Pentacon Six Mount Cameras
by TRA

Loading the Pentacon Six and Exakta 66

Loading the Pentacon Six or Exakta 66 is not difficult.  I find it far easier to load than a Hasselblad (or Kiev 88!) film magazine.  But nor is it as easy as loading many 35mm cameras.  Get the loading wrong with any of these cameras, and you’re going to have problems, the most common of which is overlapping frames.  But having said that, overlapping frames is not common at all, if the camera is loaded properly.

I am grateful to Ron Spillman for his permission to reproduce his article, Snagless Pentacon Loading, which was published in Modern Photography in October 1972.  Here are Ron Spillman’s instructions:

First of all, the camera, by any name, is a first rate 6 × 6cm (2 ¼ × 2 ¼ ) SLR – perfect in every respect except for an abominable instruction manual.  The loading procedure itself is quite simple and reliable, but you won’t find it described correctly in the manual.  That little detail was lost somewhere in the translation from German to English.  Now a printed insert is included with every new manual, supposedly clearing up the whole mess.  But would you believe this insert misses the whole point and just repeats, in better English, the false information of the original?
So, for possibly the first and, hopefully, the last time, here’s the proper way to load your Pentacon/Praktica 66/Praktisix.  Follow the words and pictures in order:

1) Wind the film advance lever all the way forward, BEFORE threading the film, and hold it there.  Now pull the film leader across to the take-up spool.

2) Rock the lever back and forth through about 45 degrees to advance the film, but never let the lever spring back farther than shown in this picture.  Use the thumb of your other hand as a tensioner to keep rolled film taut on take-up [and feed] spool.

[I sometimes put the thumb of my left hand on the edge of the flat plastic top cap of the feed spool, instead of on the backing paper, as shown in the illustration.  This ensures that the film on both spools is kept nice and tight.  (Unlike in the illustration, I operate the film advance lever with my right hand!)]


3) When arrows on paper backing are aligned with white index spot, allow lever to return to parked position,

and close back of camera.

[NEVER release the lever and let it spring back; bring it back gently to its rest position.]

[Fire the shutter!]

4. Wind the lever and fire the shutter three [more] times.  Don’t press the release while lever is in advanced position.

5. Wind the lever a fourth time to bring frame counter to 1, that is, the dot between 0 and 2.



Words in square brackets are mine.  I have used these instructions with every roll since I first bought a Pentacon Six in 1977, and use a similar loading procedure with my Exakta 66.  I carry a copy of the instructions in the back of my camera case at all times.  It is possible to do this with only two hands, and keeping the tension on the two spools is a very important part of it.  If the film unrolls and is loose, you WILL get overlapping frames.  If it is taut, you WON’T (unless the camera is faulty).

If your camera is faulty, a service from a repair person familiar with the Pentacon Six / Exakta 66 should cure the problem.  I recommend Tom Page in England, Rolf-Dieter Baier in Germany and Hans Roskam in the Netherlands.  U.S. friends speak highly of the work of Trescam in New Jersey, although – like many of the best repairers – there is usually quite a slow turn-round time because of the amount of work he has.

If all this doesn’t work, get Rolf-Dieter Baier to fit his control unit, which gives you a visual confirmation that you have advanced the film far enough.  You can contact him via his website (see my Links page).

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© TRA February 2002, November 2008