Finally, an SLR that I can officially love: a medium format monster from Dresden.
The Pentacon Six TL has, let’s face it, a mixed reputation.
For the fantastic range of affordable Zeiss lenses it offers, one can find an equally long list of complaints and warnings online about it regarding the body. Moaning about frame overlaps, broken shutter curtains and dodgy frame counters…enough to put anyone off buying it in fact, as if it was going to fall apart at any moment.
To which the best answer in retrospect might be, “Calm down, dear!” The Pentacon Six is a great camera. Moreover, the reality is it’s ROBUST—just make sure you get one which has been CLA’d recently and treat it with the same general amount of respect you’d treat any vintage camera. Don’t throw it at rocks for example (though it’s so heavy that it could be a good offensive weapon in a pinch). Learn its quirks and love them—we Lomographers are used to quirks in our cameras after all aren’t we (Feds for example)? Dig the early zebra-striped lenses. Embrace the weirdness. It’s the only SLR camera that has completely won over my affection as a TLR lover. This reluctance on my part has traditionally been because SLRs generally aren’t known’ for doing medium format photography, my first love.
The Pentacon Six does though. It’s built like a tank and it delivers glorious Medium Format shots with ease. Everything about this camera is enormous, eccentric, and lovely. The loading process has a whole online instruction video on YouTube about it in order to avoid frame overlaps (an absolutely fantastic general resource). HINT: Do this right and it DOES work. It’s a little more demanding camera than the usual wind-snap—and-forget to load, but far from impossible. The viewfinder, unless you have the prism mount on top (which is also great, like a squashed steel pyramid), is a waist level top-down job, which makes it in use feel just like you’re using a particularly strange TLR, and also throws off passers-by completely. The shutter release is front mounted, just about my absolute favorite feature ever on almost all East German cameras—it’s so ergonomic! So much more logical than that top button you search for!
Everything on this camera is also completely manual, one of my other main obsessions in any camera. Nothing is battery dependent-thank God. The range of aperture/shutter speeds is fantastic- aperture F.2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22 and shutter goes from bulb to 1000 on the standard 80mm Biometar lens (which carries phenomenal Zeiss glass as STANDARD ISSUE).
This camera can take simply awesome professional photographs which, to be honest, is what I want most of the time (I have my Pouva Start or Beirette if I want to be whimsical). It’s unique looking, an amazing performer, and I now officially love it.