The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

“Waist Level” Finders & Magnifier Heads


Each of the cameras has its own “waist level” finder.  This misnomer goes back to the days when cameras were routinely mounted on a tripod, which was presumably set at approximately waist level.  One might more appropriately call these “chest level” finders, but the abbreviation WLF has made it into common usage.

Pentacon Six

The Pentacon Six is the least good of the “waist level” finders.  Its main advantage is that it weighs a lot less than the metering prism, and I happily used one for about a year until getting my metering prism.  I then put it away and have not missed it!  This finder has a fold-up magnifier that assists with focussing.


[C309-34]  The Pentacon Six WLF

Without a prism, all cameras provide a laterally-reversed (i.e., back-to-front) image, and this is particularly disconcerting with moving objects.  However, one can push up a flap on the front of this finder, and pull up a frame at the back of it, to provide a direct vision “sports finder” that has no optical elements.  One is of course then no longer looking through the lens – surely the raison d'être of the SLR, so one is no longer checking focus.  It works, but I would not say that it is good.

Exakta 66

The Exakta 66 WLF is an improvement on the Pentacon Six model, although it does not offer a sports finder option.  It flips up very neatly, is well shielded to keep out stray light, and has a large magnifier, which can be exchanged for magnifier lenses with different diopter values to meet the needs of the user.  For studio use, landscapes, architecture or other objects that move little or not at all, it is a good light-weight and free alternative to the expensive Exakta 66 TTL prism.
 
 


[C311-20] The Exakta 66 WLF


It is also possible to use the Exakta 66 Waist Level Finder on the Pentacon Six, without any adapter or modification, and I know one person in Germany who does just this, as the Exakta 66 finder is a great improvement on the original Pentacon Six finder – though I think it looks a little unusual.  It  has the “Exakta 66” logo, which therefore appears just above the “Pentacon Six (TL)” name.

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One of the advantages of the Exakta 66 waist level finder is that it is easily possible for the user to change the magnifier lens within it, to match his/her eyesight.  According to the Exakta 66 price list printed in November 1989 and still current at least a year later, the full range goes from -4.5 dpt to + 2.5 dpt in one-diopter steps.

In this image, clock-wise starting bottom left (at “7 o’clock”) are: +2.5, +1.5, +0.5, -0.5, -2.5, -3.5, -4.5.  This particular waist-level finder, which I bought new, was supplied with a -1.5 diopter correction lens fitted.  It is in place in the waist-level finder in this image.  It appears that this probably was the default value that was fitted as standard.

The right diopter lens for any particular person will depend on their eyesight, and this is best determined by an optician or ophthalmologist.
 
 
 
 
 

Baierfoto still has (at the time of writing in November 2011) a selection of various of these lenses, in a wide dioptric range.

Kiev 60

Sometimes Arsenal really does get something right!  This is without a doubt the best “waist level” finder of the lot. Clearly inspired by the Rollei TLR viewfinder, this “waist level” finder is very versatile.  Flip up the top, and the sides come up, providing a very well shaded view of the focussing screen.  Do you want to take pictures of something or someone special, but crowds of tall people got there in front of you?  Hold the camera upside down above your head, and see to frame with this finder!


[C309-33] The Kiev 60 WLF

For precise focussing there is an excellent magnifier.  If you are trying to follow a moving object, this WLF has the best “sports finder” of the lot: push in the front of the finder, and it will click into place.  At the same time, the magnifier drops slightly to provide good shading.  Use this direct vision finder by viewing through an opening on the back wall of the finder.  Now to the good bit: lower your eye by a quarter of an inch or so to another opening on the back of the finder, and you are “magically” looking through the lens to check your focussing!  – all achieved by a mirror within the finder that swings into place when you push in the front wall.  See it on a camera, along with more important information on using this finder with a Pentacon Six, here.

Kiev 88-6 (Kiev “B.i.G.-Six”)

The Kiev 88 “waist level” finder looks remarkably like the earlier version of the Hasselblad finder – but then so does the camera!  Unfortunately, over a number of years these finders were manufactured with an incorrectly calculated lens in them!  When the image looks sharpest through the magnifier lens, it is not quite sharp on the focussing screen or the film!!  Either get a replacement lens, or take Sam Sherman’s advice and stick some wedges to each side wall of the finder, so that they catch the magnifier about 1/8" before it reaches fully horizontal.  It looks odd, but is then at the correct point of focus.  But do check yours before changing anything.  It might just be right!


[C311-11] On the left: the Kiev 88 WLF; on the right: the Hasselblad 500C WLF

The Pentacon Six Magnifier Head

The Pentacon Magnifier Head enlarges the whole image to facilitate precise focussing, which is particularly critical with close-up pictures.
 


The Magnifier Head enables very precise focussing and very comfortable working, especially when the camera is vertical for copying flat originals.  Here, the Pentacon copying bracket has been used, and the 15mm extension tube is used with the 80mm Biometar lens.

View of the focussing screen when using the Magnifier Head

When the Magnifier Head is mounted on the Pentacon Six, I can see the whole of the focussing screen with it, with the magnifier not far off the 0 diopter setting.  The focussing movement extends quite high, and significantly lower, for some other settings, so I don’t know if some people will experience slight cut-off of their view of the corners of the screen, depending on their eyesight.  Using the Magnifier Head also results in a much brighter viewfinder image than that which is obtained via the Pentacon Six metering prism, of course.

 
[C309-26]  The Pentacon Six magnifier head
There is also a wide range of diopter correction to enable users to work without spectacles.


The Magnifier Head mounted on the camera

Does the Pentacon Six Magnifier Head fit on the Exakta 66?
 
It does indeed.
Perfectly.


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It offers a full view of the focussing screen on all versions of the Exakta 66, including Mk II and Mk III (Mod 2, Mod 3), which have a larger focussing screen.

         The only question was this: will the strip of shutter speed electrical contact points that are to be found between the shutter speed dial and the viewfinder mount get in the way?


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The answer is “no” – but the points do remain uncovered when using the magnifier head.  This does not result in any operational problems for the camera, but it is best to avoid unnecessary contact between fingers and these points, as natural grease on the hands could result in poor contact between these points and the sensors on the metering prism when it is put back on the camera.

The Kiev 88 Magnifier Head

The Arsenal Magnifier Head fits the Kiev 88 (and Hasselblad!) and provides extreme image enlargement (the Kiev literature states that it is 4×) to facilitate precise focussing, which is particularly critical with close-up pictures.  It incorporates diopter correction.
 

[C311-28]  The Arsenal Magnifier Head for the Kiev 88
[C311-30] The Arsenal Magnifier Head in use on the Kiev “B.i.G.” version of the Kiev 88

The Arsenal magnifier head can also be used with the focussing back.  See the section on viewing aids.

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© TRA February 2002, March 2012