The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

Is there a way to find out the exact manufacturing date via the serial number?


No – or at least, not easily.  Cameras made in the Soviet Union and former Soviet Union up to about 2000 do indicate clearly the year of manufacture: the first two digits of the serial number are the year.  However, it seems as though the East Germans devised a system that makes any dating well-nigh impossible.

Cameras

The existence of annual production numbers for the Pentacon Six (TL) and its predecessors can give some indication of the approximate date of manufacture of the cameras, although the production numbers are believed to be not totally reliable.  Obviously, the serial number gives some guidance, though detailed information is missing.  The highest-number Pentacon Six TL’s had numbers in the 206 or possibly 207 thousands (206xxx, or perhaps 207xxx).

You can read more about serial numbers here.

However, here are some dates:

The Praktisix was first produced in 1956 by VEB Kamerawerke Niedersedlitz, East Germany.  The initials KW appeared on the waist level finder. 

From 1959 this was part of the VEB Kamera- und Kinowerke Dresden, and the KW was replaced with the Ernemann Tower symbol on the waist level finder.

In 1964 a new version of the Praktisix was was produced, with the name Praktisix II.

In 1966 the Praktisix IIA appeared.

1967 saw the arrival of a revised model with the new name Pentacon-Six.

In 1968 VEB Pentacon Dresden launched a TTL metering pentaprism, and the camera was re-named the Pentacon-Six TL.  The first Pentacon Six TL cameras had the letters “TL” on a new line underneath the word “six”, but later a new front plate was designed that said “Pentacon six TL” all on one line.

All lenses and accessories for the “Pentacon six TL” will also fit the “Pentacon six”, and as far as I am aware will also fit the various versions of the Praktisix (though the mirror pre-release upgrade cannot be performed on the Praktisix).

From about 1972 the lens breech lock ring on body was black.

I am told that the last series produced (in 1989-90) can be recognised by two differences from all earlier series:

  • on the shutter release, the front face (where you place your finger) is shiny, instead of having concentric circles
  • the base plate with the hole for the camera case screw or tripod screw is shiny metallic throughout, with no black inserts
The last Pentacon Sixes were apparently produced in 1990.

The Ernemann Tower, photographed by me
(against the sun!) in 1981.
The name “VEB PENTACON”
can be seen at the top.

 
Lenses

In contrast, it is possible in most cases to gain an extremely accurate indication of the date of manufacture of Carl Zeiss Jena lenses (but not lenses from the Meyer-Optik Görlitz factory that produced “Meyer-Optik” and “Pentacon” lenses).  This detailed information is published in Dr Hartmut Thiele’s book “Fabrikationsbuch Photooptik II Carl Zeiss Jena”, which lists most Carl Zeiss Jena lenses manufactured between 1927 and 1991. For the enthusiast, this is a “gold mine”.  Apart from the introductory pages, the rest consists of spreadsheets, which are understandable without a knowledge of German, so long as one understands the titles at the top of the columns.  Recommended.  The book costs about 50 Euros.

Beginning in 1976, all lenses were multi-coated and marked MC in either red or white.

Dr Thiele’s book shows that by mid 1980, Carl Zeiss had reached the serial number 10,982,372 (nearly 11 million).  It then decided to start the serial numbers anew, beginning at 1,0001.  So lenses made between about mid 1980 and 1991 had four or five-digit serial numbers and are therefore the newest lenses.

You can see more about the design variations in Zeiss lenses and the calculation dates for Praktisix/Pentacon Six Zeiss lenses here.
 
 
 
 
 

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© TRA December 2005,
Revised September 2014



Hartmut Thiele’s book on Carl Zeiss Jena lenses