The Pentacon SIX is one of the most legendary medium format classics. There are numerous websites dedicated to this East German cult camera. And with reason: even in 2020, the results are comparable with those of a 48 MP digital reflex camera. For less than Euro 200 you can be in possession of one the remaining ones with some search on ebay. Built as a solid tank, the camera has no charm with its no-nonsense look, but I fell in love instantly with this chubby lady that performs as one of the best and constitutes the ideal entrance in the 6×6 medium format range.
The Pentacon SIX (TL) was produced onwards from 1966 and has survived until the early nineties. She is regularly mentioned in the same breath with two other classics, the Exakta 66 and the Kiev 60, also medium-sized classics with similar specifications. Yet only the Pentacon got a real cult status. In 2002 the first real fansite (pentaconsix.com) appeared with numerous information, tips and manuals for the use of the camera and the many lenses and accessories.
The TL addition refers to the look-through-the-lens focus through the waist-finder on top of the camera. With the help of an extra loupe, fine-grained focus can be achieved, without any further indication in the prism. For a starting user, that is also the most fun feature. You look down through the viewfinder and through the lens. Moreover, the image is mirrored, everything on the right is on the left and vice versa. It takes some effort to orientate. For a starting user, that is also the most fun feature. You look down through the viewfinder and through the lens. Moreover, the image is mirrored, everything on the right is on the left and vice versa. It takes some effort to orientate. It is also difficult to keep the 1.5 kg heavy camera horizontal, many photos have to be adjusted later in a photo editor. The viewfinder folds open on top of the camera and can be closed again after use. You can only see through it when the shutter is loaded.
The Pentacon has no light meter, but this is optionally present on alternative viewers (even from other brands such as Exakta or Kiev 60), albeit manually. There is no communication with the camera anywhere. You set the aperture and shutter speeds yourself, somewhere between 1s and 1 / 1000s or Bulb. A manual lightmeter is recommended. The camera has a connection for a manual shutter release and flash. No hot shoe, but there are possibilities to connect extras via the tripod connection. the 120 mm film can be inserted at the back, a delicate operation for which you should first watch a youtube instruction video from the “Pentacon Six Expert”, which is also fun to watch!
Once the film is loaded, the real pleasure that you can experience with this camera starts. A true feast for the real photographer. At least if you like an adventure, want to get a lot of attention and have to think twelve times before you press the shutter release button. That is the maximum number of 6×6 negatives that you can shoot. The camera works great and shows high tolerances for small (exposure) errors. Those who do not shoot with extreme low or high shutter speeds, can look forward to a good result. With a time of 125th of a second you usually are on the safe side under normal daylight conditions. My first color role came out great. Above expectations sharp, very sharp photos with an incredibly high dynamic range. The power of 6×6 film.
But above all there is the fun of manual shooting work, choosing a composition, precise focusing, aperture (you can’t see the effect by the way, because the aperture is always at it’s maximum opening due to being able to look through the waist finder. It switches to your preset value once you take the photo!). Unloading the film requires turning a switch to rewind the film back into the loader. The camera is cursed and praised. For many people, film loading in particular is – mainly due to impatience – a troubling and sometimes dramatic experience (half photos on separate negatives). But those who exactly follow the instructions can count on success. The old lady deserves the attention it needs.
The PentaconSIX is a robust camera that can take a beating, is suitable for multiple (outstanding) lenses and accessories. But already in the original version, the camera lends itself perfectly as a professional entry level camera into the world of medium format photography. Once again the results are certainly comparable with the output of a digital 48 MP reflex camera. The scanned negatives display a very large dynamic space to make all desired improvements with photo editors. But even the original pictures contain the beautiful vintage colors or Black and White sphere of the classic Kodak or Fuji films.
The camera is ideal for portrait photography, but I myself was extremely satisfied with the landscape capabilities. It takes getting used to the square format, but love quickly strikes with this vintage legend. In the next section we tell you about the real miracle in front of the Pentacon SIX: it’s famous and dedicated Carl Zeiss lenses.
Here a 360 degree interactive view:
Over time I collected some really useful information about the camera and its rarities, but in almost every case there is an answer to your question or solution to your problem.
The original manual is still available, thanks to the guys at Butkus.us, the most comprehensive database on old cameras. How to load a film in the Pentacon, is very patiently and correctly explained on Youtube by The pentacon Six expert. The guy from The Art of Photography also loves the camera and has a very thoroughly video reviewing and explaining the pentacon.