The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

Pentacon Six Lenses

The Kilfitt Multi-Kilar converter
 

This report is long, but is, I believe, worth reading, as it contains information that I have not found anywhere on the internet nor in any other publication, but have only discovered gradually over years of detective work and searching worldwide for suitable adapters and lenses.


 
The Kilfitt Multi-Kilar Converter
[Multi_Kilar_01.jpg]

The Kilfitt Multi-Kilar is a lens converter, as in “2× converter”, etc., but it is much more than that!

“It’s a converter, Jim, but not as we know it!”

It looks unlike any 2× converter that you have probably seen:


[Multi_Kilar_02.jpg]

According to Pont’s book (here), Kilfitt announced the Multi-Kilar in 1959.  Do not expect it to connect to any lens that is not from Kilfitt, and it won’t even connect to all of them.  Before we can use it, we need various connectors, depending on which camera we wish to use, and which lenses.  These connectors are now generally extremely hard to find.

    

[Multi_Kilar_03.jpg]
The Multi-Kilar is a tube that is 711/16" / 197mm long – in its unextended form!


[Multi_Kilar_04.jpg]
Extended, it is 1011/16" / 270mm long to the rear flange of the mount locking ring.  It is in fact a variable or zoom converter covering the range from 2× to a whole four times (4×) the focal length of the unconverted lens.
  


[Multi_Kilar_11.jpg]

On the right-hand side of the Multi-Kilar there is a crank handle.  As we turn this clockwise, the front of the converter extends.  It first stops at 2½× – although one could stop at any point before this.  As we continue turning the crank, we find that there are détentes also at 3×, 3½× and 4×  These settings are marked in white on the barrel, with the word “FOCAL”, referring to the multiplication factor of the focal length of the lens that is being used with the Multi-Kilar.

As we crank out the converter, we can see the image in the viewfinder getting darker, which is an unavoidable consequence of extending the length of the converter and increasing the conversion strength.  For those who do not have through-the-lens metering (which was extremely rare when the Multi-Kilar was introduced), Kilfitt marks exposure factors in red on the barrel of the Multi-Kilar.  These factors are indicated with the word “STOPS”, meaning the number of f/ stops by which one needs to open up the lens.  Each full f/ stop is equivalent to one shutter speed position on most of the cameras for which the Multi-Kilar was designed.

As one changes the conversion factor, one also needs to adjust the focus, by turning the ring near the front of the Multi-Kilar, which is also visible in the image to the right here.


[Multi_Kilar_05.jpg]

Heinz Kilfitt was keen to provide a filter drawer near the back of his lenses, when possible.  A small gelatin filter of one’s choice could be placed in this removable drawer, which was then re-inserted into the barrel of the lens.  The Multi-Kilar has just such a filter drawer, and here we see several views of it.  (Readers should beware of used Kilfitt lenses for which the filter drawer has been lost, leaving a large gap in the barrel of the lens, through which so much light will enter that the lens will be unusable unless the opening is covered.)


[Multi_Kilar_07.jpg]
Here we can see the filter drawer partially raised.  It will come out completely for the filter to be fitted into it.  The large gap left in the barrel when it is removed is easy to see in this picture.

[Multi_Kilar_08.jpg]
This close-up rear view shows the Multi-Kilar with a “WESI” camera mount and the filter drawer in place (although it does not currently have a filter gelatin in it).

[Multi_Kilar_09.jpg]
Here the filter drawer has been removed, for comparison purposes.  As already explained, the drawer must be replaced (with or without a filter) before the lens can be used.

Using the Multi-Kilar

The Multi-Kilar has to be mounted between the camera body and the lens.  Kilfitt made his lenses available for the widest-possible range of 35mm and Medium Format cameras of his day, and therefore most lenses have an interchangeable camera mount on the back.  The Multi-Kilar does of course need a camera mount on the back, but  – depending on the lens that one wishes to use with it – it may also need a mount on the front.


