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Pentacon

Although Pentacon roots go back to the beginning of the 20th century, until 1964 that name was not used, when several different german companies, such as Kamera Werke, Altissa or Welta, were merged into a single corporation. The name comes from the words "PENTA-Prism" and "CONtax". With that union, PENTACON rapidly became one of the main employers of the area, and by 1980 it had 9.000 employees working in different departments. Originally, Pentacon was the export name for the Contax D camera, whose name (Contax) the east german company VEB Zeiss Ikon was forbidden to use due to legal reasons.

VEB Pentacon production was mostly based on the Praktica series of reflex cameras. Even before the rebranding of Pentacon in 1964, some new products were already available: Praktina IIa in 1958, Orix / Penti and Praktica IV in 1959, the little rangefinders and automatic cameras since 1960, the Pentina SLR with central shutter in 1961, or the cinema cameras Pentaflex 8 (1960) or the D21.

Some of the most representative items within this company's history are: Praktica SLR V (1964), Praktica Nova with mirror return (1964), Praktica Nova B with lightmeter (1965), or the Praktica Mat, company's first camera with TTL metering, introduced in 1965. That same year, production of SLR cameras began.

1966 was the year their SLR medium format camera was introduced, the Praktica Pentacon Six, and 1967 that of the PL Nova I. An improved version, also with TTL metering, was introduced a year later, in 1968, under the Praktica Electronic name and shutter speeds between 30 seconds and 1/500. On January 2, 1968, the Ihagee company was incorporated to Pentacon, centralizing marketing, customer support, etc.

By 1970, Ihagee was fully integrated into Pentacon, and a new camera was presented, quite advanced for that time, the Pentacon Super of 1968, and also an expensive camera, priced between 2200 and 3000 Reichsmark. It was a manual camera with interchangeable lenses, integrated viewfinder, full aperture TTL metering, shutter speeds between 10 seconds and 1/2000, and an accesory for using special casettes with 17 meters of film. The Pentacon Super was, in 1969, the first reflex camera ever to orbit the Earth around a Soyuz satellite. Because of the higher production costs and, therefore, selling price, only some 4.500 cameras were made, ceasing production by 1972.

1969 also saw the start of the L series' high success. Those were cameras with focal plane shutters, made of steel, a redesigned body... the first SLR with electronically controlled aperture priority system was the Praktica LLC in 1969. This model evolved into the Praktica B200, manual camera with some optional automatic settings and a new bayonet redesign introduced in 1979. In 1984 the BC1 was introduced, with aperture priority and also manual controls. The new BX series with TTL flash metering was initiated with the BX20 from 1987.

With the end of the soviet group, and just before the german reunification, Pentacon became under control of the "Treuhand", a government controlled entity with the task of privatize as many as possible of the state-run companies from the East Germany. But, mostly because of pressures from the West part, the Treuhand was for the most part in charge of dismantling companies, being Pentacon's closure a big hit against that economy.

In October 2, 1990, when the company still had 3331 employees and just one day before Reunification, began the company's clearance, and by the next day only 232 employees remained to wrap up and finish all the remaining tasks. Last production day was June 30, 1991, after more than 9 million cameras made and sold under the Pentacon brand.

The only investor interested in Pentacon has been Heinrich Mandermann, who also rescued the lens maker Schneider-Kreuznach and co-founder of Beroflex, although he waited until everything was closed to buy some parts of the company, including some relatively modern buildings previously used for military production, at a better price from the Treuhand. This part, today Pentacon GmbH, is still located in Dresden, and includes an office for servicing old cameras of the Pentacon brand. Production is now located in South Korea, and the company has 150 employees selling cameras under the Praktica, Exakta and Schneider Dresden brands.



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