Balcony door portraits

Light quality is extremely important to a photographer, just like snow for an Inuit. We have countless names for the different types of light while any average people would only call them “strong” or “weak”. The amount of light we get is very easy to measure and describe. But the quality is a far more subtle, much harder to formalize concept and therefore much more interesting to me. Modern cameras can handle low light extremely well thus photography is now possible under such difficult circumstances no one could be foreseen just until a few years before. But high sensitivity sensors with great quantum efficiency and extremely sophisticated noise reduction processing cannot create great photographs just by extending the lower bound of minimum illumination necessary to capture an image. Although these new tools certainly aid the photographing process, the quality of light (among other factors) is and always will be key to a good image.

I am currently experimenting with mainly available light, trying to find situations which work for me so I can get the results I like in a somewhat predictable manner. One of my favorite spots lately is the door of our balcony. In my opinion, this location has nearly ideal light conditions for portraits during most of the day. The balcony is relatively deep, and only the front is open (sides are solid walls), then comes the big door followed by a deep room with white walls and furniture.

This setup has a similar effect to a  soft-box. Light comes through in a beautiful evenly distributed, soft way, which then decays rapidly as it penetrates into the room. A subject placed close to the door can be lit very well with a strongly directional but soft light while the background is lost in darkness.

I have taken several portraits at this place using different formats (APS-C, 35mm, 6x6cm), films and digital sensors, and a small, but representative selection can be seen in this post. I think it is interesting to see next to each other similar shoots using similar focal length but with vastly different capturing technology.

The conclusion is that, no matter what your medium is, good light (and composition) could always give respectable results but technology does not save the day if the light quality is poor for the subject. But it is again another subjective property, what is poor light for a photographer for a given purpose, could be magnificent for another. Nevertheless, I think it is crucial to study light as a photographer, amateurs and professionals alike.

Many thanks for the proofreading to Ramon.

Livin’ Streets on Ektachrome

Walls are usually not the most exciting subjects to photograph. To use medium format slide film to do that is even more strange and could be considered as some sort of crime by some. After all, we live in a time when both film and labs which are able to develop slides are more and more scare.

But what if you’ve found some really awesome walls filled with stunning graffiti masterpieces varying in size up to 30 meters (my approximation) and the whole place is a partly abandoned industrial complex.

Well, I couldn’t resist and loaded my Pentacon Six with a roll of expired (in 2004) Kodak Ektachrome 64 and headed to this place with my wife to take pictures of walls. In fact, she took way better photos than me, so maybe I will post those in the future as well.

I usually have no problems with expired film stocks, but this roll of Ektachrome gave me a very interesting result. When it came back from development it was possibly the flattest looking positive I have ever seen. I thought that I majorly overexposed all the frames equally. Surprisingly after scanning, I had to realize that almost no highlights were blown away and I could recover many details and color information during post-processing. I have the impression that the last 10 years after the end of the expiry date of the film was not spent in a refrigerator. I still have 4 rolls of the same batch of film, I need to think it over if I want to give them a second try.

The place we found hosted the Livin’ Streets 2014 festival for urban art, graffiti & street art between 07.06-18.07 2014. Their facebook page is here. Although we were too late to see the actual event, we could still meet with one of the artists who stayed to finish his work and also we could see all the paintings in the finished form. It was a great experience and we had a lot of fun, so yes it is totally fine to shoot some walls from time to time.

The photos were taken by my Pentacon Six Tl using a Carl Zeiss Jena Flektagon 50mm and in some cases a Biometar 80mm. The film was developed by a local shop and scanned by me with a CanoScan 9900F.

Welcome the Sun

Finally, the Sun has returned to us and days are once again long enough for me to have a chance to enjoy the light even after working hours.

To celebrate this blessing I have finished shooting the roll of Velvia which I have started last October and now sharing with you. A mixture of my two favorite seasons, autumn and spring on the same roll in vivid colors. Isn’t it wonderful? I am truly being energized by the spring, and I hope you too. Go grab a camera and have at least as much fun taking photos as I do right now.

Hilmteich See ( Graz, Marc 2014), Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia
Eszter & Anna (Hilmteich, Graz, Marc 2014), Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia
Anna (Graz, Marc 2014), Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia
Eszter (Mariatrost , Graz, Oct 2013 ), Graz, Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia
Eszter (Mariatrost, Graz, Oct 2013 ), Graz, Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia
(Hilmteich , Graz, Marc 2014), Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia

Bring your giant medium format camera to work

A photographer is never really putting down his camera, no matter what crazy thing she or he is doing for a living or filling the days with. Since we are not living in an ideal world, most of us have to face the limitation of time and availability of light in our everyday life.

