Pentacon Six System
The History of
the Pentacon Six
The following changes were clearly needed
and would have
come in due course if the camera had been developed in a
normal way (as
in other countries of the world!).
Overnight, the Pentacon Six would have
become viable again
on world markets, outside the “parallel universe” of the
Suddenly, wedding photographers would have been
interested, since they
needed a flash sync speed that would permit fill-in flash
A larger focussing screen
covering the whole of the
image area exposed to the film.
The use of the “Soviet” prism,
which had two advantages
over the Carl Zeiss prism:
it was much brighter
it permitted the whole of the
focussing screen to be seen
– and in fact, a wide area around it, so that the
whole of a larger focussing
screen would have been visible without any need to
A new shutter, using the
technology that had been
developed for the 35mm “L” series Prakticas in about
This needed to be four times as fast
at the original shutter,
which had been developed back in the 1950s.
This faster shutter would permit two
a higher top speed, possibly 1/4000,
which would have impressed
the whole of the world market.
Even if it had been decided to limit
the top speed to an
extremely impressive 1/2000, the other benefit
would still exist:
An electronic flash sync speed of
faster than the 1/90 achieved by Hasselblad with its
F series of cameras.
Other improvements would have been easy –
technology from even the “LLC” camera developed in East
Germany in 1969:
The metering could easily include off-the-film
and flash metering, with contact points for a
dedicated flash as
well as a standard flash PC socket for other brands of
could have used the system that was already in their “B”
series 35mm cameras
(the Olympus standard), or have adopted another common SCA
instance, that used in the later Hasselblad cameras.
This would have
had numerous advantages: the ability to refer in their
literature to compatibility
with an aspect of the prestigious Hasselblad system, with
all the implications
of comparable quality, while offering a camera at a price
point that compared
extremely favourably with the over-priced Hasselblad.
building the light meter into the
camera body – there
is masses of available space, compared with a 35mm
metering would then work regardless
which head were used
– waist-level finder, magnifier head, or prism.
By definition, the prism would not
need its own meter so
it would be cheap to produce and smaller and lighter
than the metering
Coupling the shutter speeds to the
meter would also be simple.
electronic transfer of lens aperture
itself had invented!). This would allow
full-aperture metering with
“EDC” Pentacon Six lenses, which Zeiss Jena and
have produced using the technology that they already
had, while the “older”
lenses could be used with stop-down metering – or
Zeiss or a “third party”
specialist could offer to “convert” existing lenses,
which in most cases
would not be difficult – it was done with the 35mm M42
correct connection of the
to the flash circuit, so that the flash fires when the
delayed action control
There was plenty of space in the body
for batteries to be
located for the metering, or even for an electronic
shutter, or a grip
could have been built onto the right of the body
to house them and
simultaneously improve handling.
An accessory flash grip could
easily have been designed.
This website suggests simple designs, the first of
which I had made back
Better co-operation with at least Soviet
have widened the range of lenses easily available on
the world market,
providing, for instance, at least a 45mm wide-angle lens
the 50mm Flektogon, and of course the spectacular 30mm
By the 1970s, lens design technology had made a 40mm
Medium Format lens
a reality (for Hasselblad and even for the Norita), and
Carl Zeiss Jena
should easily have been able to design such a lens, or
enter into a licensing
agreement with Carl Zeiss (West Germany), designers of the
that was supplied for Hasselblad, with Schneider-Kreuznach
(who had designed
such a lens, the 40mm Curtagon, and were looking for a
to adopt it), or with Norita.
A new “ever-ready case” with a
soft front would appeal
to the market, just as had the equivalent case that
for their 35mm cameras.
The higher sync speed would have made
less urgent a
lens with a leaf or central shutter (for flash
synchronisation at all
speeds). However, again co-operation with Norita
could have resulted
in the production at negligible cost of such a lens for
the Pentacon Six
– again widening its appeal in world markets.
With the Arsenal plain prism, even the
Six case closes! And the
image is brighter than
with the Pentacon prism! And
you can see the
whole of the focussing screen! Coupled with the
screen, the viewfinder in such a camera (illustrated
below!) is much brighter
than anything that Hasselblad was offering with any body
and metering prism
back in the 1970s and 80s – when this camera and this
prism were made!
It is even brighter than anything that Hasselblad was
offering in the 1990s.
Of course, such a body would not have
but that could so easily have been incorporated.
Put this beside
a Pentax 6×7, Norita 66, Kiev 60 or indeed many other
SLRs, and many purchasers would have gone for
this. It is smaller,
lighter, quieter and more comfortable in the hand than
any of the others.
Other changes needed were minor, almost
improving the shape of the advance lever.
In the later years of the Hasselblad
500C/M, the manufacturers
stimulated sales through a series of special “limited
Most of these marked anniversaries – of the market
launch of the first
Hasselblad, of the 500C, of the first use of Hasselblad
on the moon, etc.
Cameras were also offered with the body covering in a
range of colours.
Pentacon had its own anniversaries that
could have been
celebrated – including the use of the Pentacon Six in
space, “25 (40, etc)
Years of Pentacon Cameras”, etc. They could also
have easily responded
to changes in market conditions by offering, for
instance, an all-black
body, or bodies with different coverings.
Once the technical side is solved (with
described above), it is time to look at the experience
the camera offers and the style statement
that it makes.
Some people may decry this, but these are essential
components in successfully
marketing and selling a camera system.
Here are some examples of what they could
This combination exists; the other
below are computer simulations, unless indicated
|The leather on the
red cameras was supplied
by Gevorg Vartanyan of Araxfoto in Kiev,
Ukraine. It is one of the
range of finishes that he offers for his
cameras. He also arranged
to have the chrome parts painted black.
And Tom Page of England put
it all together.
These are the
parts that needed painting
black, laid out on the leather.
There turned out to be enough leather here for
two or three cameras!
|A lens that shows
feet in red has been used.
The red and black of the lens combine well with
the colouring of the rest
of the camera.
The calendar shows a Kiev 60
upgraded by Arax - using
the same leather that was applied to this
The soft touch of the leather
is a pleasure to hold.
No wonder Hasselblad offered bodies in a range
of finishes in the 1990s.
It’s all about bringing back the excitement of
owning a camera. We
might even speak of the sensual pleasure of
touching it. This could
have been done at such tiny cost, yet – with
some of the essential technical
improvements – the camera would have captured
significant sectors of the
Here the metering prism has been
replaced with an Arsenal
plain prism, via the Baierfoto adapter. It has
the original black
A simulation below shows the prism with
I wanted to use some spare pieces of
that lovely red
leather, so now this combination exists, too. In
fact, it is my main
By the mid 1970s the market was calling
cameras. This is what the Pentacon Six might have
looked like (again,
with the Arsenal plain prism).
Heinrich Mandermann responded to this
demand with his
all-black Exakta 66.
But there never was an all-black
Pentacon Six TL.
There should have been.
“What colour would you
You may not like it, but some Kiev 60’s
this colour have been
To go to the Bibliography, click here.
To go on to the next section, click
35 Reasons why
To go to the beginning of the history
section, click here.
To go to introduction to the cameras,
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© TRA First published: June 2010
Latest revision: March 2014