I fell in love with this camera the very first time I saw it. The simplicity and beauty of the design, the cover in gold combined with one out of four colors (pearl, blue, turquoise and red), and the extravagant film transport mechanism made it a must-have for my collection.
The Penti takes 18 x 24 mm half-frames on regular 35 mm film but uses SL-System film cartridges. SL-System stands for Schnell-Lade-System (Fast load system) and is the east-german version of Agfa’s Rapid cartridge system. Both systems use two cartridges in the camera, one loaded with film, the other empty. When taking photographs the film is transported from the loaded to the empty cartridge frame by frame.
Of course there are no pre-loaded SL or Rapid cartridges available these days, the system died a silent death someday in the 1980s. So if you would like to use cameras like the Penti, you have to help yourself to a loaded cartridge. Fortunately 35 mm film is still on the market, and respooling the film into an SL cartridge is not too complicated as long as you have a dark room or film changing bag at hand. I modified a broken Pentacon electra into an “SL loading device” for this purpose (I’ll tell you more about this in a follow-up article).
So back to the Penti which was produced by Welta from 1959. The camera features an f:3.5 F=30 mm Meyer Trioplan or Meyer Domiplan lens with full control for focus distance, aperture and shutter speed, a viewfinder, and a leaf shutter sychronized for flash bulbs. One special feature is the film transport mechanism. After taking a photograph a rod will appear on the left of the camera. Pushing the rod back in transports the film to the next frame.
The Penti is real fun to use. It’s compact and lightweight and fits into your pocket easily. The optical quality of the Meyer lens is quite amazing and gives you a range of apertures from 3.5 to 22. The shutter speeds of B 1/30 1/60 and 1/125 are somewhat limited but still ok for this kind of snapshot camera. And I really loved the photographs I got from my test roll.