But limitations are not necessarily bad things! They teach us to utilize our possibilities more creatively by forcing us to see and think in ways we would normally not choose to. This, of course, influences our work as well as ourselves and vice-versa. Eventually this feedback loop can contribute our personal and photographic development similarly to the way the ever-changing environment influences life forms and pushing them towards evolution.

Currently, my job is to sit in an office and convince computers to obey to the needs of their human masters. Making their lives easier by sending them nice, well formed and most importantly correct invoices. As interesting as it sounds, but it is somewhat fulfilling to my geek side which likes to brain wrestler with abstract problems.

But it makes my photographer side starve because the current situation has a very little room for photography. Especially now when the winter is coming. Days are shorter and shorter, so more and more frequently I end up to spend most of the hours filled with natural light in between walls in my natural working environment.

To overcome this obvious contradiction, I decided to make occasionally a “bring your giant medium format camera to work day“.  I started to bug my colleges and taking portraits of them during lunch brakes or when I need to wait for my computer to finish a long-lasting blocking task.

The point is, you don’t need to stop being a photographer, just because the conditions are not ideal for the kind of photography you are normally up to. Try to get out the most of the situation and who knows this might drive you to completely unforeseen paths and discoveries.

Jogi, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Jogi is a musician besides being a software engineer and in my opinion, they are making pretty cool music.  Their website http://www.theflamingdugongs.at/  is not complete yet, but worth to have a look at.

Barbara, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F
Janez, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 120mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F
Kyrylo, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 120mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Kyrylo was so pleased with his portrait that he visited me at my desk (2 floors below his place) to shake my hands right after I sent it to him.

Hannes, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F
Marco, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Naturally, it is not my top priority to photograph at work, and I always make sure that this does not have any effect on my everyday responsibilities. It took me quite a while (about 2 months) to get these images. Though they are not perfect, I enjoyed taking them they are part of my journey.

Pajtás

Gamma Pajtás Box Camera

Pajtás is a simple box camera made in Hungary in the 50’s/60’s and as you would suggest this was not a high-end piece of technology even at those times.

Normally I seek for perfection in photography and related equipment and I try to write about cameras here which are capable to produce respectable results or at least represent fine craftsmanship. The Pajtás is far from perfect in any of the aspects of build and image quality, therefore it was not particularly exciting for me until now.  So why do I yet write about this camera and most importantly why should you read this review, knowing that I will probably conclude that this camera is crappy but lovely at the same time?

My first and probably strongest reason is that this camera is one of the not too many which were made in my homeland and therefore holds a significant value for me. It also means that this camera is not as well known outside of my region so unless you live in Hungary or nearby, there is a pretty good chance that you have never heard of it.

On the other hand, the Pajtás could be interesting for those who like the history of photography or history in general because of several reasons. First of all this camera features an Achromat lens which can give us an insight into the dawn of photography as the very first daguerreotype cameras had lenses with similar construction. In other words, the images taken through the lens of this box machine can show us a little bit of the taste of the character of the photographs that were taken centuries ago.

In addition, this camera is an iconic relic of industrial design from a not too distant, yet completely different era where the market was driven by strange forces. These were among the toughest years of socialism in Hungary. Production was planned in 5 years cycles and there was literally nothing that was impossible to sell.  In these times this camera was the affordable and available option for almost a generation.

Through these glasses, we might see this camera a little different and at least for me, it is special to hold and even better shoot with it.

All in all, if you are interested in history, strange unique cameras, or even Lomography than this article is for you.

Pajtás drawing

The story

As always I try to collect as accurate information about the history of a camera as possible, but it is possible that I state something wrong. If I did, please send me an e-mail or leave a comment. Corrections are always welcome.

Around 1960, This photo is part of the Fortepan collection of 19041 amateur photos. It is licensed under CC share alike Hungary.

The members of the young pioneer organization were called Pajtás in socialist Hungary. It was the equivalent of the word comrade for young people. Oddly I had no idea about this meaning of this word until I started to read about this camera. But it has to be said that I was born in the 80’s when socialism was already quite melded in Hungary.

As the name suggests, the camera was intended for a young audience and it was extremely successful. It was affordable, reliable and most importantly available, so many had received a Pajtás as a present for various occasions such as graduation.

The camera was made between 1955-1966 by Gamma although the emblem has changed to FFV from 1960. FFV stands for Fővárosi Finommechanikai Vállalat (Metropolitan Works for Precision). Interestingly Gamma is still an existing company, even though they don’t manufacture cameras anymore.

