Pentacon Vintage Camera Brand
Pentacon Brand Overview
|Founded:||1959 — Dresden, East Germany|
|(modern day Germany)|
Pentacon Brand History
Pentacon is a German brand founded in 1959 as VEB Kamera und Kinowerk Dresden, a massive consolidation of several camera companies in and around the East German city of Dresden including Welta, Eho-Altissa, and the East German remnants of Zeiss Ikon (which was itself a conglomerate of various camera manufacturers).
In 1964, VEB Kamera und Kinowerk Dresden absorbed a state-run film studio called VEB DEFA and rechristened itself as VEB Pentacon—a contraction of the word “pentaprism” and the Zeiss Ikon brand “Contax”—a name the company was already engraving on its cameras. The image they used for the logo was an illustration of the factory in Dresden that Ernemann built (which is now a museum) shortly before the company was folded into Zeiss Ikon in 1926. Pentacon soon became known for producing cameras including the Praktica line of 35mm SLRs and the Pentacon Six medium format SLR and, at its peak, controlled an incredible 10% of the international camera market.
By the time Germany reunited in 1990, a new government agency known as the Treuhandanstalt was set up in Berlin to determine the fate of state-owned East German companies, namely to decide whether to privatize them or shut them down. When the time came to evaluate Pentacon, the Treuhandanstalt discovered that the company was being horribly mismanaged, selling its cameras at a loss, and heading face first into financial ruin. Treuhandanstalt representative Alexander Koch declared that the company “couldn’t have made it in the free market with the best will in the world” and opted to have it shut down completely, conveniently converting Pentacon’s facilities into a retraining center for its 6,000 former employees.
Not long after the business was shuttered, the remains of Pentacon were purchased by entrepreneur Heinrich Manderman (who also owned Rollei at the time) and the company was resurrected as Pentacon GmbH. Now operating as a subsidiary of the legendary lens maker Schneider Kreuznach, Pentacon is currently a supplier of plastic and metal industrial components.
Interested in starting or growing your own collection of Pentacon cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.
McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), 530-533.
“Who We Are,” Pentacon GmbH, https://www.pentacon.de/en/about-pentacon/who-we-are/
“Pentacon,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentacon
“Retraining in Germany,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1990/12/03/business/retraining-in-germany.html