The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

Using the Pentacon Six AND digital

Shooting on film and printing digitally is, perhaps, the best solution for many users.

Of course:

  • You may need a scanner that will take Medium Format film – although these are no longer difficult to find, nor expensive (see link below).
  •  – or perhaps you may not need a scanner, see below –
  • You need a fast processor and plenty of RAM on your computer.  My computer from 2003 to 2007 had a 2GHz processor and 1½Gb of RAM, and it could take nearly an hour for my film scanner to scan a colour frame at 16 bits per colour, with the dust correction tool operating, process it, and deposit it in my image-manipulation software!  Since 2007 I have had a computer with a 2.4 GHz dual-core processor and 4 Gb of RAM (of which Windows XP only recognises 3, and the image processing software 2!).  However, this dramatically cuts processing time to typically 10 minutes for the previously-described operation.  With a better-specified computer, you can reduce this to 5 minutes or less, and it will give you a chance to file your negatives, tidy your desk or catch up on some reading while the images are being scanned!
Of course, going the film route may be a lot slower, initially – you have to get the film processed, and then do the scanning in, which is laborious and time-consuming.  However, some labs offer to scan your film when doing the processing for you, so you can shoot on film and receive digital image files (as well as the film)!

Just a couple of days ago I received a great e-mail from a Pentacon Six user who has just discovered this route.  He has kindly given me permission to quote from his e-mail, and I would like you to feel his excitement and joy at the possibilities that this opens for him – and this is someone who already has a high-quality DSLR!

“I am thrilled with being able to digitialize pics that I get from the cam [a Pentacon Six]. It is reasonably priced (Swiss Francs 5 per pic and Swiss Francs 5 for a CD), but it is thrilling to be  able to act on the pics ... I feel now  that I can use my Pentacon six  together with all digital possibities together, which opens up a  whole new field of activity and makes the cam a fantastic tool!  (I printed A3+ printouts with it on my Canon pro9500 printer which are great).

“Sorry for sounding naive, but this  is my first  experience with an analog camera being "digitalized"...  which  makes me only more attached to my Pentacon Six! .... (when one does not have the traditional lab at home). Wanted to share it out of sheer excitement and to add to the relevance  of  Pentacon Six in the digital age.

“Indeed, through digitalising of negatives, one gets the best of both worlds, in terms of quality and also for the sheer pleasure of using these fine techno-optical tools, without sacrificing the possibilities offered by good processing software.
“I like the expectation and excitement of waiting for the results, which is a whole process that gives (in as far as I am concerned) its "flavour" to analog photography and forces one to take pictures in a more deliberate and thought-out way.”

My solution, too, at the moment is to use the Pentacon Six and digital.  For best-possible quality, I shoot on a Pentacon Six or Exakta 66 (occasionally a Kiev 60, Kiev 88 or Hasselblad 500C, 500C/M or SWC/M).  I have the film processed in a lab, having given up on doing my own film processing – although now I am thinking of starting again, mostly to avoid postal delays.  Unless I am testing a lens I get small 5"×5" prints made, which are cheap and serve as proofs only.  I have given up on sending poorly exposed or badly colour-balanced prints back to the lab for re-printing.  It is not worth the hassle, and it’s quicker (even with the scanning times indicated above) to scan them in, re-touch them if necessary to remove any dust, and print them myself so that I get an image that looks the way I remember the original scene.

I have 60cm × 60cm prints on my dining room wall (we feel that larger would be overbearing and out of proportion to the room) and prints in a range of sizes throughout the house.  We occasionally enjoy projecting slides shot with the Pentacon Six / Exakta 66 at anything up to 6 feet wide.  (Digital projection may get there one day, but look at the resolution figures right now – for anything other than a moving image, the quality would be awful at this size.)

What scanners are suitable for Pentacon Six frames?

See my suggestions here.

To go back to the introduction to digital photography, click here.

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

To contact me, click here.


© TRA November 2005, July 2009