The designer was János Barabás (1900-1973) who was mainly responsible for lens design at Gamma and we can thank him for the many great lenses used by Hungarian cameras.

The price of the camera in 1964 was 160 HUF and it was possible to buy a leather case for an additional  45 HUF. [1]

Pajtás datasheet

  • Type Box camera
  • Country Hungary
  • Company Gamma, FFV
  • Designed by János Barabás [1]
  • Production dates 1955-1966
  • Quantity 100.000 approx
  • Film type 120 type roll film
  • Lens Built-in Achromat f/8
  • Apertures f/8, f/11, f/16
  • Shutter speeds 1/30s, Bulb
  • Focus fixed
  • Body material Bakelite
  • Weight 395g

Construction and operation

The camera is almost as simple as possible. It is made of Bakelite which allowed mass produce it on a low price.

The back has another nice feature, a little red window which keeps us informed about the number of the actual frame. Basically, the back of the film (in fact the covering paper) is visible through this window so you can see the printed numbers on the paper. While this is a robust solution, it is advisable to cover this window most of the time, especially if you use higher sensitivity film.

The film can be advanced by a knob at the top of the camera while you have to keep an eye on the frame counter window. There is no other way to determine how much you need to advance the film but to look at the window. This mechanism also makes it easy to take multiple exposure or overlapping shoots.

The shutter release is a simple column and a rotating switch around it with two positions. The red dot means locked and obviously, the white mark indicates that the shutter is free to press.


Viewfinder

Since it is not possible to focus with this camera, the viewfinder is rather simple. It contains a lens for correct framing, but this is not a great pleasure to use. It is bright enough but considerably blurry to my eyes.
To be fair, this viewfinder does the job just well enough. It gives you some approximation about what will be on your photograph and if your subject is not too close the parallax error is not significant.

Pajtás top

To be fair, this viewfinder does the job just well enough. It gives you some approximation about what will be on your photograph and if your subject is not too close the parallax error is not significant.


(Left) shutter-speed and aperture settings, (right) aperture mechanism concept

There are only 2 shutter speeds available M (Moment) 1/30 sec and T (Time) which stands for bulb. There is a better offering in aperture settings though you can select f/8, f/11, and f/16 options. Both the shutter speed and the aperture settings can be selected with dedicated dials on the front plane of the camera right below the lens.

Pajtás in leather case

All apertures are completely rounded and as far as I can see (without disassembling the camera) it is done by a metal plate with 2 holes on it. When the maximum f/8 aperture is selected, the plate is completely off the way, but as you turn the switch for selecting smaller apertures the appropriate hole slides into place behind the lens.

Pajtás in leather case

The leather case is pretty nice, it protects the camera very well. In the meantime, it has a hole in the back to read the frame-counter without dismounting the camera. My only concern is that you cannot separate the front part of the case (covering the lens) so you cannot use it as a half case.

The lens

The lens is an 80mm f/8 Achromat manufactured by MOM (Hungarian Optical Works). It is a classical landscape lens consisting of 2 elements: a positive crown and a negative flint element.

The lens which was designed and manufactured by Charles Chevalier for Daguerre was an achromatic landscape lens in the 1830s. Although that lens was different from the one that can be found in the Pajtás, the basic concept is the same. The achromatic lens was a huge step because for the first time it corrected some of the main aberrations which can be found in an optical system.

Achromatic doublet

An achromatic lens or achromat is a lens that is designed to limit the effects of chromatic and spherical aberration. Achromatic lenses are corrected to bring two wavelengths (typically red and blue) into focus in the same plane.

Wikipedia Achromatic lens

These lenses are typically featuring low apertures because the rays entering the lens far from it’s axis need to be cut off by the stop in order to maintain image quality.

The lens used in the Pajtás camera gives no big surprises. It is focused to the hyperfocal distance so everything on the photo from some near distance will be sharp. It is also supported by the relatively small aperture, that is why depth of field is quite big.

The lens looks coated as I can see some purple cast on it when the light is appropriate. In general, it is not too prone to flare. Of course, there are not many elements in the lens so there are not many surfaces to bounce and reflect on. On the other hand, the interior of the camera is highly reflective so flocking could probably improve image quality and contrast.

Image quality and sample shoots

As you would expect, the image quality is not at all amazing. It is decent from a camera like this and I have to admit there is some charm of the strong character. Sure, most of the effects produced by the lens can be mocked by clever applications on any smartphone, but that is not the same. You must know that you work with a high random factor when you shoot with this camera.

