|Praktisix (KW), 120 roll film SLR camera, c1957-62|
The Praktisix is a decidedly chunky but nicely detailed East German 6x6cm SLR initially attributed to Kamera-Werkstätten Ghute & Thorsch of Dresden, or simply KW. Praktisix is just the name applied to the camera, the company behind it was subsequently amalgamated with many of Dresden's long standing optical factories. The first Praktisix, of which ours is a late example, is identified by the KW logo on the front of the viewing hood. Very early ones don't have the advance lever stop post or a plastic lens over the film counter. This in turn evolved into the Praktisix II, by which time the company had been absorbed into VEB Pentacon, and the camera went through a number of iterations and a name change to Pentacon 6 remaining in production until 1990. Despite appearances the Praktisix shared nothing in common with the Reflex Korelle.
Designed to incorporate the benefits of an SLR with the extra definition afforded by a 120 sized negative. Construction is entirely conventional for the period, centred around a well executed die cast body, with satin chromed pressings attached all around. Build quality is good but ham fisted users can uncover a weakness in the wind on mechanism. The wind on lever has a travel of 270deg, this requires gearing up the transport to enable sufficient film to be advanced when winding on. Owing to the stresses this imposes on the gears and their relative softness, they can suffer if wound on brutally. Attempting to look cool winding on distractedly and allowing the lever to snap back unrestrained is not a recipe for a long lasting Praktisix or any other camera for that matter. However the Praktisix will be very usable if you find a good one and treat it with respect. Loading one is an art, get this aspect wrong and the camera will give all the appearances of being defective, frame spacing being the most obvious apparent fault. Incorrectly loading the film gave the camera a reputation for poor frame spacing, this was exacerbated by the lack of automatic resetting of the frame counter, a button serving the purpose. This button stands slightly proud of the surface and can be accidently activated mid film, which will wreck the frame spacing entirely. Several subtle variations of the Praktisix up to and including the 1964 Praktisix II evolved until a substantial redesign resulted in the Pentacon Six around 1967. The viewing hood is there to cast some shade for the reasonably bright reflex viewing screen, without the benefit of a prism the image is erect (the right way up) but mirrored. A "sports finder" was incorporated, this allows a direct roughly framed view of the scene, in use the photographer would pre-focus on a spot and allow the subject to move into focus, primarily intended for moving subjects allowing the user to follow or pan with the subject. Attempting this with the reflex viewer is all but impossible. A Prism finder was available as a hefty accessory. The mirror remains retracted after each exposure, not resetting until wound on. Whilst this does let the user know the shutter is not cocked, it does make the cloth curtain vulnerable to sun damage. A film speed reminder dial is helpfully fitted, unhelpfully only adjustable when the back is open... The museum's present example (we are on our third, the first, serial No.27217 went missing in Slovakia, the second was a dog and the third seems to be a late first version) is now fully sorted, but it's been a long journey to resolve various tribulations.
Dresden was the centre of much of Germany's fabulous camera production prior to World War 2. This was thrown into turmoil, first by the war itself, then allied bombing all but destroyed the city and finally what was left became part of East Germany, occupied by Soviet Russia who put camera factories back to work. This caused a few legal issues as the Zeiss factories ended up in East Germany, whilst others restarted in the West making virtually identical products. The various famous Dresden camera makers were gradually amalgamated by the Soviets and by 1964 the conglomeration was known as VEB Pentacon Dresden. The name Pentacon being obtained by combining the words Pentaprism and Contax. The expertise and some of the surviving staff of Zeiss, Ihagee, Certo and others would wind up making Prakticas and this Praktisix. Consequently the cameras were well made, often displaying elements of their pre Pentacon history. Pentacon went on to build thousands of popular and well selling cameras up to the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. Sadly Pentacon couldn't survive in market driven reunified Germany.
Click on "this camera's gallery" button, below, to see sample images.
Body No.31041 (hard to spot, in the bottom of the casting inside, etched quite small)
For a specialist Praktica site click here.
© Living Image Vintage Cameras 2000-2023