The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

How do I avoid uneven spacing and do a spacing test?

How-to-do-it Video Tutorial

I have made and up-loaded a video that shows you how to check the spacing of a Pentacon Six, using the method described here.  I suggest that you read this description here first.  Then you can click on the link at the bottom of this page, to see the video.

How do I avoid uneven spacing?

This question has always puzzled me, as spacing (or overlapping frames) has not been a problem with any of my Pentacon Six cameras; however, it appears to be a big problem for some people or for some cameras.

There are three things to try if you get uneven spacing with your Pentacon Six or Exakta 66:

  • First, and most important: load the camera following my loading instructions, which you will find here.  (These are based on Ron Spillman’s loading instructions, to which you will find a link on my loading page.)

  • In most cases, that should totally solve your spacing probems forever.
    An important detail of the loading process is keeping the film tight: you need to hold the supply spool with a finger or thumb, and as you advance the film to the start mark you should be able to see the tooth marks of the film spacing roller at the top and bottom of the of the backing paper.
  • Second, if you have done this carefully and still have uneven spacing, try Rolf-Dieter Baier’s film advance instructions, which are available here.

  • Just in case there is ever a problem with that web link, essentially, Mr Baier’s procedure involves the following:
    After firing the shutter in the normal way, before winding on, press the shutter release fully down (it won’t fire again), and hold it down while activating the advance lever only until the lever is in a straight line with the front of the body.  (If you feel some additional resistance when advancing the film, slightly reduce the pressure on the shutter release button.)  Then take your finger off the shutter release and continue moving the advance lever to the end of its travel.
    Guide it back to its rest position with your thumb, as always (never let it swing back on its own).
    I have never tried this procedure, as I have never had a spacing problem with any of my cameras, but I am told that it can help in some cases.
  • Third, if you still have uneven spacing, your camera is faulty and needs to be repaired.

  • Hand it over to a specialist repairer who knows these cameras.  You will find details of repairers here.
    OR send it to Rolf-Dieter Baier in Germany for repair, and installation of his Film Advance Control, which gives a visual indication when the film has advanced far enough.
    I have also not had this advance control installed on any of my cameras, as I have not needed it, however, I have bought other items from Mr Baier and find him extremely knowledgeable on the Pentacon Six and Exakta 66, and extremely reliable.  I recommend him.
How do I check spacing without having to send a film for processing?

This involves “sacrificing” a film – you may have a spare out-of-date film that you don’t mind using for this purpose.

1.  Load the film in the normal way (as shown on this website!), close the back and wind and fire to the first frame.
      You may find it helpful to have the camera on a tripod for the rest of the process.
2.  Remove the lens.
3.  Set the shutter on “B”.
4.  With one hand fire the shutter and do not let go of the shutter release.
     This will keep the shutter open, and you will be able to look at the film in the gate.
5.  With a pencil or felt tip draw round the inner edges of the film gate, and write a “1” in the middle of the frame.
6.  Remove the pencil and let go of the shutter release.  The shutter will close.
7.  Advance the film in the normal way.
8.  Repeat steps 4 and 5, above, this time writing “2” in the middle of the frame.
9.  Continue in this way through to the end of the film.  You can even mark the 13th frame if you think you might get 13 shots on the film
     – although if the film has been advancing correctly, you’re likely to see the end of the film in the middle of the gate.
10. Wind off the film in the normal way, open the camera, and spread out the film.
You will immediately be able to see if the camera is spacing the frames correctly or not.

Part of a spacing test on old FP4 stock for a Reflex-Korelle SLR from the 1930s – this one looks good!

Link to Spacing Video

Click the following link to see the spacing test video that I have made:
Spacing test video

I uploaded this as a High Definition video, but YouTube seems by default to make it available in its usual low definition format.
However, if you click on the third button from the right at the bottom of the YouTube screen, you will be able to select a higher resolution if you wish.
Please be aware that the higher-resolution versions may take significantly longer to download,
depending on the speed of your Internet connection.

However, it does show you in just under 6 minutes how to do this.
I randomly picked a Pentacon Six that I had bought and not yet used, and the results were perfect!

But then, I would have expected that, as I had followed my own loading instructions, which are on this website here and on YouTube following this link:
Loading instructions video

Please excuse the slight slip of the tongue at the end of the spacing test video: the film was definitely not “perfectly exposed”, as I said, but it was “perfectly spaced”, as I meant to say! :)

With correct loading, as described on the links above, your Pentacon Six will give well-nigh-perfect spacing!

Pentacon Six spacing   -   or   -   Hasselblad spacing?
Below, I show a film as received from the lab, in the filing sheet in which it will be stored in a ring binder, in film number order.  Even though there is some slight width variation in the gaps between some frames, this is well within specifications and every bit as good as the spacing that I get on various Hasselblad cameras, for instance.

You should get spacing as accurate as this with your Pentacon Six.

(Naturally, the frosted paper of the filing sheet reduces the resolution and the contrast of the negatives in this picture.  They need to be removed from the page for insertion into an enlarger or a scanner.)

A typical example of frame spacing on the Pentacon Six,
seen in a film that has just come back from the processing lab

Sometimes, Hasselblad publications show sample contact sheets.  Here is one such example, presumably of slide film, published in "Hasselblad Forum: 50 Jahre Hasselblad Kamerasystem", which was published in 1998.

It is one of three contact sheets in that publication, and all show variations in frame spacing.  In fact, the Pentacon Six frame spacing shown on the left is at least as good, if not better than the Hasselblad spacing that they have chosen to show as an example of the quality of the results obtained with the Hasselblad system.

As can be appreciated here, in Hasselblad cameras the film travels vertically,
whereas in the Pentacon Six it travels horizontally.

We are here, of course, dealing with the movement of physical components, and each manufacturer will have specified acceptable tolerances.  Both of these cameras show camera spacing that is at least acceptable (with in particular just two frames on the Hasselblad film closer together than would be desirable if cutting the frames to mount them for projection).  I would define the Pentacon Six spacing seen here as at least very good.  In fact, "excellent" would be justified, with very minor variations in frame spacing.

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© TRA November 2005
Latest revision: April 2013