(Graz, Austria), Pajtás, Lomo Lady Gray 400, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

So far I shot only 1 roll of Lomo Lady Gray 400 film with this camera as the first trial. In general, an ISO 400 film is probably too fast for this low shutter speed, but since winter is coming and we are having many dark days it was a good choice. I have some Hungarian Forte Supercolor 100 film in my refrigerator (expired in 1995) which could be a stylish combination with this camera.

Distortion test (Graz, Austria), Pajtás, Lomo Lady Gray 400, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

The lens is sharpish in the center but blurs everything off around the edges. It sometimes even creates the impression of shallow depth of field, but this is not the case.

Distortion is apparent, but I couldn’t hold the camera perfectly perpendicular against the staircase and my scanner is also not the best in keeping the film flat. Anyhow, I think that the geometrical distortion is not the biggest issue compromising image quality here.

Camerajunky (Graz, Austria), Pajtás, Lomo Lady Gray 400, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

The numbers and circle signs on this shot (almost all shots have some) belong to the back of the covering paper of the film. I am not sure how they managed to get to the photos, but they did. If anyone has any idea, I would be happy to read it in the comments.

Also, there are signs of light leaks on almost all of my shots. This most likely happened, because the camera does not seal light perfectly. I am seriously considering to use some black tape next time I put the film into my Pajtás.

Tram reflections, (Graz, Austria), Pajtás, Lomo Lady Gray 400, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

This frame was partially overlapped because of my fault. I have not transferred the film correctly.

Cycles (Graz, Austria), Pajtás, Lomo Lady Gray 400, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Using flash

There is no flash connection on this camera, so in theory, you cannot use flash with it. On the other hand, the 1/30 of a second is slow enough to fire flash manually at the right time. But probably the best strategy is to shoot in bulb mode in very low light or in complete darkness and fire the flash while you keep the shutter release pressed. I have done some successful experiment with the latter technique so I can recommend giving it a try.

Conclusion and recommendations

The Pajtás is not a rare camera, it is extremely cheap and just as light to carry. It is extremely easy to use as well. I believe it is even able to produce nice images in good hands.

Because of the simple construction there is literally nothing which could break in it. It is relatively safe to pick one with good cosmetics as it is almost certain that it will work properly. Eventually, this is not the camera we would expect completely accurate shutter speed from.

My only concern is the back which is a bit flimsy to me, but it can be secured by some black tape. And of course the Bakelite body is very rigid and therefore fragile, so it is advisable not to drop it.

If you like box cameras and the imperfection of the images they produce, or you are a fan of the retro design, then this camera could be a good choice for you.

Further reading

Big thanks to Ivan for the English proof reading!

Pentacon Six TL

Pentacon Six TL in half case, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8

Introduction

I have a very special relationship with my Pentacon Six TL camera since it is my only working medium format camera. I was always heavily attracted by medium format photography, but I couldn’t afford for a while to get into it. Eventually, the P6 was the camera which allowed me to shoot 6×6 frames and since then I have not to regret my decision nor had a single thought to change to another system. In this post, I tell my story with this camera and try to show both the bad and the good things about it while hoping that some of you can find this information useful. It will be more like a subtract of my personal user experience and all the important bits I learned during my research.

My Pentacon Six story

I was a student at the university sometime around my second year when I first heard about this camera. I have just started up an experimenting film with an old Zenit-E when my buddy and roommate showed me a website with lots of photos and a description of the P6. Both of us got pretty excited when we realized that there is a world beyond the 35mm film, so we started to google and find more information about this beast. Unfortunately, I had no money at this time to simply buy one on eBay, therefore, I almost abandoned the idea until I found a Pentacon in a repair-shop next to my sister’s old apartment where I helped her to move in. The camera was broken, not complete and had no lens. It was literally a looted old donor of a camera. Despite the conditions of this camera-corpse, I was amazed by the size of the thing. It was huge, much bigger than I have expected after all the photos I have seen on the Internet, especially the lens mount was extraordinary sizeable compare to anything I have seen before. I could only wonder what a hell of a lens could possibly fill this gigantic hole on the front of the camera.
From this moment, there was no return. I knew I had to get one of these monsters, but I still had to find the right one, which turned out not to be that difficult at all.
A few weeks later I found a little shop in a small village next to my hometown by accident. I had spotted an ancient Russian enlarging machine in the shop-window so I stopped by and found a great repairman and a huge cabinet of precious vintage cameras and other relics. As you have already figured out, he had a nice Pentacon Six TL in the shape I was looking for. The camera was there for cleaning, but the owner hasn’t fetched it for many years.
It was not an easy deal because the guy was not really keen to sell anything from his collection, but eventually, I got my Pentacon Six with the standard 80mm f/2.8 Biometar lens made by Carl Zeiss Jena and with a waist level finder. Both the camera and the lens were beautiful, nice, clean and fully operational. In fact, it was not really heavily used and in addition, the repairman was kind enough to check the shutter speeds before he handed the camera over them to me.
Since then I have added many additional accessories and lenses to my Pentacon kit so today my collection consists of:

