Some Praise for the Pentina

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Sep 19, 2014.

  1. "Funky", an astute friend calls it, and that sums the camera up fairly well. It's the Pentina M.
  2. The Pentina is not a camera that gets much good press, mainly due to the fact that it's very rare to find one that actually works. If they don't, they don't, and that's it; I've not found a technician willing to delve into the innards. However, by some strange quirk of fate a very new-looking example came my way, and it works just fine. I'm not going to bore you with too much detail as our Forum Pentina guru JDM von Weinberg has pretty much covered the bases with some excellent posts; I suggest you look at the following post for a fairly complete dossier:
    The leaf-shutter SLR was attempted by many of the major manufacturers, the biggest advantage of the system being unlimited flash synchronization, but many were fraught with technical problems, including the ill-fated Nikon Nikkorex that, as JDM points out, was a very close cousin of the Pentina, indeed... Anyway, I've had a couple of Pentinas with various ailments, but despite their frailties I consider them to be a very handsome camera. This model is the Pentina M from the second generation of Pentinas, distinguished from the earlier Pentina (in the background of the image above) by a split-image rangefinder spot in the viewfinder. The M was produced 1963-4 by VEB Kamera und Kinowerke in Dresden, later to become known as VEB Pentacon.
  3. The Pentina is a leaf-shutter SLR camera, without instant-return mirror, and with interchangeable lenses in a breech-lock mount.
  4. The shutter is a Prestor-Reflex with speeds from 1 second thru 1/500 plus B, both shutter and aperture being coupled to a selenium light meter with a match-needle visible in the very uncluttered top deck. The bright viewfinder features an excellent central split-image spot, one of the best I've come across. The standard lens was the trusty 50mm CZJ f/2.8 Tessar, as fitted to this example. Ergonomically, the camera would be a delight for the left-handers amongst us, with both film wind and shutter release operated by the left hand, but it makes things a little clunky for those of us accustomed to supporting the camera and operating the shutter release with the right hand, and focusing with the left. The film wind lever is a poor piece of design, being small and quite sharp, swinging out from the back in an arc from below the viewfinder. All the other necessary bits and pieces are mounted on the base of the camera, including the very elegant little fold-out rewind handle.
  5. The overall construction of the Pentina M is of nice quality, with slightly better finish than the couple of earlier Pentinas I have. The interior is especially tidy, with a back that detaches (rather too easily) for film loading. The film counter has to be reset, frame by frame, by jiggling the little lever just visible beneath the film wind lever in the photograph below, a slightly tedious procedure.
  6. I shot a couple of films with the Pentina, gradually feeling more at ease with the odd layout as I progressed; the viewfinder is great and the shutter release very smooth, and the Tessar turned in a typically good performance. I post a variety of images below; the military flavour came about with the re-enactment of the local troops from WWI marching through town and boarding the train that took them off to a military camp 50 miles up-country, prior to being shipped to the battlefields overseas. New Zealand had one of the highest military casualty rates per capita of any country involved in the Great War, with over 18000 killed and 40000 wounded. Such events were held nationally to mark the centenary of the opening of hostilities, and our local event was a moving occasion. I had to juggle several cameras, but managed to get a few pictures with the Pentina. Fuji Superia 200 for the colour with scans from the Fuji Frontier, Kentmere 100 for the B&W, scanned on an Epson V700 Photo.
  7. Well any camera that has a C.Z. Tessar can't be all bad. Looks to me, though, like the Petina here is "all good". Nice results and great-looking camera. I didn't know about this one. Thanks.
  8. Very nice shots, and what an example.
  9. Great work!
    It's a real prism in it, as opposed to the mirrors in the Nikkorex equivalent, which may be why it's so nice and bright.
  10. Neat work with neat camera, Rick. Did you every try to take pictures with those older bulb flashes? I always wanted to try those, but I have heard (read) that those bulbs do go off spontaneously in your hands - that puts me off. Anyways, thanks for the post.
  11. One reason bulbs can pop unexpectedly can be static electricity. I haven't used them a lot, but I've had no trouble when I did.
    Kent in SD
  12. I saw one of these along with a Minolta SR at a car boot sale a few years ago, and kind of rubbed my eyes in amazement as I'd never heard of them at the time. I wasn't into 35mm then, so passed over them sadly. Really good to see one still performing and providing such superb results. I like the shot of the poppies.
  13. Totally new to me. I'm woefully ignorant in genre of leaf-shutter SLRs - which included the Contaflex and Retina Reflex S .
    The Pentina looks to be very compact for a SLR - without the usual hump for the pentaprism.
  14. Yeah, most any leaf shutter SLR (with fully interchangeable lenses, not components) has more "events" that must take place in proper sequence when the shutter is released. While potentially a good concept, many are troublesome and difficult to repair. I think in an earlier post someone actually outlined the sequence of events that occur when the shutter of a leaf shutter SLR is released. Again, it is gratifying to see a working leaf shutter SLR.
  15. Thanks Rick, another great review. I love Tessar lenses, decent examples of them anyway as the Pentina one clearly is. You'd be hard pressed to desire much more sharpness than your images show. A local market seller had one for sale recently, I must admit without knowing more about it I assumed it was a scale focus or rangefinder camera, and didn't pay it much attention at the time. I would have been much more interested, had I known it was an SLR. My Bessamatic and many, many Contaflexes are some of my favourite cameras to actually use (I've been getting out and about with a really early Contaflex recently, and loving it). I find it interesting that the Pentinas are said to be hard to repair. I know nothing of the Prestor Reflex shutter, but then, they say Contaflexes are hard to fix, too, and they don't frighten me at all, so I'd happily take a look at one that didn't want to go. I may be at that market tomorrow. If the Pentina is still there, who knows, maybe it will be coming home with me after all?
