is incorrect.  The metering prism was not available until late in 1986, possibly for Photokina in the autumn, but the original version of the camera (i.e., “Mk I”) was in any case not generally available until earlier in the same year.  I bought my first Exakta 66 new, together with a metering prism, before the Mk II version of the camera became available.
 

This misunderstanding may have arisen from the illustration only in some of the advertising for the camera in later yearswithout paying attention to the text.  See the illustration from 1990 to the right here, which shows the original Exakta 66 with a waist-level finder and the “Mod 2” version with the metering prism.  However, the text says:

My translation:
1 Exakta 66. 6×6 Single Lens Reflex camera for 120 roll film (12 exp) and 220 (24 exp).  Lenses from Schneider Kreuznach from 60 to 280mm.  Interchangeable viewfinder systems: folding finder, prism finder and TTL prism finder.  Manual focal plane shutter 1 – 1/1000 sec, B and X-synchronisation 1/30 sec.  Comprehensive system accessories.
2 Exakta 66 MOD 2.  Same features as Exakta 66, with in additon a larger viewing image and self-locking back as well as an ergonomically-designed advance lever.

Claiming that the TTL prism was not available for the original version of the camera also does not take into account the change in the design of the release buttons on the metering prism, introduced only once the Mk II version of the camera was launched.  For details of that version, see the next page.


Information in “Internationaler Foto Katalog  ’90”, page 52
The catalogue is dated April 1990
The same advertisement was still being run in the 1992 catalogue, at least.

To go to the Bibliography, click here.

To go on to the next section, click below.
27 The Exakta 66 Mk II

To go to the beginning of the history section, click here.

To go to introduction to the cameras, click here.

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© TRA August 2010, revised October 2010