Pentacon Six TL drawing by Eszter

2 Pentacon six bodies 2 Waist level finders TTL pentaprism 2 Carl Zeiss Jena (CZJ) 80mm f/2.8 Biometar 1 CZJ 50mm f/4 Flektagon 1 CZJ 120mm f/2.8 MC Biometar 1 CZJ 180mm f/2.8 MC Sonar (This lens belongs to a friend I just use it) 1 CZJ 500mm f/5.6 MC Pentacon Extension tube set Split image focusing screen Ever ready cases

The way it looks

Bad reputation

Unfortunately, there are not only great things about this camera even if most of the bad rumors are only partially true. So let’s start with the not so nice before we focus on the good things.
Many people think that the quality insurance was not the best during the manufacturing of these cameras, therefore, it is a real gamble to buy one as you may get a pretty bad and unreliable one.
It is true that it is hard to find a Pentacon Six in a good working condition with perfectly accurate shutter speeds, but it has nothing to do with the quality of the cameras. The fact is that these cameras are pretty old and most of them were used for professional purposes where most likely a tremendous amount of film was burned through of them. You should think of them like you would think about an old car, for instance, a VW Beetle. It is a nice car with very few flaws, but since it is old and was driven around the Equator like 30 times you need to pay attention to maintenance to keep it running. You wouldn’t drive a 40-year-old Beetle found in someone’s backyard without checking the oil level, would you? Of course not, so why would you treat a camera differently? An old mechanical camera is just like an old car. It needs some maintenance and care. Of course, if you were a Hasselblad user, you might disagree, but the category and price tag of these brands are completely different, however, the produced images could be very similar.

Typical issues and solutions

I am lucky because I have personally met with only very few issues you can read on the Internet according to the P6.
Most problems are easy to fix during a general overhaul which involves cleaning, lubrication, and adjustments of strings etc.

Slow and inaccurate shutter speeds

The Pentacon Six TL uses a huge canvas focal plane shutter which has 3 implications.

  1. Lenses are cheaper because there is no shutter in the lens
  2. Flash photography is limited to the sync speed which is 1/30s.
  3. The huge canvas needs big and strong strings which can lose their adjustment as time goes by.

Usually, the speed 1/125s is the most accurate, anything faster could be slower than intended if the camera was not used in a long time. The slow times also could be problematic because the mechanical clock could pick up some dust.
The solution is an overhaul by someone who knows what he is doing. The camera must be disassembled, cleaned and adjusted. There are no big worries here if you casually use your camera this does not have to be done too often, maybe once in every 10 years.

Overlapping frames

This problem is much more apparent than the previous one though. Many people have this problem of “kissing” or worse, overlapping frames. I think in most cases this happens because of the improper loose loading of the film. Have a look at this video from PentaconSixExpert on Youtube. I am not saying that this is the only problem because my rolls have uneven spacings between frames too (but no kissing or overlapping so far), but many times it is only because of the way you load the film.

Frame counter

I had no problems with this feature either, but this is definitely one of the weak spots of the camera. I have seen some Pentacons where the back of the camera was modified by adding a little window covered with red plastic to be able to see the numbering at the back of the film. This is certainly a solution, but a very harsh one. You could get the counter fixed by a professional or you could live without it, eventually, you can shoot even if it is broken.

The bright side

Now that we finished off the not so nice things it is time to celebrate and inspect why this system is so great.
If I had to be short I would say we need to have a look at the following aspects to justify:

  • Lenses and image quality
  • Size
  • Flexibility
  • Value/price ratio

Lens choices

The lens selection for this system is just fantastic in my opinion. You can find excellent optics for literally no money (compared to modern lenses) for every focal length from a wide variety of manufacturers most notably Carl Zeiss Jena (CZJ). The lenses I use most of the time, are generally very fast, sharp and joy to shoot with.

It has to be said that even the multi-coated (MC) versions are more prone to flare than modern lenses with similar optical formula, therefore the use of a lens hood is always a good idea.
If you want to read more about compatible lenses, visit the truly great site pentaconsix.com.

Jupiter 8 lenses vs CZJ Sonnar 180mm f/2.8

A friend of mine gave me a 180mm f/28 Sonnar to use. While this is one of the best and most iconic Pentacon mount lenses, I rarely use it, because it is so much bigger and heavier than the not much shorter 120mm Biometar.

