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
Overnight, the Pentacon Six would have
become viable again on world markets, outside the
“parallel universe” of the communist countries.
Suddenly, wedding photographers would have been
interested, since they needed a flash sync speed that
would permit fill-in flash in daylight.
- A larger focussing screen
covering the whole of the image area exposed to the
- 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 modify it.
- A new shutter, using the
technology that had been developed for the 35mm “L”
series Prakticas in about 1971.
- 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
- 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
1/100, fractionally faster than the 1/90 achieved by
Hasselblad with its F series of cameras.
Other improvements would have been easy –
merely transferring technology from even the “LLC”
camera developed in East Germany in 1969:
The metering could easily include off-the-film
TTL metering and flash metering, with
contact points for a dedicated flash as well as a standard
flash PC socket for other brands of flash. They
could have used the system that was already in their “B”
series 35mm cameras (the Olympus standard), or have
adopted another common SCA system, for 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
- building the light meter into the
camera body – there is masses of available
space, compared with a 35mm camera!
- 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 prism.
- Coupling the shutter speeds to the
meter would also be simple.
- electronic transfer of lens
aperture (which Pentacon itself had
invented!). This would allow full-aperture
metering with “EDC” Pentacon Six lenses, which Zeiss
Jena and Meyer-Optik/Pentacon would 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
delayed-action mechanism to the flash circuit,
so that the flash fires when the delayed action
control is used.
- 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.
You can see a Pentacon Six with a hand grip here.
- An accessory flash grip could
easily have been designed. This website suggests
simple designs, the first of which I had made back in
1978. See some of these grips, starting here.
Better co-operation with at least Soviet
producers would have widened the range of lenses
easily available on the world market, providing, for
instance, at least a 45mm wide-angle lens to supplement
the 50mm Flektogon, and of course the spectacular 30mm
fish-eye lens. 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 40mm Distagon that was supplied
for Hasselblad, with Schneider-Kreuznach (who had designed
such a lens, the 40mm Curtagon, and were looking for a
camera manufacturer 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 Pentacon introduced for their
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
With the Arsenal plain prism, even the
existing Pentacon 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
Rollei focussing 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
built-in metering, but that could so easily have been
incorporated. Put this beside a Pentax 6×7, Norita
66, Kiev 60 or indeed many other Medium Format 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
cosmetic, such as improving the shape of the advance
In the later years of the Hasselblad
500C/M, the manufacturers stimulated sales through a
series of special “limited editions”. 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
Once the technical side is solved (with
the improvements described above), it is time to look at
the experience that 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
Here are some examples of what they could
This combination exists; the other
colours suggested below are computer simulations,
unless indicated otherwise.
|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
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 Pentacon Six.
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 world-wide market.
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
red leather, too.
I wanted to use some spare pieces of
that lovely red leather, so now this combination
exists, too. In fact, it is my main camera!
By the mid 1970s the market was calling
for all-black cameras. This is what the Pentacon
Six might have looked like (again, with the Arsenal
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 like,
You may not like it, but some Kiev 60’s
this colour have been sold!
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: January 2021