Pentacon Six or Norita?
What is the right name for this camera?
Norita bodies bear no faceplate name, although on the back are the words “NORITA KOGAKU MADE IN JAPAN”. The two types of prism and the waist-level finder bear the logo “NORITA” or (in the USA) “GRAFLEX NORITA”. However, boxes and some literature bear the logo “NORITA 66” or “GRAFLEX NORITA 66”.
Pentacon Six or Norita?
One question I have been repeatedly asked is, “Should I buy a Pentacon Six or a Norita?” In fact, I asked myself this question in the 1970s.
How do these two camera systems compare?
The Norita was designed on the same principles as the Pentacon Six: to be a 6 × 6 (2¼ square) Medium Format camera that handled like a 35mm SLR. In fact, some would claim that it was inspired by – or even copied from – the Pentacon Six and Praktisix, which had first appeared about 13 years earlier (Praktisix 1957, Norita, early 1970s). However, its supporters would claim that the design of the Norita was an improvement on the Pentacon Six. Let us compare them.
||The similarities between the Pentacon Six and the Norita
66 (marketed in the USA as “Graflex Norita”) are obvious
in this picture.
The shape of the plain prism seems closely inspired by the Pentacon Six plain prism – although there are constraints on the possible shape of any pentaprism!
Note the absence of a delayed-action lever on the Norita.
The Norita was originally marketed as the Rittreck (or Warner Rittreck in the USA), but apart from a few cosmetic details (difference of name plate, chrome instead of black standard lens), this was essentially the same as the Norita. It was very much in the style of the 1970s Japanese 35mm SLRs, and included some improvements on the Praktisix/Pentacon Six:
||The top plate of the Norita follows very much the layout
standard on 35mm SLRs at the time.
One innovation in the Norita: the orange triangle at the right-hand end of the top plate points to a dial on the side that enables the user to engage a double-exposure facility, so that it is possible to cock the shutter without advancing the film.
To operate this correctly, it is also necessary to move a lever at the other end of the top plate, so that the counter doesn’t advance. The user must remember to return both controls to the Normal position after use!
Most Noritas seem to have been sold with a non-metering prism, although by the late 1970s (approximately ten years later than for the Pentacon Six TL!) a metering prism appeared.
This had one major advantage, compared to the Pentacon Six, and three disadvantages.
The advantage was that it was coupled to the shutter speed control of the camera (but not to the aperture of the lenses!).
The disadvantages were:
The good news was:
|Focal Length||Aperture Range||Elements / Groups||Closest Focus||Filter Size||Weight|
|40mm||f/4 – f/22||9 / 8||1 ft (0.3m)||77mm × 0.75||22.5 oz (640g)|
|55mm||f/4 – f/22||9 / 9||1.5 ft (0.45m)||62mm × 0.75||13.75 oz (390g)|
|80mm||f/2 – f/22||6 / 4||3 ft (0.85m)||62mm × 0.75||15.5 oz (440g)|
|160mm||f/4 – f/22||6 / 5||7 ft (2m)||62mm × 0.75||23 oz (650g)|
|240mm||f/4 – f/22||6 / 5||12 ft (3.5m)||77mm × 0.75||40.5 oz (1150g)|
|400mm||f/4.5 – f/22||6 / 7||21 ft (6m)||95mm × 0.75||80 oz (2300g)|
The 400mm lens was advertised by a German supplier in 1975/6 but is not listed in most Norita literature that I have, although I have found reference to it in a recently-acquired brochure. In June 2006 one of these lenses was sold on eBay for US$966.56 (approx EUR 750.00) – not within the price range of most amateurs for a rarely-used lens (unless one specialises in wildlife photography or various types of sports photography). Another one of these lenses was sold on eBay in February 2010 for US$799 (approx Eur 584.45 or GBP510.74).
In addition, a very interesting special lens was produced for the
Norita 66: a 70mm lens with built-in leaf shutter. This
enabled flash sync at all speeds. Details are as follows:
|Focal Length||Aperture Range||Elements / Groups||Closest Focus||Filter Size||Weight|
|70mm||f/3.5 – f/22||7 / 5||2.7 ft (0.8m)||77m × 0.75||34 oz (980g)|
For all other lenses, the X setting on the shutter speed dial is selected. This provides a nominal 1/40 sec sync, fractionally faster than on the Praktisix and Pentacon Six.
At the time that I was looking at the Norita (mid-to-late 1970s), none of the lenses was multi-coated. However, Selmar Meents in Holland e-mailed me in December 2005 saying:
|“I have owned two multicoated 40mm lenses for the Norita
66. These lenses were marked as such and the focusing ring
was covered with diamond grid rubber as opposed to the
metal focusing rings of the single coated version.
“Other owners have reported that they owned MC 240mm and MC 55mm lenses. These lenses were probably made in small numbers at the end of the production period of the Norita 66 system and are very rare.”
The British photographic journal “Amateur Photographer” reviewed the Norita with standard lens and plain prism in its issue dated 27th October 1971, and reviewed the 40mm, 55mm, 160mm and 240mm lenses the following week (3rd November 1971). While it went out of its way to welcome the system and be positive where possible, it is clear that many of the lenses produced images that were not very sharp, especially at the larger apertures, and revealed problems with flare.
Lenses from other manufacturers
Two reasons contributed to there being very few lenses from other
manufacturers offered for the Norita/Rittreck:
However, that remarkable lens manufacturer, Kilfitt of Munich (which subsequently became the Zoomar company), did offer a Norita mount for at least some of its Medium Format lenses.
I am grateful to John, who told me in January 2016:
are at least 4 very rare Zoomar lenses with Norita
mounts and/or Killfit Zoomar adapters.