Size and weight

The Pentacon Six looks like a 35mm SLR except this is much bigger, therefore, many people call them beefed up SLR or SLR on steroids.
While it is true that they are significantly bigger and heavier than their 35mm counterparts, in fact, the P6 is a rather compact medium format camera which shoots 6x6cm frames.
Yes, there are smaller ones, but those usually do not have the capability to switch lenses or having similar dimensions but with more weight.
If you, like me love to travel with the biggest “sensor” possible then this size/weight aspect could be really important for you.

It has to be said, that this kit could be still awfully heavy especially if you pack more than one lens and a tripod too.

Value for the money

I think the Pentacon Six system comes with a very appealing price nowadays. You can get your body with an excellent standard lens around 100€ and even if you add the extra for cleaning and adjustments it is still far cheaper than most other interchangeable lens medium format system.

The fun I have

Eszter documented how I took a portrait of a painter in Istanbul. I think it reflects my emotions during the usage of this camera.

Shooting with a Pentacon Six TL
Shooting with a Pentacon Six TL, Istanbul (Turkey)
Artist (Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 120mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NS, Canoscan 9900F
Artist (Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 120mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NS, Canoscan 9900F

Personal experience

During the years I used my Pentacon Six, I have gained a lot of experience with it.  So I would like to share some random thoughts I think could be useful for you.

Pentaprism vs Waist level finder

I do have a TTL prism, which provides a correct image in the finder (no switched sides) and can be used for through the lens light readings.

On the other hand, the prism is very dark and the light metering is not very easy to use. It is great to have in some cases, but generally, I prefer an external light meter. There are different brighter prisms available for example the older non-metering version. If I am not wrong the even brighter prism of the Kiev 60 is also compatible and can be attached.

In contrast, the waist level finder is definitely the brightest solution, therefore I use it the most. But it switches the sides of the images in the viewfinder, and you can hold the camera lower than usual to be able to see through the finder. For me, it is much easier to focus with, especially with the little magnifying glass built in.

Despite all of the inconveniences of the waist level finder, the image in it is something really special. I know it is an oxymoron, but it looks even better than reality.  It is huge, bright and vivid, no viewfinder of any 35mm camera can come even close to it.

Focusing

Focusing as always is a critical thing to do when talking about any photography. I had to learn that the depth of field is just way more shallow when you shoot medium format, thus even a slight movement of the camera could cause your subject to fall out of the sharp region.

When I shoot handheld with the 80mm/120mm lenses I try to not going wider than f/4 or even f/5.6 because it still provides nice bokeh, but has some safety in terms of the size of the sharp areas. Naturally, I often find myself shooting wide open (f/2.8) on a street, but it’s always risky to do.

Repairs

Luckily I haven’t had many problems with my cameras, but during the last 6 years, I had some cases where I had to ask someone to help.

I had “the old” (my original) P6 cleaned, lubricated and adjusted one time after I heard some unusual noises from the shutter. Since then it works perfectly. No exposure problems even when shooting Velvia.

My 120mm lens had a stuck iris once which required the disassembly and general cleaning of the lens. This is, unfortunately, a common problem with old lenses.
Conclusion and recommendation

Needless to say, this camera is not for everyone. As long as you can accept that your camera needs some care in a form of regular maintenance, you could be very happy with it. So keep in mind that the final price could be higher than the purchase itself as basic repairs might be needed.

Nowadays it is not always easy to find someone who is qualified to repair old mechanical cameras. Therefore it is best to buy from a trusted source with grantee that you get a working camera. I think it worth the extra money to get an overhauled camera in the first place.

I think this is a great camera, and could be a good choice for anyone who wants to try medium format photography and needs an interchangeable lens solution. If you don’t have the budget for more expensive systems like Hasselblad or Mamiya, or simply want to find the most compact option this could be the solution for you.

So far my Pentacon Six never let me down, the images are just amazing and for me, it is great fun to shoot with.

More samples

Temps de Flors 2009 (Girona, Catalonia), Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 120mm f/2.8, Kodak Portra 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Temps de Flors 2009 (Girona, Catalonia), Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 120mm f/2.8, Kodak Portra 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Custom bike (Gyöngyös, Hungary) 2009, Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm, Kodak Portra 160NC, Canoscan 9900F

Links

Big thank you for Ivan for the English proofreading!

Istanbul through Pentacon Six TL

Sultan İkinci Beyazıd Veli Türbesi (Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Sultan İkinci Beyazıd Veli Türbesi (Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 50mm f/4, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Sultan İkinci Beyazıd Veli Türbesi (Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 50mm f/4, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F

Finally, I am back with a post again! It has been a long time I could write anything. The reason for this long break is that I have got married plus I have changed job and country to live. From September I will live in Austria and I hope I will find new impulses for my photography.

