The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

How to check a Pentacon Six before purchase

How-to-do-it Video Tutorials

I have made and up-loaded two videos that show you how to check a Pentacon Six prior to purchase.  I suggest that you work through this description, clicking on the links at the appropriate points to see the videos.


Is this camera jammed?

Q:  I recently received the following e-mail from a visitor to this website:


Can you help a P6 novice with some advice please?

I was at a market stall yesterday morning and found a pair of Pentacon Sixes with lenses. The stall holder said a customer had fiddled with them until the film advance lever was stuck. It was indeed immobile but I did not know about the little de-blocking lever under the advance lever: is it possible this is the likely solution, unknown by the seller?

A:  My reply, in part, said:


Thank you for your e-mail.  I am glad to hear that you found my website and surprised that you have found TWO Pentacon Sixes on a market stall.  It could indeed be the case that a customer had wound and fired the shutter until it automatically blocked after the twelfth exposure.  It could also be the case that the cameras have been damaged by a previous owner (or even the customer referred to), and that is why they are on the market stall.

Of course, now you have discovered that little film advance de-blocking lever, you can go back to the market stall, pull it back with a fingernail and see if the shutter lever will now advance.

If that is alright, you can (and should) then pull down the little latch at the bottom on the left-hand side (holding the cameras in taking position) and open the back.  The film counter, visible under a small window in the film advance lever, should immediately spring back to its start position.

You will then be able to view one of the shutter curtains.  If the shutter is advanced, press the shutter release button while the back is open and the two curtains should move very fast to the left, so that you end up seeing the other shutter curtain.  If you press the shutter release button and nothing happens, the shutter is not advanced (or the camera is faulty!).  You will be looking at the right-hand shutter curtain.  Gently advance the shutter lever with the back open and you will see the two shutter curtains move to the right, ending up with the left-hand curtain fully covering the opening.

Return the film advance (and shutter-cocking) lever to its rest position with your thumb - never let it fly back on its own.

Check that there is no damage to either shutter curtain.

There must be no gap between the shutter curtains while they are being advanced.  Fire the shutter with the back open, and the first shutter will move to the left, followed by the second one.  Advance the shutter again, change the shutter speed dial and fire the shutter again.  At speeds from 1/60 sec down to "B", you should be able to see and hear the difference between the shutter speeds.  At the higher speeds this difference is harder to see and hear, but you should check them anyway, and make sure that the shutter curtains travel smoothly without sticking or slowing down at any point in their travel.

If the cameras and the lenses are in excellent cosmetic condition and the price is VERY low, it could be worth buying them even if they are faulty, but you may wish to check the cost of a service first.  All mechanical equipment requires servicing from time to time, and if these cameras have been left unused for years, they probably need to stripped down and have the internal grease removed, as it has probably hardened, and then be relubricated and adjusted.  After that, with regular use they should work faultlessly for years, possibly for decades.

I have now made two videos that show me going through some basic checks with two Pentacon Sixes.

Basic checks before buying a Pentacon Six - Part I

The first video is here.

This is a late-production Pentacon Six from 1989 or 1990

The second camera that I looked when making these videos at was older and may have been made from parts.  The camera back had the old 1Q logo, which was used with some of the Praktisixes and possibly some earlier Pentacon Sixes.  However, the lens locking ring was the new, larger, black ring that was introduced in about 1972.  The "zebra" lens could have come with the camera when it was new.  See more information on the dates of Zeiss lenses here.  Perhaps at that time the factory was still using up old backs, or the older leatherette that had the 1Q logo.

Also, the waist-level finder looked much newer than the camera, which was why I thought that it was not the original waist-level finder.

Basic checks before buying a Pentacon Six - Part II

The second video is here.

My thanks to Tom Page for being my cameraman for the shooting of these two videos!

This Pentacon Six probably dates from between 1972 and 1974.

Update (2 days later)

Tom has just given me feedback on the second video.

Approximately one minute 30 seconds into the second video, after I have fired the shutter, we can see the second (right-hand) shutter curtain, which has just travelled across the film gate from right to left.

Tom points out that we can still see the capping bar of the right-hand curtain.  I have labelled it "A" on the image to the right.  This means that the second (right-hand) curtain hasn't fully completed its travel, as the capping bar should have completely disappeared within the left-hand opening (where the left-hand curtain is accommodated after firing).

In fact, I believe that I can even see a tiny gap to the left of the curtain.  I have labelled it "B" on this photo.  It may be a shadow that I am seeing, not a gap, but in any case, the shutter curtain should go all the way to the left, and it has clearly not done so.  This shutter needs a service.

To help you compare this with a correctly-working shutter, here is a frame from the first video:

The right-hand curtain after firing the shutter in a correctly-working Pentacon Six.
The arrow shows the point where the shutter curtain capping bar can be seen on the faulty camera.
On this camera, it has fully completed its travel and so can't be seen.
This frame is 4 minutes 18 seconds in from the beginning on the first video.

Capping bar of right-hand curtain

On the second video, when I heard the shutter fire on the 1/125 sec setting, I said that it didn't sound right, and indeed it didn't.  I know, because I have been shooting with Pentacon Sixes for years, and 1/125 sec is one of the speeds that I use most frequently.

So what can you do to help you recognise if the shutter sounds wrong?

I suggest that you listen to the shutter in the first video (the one with the correctly-working camera!), several times, to get used to what it should sound like at different speeds.  Then, when you hear a shutter that is faulty, you are more likely to notice the difference.

Q:  The writer also had a second question:


My second question is about the prism. The ones I handled had a fold-out waist-level viewer. I wasn't looking for, but did not see any metering mechanism. Do these models require a separate hand-held meter? And can I remove the WLF and replace with a metering prism?

Many thanks in advance. By the way, your video tutorials are great and I'm going through them now in the hope I can buy the Pentacons I saw yesterday and start shooting!



A:  My reply was:


The fold-out waist-level finder is the standard finder.  There is no metering within any of these cameras.  They can be used with a hand-held meter, and some people like to use them that way, but I have added a metering prism to most of my Pentacon Sixes.  These are regularly available on eBay.

I hope that this information helps you.  You could benefit from viewing some of my videos, which are on YouTube, with links from my website.  These will give you some tips on how to handle the camera.

Best regards

"Mr Pentacon Six"

In the above videos I also show you how to open the waist-level finder and how to remove it.

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

To return to the instructions front page, click here.

To contact me, click here.


TRA October 2013