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Pentacon Six Mini Review – Getting to Know the Camera – Part 2 – By Holly Gilman

October 27, 2020

I was so pleased by the positive response to my previous mini review of the Pentacon Six that I thought I would provide a little update on how my journey with it is going. If you are interested in reading that first part you can find it here.

Something that I didn’t do before is explain how I came to own my Pentacon Six. I hadn’t even finished shooting my first roll of 35mm film* when I was overcome with the joy of shooting manually and went wild learning about the different formats and different cameras and I came across Ted Forbes videos on his channel The Art of Photography. I took a punt and bid on a camera from the Ukraine. And, in the interest of sharing good resources, anyone who has or is thinking about getting a Pentacon Six needs to know about the Pentacon Six website – a treasure trove of information and the first place I go with any questions on my equipment.

*I know this because there is a photo of the Pentacon at the end of that first roll!

Shot 30

Shot 30 – my beloved Pentacon

I really wanted to share this story because, as I have been learning to develop at home and looking closer at my negatives, I have come to realise that if I knew then what I know now the camera probably would have been put to one side and not used again. I’ve mentioned before that before developing at home I would shoot the roll, send it off and then look at the images on the computer, which meant that I wasn’t checking the negatives for any obvious issues and just assumed that anything that had gone wrong was my fault. I’ve been looking back through those first rolls and realise that there was a serious issue with spacing between shots. That coupled with the image counter not working, the 1/125 shutter speed being too slow and issues with massive over exposure (now known to be the 50mm lens being stuck wide open at f/4) would probably have made me give up on the camera. I’ve included pictures of the negatives so you can see.

Roll 1 - Negatives

Roll 1 – Negatives

Roll 2 - Negatives

Roll 2 – Negatives

As it is, I persevered and it paid off. The image counter and image spacing issues have resolved themselves, I’ve got a new 50mm lens and I just avoid 1/125sec. I also mentioned that I’m now working on my technique and it’s paying off. My success rate is climbing and I’m really pleased with the results I’m getting.

At the end of the last review I had just acquired and started experimenting with new lenses and accessories including extension tubes and filters. You can see a post here which takes you through a whole roll, explaining my tests on metering methods, using the yellow filter and trying out the extension tubes.

Pentacon Six with extension tubes

Pentacon Six with extension tubes

One of the shots from that shoot

One of the shots from that shoot

Having tried out the TTL metering prism I’ve decided to stick with the handheld meter as the images using the prism are way overexposed – the negatives are almost black and from those rolls the best shots were the ones I metered manually. Just a note, the prism does not set your shutter speed or aperture for you, it just meters the scene through the lens and gives you a reading so that you can set the camera. (The final 4 images on each of the below sets of negatives was made using the prism).

Pentacon with metering prism next to handheld meter

Pentacon with metering prism next to handheld meter

FP4 negatives

FP4 negatives

HP5 negatives

HP5 negatives

Having tried both the bellows and the extension tubes I would say the tubes are far easier. I may have to have some more practise with the bellows but my personal opinion is that the bellows made the focusing screen too dark to use whereas I could actually see the screen with the tubes. Should there be a difference? I can’t think of a good reason so further experimentation is necessary.

The 80mm lens has fast become my favourite. On 35mm I’ve always felt the 50mm was the most natural so it follows that for medium format 80mm feels good. It’s also rather handy that this is the smallest of the lenses which helps to keep the weight down when out and about.

Using 80mm lens - so sharp

Using 80mm lens – so sharp

I’m always frustrated by reviews of gear from people who’ve used a camera once or twice so I really hope you enjoy this mini review from someone who is really trying to get to know the ins and outs of the camera. If you’d like to see more of my work or follow along with my learning journey you can find my learning log here and my Instagram here.

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Lee
    October 27, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    How is it, you suppose, that the film counter issue and frame spacing issues have resolved themselves? Have you been using the camera differently, such as being more slow and deliberate with the film advance, and not letting it slam back on the return? Any explanations from your online resources for this resolution?

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      November 1, 2020 at 9:59 am

      It is odd, my best guess is that if it had sat unused before I purchased it then things may have stiffened up and my use of the camera eased them back up? In terms of frame spacing those first couple of rolls I may have been less gentle with and improved my technique thereafter but that doesn’t account for the frame counter. I really couldn’t give you a definitive answer!