Anyway, thanks to my old mentor and friend PepLluis that we could visit a really extraordinary place (Istanbul) as our honeymoon. This post is a kind of diary about this trip taken by my beloved Pentacon Six TL camera. Although we have carried a digital camera as well the medium format is one of my weak points and so I decided to share these images over the digital.

Pentacon Six as a travel camera

Of course, a big question has immediately emerged when we hit the warm and crowded streets of Istanbul with a heavy duty medium format camera and with three lenses and a tripod in the backpack. As you would suggest this gear is anything but light, so the question is how good travel camera is the Pentacon Six TL especially nowadays when you can choose among many excellent lightweight digital system cameras.

This gear is indeed heavy and cumbersome to use. You need to measure light in advance, focus carefully (the depth of field is really shallow on greater apertures) and you must hold the camera very still when firing the shutter. These tasks can be difficult in the crowd you can experience in the touristic places of Istanbul during Ramadan. I definitely gained some muscles after this trip.

On the other hand, the experience of operating such a beast is really unique as well as the results you can get at home. Personally, I am really pleased with the images and it was a great fun to use the P6. But next time I will think my camera choice over before packing. Nevertheless, I am pretty sure that the Pentagon will come with me many more times. My Pentacon Six TL review can be seen here.

Approaching storm (Topkapi palace, Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Approaching storm (Topkapi palace, Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Woman (Topkapi palace, Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Woman (Topkapi palace, Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Eszter (Topkapi palace, Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Eszter (Topkapi palace, Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Eszter ( Büyük Selimiye Cami, Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Eszter (Büyük Selimiye Cami, Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Shooting with a Pentacon Six TL
Shooting with a Pentacon Six TL, Istanbul (Turkey)
Artist (Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 120mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NS, Canoscan 9900F
Artist (Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 120mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NS, Canoscan 9900F
Hagia Sophia (Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F
Hagia Sophia (Istanbul, Turkey) Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fujicolor Pro 160NC, Canoscan 9900F

Portraits round 2

My last post about portraits (Portraits round 1) featured black and white photographs. Black and white often help simplify things by skipping the colors and thus resulting in a cleaner image focused more on geometry, composition, and effects of light and shadows. Many times this monochromatic approach emphasizes important properties which would have been otherwise overwhelmed by the chaotic world of colors and can be greatly beneficial. While I love the more abstract nature of the B&W images, I also admire the emotional power of the colors. Sometimes a photo just works better in color.

I am quite fed up with the long, cold and dark winter here so now I am starting to see and use some colors.  Besides this post is a post about portraiture it is a small celebration of colors hoping that spring will come soon.

Unfortunately, I had less time to take pictures recently, therefore this selection is composed of my old works exclusively. The photos are taken in many different locations and seasons using various films and lenses but with the same old Pentacon Six of mine.

Color negative film

If you want to take portraits in color, negative film is probably the best choice. It is usually less prone to exposure issues than positive (dia) film so it can accept slight over or underexposure without serious problems on the final image. Also, these films are not as contrasty and vivid as most positive films (except Kodak Ektar which I have never tried so far) so the images are smoother and it is often a good point in the case of general portraits.

It is also very easy to make black and white images out of a color version so you have the flexibility to change your mind during post-processing.

E (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Reala 100, Cannoscan 9900F

L (Pilis mountains, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 120mm, Kodak Portra 160NC, Cannoscan 9900F

(Pilis mountains, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 120mm, Kodak Portra 160NC, Cannoscan 9900F

Szöszi (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Kodak Portra 160 NC , Cannoscan 9900F

Kutyi (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Kodak Portra 160 NC , Cannoscan 9900F

Color positive (dia) film

Positive films are generally recommended for natural product and architectural shoots. At least this is what I have heard a lot. But of course many uses dia film for portraits as well. For example, the famous photographer Steve McCurry used to shoot on positive film and took fabulous portraits like the Afghan Girl.

I personally like to use these films for portraits because of the character and the fact that they have the finest grain ever. But this is true that lights and shadows have more contrast, the exposure must be bloody accurate and overall you have to be very precise to achieve a good result. In addition, it is not too easy to find a lab where you can get it developed especially if you shoot medium format or bigger.

At the bottom line, I think it is still worth to shoot positive films regardless of the subject because the view of the developed dia film makes you happy as a kid at Christmas for sure. You get the final (not inverted) image. Because it gets visible by the light passing through the film rather than reflecting it. That is why dia has a huge dynamic range which makes the experience (in my opinion) kind of better than reality.