1 – Zoomar 170-320 zoom lens
2 – Zoomar 250/4 mirror lens – can be adapted to Norita
3 – Zoomar 500/5.6 mirror lens –which you picture in your Pentacon Six reviews [here] – a Norita adapter exists
4 – Zoomar 1,000/8 mirror lens – I own this lens in C mount + a Norita adapter.”
“I just wanted you to know that in addition to the other Kilar lenses your friend told you about, I also had a 90mm Macro-Kilar in Norita mount. Maybe it was spelled Makro-Kilar, I can't remember. I think it was F2.8. It focused from infinity to 1:1 with multiple telescoping helical tubes to get there. Aperture was totally manual. I didn't use it much because it wasn't very sharp, even stopped down.My wife and I really loved the two bodies and six Noritar lenses. We shot a lot of weddings with them, and some of my favorite photos from the 1970s and 1980s were taken with them.”
“I just acquired a Graflec Norita brochure listing the standard
40, 55, 70, 80,
160, and 240mm Noritar lenses.
The Novoflex lenses for Medium Format cameras were available for many medium format cameras with focal plane shutters. See the report on these lenses, in the Praktisix/Pentacon Six mount, starting here. These lenses consisted principally of two components: a focussing mount which was known as the "PIGRIFF" and the two Medium Format Noflexar lens heads, the 240mm and the 500mm, which needed to be inserted into the PIGRIFF. In February 2016 Martin Grahl, who is the Sales Manager at Novoflex, wrote to tell me that "The PIGRIFF 6×6 was available only briefly with the Norita breech lock bayonet mount in the mid 1970s".
|Here is a copy of the relevant
page of the Novoflex price list from 1975, which Martin
e-mailed to me:
Thank you, Martin, for this information!
|And here is a rear view of the
PIGRIFF, clearly showing the Norita mount!
The PIGRIFF here has the 240mm lens head in place.
It is here mounted on a display stand.
This superb picture was taken in 2016 by the Novoflex staff photographer.
Reproduced by permission.
Very few accessories were ever produced for the Norita. I am only aware of the following:
There were no bellows (unless someone can prove me wrong, and I
have been looking for years!)
There were no 2× converters, additional focussing aids or other accessories.
[C418-29A] A comprehensive Norita outfit:
For variety of lenses and accessories, this outfit does not
compare well with the outfits on offer from:
Kiev 60 outfit
Exakta 66 outfit
In fact, the comparison is overly favourable to the Norita, since a non-Norita item is included in the Norita outfit shot, and various items are missing from the photos of the other three outfits: Cases, lens caps and lens hoods (shades) from the Pentacon Six and Kiev 60 outfits, plus specialised focussing screens for the Pentacon Six. More focussing screens were available for the Exakta 66, plus more macro lenses and the elusive tilt-shift Super-Angulon. What’s more, of course, the lenses and most of the accessories from each of these three systems can also be mounted on the other two cameras! Of course, the Exakta 66 was not available in the 1970s when I took my decision, and little was known about the Kiev 60 in the West, but the Pentacon Six outfit with its lenses from Carl Zeiss Jena, Meyer-Optik and many other manufacturers was readily available.
Most important, there was always a niggling doubt about the design and the quality of the Norita range. In my limited experience, this appears to have some basis in fact. A few years ago I bought the Norita extension tubes. For some strange reason, however the three tubes are combined, there are gaps in the range – certain magnifications that are just not possible, no matter how much you adjust the focussing ring of the lens. This is just carelessness at the design stage.
Further, the aperture pin in Norita lenses moves sideways, as
with some other cameras, but unlike the in-out movement of the pin
on Pentacon Six lenses. In order to transfer this sideways
motion with the tubes, the designers have resorted to a
double-tube construction, with an inner tube and and outer
tube. Firstly, this makes the tubes extremely heavy.
The three Norita tubes weigh 545 grams or 1lb 3¼ oz, while
the four Pentacon Six tubes weigh little more than half
this, at 330 grams or 11½ oz.
Secondly, the inner and outer tubes are in contact at many points, which results in friction when the inner tube is called upon to rotate and stop down the lens diaphragm. Ball-bearings between the inner and outer tubes are designed to minimise friction, but I found the movement was not smooth, and do not doubt that on many occasions the lens will not have stopped down to the desired aperture by the time the shutter fires.
Worse, even though the tubes appeared new and unused, one day when I was trying them out, there was a grating noise, and all the ball-bearings fell out of one of the tubes, which is now useless! I shall have to see if my repairer is prepared to take a look at it. In contrast, the Pentacon Six tube design is simple and light-weight. Above all, it just works without problems, year after year.
The ball bearings from a Norita close-up tube
Update, July 2008
My regular Pentacon Six technician, Tom Page, agreed to have a look at the faulty Norita tubes. He was not impressed with the design. Only one ball race in each of the tubes, even the longest one, means that movement is not as smooth as it should be. After lubricating and replacing the ball bearings, he sealed the locking ring, aiming to make it tight enough to prevent the ball bearings getting out again, but not so tight that it would slow down the rotation of the inner tube that stops down the aperture. Long-term reliability does not appear likely with this design.
Differences from Norita/Graflex Norita
would point out the superiority of the
Rittreck/Warner designs over the later
I took the decision to go for the Pentacon Six in 1977 for the following reasons:
To see a brief overview of the Pentax 6×7, compared to the
Pentacon Six, click the following link.
To see more information on the “mystery ring” in the Norita outfit picture, click here.
To return to the section on the pentaprisms, click here.
To return to the Frequently-asked Questions, click here.
To go back to the introduction to the cameras, click here.
To return to the interview with the author, click here.
© TRA November 2005. Revised April 2017