The Kiev B.i.G.
A review written in 1998
by TRA

The Lens Mount

This is the biggest change to the Kiev 88 camera introduced by the Kiev B.i.G., and the main reason I bought the camera (along with the availability of the Polaroid back).  The standard Kiev 88 has a now-unique coarse thread mount that was in the first Hasselblads.  The Kiev B.i.G. adopts the Pentacon Six mount.

The Pentacon Six

The Praktisix and the Pentacon Six (+TL) were manufactured in the former East Germany between 1956 and about 1990, and although dealers who never supplied it were unstinting in their criticism of it, claiming it was extremely unreliable, its users – including me! – have found it to be utterly reliable.  With regular heavy amateur use over the past forty-three years(!), my Pentacon Sixes have never let me down, although other cameras that I have owned (e.g., Minolta, Olympus) occasionally have.

The East German manufacturers achieved a level of design and consistently maintained a high quality of production never approached by factories in the former Soviet Union.  A wide range of superb Carl Zeiss Jena and Pentacon lenses from 50mm wide angle to 1000mm mirror telephoto were produced, all manufactured within strict tolerances, and bellows and sets of automatic extension tubes were available and can still now be obtained fairly easily within Germany, as well as from specialist shops in a number of countries including England and the USA.  A 2x converter was also made by the Japanese firm Panagor.

I believe that no bellows or tubes were ever produced for the standard, unmodified Kiev 88 (although the lens elements can be removed from the 2x converter to produce a single extension tube).

However, as the Salyut/Zenit 80/Kiev 80/Kiev 88 adopted the lens mount of the Hasselblad 1600F and 1000F, the Novoflex bellows for those cameras may be usable with these cameras, too.  For more details, see here.

With a Pentacon Six mount, you should be able to use the East German or Exakta 66 bellows for details see here).

The Pentacon Six mount, which was also adopted by the Arsenal Works for their Kiev 60 and Kiev 90 cameras, is a breech-lock bayonet similar to the Canon mount used in the 1960s and 70s, but with the breech-lock ring on the camera body.  It is fast and easy to use, and avoids any wear on the key surfaces affecting focus: the back of the lens mount and the front of the lens throat on the body.  Any wear on the locking ring (not that I have observed any in twenty-eight years of constant use!) is compensated for by rotating the locking ring fractionally further.

The Exakta 66

Significantly, in 1986, the major West German lens manufacturer, Joseph Schneider of Bad Kreuznach, released the Exakta 66, which was based on a Pentacon Six body and prism to which electronic circuitry for metering had been added, as well as a finish that was cosmetically different.  To go with this new camera, Schneider designed a range of outstanding lenses from 40mm to 250mm, including a perspective-control 55mm lens, a 2x converter and the two Variogon zooms that they also supply for the Hasselblad and some other medium format cameras.  Unfortunately, the  40mm Curtagon has apparently never been produced, but all the other lenses, as well as automatic bellows, are available new from specialist dealers in several countries.

(For more information on the Schneider 40mm lens, click here.)

There is almost complete inter-changeability between Exakta 66 and Pentacon Six lenses and accessories: the front of the Exakta 66 metering prism prevents fitting the 500mm Pentacon lens or the 1000mm Carl Zeiss mirror lens while the prism is in place, but as the contacts on this prism do not engage with the Pentacon Six lenses, they can be used without it.  All other Pentacon Six lenses can be used on the Exakta 66, and vice-versa.

Brenner announced that as well as the range of Ukrainian lenses from 30mm fish-eye to 250mm telephoto, all Carl Zeiss Jena, Pentacon and Schneider lenses would fit the Kiev B.i.G.  Unfortunately, this is not quite true, as we shall see.

Compatible or not?

[C223-35:  The modified Pentacon Six mount on the Kiev B.i.G.
The arc-shaped piece of metal within the throat at the bottom
actuates the lens diaphragm pin.]

To enable Pentacon Six and Kiev 60/90 lenses to focus on infinity on the Kiev 88 body, it has not been possible to add the standard Pentacon Six lens-mount onto the front of the body. 

This is because the register distance of Pentacon Six mount lenses (the distance between the rear flange of the lens mount and the film) is  74.10mm, while the register distance of the Kiev 88 (and Hasselblad 1000/1600) is 82.10mm, so the lens has to sunk within the camera body, or it would not be possible to achieve infinity focus.

So, a different mount accepting Pentacon Six lenses has been designed.  Instead of aligning the lens to the body in vertical (or “12 o’clock”) position, as on all the other compatible cameras, and then rotating a locking ring on the body, the lens is inserted into the throat of the body at “10 o’clock” position, and then rotated to the normal “12 o’clock” position, at which point it locks in place.  There is no breech lock ring, and theoretically there could be wear on the back of the lens mount/the front of the body, and even conceivably on the automatic diaphragm pin, as it glides along a curved track within the throat of the mirror box.

What are the immediate consequences of these differences?

If the lens has its aperture ring set very close to the back of the lens, it is slightly less accessible than on all the other bodies, as the mount on the Kiev B.i.G. is recessed.  More significantly, the Kiev 88/ Kiev B.i.G. body does not have a stop-down lever for the lens aperture.  Fortunately, all the Zeiss, Pentacon and Schneider lenses have their own stop-down lever.  As well as giving a depth-of-field preview, this is the quickest way to meter and fire.  Unfortunately, this lever is set behind the aperture ring on most Zeiss lenses, making access to it extremely difficult (but not impossible) when the lens is mounted on the Kiev B.i.G.  Some of the Ukrainian lenses do not have a stop-down lever.

Lenses by Joseph Schneider

Schneider lenses with a maximum aperture other than f/2.8 all have an additional tiny pin outside the mount, designed to engage with the Exakta 66 metering prism.  This little pin does not cause any compatibility problems when the lenses are mounted on the Pentacon Six or the Kiev 60 (I don’t have a Kiev 90 to try them on).  Unfortunately, due to the differences between the Kiev B.i.G.’s recessed mount and the original Pentacon Six mount, it is not possible to mount these Schneider lenses on the Kiev B.i.G.  Brenner’s publicity now states that “some” Schneider lenses can be used on the Kiev B.i.G.  In practice, only the 80mm lenseses (of which there are three) can be used.

Not being able to mount Schneider’s zoom lenses on the Kiev B.i.G. is a big and unexpected minus point.

Unfortunately, the aperture stop-down levers on the Exakta 66 mount Biometar (“III”) and Exakta 80mm lenses are behind the lens aperture ring and are for all practical purposes inaccessible when either lens is mounted on my Kiev “B.i.G”.  As I find stop-down metering the best way to work, this makes these lenses unusable in my normal operating mode for me.  However, others who wish to use an Exakta 66 standard lens on their Kiev 88-6/“B.i.G.-Six” might find this possibility worthwhile, by using the full aperture metering approach.

[C232-58:  The metering pin on the back of the Schneider 
Curtagon 60mm wide-angle lens]
(Note added in September 2005:  The Schneider Xenotar MF standard (80mm) lens has the stop-down lever at the bottom of the lens, and it is possible that someone with exceptionally long finger nails might be able to activate it while it is mounted on a Kiev 88 body with a Pentacon Six mount.  I am able to operate the stop-down lever with the cap of a ball-point pen, but this is hardly a practical way of working.)

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© TRA February 2002, Latest revision with minor improvements: July 2020