[Multi_Kilar_10.jpg]
Here we can see the rear of this Multi-Kilar, this time with the WESI camera mount removed.  We note that on this particular example the WE base is screwed to the converter with four screws.  I do not know if some Kilfitt lenses had the WE base permanently mounted on the lens.  We do not need to remove these screws.

The WESI mount has a Praktisix / Pentacon Six mount on the back and a 70mm thread on the front (Pont, page 38).  A captive locking ring on WE base on the Multi-Kilar itself will engage with this thread.  First, align the spike/pin in the WE base that is on the Multi-Kilar (marked “A” in this photo) with the circular slot in the WESI (marked “B”), then turn the ring to hold the mount firmly into place.

[Multi_Kilar_12.jpg]
The front of the Multi-Kilar (at least, this one) has a 39mm Leica-compatible screw thread socket.

Kilfitt Codes

You may recall (from here) that Pont reports three different types of bases on the rear of Kilfitt lenses:

  • KI
  • AN
  • WE

(in chronological order of their introduction).

A Kilfitt expert tells me that to understand the codes for Kilfitt adapters, it is helpful to imagine that you have the lens to the left and the camera to the right.  So if you have a lens that has a WE base and you want to connect it to a Praktisix or Pentacon Six, for which the Kilfitt code is SI, the adapter that you will need is called a WESI.  This technique for understanding Kilfitt codes works with most Kilfitt mounts, but a few of the component codes were combined in the opposite order!

In our case, at the camera end we want to mount the Multi-Kilar onto a Pentacon Six, and the rear of this Multi-Kilar has a WE base, so we can achieve this easily with a Kilfitt WESI mount.

That was the easy bit.  We can now mount the Multi-Kilar onto the camera.  The other end is far more complicated.

“KI” lenses

Pont refers to the “KI” code as being “like Kilar”.  I am going to guess something different.  As far as I can see from the extremely limited numbers of Kilfitt lenses that I have handled, the “KI” lenses were destined for cameras that used 35mm film.  This was a film format that was designed for the cinema (“KINO” in German).  We recall that the first 35mm SLR was from Exakta in Dresden and because of the film it used, it was called the KINE Exakta.  So I surmise that “KI” may have stood for “KINE”, or at least have been inspired by this naming history.  Kilfitt’s early lenses were advertised for the 35mm Exakta cameras, as well as for other brands.

We should also bear in mind that in the early 1950s, the other major market for Kilfitt was 35mm non-reflex cameras, principally the Leica.  Focussing long lenses accurately with a non-reflex camera was difficult, and in the 1930s Zeiss had designed a mirror box for the Contax that went between the camera body and long lenses.  This essentially converted the rangefinder camera into a “single-lens-reflex”, although only for use with long lenses that had been manufactured with a short back, to allow space for a mirror box.  Leica produced similar mirror boxes, and so did Novoflex.

In the 1950s, Kilfitt manufactured such mirror boxes, and lenses that screwed into the front of them.  With Leica being the main market for these lenses and mirror boxes, Kilfitt put a 39mm Leica male screw mount on the rear of the box and a 39mm Leica female screw mount on the front of the mirror box.  (Naturally, if one mounted a standard Leica lens onto the front of this box, the lens would not focus to infinity, but might be usable for extreme macro work, another area where non-reflex cameras could only work with extreme difficulty (both for focussing and framing).  The Kilfitt mirror boxes were called “Spiegelkasten”.  (We need to know this later!)

The image to the right reproduces a Kilfitt mirror box.  Pressing the lever down raised the mirror and the end of the lever then pressed down onto the camera shutter button to fire the shutter.  Pont shows four different types of mirror boxes from Kilfitt, with names such as “Kilarflex”, “Repriskop” and “Kilarskop”.  For those wishing to know more about Kilfitt, Pont’s book is an essential source.

Pont states that “KI” lenses covered 35mm format only (24mm × 36mm), not “6 × 6” format.  However, if a lens that was designed to cover 35mm format is mounted on bellows (for macro work) or on a 2× converter, the image that is enlarged in either of these ways may well cover 6×6 format.  We shall see.

