Pentacon Six TL

I don’t think I have put as many films through a test camera as I have with this one. To be fair though, it is not a test camera. It was lent to me by a new friend. She also gave me 3 lenses and other accessories so I wanted to try each of those. Plus I had to return everything to her and I probably won’t get to try another one of these cameras again.

So here is the Pentacon Six TL. I received it in a few cardboard boxes so I decided to gift a metal case I had been given by someone else. The insides had been formed for another set up so I bought a new pick and pull foam to make a new layout. I couldn’t fit in one lens as it is massive, but I think it looks ok. Unfortunately, I gave the camera back before I remembered to take some photos of it. So here are the only two photos I have of it, the camera and the new case set up.

My first attempt to use the Six didn’t go very well. Everything seemed overexposed and a bit soft. The counter didn’t work so I had to remember how many shots I had taken. The viewfinder was very dark and hard to focus. I found the winder a bit stiff too. I was also suffering from the after-effects of the covid booster shot I had the day before so carrying such a heavy camera wasn’t bringing me joy. Here are a few from that expired roll.

I was disappointed with the results and wondered if it was me or the camera. Realizing it was me, I looked online for a video to help me. Even though the manual was with the stuff I had been given and I had looked through it, I preferred a video in this case. This is the one I found.

I also reread my post on the Kiev 88 and the issues I had with the first roll in that too. My conclusion was…I find big, heavy cameras intimidating, especially if I don’t own them. I worry about breaking them or dropping them. And this one didn’t have a case or strap, yikes. The design of the camera doesn’t really fit with my tiny hands.

Those first shots were taken with 80mm Biometar lens so I switched to the wider angled Flektogon 50mm. I also switched the viewfinder to the TTL metering prism. I then loaded the camera with Foma 200 and set off for my local nature reserve. I was feeling much better that day and really enjoyed my walk around. I much preferred this set-up too. For me, the TTL viewfinder was much easier to focus and the TTL metering made getting the exposure much easier.

Well, that was an improvement. I liked this set-up so much that I loaded another film and took it on a walk to see some horses. This time I loaded the camera with Fuji Neopan 400 which I intended to push to 800 due to the dull weather. I developed the film with pyro 510 and even managed to squeeze out 13 shots from the film.

Yahoo, success. I love this set of photos.

The last lens I had to try was the monster 180mm Sonnar. It was massive, heavy and frankly awkward to use. The combined weight of the kit was about 3kg. The depth of field was also very shallow, making hand holding very tricky. My enjoyment of using it was tainted by my subject matter. I had asked a friend and their dog to join me at the local reserve. It was too dark and the dog was too bouncy to get great shots. I also didn’t know them well enough to allow myself to be patient, as in, I didn’t want to waste their time so I rushed.

Basically, with the lack of light, the weight of the lens and body combined, I think I should have used a tripod for this outing or simply waited for a brighter day.

And that was it, I decided to give the camera back soon after as it was taking up loads of space in my tiny room. I didn’t get a chance to try the 180mm lens again due to so many named storms and bad weather over the time I had it.

So how was the camera for me? Though I really appreciated the chance to shoot this camera, it was not for me. It was awkward to hold and didn’t give me anything different from the two big medium format cameras I already have, the Kiev 88 and the Mamiyaflex C2. So if I was offered one, I would turn it down. I actually loved the experience of making the insides of the metal box over using the camera which is a dead giveaway to my feelings about the whole experience…and then I gave the camera back and relooked at the photos. I have been left with a feeling of, “I need to take more medium format photos, I need to take out my own hefty monsters more often.”

And I will.

Further reading and technical details can be found on these wonderful websites.
https://emulsive.org/reviews/camera-reviews/camera-review-pentacon-six-tl-a-hopefully-comprehensive-guide-to-a-legend-by-ludwig-hagelstein
https://casualphotophile.com/2019/09/17/pentacon-six-review/
https://www.mikeeckman.com/2021/09/pentacon-six-tl-1966/

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