Pentacon Super - The last gasp of Europe in system camera production

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, May 1, 2010.

  1. Pentacon Super
    35mm SLR
    Hummel Nr. 119 Kadlubek KWE 1060
    Number produced: 4,579

    Dr, Mike Otto's site:
    Capt. Jack's site: Cameras.htm

    Production from October 1968 to January 1972

    After the end of production of the Praktina IIA, a need was seen for a high end camera to complete with the better Japanese cameras. A prototype was developed which was originally designated "Praktina N," but by the time the model was shown at the Leipzig Fair of 1966, the name had been changed to Pentacon Super.

    The price was around 3000,-M
    Mike Otto says a secretary made about 300M a month at that time.

    The new, full system, camera was released at a time which unfortunately overlapped with the later versions of some of the worst cameras ever made by VEB Pentacon, the Praktica nova models (1964-68)}.

    In 1969, the very, very much better L series of Prakticas was started, but while the L-series sales might have been helped by the availability of the Super, the VEB Pentacon escutcheon had been smudged by the older series. The metal/cloth shutter developed for the Super was apparently adapted for the full metal shutter in the L series.

    The Pentacon Super was taken into space on the Soyuz 4 (Союз 4) mission.

    Waist-level and meter prism finders were available, together with a motor drive, bulk backs and many other accessories. The lenses were mostly essentially ordinary M42x1 Praktica-screw mount lenses to which a special pin necessary to trigger the open-aperture metering had been added. This was at least one of the features which required very high-precision construction and which made the camera expensive to produce.

    According to some lists, the following lenses with the special pin were at least planned, but it is not known that all were actually produced. I have seen posted examples of the 20mm and the 75mm on the www.

    * Zeiss Flektogon 4/20 mm
    * Zeiss Flektogon 2,8/35 mm
    * Zeiss Pancolar 1,8/50 mm
    * Zeiss Tessar 2,8/50 mm
    * Zeiss Pancolar 1,4/55 mm
    * Zeiss Pancolar 1,4/75 mm
    * Zeiss Biometar 2,8/80 mm
    * Zeiss Sonnar 3,5/135 mm
    * Zeiss Sonnar 2,8/180 mm
    * Zeiss Sonnar 4/300 mm

    The most common lens is probably the Pancolar 55mm f/1.4, but all of them are fairly expensive. Non-Super M42 lenses can be used in stop-down metering mode

    In 1999, a price realized at Christies (
    for a kit with body, lenses, and motor was £345 ($574 at the time). For his example, Dr. Otto paid 800€. I paid US $393 plus $32 shipping for just the body in 2007.