L (Budapest, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Velvia 100 , Cannoscan 9900F

Self (Girona, Catalonia), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Velvia 100 , Cannoscan 9900F

M (Hatvan, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Kodak Ektachrome 100 , Cannoscan 9900F

Portraits round 1

Portraiture

Portraiture is a very exciting branch of photography probably because of its subject. It is indeed a very ancient and natural thing to depict our fellowman. Therefore an enormous amount of portraits has been created over history and especially nowadays.

Most likely this is the reason why portraiture is not easy to do well, fortunately, all of us genetically attracted to faces. People are hard-coded to recognize human faces virtually everywhere and in anything even if there are only a few random craters and some shadows on the surface of a dead planet.

I also do love good portraits, and I am generally taking a lot as well. Unfortunately, I am not as good as I wish to be.

It is rather hard to catch the moment of emotion in the right composition among proper lights to get a really special portrait. In addition, as it is an interactive process you have to be connected to the other human-being on a level which is challenging and exciting at the same time.

This is overall very rewarding for me and I am going to keep shooting portraits for sure, hopefully on a higher and higher level.

I was planning to post some of my portraits here for a long time ago, but on the other hand, I decided to push myself to publish new works as much as possible.

Finally, the time has come and I have developed a few rolls of film a few days ago. So now I have some new photos which I will mix up with a few not so new ones.

The recent shoots caused a quite a bit of excitement because as always everything was experimental. I have tested a new focusing screen in my Pentacon Six as well as 2 new types of film (Fuji Across 100, Lomo Lady Gray 400) and this was the first time I used Kodak D76 developer.

It turned out all good, however, there were lessons to learn again.

Some new shoots

Nico (Girona, Spain), Pentacon Six, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Cannoscan 9900F

SavE (Girona, Spain) Pentacon Six, Biometar 80mm,  Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Cannoscan 9900F

Paolo (Prato, Italy) Pentacon Six, Biometar 80, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Cannoscan 9900F

Hunor and Tibor (Szentendre, Hungary), Pentacon Six, Biometar 80mm, Lomo Lady Gray 400, Kodak D76, Cannoscan 9900F

Some not so new shoots

These two pictures were among those I shoot on my first few rolls and developed myself around 2007-2008.  The guy was my roommate during the university and these were taken in our kitchen next to a big window.

By the way, he is also a photographer and shooting film too from time to time. He is the founder of a really nice blog called 100ASA.

Holló (Miskolc, Hungary), Zenit E, Helios 44, Forte 100, Forte developer, Cannoscan 9900F

Holló (Miskolc, Hungary), Zenit E, Helios 44, Forte 100, Forte developer, Cannoscan 9900F

Gabi (Gyöngyössolymos, Hungary), Cosina CSM, Cosinon 55mm, Forte 100, Cannoscan 9900F

Final words

Naturally there are many more portraits in my collection which deserve a frame in this blog and certainly many will show up. I only need to find the occasion and the context to merge them with recent works and publish. But hey this is only the round 1. I hope some of these cached your eye.

Stupa (gold and blue)

stupa_4395281485_o

These photos were taken last year around January. The place is close to the village Tar, Hungary. This stupa is called “Béke” (peace) stupa and built in-memorial of Kőrösi Csoma Sándor, also known as Alexander Csoma de Kőrös.

According to Wikipedia he was a Hungarian philologist and orientalist, author of the first Tibetan-English dictionary and grammar book. He was born in Kőrös, Grand Principality of Transylvania (today Chiuruş, Romania).

Anyway, I am probably not the right person to describe this sight historically neither theologically, but it was a wonderful experience and we could really smell a special religious atmosphere.
There were a Fantastic sunshine and clear deep blue sky although the air was a bit chilly plus, of course, the stupa which indeed looks extraordinary. I hope the photos will explain better what do I mean.

If I made you interested in this stupa, have a look at this link.

Gear

I used my Pentacon Six TL and most likely the standard 80mm f/2.8 Biometar and some Kodak Ektachrome 100 slide film. This was my first and so far only trial on this film. I would love to get some more of it though. I have used my Ricoh GR Digital digital compact as light-meter.

Photos

Kőrösi Csoma Sándor emlékpart Tar

Kőrösi Csoma Sándor emlékpart Tar

Kőrösi Csoma Sándor emlékpart Tar

Kőrösi Csoma Sándor emlékpart Tar

Kőrösi Csoma Sándor emlékpart Tar

Kőrösi Csoma Sándor emlékpart Tar

4393512078_31c2648b15_o

Kőrösi Csoma Sándor emlékpart Tar