The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

Should I buy a Pentacon Six or a Pentax 6×7?

A: The Pentax 6×7 or 67 was inspired by the Pentacon Six, but it is a quite different design.  It is much bigger and much heavier even than the Kiev 60.  It gives 10 pictures for roll of 120 film.  It is totally battery-dependent.  If you shoot slides for projection, you will find your choice of projectors limited to about 1 (Gotschmann)

The shutter is also very noisy, while the Pentacon Six shutter is about the quietest MF camera shutter (quieter than the Hasselblad!) – good for wildlife, shots in theatres, museums and other places where you don’'t want to draw attention to yourself.

The Pentax 6×7 shutter is also famous for the vibration caused when the mirror goes up – effectively making the slower speeds virtually unuseable.  In fact, if you consider that you can hand-hold most cameras at the shutter speed that is the reciprocal of the focal length (for instance, with a 120mm lens, you can hand-hold at 1/125 sec), this is not possible with the Pentax 6×7, according to a review by the staff of the U.K.’s “Amateur Photographer” magazine; they state that you will need to use at least two speeds faster than this – in this example, 1/500 sec.  Some users have gone as far as to say that the Pentax 6×7 “is just not a handheld camera – it needs to be used with a tripod”.

The Pentax 67 is still available new, and the latest version has all sorts of fancy electronics and metering options.  It is a very nice and well-respected camera.  It has the same slow flash-sync speed (c. 1/30 sec) as the Pentacon Six and the Kiev 60, so daylight fill-in flash (e.g., for some parts of wedding photography) is not good with any of these cameras.

The Pentax 67 is of course very expensive.  There is a good range of lenses (though not as good as for the Pentacon Six), and they are reported to be excellent, but are also large, heavy and very expensive.

There is an unrivalled range of superb lenses for the Pentacon Six and the Kiev 60, and new lenses are still being designed and made – for instance, the new shift and tilt lenses.  In my opinion, the lenses are every bit as good as the lenses for the Pentax 6×7, but remember that the Pentax is a slightly larger format, resulting in less enlargement being necessary for the average magazine page – and unless you are printing square, you will crop off a bit of the Pentacon Six or Kiev 60 frame.  This larger format may help, but current film emulsions are so good that you can crop down a 6 × 6 (2¼ inch square) frame into a rectangle and still get superb grain-free enlargements 3 feet high/wide, or even bigger.

I suggest that you try to find a camera fair or a shop that stocks Medium Format cameras, and try out a Pentax 67 and a Pentacon Six / Exakta 66 in your hands, and then decide which you prefer.

To see more information on the Pentax 6×7 compared with the Pentacon Six, click here.

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

To contact me, click here.


© TRA November 2005, February 2010