Now let us return to our Multi-Kilar.  At the front it has a 39mm Leica female screw mount.  It may be that if we screw into the front of the Multi-Kilar some of Kilfitt’s long lenses with the “KI” Leica thread mount, they will work!

Here, I will try it with the 150mm f/3.5 Kilfitt Tele-Kilar in 39mm mount, which I risked buying, without knowing if it would be compatible.


[kmbox.jpg]
From Pont, page 88

150mm f/3.5 Kilfitt Tele-Kilar


[MK_w_150_01.jpg]

This lens screws directly into the 39mm socket on the front of the Multi-Kilar.  We then need to mount this onto an extremely sturdy tripod, and to add a Pentacon Six on the back.  The result?  Perfect infinity focus!  And in the viewfinder we seem to have coverage of the whole of the 6 × 6 format with the minimum 2 × converter setting.  The actual coverage will be clear when we have shot some film.

As the Multi-Kilar is a 2× to 4× converter, with every conversion factor in between, with this 150mm Tele-Kilar, we can easily achieve the following focal lengths:
Lens
Converter factor
Resultant
Focal Length
150mm Tele-Kilar [with no converter] 150mm

2 × 300mm

2½ × 375mm

3 × 450mm

3½ × 525mm

4 × 600mm

“Oh, there is just one other thing ...”

[picture_to_come]

As we look through the viewfinder, we find that using the Multi-Kilar is not for the faint-hearted: with our reflex camera and pentaprism, the image is upside-down!  That can’t be changed.  That’s the way it is.  When we get the prints (or scan the film), we just need to turn them through 180 degrees.  Problem solved!  But at the shooting stage, it takes some getting used to.

“AN” lenses

Now let’s try to connect a lens with an AN mount system to the Multi-Kilar.  This is not so straight-forward.

The “AN” lens that we have is the fabulous Pan-Tele Kilar, which is reported on here.  It came to us with the mount for the Pentacon Six.  I thought that the mount should be called “ANSI”, but my one is marked “ANSIX” on an inner surface.  Pont says that the ANSIX is the adapter for PANTE/Praktisix.  “PANTE” is the code for the 300mm f/4 Pan Tele Kilar with AN base.  To remove this mount from the base, one unscrews a large retaining ring.  Unlike with the WE base, the AN mount has the ring as part of the mount, so it comes off with the mount, instead of staying on the lens.

Now we need something to connect an AN base to a 39mm Leica mount socket.  We might guess “ANKI”, based on our guesses about “KI”, above, but we would be wrong.  “ANKI” does not appear to be a Kilfitt code.  But as the 39mm socket was used on the front of the Kilfitt mirror box (SPIegelkasten), the mount is called “ANSPI”.

A reliable and knowledgeable Kilfitt collector in Germany tells me that there are various solutions:

  • An ANWE, which converts the AN base to a WE base, then a WEKI.  You can see more on the WEKI below.
  • An ANSIC, which converts certain AN base lenses to a Kilfitt mirror box.  One must then fix a MUZWI to the ANSIC.
  • Or an ANSPI.


The Pan Tele Kilar with its ANSIX mount
[PTK_w_ANSIX.jpg]

The ANSIX camera mount unscrewed from the back of the Pan Tele Kilar
[ANSIX_3_qutr.jpg]

So we need to locate an ANSPI (or a suitable combination of two other adapters).  The ANSPI is the first of these that we find.


[ANSPI_3-qutr.jpg]

It contains a filter drawer, which can be pulled out of the top of the adapter.  We are now only half way there. 

From the back we can see the light trap at the top of the filter drawer.
[ANSPI_back.jpg]

From the front we get a partial view of the filter holder.
[ANSPI_front.jpg]

Present the ANSPI to the AN base.  It fits perfectly.  But there is a problem.  The locking ring was part of the ANSIX mount, and the ANSPI is supplied without a locking ring.

