The Pentacon Six System
by TRA


A second body

The Pentacon Six is a great camera.  However, one of the silly criticisms sometimes made is that it does not have an interchangeable back.  This is silly for several reasons:

  • interchangeable backs (for instance, for the Hasselblad) only hold film – they don’t provide a viewfinder, a mount for lenses, or a shutter.
  • interchangeable backs are extremely expensive – generally more than the cost of a Pentacon Six camera body.
  • so for less than the cost of a film back you can have a whole second Pentacon Six camera body – which does provide a viewfinder, a mount for lenses, and a shutter.
For a once-in-a-lifetime event or trip, I know which I would prefer – not just a film back but a whole backup camera.  (Having said that, no Pentacon Six has ever failed on me – but a second body can reduce lens-swapping when you need to work fast.)

Body caps

So for storage you may require a camera body cap for that second body.  A choice of two is available.

On the left is the Pentacon cap, on the right the one from Kiev Arsenal

The inside face of the two body caps, again with the Pentacon cap on the left

Either body cap does the job adequately, but in my opinion there is a clear winner here.  It is the Kiev Arsenal cap.  Why?  The Pentacon body cap just pushes into place and is held there by friction.  I have never had one fall off, but it does not seem to me to be that secure.  The Arsenal body cap has a lug which must be aligned with the slot at the top of the camera body lens mount socket, and behind that lug there is a sturdy raised strip.  It looks like an inverted “T” (with an extremely long horizontal bar) in the above image on the right.  So you put it onto the body and then rotate the camera body lens locking ring and it locks the body cap into place, which gives me an impression of much greater security.  It is also thicker and stronger than the Pentacon body cap.

Naturally, a camera body cap is also essential to cover the front of a 2× converter when it is not being used, and it is also strongly advised that you use a body cap on the front of the bellows or of a set of extension tubes for storage, to prevent the possible entry of dust or fluff.

Top caps

Another part of the camera body that may need protecting is the viewfinder opening.  This is of course normally protected by the waist-level finder, the magnifying head, the plain prism or the metering prism.  However, you may not have a spare prism for a second body, or may wish to avoid the weight of carrying two prisms when going out to take photographs.  As far as I have been able to see over many years, every Pentacon Six was supplied with a waist-level finder.  However, if you have a body without a waist-level finder, a top cap may be a good, light-weight alternative.  It may also save a couple of centimetres of height if storing a second body in a tight camera bag.

The top cap is a simple plastic plate that fits onto the four posts round the viewfinder opening on the top of the camera and slides forward to be held in place.

Top of the top cap.  The raised plastic struts no doubt provide rigidity.  They also make it easy to put the cap on and take it off.

The underside of the top cap.  Notice the additional hole (arrowed) that locates with the locking pin on the top of the Praktisix IIA and the Pentacon Six, to hold the cap firmly in place.

The top cap in use.

This view enables us to see that the locking pin has engaged with the appropriate hole on the top plate.  I have arrowed the locking pin release button on the top of the camera.

If it is necessary to send the camera through the post, a top cap may be preferred to a waist-level finder or prism, unless they need to be sent too.  Likewise, we should only send the lens if it, too, is needed.  So in the right-hand image I have also put a front body cap on the camera – although I have here used an Arsenal body front cap, rather than the East German original, which cannot be locked in place, as explained above.

Lens back caps

Obviously, any lens that is not on a camera body must always be stored with a lens back cap.  It always amazes me when a lens comes up for sale without a back cap, as – apart from the standard lens supplied with the camera body – every lens is supplied with a back cap.

Of course, every lens is also supplied with a front cap, although these appear to get lost even more frequently, perhaps just falling off un-noticed while the user is carrying the camera.  Fortunately, buying a replacement front cap is easy, as they are readily available in a wide range of standard sizes and styles, including press-on, clip-on and, less commonly, screw-in.  We therefore do not need to concern ourselves here with lens front caps.

There is a wide range of Pentacon Six lens back caps, as every manufacturer that supplied a lens with this mount also supplied a back cap, most of them poor, as they easily fall off.  However, there are four main lens back or rear caps, all of which are illustrated and commented on below.

This is the “old”, or original, Arsenal lens back cap.
It is the worst of the four show here, as it tends to fall off the lens.

Here are the other three principal types of back cap.
From left to right: the new-style Arsenal cap, the Pentacon cap and the Exakta 66 cap.
The letters “OTKP.” on the Arsenal cap are an abbreviation for the Russian word “OPEN”, followed by the top half of an arrow
to show the direction that the cap needs to be turned to remove it from the lens.
The Exakta 66 cap appears to be a standard Pentacon cap that has been given a matt black finish on the outside.

Here is the inside face of the same three lens back caps.
On the one on the left, the Arsenal logo can be clearly seen.
The other two are obviously identical on their inner surface.

Which one is the best?  Or doesn’t it matter?

Well, again there is a clear winner, but this time the roles are reversed: the Pentacon is the best lens back cap, which of course means that the Exakta 66 cap is equally good.

Why does it matter?  The new Arsenal cap is deeper than the old one, but it still slightly presses constantly on the auto aperture pin at the back of the lens, and although one should not be unduly worried about this, it does seem self-evident that it is better, long-term, for a spring (as for a human being!) not to be under constant pressure.

The outer bottom edge of the Arsenal cap (as seen in the bottom of the two pictures here) is also much wider than the corresponding part of the Pentacon and Exakta 66 caps.  Not a major difference, perhaps, but I notice it when trying to fit lenses into pouches and the pouches into an outfit case.

I have where possible replaced the back caps on my Arsenal lenses, whether the caps supplied were the old or the new type, with Pentacon lens back caps.  Unfortunately, the Pentacon lens back caps are generally hard to find.  I therefore tend to put the Arsenal caps on manual lenses (from Pentacon or other manufacturers), as these do not have an aperture pin that could be depressed.

You will also wish to use a lens back cap on the back of extension tubes or the bellows for storage, to prevent the possible entry of dust or fluff.

To go on to lens hoods (shades), click here.

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© TRA December 2012,  Latest revision: January 2019