Should I buy a Praktisix II?
A: Thank you for your e-mail.
The websites that said “Do not buy this camera” are probably the same ones that say “Do not buy the Pentacon Six”.
The camera that you have bought was manufactured at some point between 1964 and 1966. It was a revised and improved version of the Praktisix, which was manufactured between 1957 (Prototypes in 1956) and 1964. The camera continued to be improved with gradual changes, and was re-named “Praktisix IIA” in 1966. Further modifications led to a revised version of the camera, the Pentacon Six, being introduced at the end of 1966.
The Praktisix II has many points in common with the Pentacon Six (+/- TL). It will take all the same viewfinders, including the metering pentaprism, and has the identical lens mount, so will take all lenses designed for the Pentacon Six, Kiev 60 and Exakta 66 (1984-2000) cameras, operating the fully-automatic diaphragm pin on all lenses that have this (i.e., most lenses), as well of course as the bellows, extension tubes, etc.
It is a very interesting camera to have in a collection. More important (in my opinion), a Praktisix II in good condition should work perfectly and produce pictures that are identical to those produced with a Pentacon Six (or indeed many others of the best Medium Format cameras).
A choice of two standard lenses was offered from the start for the original Praktisix: the Meyer-Optik Primotar E 1:3.5/80 and the 2.8/80mm Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar. The Primotar is a four-element lens, like the Tessar, and it does also have the pin for the fully-automatic diaphragm, making it an automatic lens. It does not have the stop-down lever that subsequently became standard on many lenses, but instead has a stop-down ring, right at the front of the lens. This has two positions: open (in which the camera will stop down the lens automatically when the shutter is fired), and closed, in which the lens diaphragm is stopped down to the aperture selected, useful for checking depth-of-field or for doing stop-down metering. It does not have the “prestige” of the Zeiss name, but most Meyer-Optik lenses are excellent, and it should produce extremely satisfactory results.
From March 1959 the five-element f/2.8 80mm Biometar from Carl Zeiss Jena became available in the Praktisix mount. This replaced the Tessar as the Zeiss lens option for the camera. The Primotar continued to be available until about 1964 and possibly later, as the economical option for a standard lens, but when it was discontinued at some point in the 1960s, the Zeiss Biometar became the standard lens supplied with this camera and its successors.
You can see a picture of a Praktisix II outfit here.
If the camera requires a service, Tom Page in England would do an excellent job on it (see the repairers page on my website, accessible via the Frequently-Asked Questions page), and there are other excellent repairers in some other countries.
The Praktisix cannot have the Mirror Pre-Release (“MLU”) modification made to it, as the shutter release mechanism is different from that on the Pentacon Six and Exakta 66, but this is a rarely-used feature that most photographers never require.
Remember that the internet contains all sorts of opinions, many of which are not based on an accurate assessment of facts, but on prejudice.
I hope that you enjoy your Praktisix II and Primotar lens. I expect that you will soon start looking for more lenses for this camera!
To go back to the Frequently-asked Questions front page, click here.
To contact me, click here.
© TRA January 2011