The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

Wouldn’t it be better to use a digital camera?

Latest Thoughts in March 2022


In March 2022 Hermann wrote to me from Vienna:

Hallo!

I just studied your incredible Pentaconsix site and thought I should make some comment.

I do have a Rolleiflex camera and a Pentaconsix together with 50mm Flektogon, 80mm Biometar and the 180 mm Sonnar and some useful equipment including a studio tripod.

Since 2010 I work digital. I invested about 10,000 € My last camera is a Olympus OM1III with the 12-40mm 2.8 pro and 75mm 1.8 lens plus  a professional printer PRO-200.

With this photographic equipment I never experienced those problems wrote about in site.

Of course I can "only" print A3+ and not 2m or larger but in stupendous quality.

And I do not have to carry almost 10 kg but only 1.5 kg.

Nevertheless the medium format cameras are fine to work with. I just prefer the digital equipment almost exclusively.

Kind regards

Hermann

Here is the reply that I sent him:

Hello Hermann

Thank you for writing.  I congratulate you on the excellent photographs that you have attached.  I see that you have made a large investment in high quality equipment, including an A3+ printer.

The world of digital cameras has made massive advances over the past 20+ years, making delays in firing the shutter insignificant with the best cameras and improving image resolution significantly, especially if one is able to spend a large sum of money, generally several thousand Euros for a new digital camera, especially if it is in the digital "medium format", which is of course a lot smaller than film medium format cameras.

I occasionally use digital cameras, but almost always with lenses from the pre-digital era, mostly from Carl Zeiss Jena and Arsenal Kiev.  This gives me much greater control of the image, including depth of field, and provides shift possibilities for architectural photography and tilt possibilities for product photography, either by using lenses that have these possibilities or by using a shift or tilt adapter.

Putting a medium format shift lens onto a tilt adapter, or a medium format tilt lens onto a shift adapter also gives me the possibility of combining both of these features when taking certain sorts of photographs.  With a shift lens or a shift adapter, for certain types of photography I can combine two or more images in software, to give a wider angle of view and higher resolution.

You may wish to explore some of these possibilities with your Flektogon, Biometar and Sonnar lenses.  I have found them to give excellent results on the "full frame" Sony A7Rii and on the "medium format" Fujifilm GFX 50S, using the adapters supplied by Sergey of Hartblei, which are exceptionally good.  In contrast, my Foto**** Pro adapter is very poor, as the lock does not work adequately, so the lens slides down, sags or droops (tilts) forward while being used, no matter how much I tighten it up.

I wish you success and enjoyment in your photography.

With best wishes

Mr Pentacon Six

Let us now look in more detail at that option of using Pentacon Six lenses on digital cameras.  The development of mirrorless digital cameras with interchangeable lenses makes using Pentacon Six lenses and even lenses from 35mm SLR cameras easy: there is almost always enough space for an adapter between the back of the lens and the camera.

Crop Factor

We must remember that the formats of sensors in digital cameras are usually different from the film formats of the pre-digital era.

Some Analogue Formats Some Common Digital Formats
Format name
Frame dimensions
Format name
Sensor dimensions
(APS-C1
35mm SLR
Medium Format 6 × 6
25.1. × 16.7 mm)
24 × 36mm
54 × 54mm
APS-C.
“Full frame”
“Medium Format”
25.1 × 16.7 mm2
24 × 36mm
43.8 × 32.9mm3


Notes
1 Not that common in analogue format; introduced along with several other small formats towards the end of the 20th century
2 According to Wikipedia here on 15.3.22.
3 Here I give the dimensions for the Fujifilm GFX series of cameras.  There are other cameras that designate themselves as being “Medium Format” that have sensors of other sizes.

These differences in sensor sizes have advantages and disadvantages:

Disadvantages
Advantages
If the sensor size is smaller than the film format for which the lens was designed:
  • it will not show the full image captured by the lens.
  • This is a particular disadvantage when shooting landscapes, interiors or other scenes where a wide angle lens gives the best coverage.
If the sensor size is smaller than the film format for which the lens was designed:
  • the image captured will normally be from the central area of the lens, which is generally the sharpest zone.
  • The extra area covered by the lens will enable it to be used shifted and/or tilted, via suitable adapters.


