Pentacon Six System
How to obtain
“View Camera” movements with a Pentacon Six
Can the Pentacon Six have the movements
of a view camera? Here’s one that has them!
Already in 1964, in the first edition of
his books on the Praktisix/Pentacon Six, Dr W G Heyde
wrote of the desirability of having for the camera
bellows with all the movements and alignment
possibilities (“Verstellbarkeiten”) of a “studio” or “view”
camera of the time (an “Atelier-kamera”). Such a
“view camera” has extremely flexible movements, at
least of the front standard (the lens holder) and
sometimes of the rear standard (the film
holder). View cameras are typically made in
formats of 4×5 in (or 9×12 cm) and larger. The
two main types are generally considered to be the
flatbed type and the monorail type. A 4×5
monorail camera can be seen here.
Other variants are sometimes called “field camera”,
“studio camera” or “technical camera”.
In a “studio” or “view” camera,
- movements of the front
standard (which holds the lens) affect composition
and depth of field.
- Movements of the rear
standard (which holds the film) can change the shape
of the image recorded on the film or control
perspective, for instance, to reduce distortion.
In addition, raising the
rear standard has the same effect as lowering the
front standard, and vice versa, and both can be used,
where available, to increase the total range of
movement, subject to the covering power of the lens.
Typical movements of such
a camera, and the terms used to describe them, are:
up/down movement of the lens board, while remaining
parallel to the back. This can help to
centralise an image on the film without needing to
tilt the camera up or down, which would introduce
horizontal movement to left or to the right, while
remaining parallel to the back. Like the
rise-fall movement, the shift can help to centralise
the image if it is not possible to locate the camera
exactly opposite the object being photographed.
- Tilt: vertical
movement of the lens on a horizontal axis to tilt
the lens up or down. This changes the in-focus
plane. This is generally used to increase the
depth of the image that is in focus. It is
particularly helpful with macro photography where
the subject is lower than the camera and in a
different plane, for instance, when the camera back
is vertical but the subject is on a horizontal
surface such as a table top, or plant leaves on the
surface of a pond.
horizontal movement of the lens on a vertical axis
to point the lens to the left or the right.
Like tilt, this changes the in-focus plane.
Depending on the design
of the camera, all of the above movements may be
available, or some of them or none.
Also, the rear standard may take a rotating back,
so that a non-square format can be put in either
horizontal (“landscape”) or vertical (“portrait”)
to View Camera Photography
have found a useful introduction to this to be
“Photography with large-Format Cameras”, which
was published by the Eastman Kodak Camera.
The edition that I have appears to have been
published in July 1977. It is the Kodak
Publication No. 0-18 and its catalogue reference
is CAT 152 7894.
This publication refers to the use of such
movements in “advertising photography, catalog
work” and “product photography”.
The diagrams on the right here are taken from
the back page of this publication. Click
on the picture to see it larger.
Heyde described and illustrated bellows with
such movements that had been made for him to
He recommended the use of a lens between 105 and
150mm focal length used as the normal lens for a
9 × 12 camera. (“Praktisix Buch” p.
126) He also continued to report on this
in the three editions of his subsequent book,
“Pentaconsix Praxis” (1st & 2nd editions, pp
264-5, 3rd edn, pp 223-4), although with no
further developments of the accessory.
Information on Dr Heyde’s books can be seen here.
However, no such bellows were ever produced by
Pentacon for the Praktica/Pentacon Six.
|Modification to Pentacon
Over the years, I have seen various modified
versions of the Pentacon Six bellows. To the right we see one such
modification, with the front standard here
raised and the standard 80mm Biometar tilted
down. The unmodified Pentacon Six
bellows, can be seen here.
|But there are limits to what
can be done with these bellows, as the
material from which the bellows
themselves are made is quite rigid and
they are not particularly long.
In this second picture we can see the
front standard lowered (“fall” position)
and the lens again tilted down.
However, the downwards movement is
limited by the thickness of the base
that originally carried the front
standard, and the front of the lens is
now touching this.
