The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

The Pentacon Tripod
 


The Pentacon tripod in its case
[ptpd01.jpg]

One accessory in the Pentacon catalogue is often neglected by those interested in the Pentacon Six: the Pentacon tripod.  However, a tripod is essential for some sorts of photography, and Pentacon’s offering merits serious consideration.
 

This tripod is usually supplied in a leather case with a strap for carrying it by hand and an extension that converts this into a shoulder strap.  When packed, it is quite small, and will even fit inside some backpacks.  That was how I carried it for a number of days in Berlin in 2006.

However, unpacking the case reveals a number of components:

The complete outfit.  At the back is the carrying case.
The bag on the left fits inside it, and takes the three leg extenders, which are in the middle.
On the right is the basic tripod and to the right of it the extension section for the carrying strap.


This gives an idea of the size of the Pentacon tripod
when it is packed away in its case.
[ptpd02.jpg]
The leg extenders were an optional extra, but I would not advise anyone to buy one of these tripods without them.
[ptpd03.jpg] 

The basic tripod
 


Without the leg extenders, at minimum extension you have a lovely table-top tripod
that is 32.3 cm / 12¾" high.
[ptpd04.jpg]

 


There is a rising centre column that increases this height to 45 cm / 17¾".
In this picture, the centre column is here seen partially raised. [ptpd05.jpg]

 
Heights of course depend on how far out the lenses are spread.
All height measurements on this page were made with the angle of the legs as in picture ptpd10.jpg (see picture below in which the red floor tiles are visible).
For the other measurements, the angle of the legs was not changed,
even though this may not necessarily always correspond exactly to the angles
seen in the accompanying pictures.

 
Extending the legs on this “mini tripod” and raising the centre column to its maximum height, you reach a height of 60.5 cm / 23¾"
[ptpd05a.jpg]

But if you examine the bottom of the legs carefully, you see a knurled ring just above the rubber feet.  Does this take the rubber off and reveal spikes?  No.  It extends the legs even further:


[ptpd06.jpg]


With only the small legs, the tripod now reaches a height of 76.7 cm / 30¼".
(See image to the right)

 

 The leg extenders

However, it is with the leg extenders that this “mini tripod” becomes a full tripod.  Unscrew the three legs, screw the extenders in their place, and screw the original legs on the end of the extenders and you have a tripod that has a minimum height of 64 cm / 25¼", with the legs fully collapsed and the centre column down.
(See picture below)

With the leg extenders, but all sections collapsed.
[ptpd08.jpg]


The basic tripod at maximum height
[ptpd07.jpg]

 

[ptpd09.jpg]
The leg extenders do themselves extend (only once, as far as I can see!).  With the leg extenders extended, and the original legs extended just once, the tripod reaches a height of 1m 19.5 cm / 47", with the centre column raised.
(See image to the left)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When the original legs are extended a second time and the column is raised,
the tripod reaches a height of 1m 36cm / 53½".
The tripod will no longer fit on my studio work surface,
with the sloping ceiling above.
(See image to the right)

[ptpd10.jpg]

But the flexibility and versatility of this tripod does not end here.  Two further features extend its potential considerably:

  • the centre column can be reversed, so that the camera can be attached under it
  • the legs can be spread out almost to horizontal.



In this position you can copy documents and photograph other two- and three-dimensional items, even if you don’t have a copying stand.
[ptpd11.jpg]


Getting down to work.  Here the tripod has been set up to enable the Pentacon Six to photograph a tiny plastic toy.
But it could be a bug, a flower, a frog or anything that interests you.
[ptpd12.jpg]

The tripod head

This can be rotated horizontally, raised and lowered.  That’s all.  There is no ball head, no tilt and pan levers, no complicated multi-locking; just one lockable bolt.  However, in practice, this provides virtually all the flexibility that one could want with a 6×6 camera.
 

How does one shoot vertical shots with a 35mm camera, using this tripod?
Raise the centre column, at least a little, swing the head over so that the mounting surface is vertical.  Turn the camera into vertical orientation and attach it to the tripod head.  It needs to be attached tightly, or the front of the camera may sag, especially with a long lens.  You will probably then need to turn the centre column (or the whole tripod), so that you are back pointing where you were before.
(See image to the right)


Switching between horizontal and vertical is fiddly, but it works.  All such problems are of course avoided when using a 6×6 camera like the Pentacon Six!


[ptpd13.jpg]

Verdict

This really is 1950s technology at its best: simple, solid and strong, with virtually nothing that can go wrong.  I have found this tripod more than adequate for general photography with the Pentacon Six.  When everything is tightened up, it is solid and stable.  It should be fine with lenses up to 300mm, perhaps even up to 500mm, though I have not yet tried that.  If you plan to use the 1000mm mirror lens, see a more suitable tripod for that lens here.

Just remember to check that the leg extenders  are included before buying one! (These are called “Beinverlängerungen” in German.)
 

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© TRA November 2010, December 2010