Adapters for using Pentacon Six Lenses on Digital Cameras

For “Full Frame” mirrorless cameras such as the Sony E cameras, it is easy to find mounts both for “analogue era” M42 lenses designed for 35mm cameras and for Pentacon Six lenses. 


Two “no name” lens adapters for Sony E mount cameras:
on the left, for M42 lenses, on the right for lenses with the Pentacon Six mount

[M42-P6_Sony_E.jpg]

On this camera I have covered over the manufacturer’s name to prevent it from being reflected on the subject in close-up and macro photographs.

A Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm Tessar lens in M42 mount for Praktica cameras on a Sony “Full Frame” camera.
This lens gives superb results and is regularly used for “product shots” on this website.

[50mmT_Sony_E.jpg]
    

A Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm Biometar lens in Pentacon Six mount on a Sony “Full Frame” camera
On the 24 × 36mm format, this lens is ideal for portraits, but also has many other uses.  Its quality is well known from its use taking pictures on the Pentacon Six.

[80mmBm_Sony_E.jpg]


Using Pentacon Six lenses on a “Medium Format” digital camera

Lenses designed for the Pentacon Six are of course ideal for the newer “Medium Format” digital cameras.  In the world of digital photography, this title is claimed by any manufacturer of a camera that has a sensor larger than the “Full Frame” 24 × 36mm format.  As indicated above, the Fujifilm GFX cameras have a sensor that is 43.8mm wide × 32.9mm high.  Fujifilm currently has five cameras in this range:
  • the Fujifilm GFX 50R, the design of which is inspired by rangefinder cameras
  • the Fujifilm GFX 50S, the design of which is inspired by SLR cameras, therefore with a viewfinder of approximately pentaprism shape (although it is electronic and does not contain a pentaprism).  These two cameras generate images that are approximately 51 Megapixels in size.
  • the Fujifilm GFX 50S II, which is a newer version of the above camera
  • the Fujifilm GFX 100S has a built-in vertical grip and generates images that are approximately 102 Megapixels in size
  • the Fujifilm GFX 100S II, which is a newer version of the above camera, without the vertical grip and somewhat smaller, partly due to the use of smaller batteries.
Enter HARTBLEI

Hartblei Cameras
.



[pentasix01.jpg]
    
The name Hartblei will probably be well known to visitors to this website.  About the turn of the century, this name appeared on cameras that were highly upgraded versions of the Kiev 60 and Kiev 88 cameras. As reported here, Wiese Fototechnik in Hamburg, Germany, worked closely with Hartblei for a number of years and sold Hartblei products re-badged under the Wiese or “Pentasix” name.

The camera shown here is a much-improved Kiev 60:
  • Flocking (see here) has been added to the back of the mirror plate and the bottom of the camera throat, to eliminate the infamous reflections that sometimes ruin pictures taken with an unmodified Kiev 60.
  • A mirror pre-release has been added, and using this is simpler and faster than the option offered for the Pentacon Six and the Exakta 66 Mk III (see here).  What is more, a lever has been added, to bring the mirror back down without firing and cocking the shutter, if circumstances change.
  • A new focussing screen has been installed, incorporating split-image “rangefinder” wedges.
  • Finally, a cosmetic improvement: the top and bottom plates of the camera, which are normally chrome, have been painted black.
You can see more about this camera here.

Hartblei Lenses



Then Hartblei produced a series of lenses in Pentacon Six mount, based on Kiev Arsenal lenses for the Kiev 60, but with vastly-improved barrels, multi-coating and silky-smooth lubrication.  For reports on some of these lenses, see the links on the data page on Pentacon Six lenses, here.

Click on the image to the right to see it larger.
  

