The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

Should I buy a Pentacon Six or a Kiev 88CM?

The Kiev 88CM is the latest version of the Kiev clone (if that is what it is!) of the original focal plane Hasselblad camera, first launched in the late 1940s.

You may be thinking of buying a Kiev 88CM if you:

  • require interchangeable film backs
  • want to use a Polaroid back
  • prefer the cube camera shape to the 35mm SLR style of the Pentacon Six.
The Kiev 88 is an intrinsically more complicated design that has more that can go wrong than a Pentacon Six or Kiev 60.
  • Combining the shutter speed selection and the film advance in one knob has caused many Kiev 88s to fail. 
    • Only change speed after winding on!  (This still applies to current models!)
    • In earlier versions the shutter speed dial should only be rotated clock-wise; rotating it anti-clockwise will cause the camera to break!  I believe that this retriction no longer applies – I certainly hope that it doesn’t, as it is so easy to rotate the shutter speed dial in the other direction!
  • Having a removable back just about guarantees that sooner or later you will have light leaks that will ruin some of your shots (I have had this with my Hasselblad, too!)
Dealers and writers of magazine articles desperate to find excuses to criticise the Pentacon Six or Exakta 66 sometimes said that a major fault was that – in contrast to the Hasselblad –  these cameras didn’t have interchangeable backs.  (Of course, neither did the Pentax 6×7!)  What they didn’t use to say was that for less than the cost of one Hasselblad back you could get a whole second Pentacon Six body, with its own shutter speeds, lens mount and viewfinder.  Which would you rather have on an important assignment or a once-in-a-lifetime trip: a second film holder, or a whole second camera as a backup?  In any case, picking up another camera is a lot faster than changing backs.

Of course, if you must have a Polaroid back facility, the Kiev 88 is the only way to go.

Otherwise, I recommend that you get a Pentacon Six, Exakta 66 or Kiev 60.

To go back to the Frequently-asked Questions front page, click here.

If your question is not answered, you are welcome to Contact me


© TRA November 2005