I wanted to get something that would shoot medium format for a particular hike. I didn’t want to carry a huge flipping Kiev 88 CM. The hike was up a mountain, down another one, eight miles down a back country ravine via stream bed, and then a semi-technical climb up another mountain to take photos of an abandoned building. The Kiev is a little heavy to carry on that, considering it weighs around 10 pounds with backs and all, and the rest of my camping gear was around 23 pounds. I didn’t want to take a camera with me that added almost 50% to the weight I was carrying, so I started to research the alternatives. I happened on to the Pentacon Six. It was lighter than the 88, and had good glass options, so I went shopping.
I bought myself a bunch of heartbreak.
There were many opinions on-line about the camera. Many of them were negative. There were concerns about the film transport and spacing. But the glass lured me in. I pulled the trigger on an auction on eBay.
I forgot a fundamental truth. On eBay, no one can hear you scream.
The first camera showed up trashed. The seller and I worked it out and I was just out the return postage. Strike one. I found one that was supposedly in pristine shape, and got that one. While it was not DOA, the shutter cloth was in a bad way. Someone had violated a basic rule for cameras with cloth shutters. Always cap a lens when not shooting. Always. The shutter had been burned though by light coming through the lens. To make matters worse, it was beyond repair. The user never responded, and I got to pay cash for an unusable camera. Strike two.
Next up was a perfect looking camera freshly CLA’d by one of the recommended names on the Pentacon Six user boards. Jackpot, I thought. It came put of the box looking new and smelling of oil. Home run, I thought. I loaded it with film, walked outside, and advanced the lever for the first shot. I fired the shutter and got a satisfying click that sounded like the right speed. I smiled. Finally things were going right. I advanced it for the second shot.
It was stuck. No amount of fiddling got it to move. I took off the lens and found the mirror locked half way up. The mechanism was fully, fatally jammed.
Like I said, no one can hear you scream.
So, I wish this hadn’t been a cautionary tale. I would have liked to had an interchangeable lens medium format that is lighter weight for hiking. As close as I will ever come is if I buy a Kiev 60. I think it says something about the Pentacon Six that a Russian clone is more reliable.