The Hartblei 45mm Super-Rotator Shift-Tilt lens
[c370_31a_s.jpg]

Hartblei Adapters

For a number of years, Hartblei, based in Kiev (now known by the Ukraininan name of Kyiv), has also produced superb lens adapters.  We will mention a few of them here.  The first adapters of which I am aware were to enable Pentacon Six and M42 lenses to be used on various cameras.  My experience is limited to their adapters for Fujifilm GFX cameras, which are superb.  They also now produce fantastic adapters to enable Mamiya RB67/RZ67 lenses to be used on the Fujifilm GFX series cameras.

“Basic” Hartblei adapters for the Fujifilm GFX

Hartblei make simple but strong adapters to enable Pentacon Six lenses to be used on Fujifilm GFX cameras.  The results should be superb, as Pentacon Six lenses are designed to cover a larger format than the Fujifilm GFX 43.8 × 32.9mm sensor.

What is perhaps surprising is that Hartblei also also make an adapter for mounting M42 lenses onto the Fujifilm GFX cameras.  This may be unexpected, as M42 lenses are not designed to cover the size of the GFX sensor.  However, some of them do cover it.  In fact quite a few lenses for 35mm SLR cameras perform excellently on the Fujifilm GFX cameras.  Quite a few, but not all, so it is advisable to do some tests before using a given 35mm camera lens on the GFX.  One needs to check especially for vignetting (darkening of the corners) and resolution outside the original intended area of 24mm × 36mmm.

Generally, wide angle lenses are not good at covering the larger sensor size, but lenses for 35mm cameras that I have tested with a focal length from about 100mm on have performed extremely well on the GFX.

  
On the left, an adapter to use M42 lenses and on the right to use Pentacon Six lenses on the Fujifilm “Medium Format” GFX digital cameras
[M42_P6_GFX.jpg]


M42 lenses on the GFX

 
Here we see a 135mm Zeiss f/3.5 Sonnar lens – the best of all the M42 lenses that I tested!  It could be a great portrait lens on this camera, and it is small and light-weight.
[135CZ_on_GFX_s.jpg]
  
Here we see the Schneider-Kreuznach 28mm Super-Angulon shift lens.  Even though it is a wideangle lens, its greater image circle means that it does cover the GFX sensor (unshifted).
[28mm_Super_Ang_s.jpg]
 

Click on the above two images to see them larger.


Pentacon Six lenses on the GFX

 
The Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm Biometar lens in Pentacon Six mount on the Fujifilm GFX 50S, via the Hartblei adapter
[80Bm_GFX_01_s.jpg]
  

The 120mm Vega lens from Arsenal is very good on the Fuji GFX camera.
[120Vega_GFX_01_s.jpg]


Click on the above two images to see them larger.

Hartblei Pentacon Six Lens Shift and Tilt adapters for Fujifilm GFX cameras

We called the above two Hartblei GFX adapters “Basic” Hartblei adapters for the Fujifilm GFX, our term, not theirs.  But we have used it because Hartblei also make Shift and Tilt Adapters for using Pentacon Six mount lenses on Fujifilm GFX cameras.  As we would expect from Hartblei, these adapters are sturdily made and can take any lens, no matter how heavy.  They also  provide a strong tripod mount base that will take a standard tripod screw, and they also incorporate an Arca-Swiss compatible “Quick Release” plate.

  
The Hartblei Shift adapter for Pentacon Six lenses on Fuji GFX cameras provides 12mm of shift, and as the mount can be rotated through 360°, the shift can be in any direction.


[P6_Shift_GFX_01_s.jpg]
      
The Hartblei Tilt Adapter for Pentacon Six lenses on Fuji GFX cameras provides up to 8° of tilt, and as the mount can be rotated through 360°, the tilt can be in any direction, to increase depth of field, or, used in the opposite direction, to reduce it if required.


[P6_Tilt_GFX_01_s.jpg]
  

Click on the above two images to see them larger.

Here we show two examples of Carl Zeiss Jena lenses in Pentacon Six mount used on a Fuji GFX50S via the Hartblei Shift and Tilt adapters.

