Pentacon Six System
The History of
the Pentacon Six
The Kiev 6C
Dates: c. 1970
The Kiev 6C with the plain prism.
The horizontal lever on the camera throat is used to
stop down the lens aperture to check depth of field.
This explains why many Arsenal lenses do not have their
own depth-of-field lever.
This camera was made by the Arsenal
company in Kiev, which since about 1947 had been
manufacturing the pre-war German Contax II and III 35mm
rangefinder cameras, which had been re-named “Kiev”.
The Kiev 6C clearly had some degree of
inspiration from the Praktisix or Pentacon Six, and
adopted the same lens mount. Note that “C” is the
Cyrillic alphabet equivalent of Roman alphabet “S”, so
the camera is sometimes described as “6S”. It is stated by some
that this “C” (“s”-sound) was a reference to the lens
mount of the Pentacon Six.
Some Kiev 6C cameras did have
the camera name in letters of the Latin alphabet (new
information received in January 2022, see below).
However, I am not aware of any examples of the name
plate with a Roman alphabet “S”.
Praktisix and Pentacon Six, there are no
projecting spool holder “feet” under the body –
but the fact that the spool holder levers are
recessed within the base merely makes the camera
taller than the Pentacon Six. The Pentacon
Six has the tripod socket under the “throat” to
which the lens is attached (the front half of
the mirror box), so a camera case bolt can be
used (without the case) to provide a third foot,
allowing the camera to sit horizontally on a
flat surface. In the Kiev 6C the tripod
socket is in the camera base, so no such
solution is possible, which is why in these
photos the front of the camera has been placed
on a (non-original) filter and lens cap.
With many lenses, the Pentacon Six and Praktisix
balance better on a tripod than the Kiev 6C.
The camera had strap lugs that
were better placed than on the Praktisix and
Pentacon Six (although those cameras were
usually supplied with a case which had its own
strap). The lugs had a hole to accept
standard triangular metal strap connectors
(visible in the photo to the right), which
were supplied as standard.
In the odd tradition of medium format cameras
from the former Soviet Union, a 1-second
exposure setting was lacking. The
shutter speeds were from ˝- 1/1000 sec plus B.
Another oddity was that on the
Kiev 6C the shutter release had to be operated
by the left hand.
The camera took 120 and 220
film and had a two-position pressure plate
to allow for the different thickness of the
two films (220 film does not have
backing paper apart from at the beginning and
end of the film). This shows a
remarkable attention to detail and the
desire to ensure that the film was both
as flat as possible and in exactly the
right position to give the
This was not to be seen again on a
camera with the Pentacon Six mount until
the introduction of the Exakta 66 in West
Germany in 1984.
The camera was supplied with a
90mm f/2.8 Vega-12B lens with an automatic
diaphragm. (Russian b. For the
difference between “B” and “V” lens mounts,
There was a flash sync socket
on the front of the camera.
The camera was usually supplied
with a folding “waist-level finder”, but a
non-metering prism was available, and
subsequently a metering prism.
The Kiev 6C was a lot bigger,
heavier and noisier than the Praktisix and the
It was supplied with a large
leather outfit case, initially brown, although
later cases were apparently black.
This particular body was made in 1977, and the
lens (originally supplied on another camera) in
|The Kiev 6C had both 120 film
(12 exposure) and 220 film (24 exposure)
A film speed reminder dial on
the right of the camera top plate showed film
speeds in the Russian GOST and European DIN
View from above of the Kiev 6C with plain
The knob top-left in this picture switches
between 120 film (12 exposures) and 220 film (24
In this image, the camera is set for 24
exposures, and the film is on its 20th frame.
1981 version of the Kiev 6C
|The camera in the above illustrations was made in
Later versions of the Kiev 6C had a different
name-plate, as illustrated here in a camera from
1981. This became the name-plate style that
was adopted when the replacement model, the Kiev
60, was introduced.
In January 2022 the following was
received from Mael in France:
- On early Kiev 6C (prototype,
early production 1971 to around 1974 or 1975)
the film pressure plate is smaller and does
not have the 120/220 positions, also there are
two rollers inside the film gate and two
others near the film spools. ... This has been
modified after to increase film flatness and
there were light reflection issues with the
- From beginning of production
to around 1974 the lever advance is in one
metal piece. After comes the metal and plastic
lever. Also the speed selector lever has 2
chrome rings and after only one.
- There are Kiev 6C with Latin
markings for export. Despite being very
rare, they exist. [This has the camera
name as “KIEV - 6C”. We note the use of
“C”, not “S”.]
- We can say that around 1976
the Kiev 6C did not benefit from further
modifications except for the chrome top plate.”
Thank you, Mael, for this information and for
photos of your camera!
of the Kiev 6C
Photograph courtesy of Mael Bilquey
Mael comments: “manufactured in 1977.
(Leatherette is not original, having been
replaced with genuine leather.)”
Clicking on this image opens a larger copy.
To go to the Bibliography, click here.
To go on to the next section, click
30 The Kiev 60
To go to the beginning of the history
section, click here.
To go to introduction to the cameras,
To choose other options, click below.
© TRA June 2010, Revised January 2022