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There is an incredible amount of inaccurate information circulating on the Web about the Praktisix/Pentacon Six family of cameras. These pages will attempt to clear up some of the misconceptions about this equipment.
It is hard to find documentation in English. To be honest, the German documentation also leaves a great deal to be desired.
All information on this site has been verified from multiple sources either by first hand examination or in the Literature. I have attempted to keep everything totally factual. I have added comments where I have actually used the camera or accessory. I have attempted to keep the rumor level to the absolute minimum and they are identified as such.
There are actually several quite good web sites on Praktisix and Pentacon Six cameras. Unfortunately, because they are in German they are unusable for most people. I have included links to them because I have not duplicated most of the pictures. I recommend looking at them for another perspective
This Site is and always will be "A Work in Progress" as we learn more about the Praktisix/Pentacon Six camera family.
I first became interested in the Pentacon Six when I lived in Berlin, Germany. I was attracted to it for many reasons, price being the foremost. I had been interested in medium format for some time and this was a way to get a system camera and accessories at a reasonable cost. Since the lenses had always been favorably reviewed this was a plus. It had also been produced as a system camera making it unique in the Communist photographic world. The system still has much to recommend it to a first time buyer.
In the years following World War II while Germany was still occupied by the four allied powers the allies encouraged the Germans to rebuild their industry for peaceful uses. One of the industries is that was specifically encouraged was the photographic industry. There were several interesting results of this encouragement because the several manufacturers had been split by the partition of Germany. This meant for instance that there was Carl Zeiss in both East and West Germany and this would lead to some interesting occurrences later with Zeiss suing Zeiss.
In East Germany the firm of Kamera Werkstätten decided to introduce a medium format camera. This camera design became the Praktisix family and later the Pentacon Six family of cameras.
Since there is so much misinformation around I would like to clarify a few points.
First there is no relation ship between the Praktisix/Pentacon Six and the Kiev6C/60. They share a common lens mount and film size but they are in no way the same and the Kiev is not the same mechanically. If anything is true the Kiev 60 is a better design.
Second the Zeiss lenses for these cameras are not rip-offs or copies of "genuine Zeiss" lens. The original Zeiss personnel made them in the original Zeiss plant with the original Zeiss designs. Although quality suffered due to lack of material under the communist system and cosmetics were not perfect, in general the optics are excellent.
It is important to note the most common problems with all of these cameras. Although these problems were supposed to have been corrected in the later cameras I would still advise caution.
1. Never, I repeat never allow the film advance lever to snap back after winding the film. This has been the cause of breaking more of these cameras than every other problem combined.
2. Never release the self-timer when the camera is not cocked, again a common way to break the camera.
3. Improper frame spacing is exceptionally common. This can be caused by a broken film advance but the most common cause is improper film loading. Incorrect film tension will cause frame spacing variations due to the film moving different distances with each advance. Part of this problem may also be that new 120 spools have a smaller diameter than the older East German ORWO spools which were used in these cameras. Try using FUJI film which has larger spool diameters.
See the Manuals section for the addenda on proper film loading technique. Many of the cameras I examine that are supposed to have a framing problem suffer merely from improper film loading.
4. The design of the tripod screw socket causes another problem. The socket is shallow and three small screws attach the threaded portion to the camera body casting. This allows for easy conversion between the two standard screw sizes by merely replacing the socket but caused two common problems. If the tripod screw is too long and excessive force is used attaching the tripod either the three small screws will break or in extreme cases the screw will go through the body casting. Either of these cases are abuse but always check any camera that you purchase for these problems.
© Nathan Dayton 2000