 
50mm Flektogon, here fully shifted up
The results with this combination are SUPERB.
By shooting with the adapter shifted in various directions, and stitching the images together,
one is able to obtain coverage equal to a lens of approximately 32mm,
and the resolution of the composite picture is massive.
(See below.)
[50mm_Flek_shift_s.jpg]
For more on shift lenses see here and links from here.
  

180mm Sonnar, here fully tilted down
Again, both the cover and the resolution are FANTASTIC,
which will come as no surprise to those who have used this lens.
It also performs faultlessly on the shift adapter, fully covering the sensor even at maximum tilt.
[180mm_S_tilt_s.jpg]

For more on tilt lenses see here and links from here.
 
Click on the above two images to see them larger.

Examples of the use of the Hartblei shift adapter for Pentacon Six lenses on Fujifilm GFX cameras can be found here.

As I stated in my reply to Hermann above, p
utting a medium format shift lens onto a tilt adapter, or a medium format tilt lens onto a shift adapter also gives me the possibility of combining both of these features when taking certain sorts of photographs.

It is of course also possible to put a shift lens onto the shift adapter and use the combined shift of both items (for instance, 12mm + 12mm = 24mm of shift), subject to the covering power of the lens.

Likewise, a tilt lens can be put onto the tilt adapter, to increase the range of total tilt (often 8º + 8°), to increase (or intentionally reduce!) the effective sharp area of the image, again subject to the covering power of the lens.

Using Pentacon Six lenses on the Fujifilm GFX 50S

For the results of my initial tests of using Pentacon Six and M42 mount lenses on the Fujifilm GFX 50S, see here.

For more information on the covering potential of lenses (their “image circle”), see here.

Hartblei Mamiya 67 lens Adapter to Pentacon Six Bellows, with an Adapter for Fujifilm GFX cameras

This adapter set consists of two rings:
  • a Mamiya RZ67 lens mount to the front of the Pentacon Six bellows
  • a Pentacon Six lens mount to the Fujifilm GFX camera, on the back of the Pentacon Six bellows.
Using these two adapter rings on Pentacon Six bellows permits infinity focus for Mamiya RZ67 lenses on the Fujifilm GFX – but not on the Pentacon Six, as the combination of the Pentacon Six bellows and the two adapter rings is longer than the available space in front of the Pentacon Six camera (the flange register distance of the RB/RZ 67 lens).  Nearly all of the RZ67 lenses do not have their own focussing mechanism, using instead bellows that are built into the camera.  With these adapter rings from Hartblei on the Pentacon Six bellows, a very wide focussing range is possible on the GFX camera.

The minimum extension of the Pentacon Six bellows is 19mm, as described here.  To achieve infinity focus with the RZ67 lens, the bellows are extended by three millimetres, making a total extension for infinity focus of 22mm, plus the length of the two Hartblei adapter rings.

This image was captured on my phone.  The poor quality is immediately obvious, even when reproduced small on this website.  Nevertheless, those who are curious can see a larger copy by clicking on the image.

   
[75_P6bell_GFX_01_s.jpg]

Hartblei also produces an extremely sophisticated shift adapter to mount Mamiya 67 lenses on Fuji GFX cameras.  This adapter permits shift up to 12mm in any direction, and of course it includes a focussing mechanism that can be adjusted by hand but is best driven by a Follow Focus geared mechanism such as the FOTGA DP500 2S or III.

The apparent difference between the position of the camera viewfinder in this image and in the preceding one is due to the fact that here I have added the Fuji Viewfinder Tilt Adapter between the top of the camera and the viewfinder.  This enables the viewfinder to be raised up to 90° in relation to the camera (effectively, an electronic angle finder), as well as to be swivelled to the left and to the right to permit easier viewing when standing behind the camera is either not possible or is not desirable (perhaps to avoid casting a shadow onto the subject, for instance, in macro work).

For an introduction to this system, see here.
  