  • Reply
    James Langmesser
    October 27, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    The Pentacon six is a wonderful camera. I have a Pentacon Six and its predecessor the Praktisix. Your work shows enthusiasm and inquisitiveness. To whet your appetite for the Pentacon, and for that matter, many other cameras, I suggest you get Ivor Matanle’s two books, Classic Cameras and Classic SLR’s. They are both over thirty years old, but have a wealth of information and are written in a style that I believe will appeal to you. I cannot count the number of classic film cameras I bought after reading about them in Matanle’s pages. I myself develop and print my own B&W (three enlargers, 35mm, Minox, and medium format). I recently bought and had refurbished a Contax 1 from 1936 with the original, correct lens. I cannot wait to get out and start taking pictures. I also note you use a Weston Master light meter. Wise choice, and keep shooting…and learning.

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      November 1, 2020 at 10:00 am

      Thank you for the recommendations! I love getting book recs!

  • Reply
    Rock
    October 27, 2020 at 7:57 pm

    I tend to prefer hand held meters also. These days, I seem to have become less trustworthy of a camera’s built in meter! What was the colour film you used for the macro shot? Cheers, Rock

  • Reply
    Harry Machold
    October 27, 2020 at 8:07 pm

    Holly, many thanks for these two articles here; the second one made me finding out about the first one..I join you in your appreciation of the Pentacon 6 so much. I have also a number of the previous versions, most of what you refer to in your articles applies to those as well. Problems with the film transport can be solved by a good mechanic. never let, after winding the film, the shutter winder snap back! This might brake a small feather inside and terminate the life of your camera. Just let the winder slowly go back to its initial position. The Zeiss lenses are excellent and especially the Biometar 80, 120 and 180, the two latter ones with their high aperture of 2,8. But you might also consider the Meyer 3,5/80 from the early days of this system; the rendering is unique and very charming, to just say the least. I also enjoy the Russian lenses for the Kiev 66 or now the last version of the Kiev 88. I always preferred the Pentacon 6 to any Hasselblad though I once owned a large collection of those.
    The Pentacon 6 is more basic and back to the roots though those roots the camera never evolved from. I say this with respect. And it is priced to be used, a second or third body is nothing in terms of its price on the market. I consider getting a Leica S2, in exchange for another Leica of mine. bUt this camera I will use exclusively with P6 lenses, of different sort. my beloved father used a Praktisix in the early 60ies, smuggled out of Eastern Germany…
    Please us with more and let us all follow your journey with this wonderful camera!

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      November 1, 2020 at 10:02 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

  • Reply
    Boris
    October 27, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    ” the 1/125 shutter speed being too slow … and I just avoid 1/125sec.”
    The 1/125 shutter speed is usually the first one to slow down on the Pentacon six. You may avoid it for a while, but it is probably time for a service.

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      November 1, 2020 at 10:03 am

      Yes I did learn that on the Pentacon Six website I believe and so I watched out for it when I bought my second body. I concur it is time for a service as we are back with frame spacing issues again!

  • Reply
    Clive W
    October 28, 2020 at 7:34 am

    Nice to read an account of perseverance paying off, Holly — and not just because reading about someone else’s perseverance is so much easier than having to persevere for myself.

    There’s a magical point in a relationship with some machines, where we stop thinking about the machine and just enjoy using it. That may be less likely with a forty-year-old film camera, because there’ll usually be something that requires some extra thought. So regarding those foibles as charming quirks rather than grounds for divorce can make all the difference. Sounds like you and the Pentacon are heading in the right direction.

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      November 1, 2020 at 10:03 am

      Thank you. I think it’s time to give it some more love and care and send it for a service!

  • Reply
    Lee
    October 28, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    I sent in a comment via the 35mmc website yesterday. Over 24 hours later it’s still not posted. My comment was:

    How do you suppose the shot counter and frame spacing issues resolved themselves? Did you change how you were using the camera in any way? I’ve read that such issues can occur with this camera if you let the film winding lever slap back on its own after winding to the next frame. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      November 1, 2020 at 10:04 am

      Apologies for the delay, I was on holiday when the article went online and am just back now answering! So sorry, I have answered your previous comment, let me know if you didn’t get it.

  • Reply
    Daniel
    October 28, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    Thank you Holly. I own this camera myself and at times it is one of my favorite cameras. At other times it is one of the most frustrating cameras I own. Frame spacing is always an issue and I have to be careful how I load the camera and even which films I use. Similar to your experience my 1/125 second shutter speed is inaccurate and I also stay away from using it.

    However, even with these issues that Carl Zeiss 80mm lens is awesome and I love using it.

    Good luck and I look forward to reading more.

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      November 1, 2020 at 10:04 am

      Thank you! Let’s hope I have many more years use out of it!

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