“Easy!” you say.  “Remove the locking ring from the ANSIX.”  No, it is not easy.  The ring is captive to the ANSIX mount.  Someone has tried to remove a screw within the ANSIX to disassemble the mount, but has only succeeded in damaging the screw head.  We need to find a fairly WIDE screw driver with a FINE blade, to proceed firmly, and to make sure that nothing slips.  After a struggle, we remove four screws with slightly rusty threads that have probably not been turned since the ANSIX was assembled in the Kilfitt factory more than sixty years ago.  The front and the back of the ANSIX come apart.  Now we can retrieve the locking ring.



Back of ANSIX locking ring
[ANSIX_ring_back.jpg]

Front of ANSIX locking ring
[ANSIX_ring_front.jpg]

Here we can see that the ANSIX locking ring is very slim.
[ANSIX_ring_01.jpg]


The ANSPI sitting on top of the AN base on the Pan Tele Kilar.
We have here partially pulled out the filter drawer that is in the mount.

[PTK_w_ANSPI_presented.jpg]
We will not be swapping over these adapters in the field.  Either we will take out the Pan-Tele Kilar with the ANSIX mount and using it directly on the Pentacon Six, as in the past, OR we will swap the ANSIX mount for the ANSPI mount before we set out, and use the Pan-Tele Kilar only on the Multi-Kilar.  (Of course, if we could find an ANWE, which converts the AN base to a WE base, we could leave that on the Pan-Tele Kilar and easily swap between a WESI back for the Pentacon Six or a WEKI back for the Pan-Tele Kilar, even out in the field.)

To our surprise, the ANSIX locking ring fits the ANSPI perfectly – once we have removed the filter drawer that is built into it.  We now present the ANSPI to the back of the Pan-Tele-Kilar, turn the locking ring and then re-insert the filter drawer, without which light would get into the mount, seriously degrading the image.


[PTK_w_ANSPI_mounted.jpg]
    
Now we screw the rear of the ANSPI into the front of the Multi-Kilar.  Another perfect fit!  There is no locating pin system with the AN mount, so we may need to slacken off the locking ring slightly and re-align the Pan Tele Kilar to get the focussing scales and aperture register index to the top of the lens, then re-tighten.


[PTK_on_Multi_Kilar.jpg]


Pan Tele Kilar and Multi-Kilar mounted onto a Pentacon Six
[PTK_MK_P6_01.jpg]


Now we can put our Pentacon Six back onto the Multi-Kilar and mount everything onto an exceptionally sturdy tripod – my luggage scales give the total weight of this combination as 2.7 kg, which an internet converter indicates is 5 lb 15¼ oz – and that is without a camera!  When we add a Pentacon Six with metering prism (and at the moment no film loaded!), the same scales indicate a total weight of 4.3 kg, equivalent to 9 lb 7.678 oz, according to the same internet source.  You won’t be walking around with this hung around your neck!  In fact, Kilfitt recommends the use of TWO tripods, which is fine if one is photographing something that is not moving – or perhaps birds or squirrels visiting a feeding table.

This is facilitated by the presence of THREE tripod mount points on the converter, and of course also a tripod mount on the Pan Tele Kilar.

There are four ¼" tripod sockets and four 3/8" sockets.

[PTK_on_Multi-Kilar_base.jpg]

In fact, with the Multi-Kilar set at 4× conversion and the Pan Tele Kilar at maximum extension for closest focus, the total length (without a camera!) is approximately 600 mm or 24 inches.  One can readily see why a tripod is essential.


[PTK_on_Multi_Kilar_size.jpg]

One can also readily understand why some of the most important purchasers of Kilfitt and Zoomar lenses were the Disney organisation and the U.S. Military.  Disney is reported to have used Kilfitt lenses when filming wildlife documentaries for U.S. television in the 1950s and 60s.  Disney and the U.S. military were clearly not concerned by the size and weight of these super-powerful lenses, and would of course have used them on a tripod, possibly in a wildlife photographic hide or other concealed site in the case of military use.  In either situation, the users were prepared to spend hours or even days set up and ready for when the right event occurred.  This is not the situation of most amateur users of this equipment.