The combination of Mamiya RZ67 75mm lens, Hartblei focussing and shift adapter, Fotga Follow Focus system and Fujifilm GFX camera
This is clearly designed to be used mounted on a tripod.
[Hartblei_set_08_s.jpg]
Click on the above image to see it larger.  

Where can I buy Hartblei gear?




[hartbleilens_s.jpg]
  
The genius behind Hartblei is Sergey Naumenko, a highly-skilled engineer, to judge from the equipment that he designs and manufactures.

His eBay seller name is “hartbleilens”.

His website is https://hartbleilens.com/

Click on the
“business card” on the left to see it a little larger.

Counting the Cost

The Hartblei adapters are not going to be cheap, but nor are the Fujifilm lenses for these cameras.  One can expect to pay in the region of £1,500 for the cheapest of Fujifilm’s GFX lenses, and many lenses are in the range £2,200 – £2,500 each.  For the owner of lenses in the Pentacon Six mount, buying one or more Hartblei adapters could well be the best way to go.

And Hartblei adapters are at the pinnacle of quality, with the best design features and no internal reflections (in contrast with adapters from some other well-known sources!).  Lenses held in Hartblei adapters don’t “droop”; they stay where you put them.  Remember that many lenses with a Pentacon Six or Mamiya 67 mount are quite large and heavy.  Adapters from some other manufacturers are just not well enough designed, nor are they strong enough to hold the lenses where they are put.  Their lack of an adequate internal finish also causes internal reflections that reduce contrast and often degrade the image to the point where it is unusable.

Using the Mamiya RZ67 75mm lens with the Hartblei adapter, it is possible to use the lens shift sideways and the Hartblei shift up and down, to shoot nine images in three rows of three, which Christopher Leggett calls “DAS”, which stands for “Dual Axis Shift”.  The images then need to be stitched together on a computer.  At the time of writing (16th March 2022) his video on using a prototype version of the above outfit, entitled “GFX 100 Using HARTBLEI RBZ-S Adapter with Mamiya 75mm RZ 67 Lens with DAS” can be seen on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fg7BSal1ILw  It is highly recommended.  See also his video “Macro Old and New”, here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3pNHVDHrao (Last viewed on the same date)

Computer requirements

One must remember that going down the route of high-resolution digital capture is a long journey with many implications, some of them quite costly.  In my short experience with this outfit, I have found that when nine images shot on a “mere” Fujifilm GFX 50S are stitched together, the resultant image is a little over 500MB in size.  So two images will occupy more than a Gigabyte of computer storage space.  What is more, processing such large files requires a powerful computer.  Christopher Leggett reports that his 2019 Mac Pro Desktop computer has the following specifications:
  • Processor: 2.5 GHz 28-core Intel Xeon W
  • RAM Memory: 512GB 2933 MHz DDR4
  • Graphics card: AMD Radeon Pro Vega II with 32 GB memory
Added to this will be suitable on-board storage, external backup storage and possibly cloud storage (quite a few Terabytes!).  Many photographers will also consider that a high-specification laptop will be needed to go with them when taking photographs, so that images can be processed on-site and the camera may even be used tethered to the laptop.  Christopher says, “Tethering is a must if shooting DAS.”

Christopher gives some information on his computer system and monitors here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB4uOXZRaZs&t=70s (viewed on 18.3.22).

The Future

So have I stopped using the Pentacon Six camera?  Not at all!  When I go on a trip, I prefer to “travel light” with a Pentacon Six and a few lenses!  Likewise at home, I sometimes prefer the simplicity of using a Pentacon Six and some of the superb lenses made for it, when I don’t need a 500 Megapixel file and can settle for an image that has a file size of a “mere” 300 or so Megabytes, without any need to stitch component images together!

To see the results of tests with various lenses on the GFX camera, via the Hartblei adapters, click here.

For reports on early tests of stitching, click here.

To go back to the Lens Data page, click here.

You can contact me here:

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© TRA March 2022 Revised May 2022, Minor correction June 2024