Medium Format Lenses with the Pentacon Six Mount
A comparative test
by TRA


These tests have been extremely demanding.  As I said when describing the scene chosen, sometimes, the difference in image quality jumps out at the viewer.  Sometimes, the naked eye canít see any difference in quality in 8 × 8 inch prints.  At these points, I examined details at the centre, edges and corners, using a loupe that gave 7× magnification.  This is equivalent to studying close-up a print 56" × 56" (4 feet 8 inches × 4 feet 8 inches, or 1 metre 42 centimetres × 1 metre 42 centimetres)!  When this degree of magnification is needed to reveal a difference, which is the case with some of the lenses tested, that difference is small indeed, and the lens that comes in second Ė or even third Ė place may still be extremely good.

As you would expect, the finish with the Schneiders is WAY BETTER than with the Arsenal lenses. The differences between Joseph Schneider and Carl Zeiss Jena are a lot less obvious, although minor differences in optical quality are sometimes discernible. The finish of the Carl Zeiss Jena lenses is in my experience every bit as good as the finish of the Schneider lenses. Sometimes, I canít see any difference in optical quality, though occasionally a very sharp-eyed friend guesses correctly when given comparison shots to judge. Sometimes a Zeiss lens beats a Schneider; sometimes it is the other way round.

If you havenít got an Exakta 66 Ė or you have one but donít intend to get the TTL prism Ė there is little argument in favour of the Joseph Schneider lenses over Carl Zeiss Jena, other than that they match the cameraís finish cosmetically, and are generally a bit lighter, because of their smaller maximum apertures.

[C374-24] So you said there wasnít a lens in the Pentacon Six mount for what you wanted to do?!

Judging by price, Arsenal generally wins, with Carl Zeiss Jena second and Schneider a poor third (the lenses are VERY expensive!). Judging by mechanical quality, Schneider and Zeiss easily share first place. Judging by optical quality, most of the prizes go to Schneider and Zeiss, although occasionally Ė as with the 65mm Mir Ė Arsenal produces a lens which is at least joint first, optically, if not mechanically. For 30mm, there is no competition in this mount, so itís just as well that Arsenalís Zodiak is superb. For shift and tilt lenses, there is apparently a Schneider lens that we would expect to be superb, and exorbitantly expensive, if we could find it. The Arsenal/Hartblei lenses are available, affordable and excellent, especially the 55mm lens.

Note: to find out information on the bellows lenses, go to the Exakta 66 bellows section here, the Schneider data section here and the report on the macro lenses here.

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© TRA January 2002, November 2008