However, bellows that are more
suitable are available relatively easily
for the Pentacon Six, as we shall see
|The Mamiya M645 Auto Bellows N
other than bellows extension at zero
|These bellows were made by Mamiya for
their 6×4.5 cameras. As the camera mount
can be easily rotated through 90º for horizontal
or vertical shots with their cameras, the format
covered by the bellows is fully adequate for the
6×6 format of the Pentacon Six.
bellows unit has a highly flexible bellows
section that does not hinder the full movements
that are possible with the unit.
Adapter rings to enable Pentacon Six lenses to
be used on Mamiya 645 cameras are not difficult
to find on-line, and one of these can be added
to the front of the bellows, while the rear
Mamiya camera mount is easy to remove from the
bellows, and can be replaced with a Pentacon Six
camera mount. I bought my camera mount
on-line, but it would also be possible to modify
a short Pentacon Six extension tube for this
Heyde’s bespoke bellows did offer some movements
(but not all!) for both standards, but the
Mamiya bellows only have movements for the front
standard (plus a rotating back). Remember
that tilting the rear standard, where it is an
option, can be used to reduce or eliminate
distortion (see above). However, we should
recall that when we look up at a tall building,
our minds expect the top to look
narrower than the bottom, and if this natural
effect is fully corrected (for instance, by
tilting the rear standard, in cases where this
is an option), our minds will interpret this to
mean that the top of the building actually
sprouts out and is progressively wider than the
base. (See here
on the benefits of allowing some “Residual
Perspective”.) So what is
most useful is movements for the front
standard, which is what the Mamiya bellows
We next show some of
the movements that are possible with these
bellows, and comment on suitable
lenses. Shift and tilt
lenses replicate most of these movements.
See here and here.
Front tilt down
Front tilt up
Front fall + tilt down
Front swing right
Front swing left
Front shift right
Front shift left
movement is not particularly easy to see, but note
the position of the orange vertical line at the
the mid point of the base of the front standard,
in relation to the small red index mark below it.
The above pictures are samples of
possible movements. Likewise, the extent of
the tilt, swing, rise/fall or shift can be varied
according to requirements. The image at the
top of this page illustrates rise of the front
standard plus tilt down of the lens.
using a standard Pentacon Six lens, infinity
focus is not possible. However, for macro
work this is not a problem, and the lens
standard movements can be fully used to increase
depth of field. Also, in macro
photography normal Pentacon Six lenses
project an image that is larger than when they
are mounted directly onto the camera, so most
movements should be possible without any
fall-off in image brightness or resolution.
Lenses for infinity
focus designed for larger-format cameras
If one needs infinity focus, a
lens for a larger format is required, and
here I show the two Schneider Xenar lenses
that were available from Novoflex with an
adapter for the Pentacon Six (see here).
As such lenses also project a larger image,
they generally provide adequate coverage for
the full use of movements, even at infinity
setting, without any fall-off in image
brightness or resolution. However, the
above Kodak publication points out that for
many lenses “the maximum angle of view of
which these lenses are capable can be
realized only when they are stopped down to
a relatively small aperture.” (p. 9)
we can see the Schneider Kreuznach150mm Xenar
lens set at infinity focus. We have raised
the front, a setting that could be suitable when
photographing tall buildings – obviously
from an appropriate distance, which will also
help to reduce perspective distortion.
View cameras are of course not used hand-held,
but on a sturdy tripod, and for any work with
bellows on the Pentacon Six a tripod is strongly
advised, even when working at infinity.
For macro work it is of course essential.
When the lens is stopped down to a relatively
small aperture, as advised in the Kodak
publication, exposure times can be long, which
again makes the use of a tripod unavoidable.
|The 180mm Xenar requires a slightly
greater extension of the bellows in order to
achieve infinity focus, but this makes all the
movements of the bellows unit easily available.
The 180mm Schneider Xenar lens at
infinity focus with front rise & swing to the
The 180mm Schneider Xenar lens at
infinity focus with front fall plus tilt down
The 180mm Schneider Xenar at
infinity focus again with front fall plus tilt
down, viewed from a different angle
Obviously a lens with a
shorter focal length may be desirable for some
situations, and such lenses are available.
Mamiya even offered “balloon bellows” for use on their
bellows unit when extremely wide-angle lenses were
To go on to the next
section, click below.
Next section (Close-up Tubes)
To go back to the
introduction to macro photography, click here.
Click the following link to go on to the
Lens Test section.
© TRA October 2019