The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

The History of the Pentacon Six

A new name for the mirror Contax camera: The development of the name Pentacon

The company was now called VEB Zeiss Ikon, following its expropriation by the communist authorities in East Germany.  It tried to overcome legal challenges to its name by a series of labelling changes: some cameras were labelled “Z I” instead of having the Zeiss Ikon logo, and on some of them the Ernemann tower logo replaced the Zeiss Ikon logo, while on others there was no logo at all.

The Contax F

The Contax F had a bar in the camera throat that actuated an aperture pin in the lens.  This is not a Fully-Automated Diaphragm (“FAD”), as the spring-loaded aperture has to be “wound up” after each exposure by turning the ring on the front of the lens.  The “FM” model, illustrated below, was supplied with a focussing screen that had split-image focussing wedges.

Finally, the (East German) manufacturers of the mirror-reflex Contax  were forced to drop the names Zeiss Ikon and Contax altogether, and so had to find a new name.  This process was inspired by the procedure that had led to the invention of the Contax name itself a little over twenty years earlier: combine parts of two words.  What could be better than referring to the heart of the new concept?  Thus, pentaprism + Contax gave the word Pentacon.

A Contax FM labelled for export, with the new name Pentacon and the Ernemann Tower logo.
Note that the winding and rewinding knobs are also now larger than on the earlier cameras.
The lens, too, has been prepared for export to a country where the name “Carl Zeiss” could not be used, either (probably the USA): it is merely labelled “Jena”

The evolution of the name.
On the middle camera one can see the little foot  which they all have at the front of the chassis, to enable the camera to stand on a flat surface.
This feature was also on the pre-war Contax II and III.

Pentaprism + Contax = Pentacon or Pentaprism + Contax= Pentax?

There was clearly some discussion in Dresden about the best new name to use.  An alternative name derived from the same two words was also created and registered for VEB Zeiss Ikon: pentaprism + Contax: Pentax.  However, this name was used on very few cameras, and the name was subsequently sold after 1954 to Asahi Kogaku Company of Japan (Schulz, p 45).

A new logo

To replace the Zeiss Ikon lens elements symbol, a simplified outline drawing of the tower on the top of the Ernemann building in Dresden was adopted.

In time, “Pentacon” evolved from being the name of a camera to become the name of a conglomerate of companies, in a series of reorganisations and amalgamations of various camera and lens manufacturers in East Germany over the forty years that began in the late 1940s, and the Ernemann tower logo continued to be used throughout that time.

You can see a very special edition of the Pentacon F here.

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06 The inspiration for a “T-shaped” Medium Format SLR

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© TRA August 2010  Latest revision: October 2018