    In the pictures that follow, I had to use a Pentacon Electric f/1.8 since the auto-diaphragm had failed on my Pancolar 50mm f/1.8 (a legacy no doubt from Meyer Optik).
    The film was just plain old Fuji Superia 200.
  2. Here are some of the pictures. I had to put the second in for SP.
  3. Here is the sign from a generation 1 Dairy Queen which has escaped transformation into a burger place, together with a local cinematic emporium converted into a community theatre.
  4. Finally, one of the local Palestinian restaurants and a railing at a local semi-subterranean bar.
  5. In the whole series I shot, I was amazed at how aside from the lack of pedestrian traffic (it was lunch time and everybody was eating), it didn't look so very different than SP's Bangalore shots.
  6. The Pentacon Super seems like a great camera, but wouldn't the Leica R9 be Europe's last film 35 mm SLR "gasp"?
  7. If it was in a very good condition, $425 is a bargain. Even three years ago.
  8. However fine the Leica may be, I wouldn't call it a "system" camera like the Pentacon Super or the Nikon F series. imukfa
  9. Imukfa? I presume " imukfa" is an internet acronym I don't know, but Google shows up nothing that seems relevant
  10. What about the Hasselblad system? Even if you limit to the 135 format, the there was still the Rolleiflex 3003 series.
  11. OK, OK. Uncle.
    I certainly intended only 35mm, and I'm not so sure about the Rollei being a true contender, but I wasn't trying to start a thread on which one was absolute last.
    The point was that this was certainly one of the last, and after that point few European manufacturers ever tried to compete with the hegemony of the Nikon (and lesser extent at the time, Canon) in this area of the market. Pentacon themselves continued to hold a significant market share in a few places outside the COMECON area, and the Praktica B series themselves are another part of the tragic decline in the competitiveness of European cameras in general.
    As for Imukfa-- It's a Cherokee word and town and it fell into this post from another document I was working on. I guess we could make up something for it if you like ; "It's moot u know for allthings"
    OMG I was sort of hoping for some discussion about this camera; it's worse than throwing in a comma error into a document aimed at a committee of academics! (which I used to do when I wanted to avoid the committee revising my main text).
  12. No shoe mount? I'm guessing that you could purchase a prism with a shoe mount? Ya ne znayu. It looks "boxier" than the other Pentacons. Awesome though. Great pics! Did their price point of 3000M mean that it was mostly meant for the export market?
  13. No, no shoe mount, and I don't think one was available for it. The battery cover in the prism would have made it difficult to mount. Remember that the Nikon F regular prism had no shoe mount either, although there was one on the Nikon that fit over a knob.
    It's a monster in size, much bigger than the other Prakticas, etc. I think it was certainly intended for export primarily. Like some Chinese copies of the later Leicas, I think the costs got lost in the struggle to create something extremely fine and competitive technologically.
    Here it is with a Canon EOS XTi
  14. I've never seen a Super up close. What sort of a "metal/cloth" shutter does it have?
  15. The shutter is described as "metal-blade focal plane shutter using shutter speeds between 1s and 1/2000s" (Metall-Lamellen-Schlitzverschuß....). However as the picture shows this is linked to a "cloth" (metal or not?). It doesn't look like the L shutter, which has clear metal leaves. Perhaps the cloth on either side of the metal blades is just the link to the mechanism/roller?
    Like the L shutter, it is a vertical shutter.
  16. Praktica, Pentacon, two names that I have no experience with at all, but hope to change in the near future. Excellent and informative write-up, JDM, and the pictures are great as well.
  17. fascinating - never seen anything that looks like that, unless it was a development of the Contax rangefinder shutter. the problems that would come with that in the viewfinder area, though, are huge.
  18. Highly informative and really interesting. Good strong photographs, too. Thanks for a really worthwhile post.
  19. Thanks for a very nice presentation. That is a covetable camera. Mike's site shows a Prototype [1964?] and a production model 1968-72. there are some small differences visible in the bottom plate mechanisms. In those 4 years they produced only about 4500 units. Interesting that the Praktica Mat and the Nova 1 were also produced in 1964-65. By 1968 they were into the prototype of the Exakta RTL [the Praktica VLC]. Considering that they never had a so-called "level-playing field" in the World Market these were amazing efforts. One can see how Rolf Noack [said to be the chief of L-series team] and colleagues derived from all these innovations and produced that magnificent L-series, using mostly mild steel! {An interesting item that you may like, JDM; my trusted repair person Mr.Yazdhani becomes very happy when I send him a Praktica or Zeiss lens for repair. Perhaps, aptly his company is named "Kamera Werke"! Of course, he is so with all mechanical cameras. But these seem to be special for him.] I wish there was more documentation and write-ups on the developement of these designs and the problems faced. Thanks again, also for those very nostalgic street scenes, especially the old fashioned movie theater. Regards, sp.
  20. Didn't mention it before but I agree with informative and interesting!
    Looks very similar to the Pentacon 6. Maybe the cloth in the shutter helped achieve the faster speeds? Or was cheaper to produce? They probably figured that anyone spending that kind of money on a camera had a decent enough flash to go with it, or at least a whole bunch of candles. :)
  21. Hi SP!
  22. Hi JDM
    That Pentacon is really super. I remember that one of the cosmonauts said about Pentacon they took in space that they dropped it several times for a test. I am not sure what Pentacon they were refer to. But they were very fine cameras.
  23. A beast of a camera. SO over built looking. Like some of the others, I've never seen one in real life. Nice presentation.
  24. Thanks for showing this.. I also have never seen one in the flesh. They are not too numerous. It was a deifficult time. I assumed it was typical in size to the other Prakticas/Contax F etc. It's decidedly bigger. Once I was visiting a new friend he opened up some old boxes of camera gear he had. There were "new" brochures and/or a write up from a UK publication.
    I stared in wonder and he told me Back then this was his dream camera. He swore one day he'd have such a camera etc..
    (That's when I realized he was a good bit older than me) The lens list you gave us, you implied these were planned but not realized. Anybody have or know of these exotic lenses? You mentioned the 75mm 1.4.. do you have this lens? The "Super" lenses were a auto-aperture variation of the M42.... Is it possible other M42 useres could have these lenses and not realize it? Lovely pictures ..reminds me of my "college town"!
  25. No, I'm sorry to say that I don't have either the 20mm or the 75mm; I've only seen pictures of them. In fact, I am still looking for a 50mm f/1.4 to replace the aperture-challenged f/1.8. They all sell for very steep prices when you can find them.
    I think it may well be that a few of these have gone unrecognized, as the only visible difference from the regular M42 "zebras" is the pin that depresses the ring/spring. However, even the relatively common 50mm lenses are rare.
    I have toyed with the idea of trying to use a wedge or something to emulate the connection so I can use other lenses with the camera without stopping down. Although they did "sort of" abandon the M42 mount near the end, it is my understanding that M42 Prakticas of the L series were sold right up to the end, despite the introduction of the more modern B bayonet mount. In any case, in this camera they struggled mightily to keep the old mount and adapt it to new ways.
  26. Great photos. I really didn't know much about this model so thanks for posting.
  27. To follow up on some points raised by Subbarayan, Dr. Otto's site lists a "prototype," but as he notes in his decscription of it, it is not the Praktina N prototype described by Hummel (Nr. 118), but
    possibly a camera Prototype on a developmental stage between Praktina N-Prototype (Hummel No. 118) and serial Pentacon Super.​
    Otto's camera has mostly cosmetic differences (larger display type for name, etc.) from the normal production model. Perhaps it was a camera shown at the Leipzig Fair?