  16. Thanks Rick, your articles and photography from these sometimes obscure cameras are always a delight to read. There are plenty of reenactments going on here too, with the Snowy River march being one in my neck of the woods. The poor devils though that it was going to be one big adventure....very sad.
    The Pentina is one camera that I've yet to come across, they seem a bit scarce here in OZ, or maybe they are all in the tip! As others have stated, the Tessar in these East German cameras seems on a par to the excellent ones from the West.
    I actually have a working Nikkorex, ugly damn thing, but it does have a Nikon lens!
  17. Thanks for the responses; I hadn't realised that apparently the Pentina is a little-known camera outside Europe, though we have a few scattered around downunder. Interesting that you haven't come across one in Oz, Tony, though the Nikkorex undoubtedly makes up for the lack. Thanks, Brett; like you I'm a Contaflex fan, and I really must post something on the marque. I'll be interested to know if you acquired the Pentina in question. I think I posted that diagram you refer to, Mike, in respect of the Kowa SLR's, and it's certainly a complex sequence of events to obtain an image.
    I've never had a flashbulb pop unexpectedly, Kris, but I've not had much to do with them, with electronic flash coming on the scene when I needed it, even if they were old wet-cell Metz units that weighed a ton. Kent's explanation for the phenomenon seems plausible. And thank you Andrew, Michael and JDM for your comments.
  18. Although static charges might occasionally set off a flashbulb: consider the Magicube. When attached to the extender that Kodak promoted as a red eye reduction aid, it was possible if the extender was dropped with a Magicube in place it could fire one or more of the bulbs since the firing mechanism was mechanical.
  19. Nice sharp photos. Thanks for sharing.
  20. Rick,
    Another fine post with a fine set of photos. I hadn't heard of this camera. Leaf shutters in 35mm SLRs tend to frighten me. Here is the listing from McKeown's 2001-2002 guide.
    Pentina, Pentina I, Pentina II, Pentina E, Pentina FM, Pentina M
    1960s. 35mm leaf-shutter SLR. Tessar f2.8 lens in breech-mount, similar to Praktina mount.
    With or without selenium meter above lens.
    Interchangeable lenses: Domigon f3.5/30mm, Lydith f3.5/35mm, Cardinar f2.8/85mm,
    Domigar f4/135mm.
    Rarely in working order. Repairmen hate them according to one source.
    Normally $35-50; more if clean & working.​
  21. Thanks, Marc, useful information. It would be fun to track down the additional lenses, but they're both rare and expensive. I'd agree with you regarding leaf-shutter SLR's... Interesting possibilities regarding the Magicubes, Mike, and thanks for the praise, Alexander, always my pleasure.
  22. Kind of a boxy Neat front left-sided release. Good results which is no surprise.
  23. You're right, Louis, it feels pretty boxy, too, rather like holding a light-weight brick.
  24. Well, Rick, after resisting the urge to acquire that Pentina a half a dozen times in the intervening 12 month-plus period, yesterday I visited the market and it was still there waiting for me in its original box, with a never-ready case and owners manual. I politely pointed out to the seller (a friendly chap I've bought several cameras from previously) that it had been languishing for well over a year, and he invited me to make an offer. Thirty Australian dollars changed hands and it was mine.
    The lens is the 50mm Tessar. All the shutter speeds seem right on, the self timer runs off, and the mirror is retracting correctly (as well as the viewfinder blind). The light meter appears to be working. It is the earlier version without the split rangefinder focus screen but I like a ground glass.
    The only fault spotted to date is that the aperture does not seem to be opening fully after winding the camera. In order to focus easier one must manually open the lens with the aperture ring and stop down again to the required f stop. Not being familiar with the Pentina I checked the manual, and it is meant to open the aperture on winding and stop down automatically when releasing the shutter. I was considering investigating this issue to see if I could make it run as intended. However one frequent drawback of 35mm leaf shutter SLRs is that they very rarely have any kind of depth of field preview function. Having to open and close the aperture manually will slow down the imaging process a bit, but on balance, I think I'd rather leave it as it is so I can see my DOF through the finder, so I think I'll leave it "broken" rather than trying to "fix" it.
    It may take me a while to run a film through it but I will let you know when I have.
  25. Ah, where is JDM von Weinberg when we need him...Well done, Brett, that's a good price for a tidy Pentina in working order. The sticky aperture sounds more like a symptom of lack-of-use rather than anything too major; have you taken the lens off and fiddled with the little plunger on the rear of the lens that activates the iris? I remember that I experienced a similar problem, but the system for controlling the aperture is actually fairly simple, and these old aperture blades do start to get reluctant with age. Please post some pics when you've run your film.
  26. The aperture mechanism in the lens seems to stop down readily, Rick. But the drive pin in the camera body isn't moving as much as it should to permit the lens to open. I've only had time to do the most cursory of investigations, though. As much as I like a challenge, (getting Bessamatics, Contaflexes, Exaktas, going etc.) I think I'll probably leave it to its own devices and if it sorts itself out well and good, if not, it won't bother me unduly (and as above, it might even be preferable, it's unlikely to be used for moving subjects much).
  27. As you say, it may well come right with use, and I wouldn't want to delve any further into a Pentina. Have fun!

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