Visual Diary: Munich // +A Short Review of the Pentacon Six TL


//Hofgarten, Munich.

//Camera: Pentacon Six TL.

//Film: Fuji Pro 400H


Good ol’ Pentacon Six. Where do I start..

This camera has caused me a lot of heartache over the years (too dramatic lol?). Every time I use this camera, one of two things would happen:

1) I would lose a perfectly good roll of film, because the back of the camera decides to spontaneously just.. open itself. And it’s usually around the time I reach the second to last frame of the roll. Perfect timing.

2) Something is just off with the pictures. Even if I hold the camera extra carefully, and use an external light meter (I usually rely on the Sunny 16 rule. please don’t judge.). The pictures would turn out weird. It was frustrating.

Anyways, I have finally figured out a way to properly use the Pentacon Six. Turns out it wasn’t such a bad camera after all! And it only took me half a dozen of rolls, and my entire vacation photos from last year. (I’m still mourning the loss of these photos.. RIP), but here are my tips:

A) See this part here? TAPE THIS PART OF THE CAMERA SHUT WITH THE STRONGEST DUCT TAPE YOU HAVE. LIKE, THE TYPE OF DUCT TAPE MACGYVER WOULD USE. I’M WRITING THIS IN ALL CAPS TO EMPHASIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS STEP. PLEASE FORGIVE ME. Seriously, the lock mechanism in this camera is umm.. not the greatest. It doesn’t take much for it to open. Unlike other cameras, say the Nikon FM10 for example, where you have to pull the rewind knob up to release the back, this one has an awkwardly placed lock where you have to slide it down to release the back. So if you hold the camera from the side and accidentally hit the lock down with the tiniest amount of force, gravity will make sure to open that back for you whether you like it or not. (True story)

B) Unless you’re using a tripod, avoid shooting with a shutter speed slower than (1/125). This guy wrote a pretty neat guide for choosing the appropriate minimum hand-held shutter speed. Personally, I wouldn’t go slower than 1/250. Actually, I lied. I wouldn’t go slower than 1/500. I know this seems a little extreme, and I know the word “little” is being used loosely here, but the camera tends to shake, and with that comes a loss of image quality. I think it might be attributed to the vibration caused by the mirror slap. It’s so weird. I’ve always thought that considering the size of the camera compared to other heavy medium format SLRs, it might give it a little advantage in the stability department, but apparently I was wrong. So wrong. Seriously, I’ve shot with the Kiev 88 at lower speeds ranging from 1/60 to 1/15 and the pictures turned out pretty sharp. Did I say that the camera was completely hand held at the time? *pats self on the shoulder* And the Kiev is supposedly notorious for its mirror slap vibration. Again, I guess it all depends on the way you handle the camera. So perhaps with experience you’d be able to determine your own minimum hand held shutter speed. Me? I’ll stick to 1/500 thank you very much.

C) This part is not necessary by all means, but if you’re like me, refuse to acknowledge the existence of tripods, I would not recommend using a film slower than 400 ISO. That should partially help in taking care of the problem mentioned above.

D) Thankfully, I’ve never had the infamous overlapping frame issue with my camera. From what I’ve gathered, if it’s not caused by the camera itself, then it’s usually caused by loading the film incorrectly. The key is to load the film tightly. Real tight. Remember the nice guy who wrote that neat shutter guide? Well, he made a neat short video on how to properly load your camera with film to avoid such issues. (@ 2:12. Life changing.)

Overall, it’s a pretty decent camera. Sure it sometimes acts like it has a mind of its own, and sure sometimes you’d catch me calling it the Damien Thorn of Cameras, but when it actually behaves, the results are very rewarding! It just requires patience.. and a couple of spare rolls of film.

I am however curious to know if there were any good, better-built alternatives to the Pentacon Six. If you guys had any experience with this camera, feel free to share! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I’m going to post some of the pictures I took with this camera over the last few months (under this tag), so you’d be the better judge.


Helpful Links:

Pentacon Six System: Tons of great tips.

Nice Guy’s Youtube Channel.

Bonus: The Art of Photography’s episode on the Pentacon Six. 

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