    Here is Hummel's complete description of the 118 Praktina N (my translation this time):
    Demonstration camera of a new system camera for the 42x1 screwmount with TTL metering with open aperture, and extensive accessories for professional uses. This prototype was the foundation of the future Pentacon Super.
    Hummel R: Spiegelreflexkameras aus Dresden. Edition Reintzsch, Leipzig 1994 S. 225.​
    Here is a picture of the Praktina N from Hummel.
    Its similarity to the Exakta RTL and Praktica VLC camera bodies should also be noted.
  28. My 12-year old daughter to her mother:
    How do elevators work?
    Why don't you ask your father?
    I don't want to know that much about how elevators work.
    Sorry, I do love these old Ossies so much I get carried away. :)
  29. The only other mention of the Pentacon Super I have seen was in Ivor Matanle's book. I don't know what I'd make of the camera but I'd love to have one of the 55/1.4 lenses. I'd probably get out an adapter and use it on a Canon F-1 or Minolta X-700.
  30. The Pancolar 55mm f/1.4 may have been made only (?) in the Super version (Kadlubeks Objektiv-Katalog KWD 00980), but the Pancolar 50mm f/1.8 or f/2 (review) is available for around a $100 or so in a number of mounts on eBay, and aside from my aperture needing work, it usually is OK mechanically and a rather nice lens optically (6 elements).
    Another good one for any camera it can be adapted to is the legendary Biotar 58mm f/2.
  31. There is one listed today on Ebay UK from the seller, following. Very expensive though. Fotoherberscom. sp
  32. Thanks, wish I'd bought it before the dollar plummetted. Maybe when the kid gets out of college, if ever. The good news is that the shipping charges are smaller than usual. :)
  33. I like the elevator mother daughter scene.. could've played here.. we do get carried away! My neighbor saw me on the street with a Voigtländer and commented it was a DDR camera....a few minutes later he said .."uumm I really gotta get going!!" He didn't need to know too much about Voigtländers!
  34. hi Al V! have not seen you post in a long time. Hope to see some soon! Regards, sp.

Share This Page