The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

The History of the Pentacon Six

The Kiev 6C

Dates: c. 1970 (prototype); c.1971-c.1986
(information from Princelle, p.225)

The Kiev 6C with the plain prism.
The horizontal lever on the camera throat is used to stop down the lens aperture to check depth of field.
This explains why many Arsenal lenses do not have their own depth-of-field lever.


This camera was made by the Arsenal company in Kiev, which since about 1947 had been manufacturing the pre-war German Contax II and III 35mm rangefinder cameras, which had been re-named “Kiev”.

The Kiev 6C clearly had some degree of inspiration from the Praktisix or Pentacon Six, and adopted the same lens mount.  Note that “C” is the Cyrillic alphabet equivalent of Roman alphabet “S”, so the camera is sometimes described as “6S”.    It is stated by some that this “C” (“s”-sound) was a reference to the lens mount of the Pentacon Six.

Some Kiev 6C cameras did have the camera name in letters of the Latin alphabet (new information received in January 2022, see below).  However, I am not aware of any examples of the name plate with a Roman alphabet “S”.

Unlike the Praktisix and Pentacon Six, there are no projecting spool holder “feet” under the body – but the fact that the spool holder levers are recessed within the base merely makes the camera taller than the Pentacon Six.  The Pentacon Six has the tripod socket under the “throat” to which the lens is attached (the front half of the mirror box), so a camera case bolt can be used (without the case) to provide a third foot, allowing the camera to sit horizontally on a flat surface.  In the Kiev 6C the tripod socket is in the camera base, so no such solution is possible, which is why in these photos the front of the camera has been placed on a (non-original) filter and lens cap.  With many lenses, the Pentacon Six and Praktisix balance better on a tripod than the Kiev 6C.

The camera had strap lugs that were better placed than on the Praktisix and Pentacon Six (although those cameras were usually supplied with a case which had its own strap).  The lugs had a hole to accept standard triangular metal strap connectors (visible in the photo to the right), which were supplied as standard.

In the odd tradition of medium format cameras from the former Soviet Union, a 1-second exposure setting was lacking.  The shutter speeds were from ˝- 1/1000 sec plus B.

Another oddity was that on the Kiev 6C the shutter release had to be operated by the left hand.

The camera took 120 and 220 film and had a two-position pressure plate to allow for the different thickness of the two films (220 film does not have backing paper apart from at the beginning and end of the film).  This shows a remarkable attention to detail and the desire to ensure that the film was both as flat as possible and in exactly the right position to give the sharpest-possible image.  This was not to be seen again on a camera with the Pentacon Six mount until the introduction of the Exakta 66 in West Germany in 1984.

The camera was supplied with a 90mm f/2.8 Vega-12B lens with an automatic diaphragm.  (Russian b.  For the difference between “B” and “V” lens mounts, see here.)

There was a flash sync socket on the front of the camera.

The camera was usually supplied with a folding “waist-level finder”, but a non-metering prism was available, and subsequently a metering prism.

The Kiev 6C was a lot bigger, heavier and noisier than the Praktisix and the Pentacon Six.

It was supplied with a large leather outfit case, initially brown, although later cases were apparently black.

This particular body was made in 1977, and the lens (originally supplied on another camera) in 1976.
The Kiev 6C had both 120 film (12 exposure) and 220 film (24 exposure) capability.

A film speed reminder dial on the right of the camera top plate showed film speeds in the Russian GOST and European DIN scales

View from above of the Kiev 6C with plain prism

The knob top-left in this picture switches between 120 film (12 exposures) and 220 film (24 exposures).
In this image, the camera is set for 24 exposures, and the film is on its 20th frame.


1981 version of the Kiev 6C

The camera in the above illustrations was made in 1977.

Later versions of the Kiev 6C had a different name-plate, as illustrated here in a camera from 1981.  This became the name-plate style that was adopted when the replacement model, the Kiev 60, was introduced.

Update in 2022

In January 2022 the following was received from Mael in France:

Additional information:
  • On early Kiev 6C (prototype, early production 1971 to around 1974 or 1975) the film pressure plate is smaller and does not have the 120/220 positions, also there are two rollers inside the film gate and two others near the film spools. ... This has been modified after to increase film flatness and there were light reflection issues with the rollers.

  • From beginning of production to around 1974 the lever advance is in one metal piece. After comes the metal and plastic lever. Also the speed selector lever has 2 chrome rings and after only one.

  • There are Kiev 6C with Latin markings for export.  Despite being very rare, they exist.  [This has the camera name as “KIEV - 6C”.  We note the use of “C”, not “S”.]

  • We can say that around 1976 the Kiev 6C did not benefit from further modifications except for the chrome top plate.

Thank you, Mael, for this information and for photos of your camera!

Export version of the Kiev 6C
Photograph courtesy of Mael Bilquey
Mael comments: “manufactured in 1977.
(Leatherette is not original, having been replaced with genuine leather.)”
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30 The Kiev 60

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© TRA June 2010, Revised January 2022