With the 300mm Pan-Tele-Kilar and the Multi-Kilar, we can easily achieve the following focal lengths:

Lens Converter factor Resultant
focal length
300mm Pan-Tele-Kilar [with no converter] 300mm

2 × 600mm

2½ × 750mm

3 × 900mm

3½ × 1050mm

4 × 1200mm

“WE” lenses

“WE” was the last of the connector systems developed by Kilfitt.  We have described it above, since the rear of our Multi-Kilar has a WE base.

But can we mount lenses with a WE base onto the FRONT of the Multi-Kilar?  The diameter of a Pentacon Six lens mount is much greater than the diameter of the 39mm hole in the front of the Multi-Kilar.  In any case, if we present an 80mm Biometar lens to the front of the Multi-Kilar, we discover that infinity focus is not possible, because we cannot get the Biometar far enough back.

What about the 90mm Kilfitt Makro-Kilar / Macro-Zoomatar?  This has a WE base and we have a WESI adapter on that base, for direct mounting onto the Pentacon Six, and that works perfectly.  To get the Makro-Kilar far enough back to enable infinity focus when it is on the Multi-Kilar, we will obviously need to remove the WESI adapter, but what will we put in its place?  Perhaps there is a “WESPI”, by analogy with the ANSPI.  It turns out that a “WESPI” adapter is reported.  Pont says that it was an adapter for mounting the SPOSO onto Kilfitt mirror boxes.  So what is a “SPOSO”?  It turns out to be the WE version of the 600mm f/5.6 Sport Fern Kilar / Sport Zoomatar.  These mount adapters need much more than the correct connector on each surface: they need to be the right THICKNESS to provide infinity focus, so this is probably not the right one for this lens.  In any case, we haven’t got a WESPI, so we can’t try it out.

Fortunately, a Kilfitt expert in Germany has told me that the correct adapter to mount the 90mm Makro Kilar / Macro Zoomatar is a WEKI – so there is that “KI” that I suspected of being derived from the 35mm format “KINE” cameras.


The WESI camera mount removed from the WE base on the lens.
[WESI_01.jpg]

This image gives an idea of the thickness of the WESI camera mount.
[WESI_side.jpg]

As expected, the WEKI is an extremely slim disk.  Its front edge has the filter thread for the locking ring on the WE base, and its rear end has the 39mm “Leica” male screw thread.  Attach the WEKI to the Makro-Kilar / Macro-Zoomatar.  The WEKI has five deep indentations on its front surface, so that the spike or pin in the WE base can be located in whichever indentation gets the lens correctly aligned with the focussing scale and the aperture index at the top.  Clever detail!
This ring came without a name on it.  I have added a label.
[WEKI_back.jpg]

Note locating points to facilitate alignment.
[WEKI_front.jpg]

The WEKI is clearly much slimmer than the WESI.
[WEKI_side.jpg]

Next, screw the rear end of the WEKI to the front of the Multi-Kilar.

Add the 90mm Makro Kilar / Macro Zoomatar, and it works!  Infinity focus (and closer) is available.


WEKI adapter screwed into front of Multi-Kilar ...
[MK_w_WEKI.jpg]

...  and with the Macro Zoomatar attached
[MK_w_WEKI_&_Macro_Zmtr.jpg]


The Macro Zoomar mounted on the Multi-Kilar, via the WEKI ring
[Macro_Zmtr_MK_P6.jpg]

All ready to go!
[Macro_Zmtr_MK_p6.jpg]
So with the 90mm Makro-Kilar / Macro-Zoomatar, we can easily achieve the following focal lengths:

Lens
Converter factor
Resultant
focal length
90mm Makro-Kilar / Macro-Zoomatar  [with no converter] 90mm

2 × 180mm

2½ × 225mm

3 × 270mm

3½ × 315mm

4 × 360mm


Now to check on the quality.  We know that the Makro-Kilar / Macro-Zoomatar is superb, and so is the Pan Tele Kilar, but we have not previously used the 150mm Tele-Kilar.

To go on to the next lens data section, click below.
Novoflex lenses

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© TRA March 2019