ARAX 60 – A tuned KIEV60

Photography Blog
(Last Updated On: 14/04/2018)

Yes I like my ARAX 60. Although there are a lot of negative articles about the reliability and functionality of the Kiev cameras and even some complains about the ARAX, I can’t confirm this. I just recently took the camera brick with me on a trip to China where it gave me beautiful results. Although, the camera is not as smooth operating like a Hasselblad or not as quite as a Rolleiflex TLR I found my love in the ARAX60. I like the tank design, the brand name and even the fact that pressing the shutter release button results in an unmistakable but solid “clonck” sound. That’s why I decided to write a short review about the upgraded medium format Kiev camera from the Ukraine.

But what is an ARAX?

ARAX is a modified KIEV60 6×6 medium format camera which has been upgraded to eliminate the known flaws of frame spacing, missing mirror lock up and internal light flare. After a general check-up and adjustment, the camera gets a new durable and non-reflective black external finish and name plate. The guys at ARAX bought the whole stock of KIEV60 cameras when the factory in the Ukraine closed their doors. Beside the repair service and spare parts, ARAX cameras are still available at and it is most probably one of the cheapest cameras you can buy new for entering the medium format world.

Why the ARAX 60?

There is a simple answer to the question. It’s because of the amazing variety of available lenses which can be found with very reasonable price tags. You can use all the fantastic lenses made for the Pentacon Six mount. Beside the Biometar 2.8/80 I own also the Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/180 and Zeiss Flektogon 4/50. Both are legends and deliver amazing results for incredible small money. I think I paid for the camera with all lenses less than others pay for a used Hasselblad body only. A selection of lenses with the Pentacon mount can be found here Pentaconsix lenses or here Exakta66 lenses or here Kiev 60 lenses

Pentacon Six, Exakta 66, Kiev 60 and ARAX

All of these cameras are having the same Pentacon Six mount. I owned several Pentacon Six cameras and although I enjoyed shooting with them, they had sometimes trouble with film advance and shutter accuracy. Based on my experience I would judge them less reliable than the ARAX 60. The Exakta 66 (not to confuse with the vintage Exakta 66), is basically a West Germany labelled Pentacon Six TL in a new housing. This camera is usually offered way to expensive and might be therefore more interesting for collectors. Like with most of east Europe cameras, getting a Kiev 60 is like playing Russian roulette. You can be lucky and you get a perfect copy but you can also get one which passed the quality check in the factory when the staff was on lunch break. A comparison of the cameras can be found under (in German)

ARAX 60 with Zeiss Jena Biometar 2.8/80 on Fuji Neopan 100
ARAX 60 with Zeiss Jena Biometar 2.8/80 on Fuji Neopan 100

This lens is the standard lens of the Pentacon Six camera and available in several versions like most of the Pentacon / Zeiss lenses available for the Pentacon mount. This is beside the cheaper but also nice Ukrainian Kiev ARSAT 2.8/80 lens the standard lens. My advice is to get the newer MC coated versions of the lens.

ARAX 60 with Zeiss Jena Biometar 2.8/80 on Fuji Neopan 100
ARAX 60 with Zeiss Jena Biometar 2.8/80 on Fuji Neopan 100
ISO 80, Rodinal 1:50
ISO 80, Rodinal 1:50
ARAX 60 with Zeiss Jena Biometar 2.8/80 on Fuji Neopan 100
ARAX 60 with Zeiss Jena Biometar 2.8/80 on Fuji Neopan 100

Comparable with a 35mm lens in the full frame world, this lens performs great. Being bigger and heavier than the Biometar, the lens looks beautiful on the ARAX camera. Don’t be shy to buy Flektogons with some white spots on the black behind the front glass since it will not have visible impact on the photo results.

ARAX 60 with Zeiss Jena Flektogon 4/50
ARAX 60 with Zeiss Jena Flektogon 4/50
ARAX 60 with Zeiss Jena Flektogon 4/50
ARAX 60 with Zeiss Jena Flektogon 4/50

Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 2.8/180

What a lens!! The size itself comparable to a proper coffee muck with a huge glass front is already impressive. But if you see the first results of a shooting with this lens you will be blown away. Truly a first choice when it comes to shooting portraits. But because of the size and the vocal length, no really a lens you want always carry around with you. Although the copy I got was not in a mint condition at all, for incredible 70 EUR it still delivers beautiful results.

Zeiss Jena Sonnar 2.8/180
Zeiss Jena Sonnar 2.8/180
Zeiss Jena Sonnar 2.8/180

All owners of Mamiya 645, Pentax 645 or Contax 645 cameras can use Pentacon Six lenses by getting an according adapter which is also available for several SLRs/DSLRs.

21 Replies on

ARAX 60 – A tuned KIEV60

  • My favorite camera is the Mamiya 6, with a 50mm lens; I have two of them. I’m inspired by your story though and ordered an Arax yesterday! Looking forward to giving it a try.

    1. Dear Ron,
      You need to try the great east German Carl Zeiss Jena lenses which can be find for very reasonable prices on eBay.
      As I said in the article, I’m quite happy with the ARAX and I hope you’ll have a lot of fun with it too. Keep me updated!

    2. Dear Ron, dear Torsten,
      for many years I’ve been very busy with 120 black-white film and photographic gear from Zenza Bronica, Pentacon Six, Kiev 60, Kiev 88, Exakta 66, Pentasix, Arax and Mamiya.
      Meanwhile I’ve quit the analogue way of photography, but in conclusion I’m sorry to say that this ukrainian equipment in comparison was a very bad thing, I never ever would recommend these cameras for serious photography !

      1. Dear Reinhard,
        I can’t share your experience. I used also a lot of other medium format cameras and while I wouldn’t say that the ARAX60 might be the best cameras, I can truly confirm that I had never a problem with it and really enjoy shooting it. The pure fact of the possibility using old Zeiss Jena lenses like the Sonnar 180 and Flektogon is worth the small money what you pay for a new ARAX60.

  • I just learned about the Arax cameras and came across your article about your trip to China on Steve’s site. Beautiful photos.
    I always loved my P6 but just couldn’t trust it – too many overlapping frames.
    Did you get the metered prism for yours and if so, is it useful/accurate?

    1. I had also a P6 before and loved it. But I think the ARAX is much more reliable. Never had any overlapping frames and the loading of film is hassle-free. I got also the prism but I enjoy the shooting with waist level finder more. Although the prism might be better for focusing. I don’t rely on the built in meter. You can find some more photo I just shot recently on my Flickr page:

    2. I just received my Arax this week;; so it took almost 2 months to get here. I had to start a dispute through Paypal it was so late and I think the Arax guy is now mad at me as he no longer answers my email. It came with no instructions and it took me a while to figure how to open the back, turn on the light meter. I see some people start the film beyond the red dots, to help with spacing, which makes no sense to me.

      1. I did never read the manual but you can find them on their website: There are also videos about the Arax on YouTube. I start my films always at the red dot. Never had any game spacing issues.

      2. I don’t normally need instructions either but I couldn’t figure out how to open the back; even after watching the videos on-line. Turns out, with my camera, I need to press in on the back slightly while depressing the rear release button.

  • Hi folks! I’m a brazilian retired pro. For shooting medium format I have two ARAX MLU 60 cameras besides one Pentacon Six TL and one Rolleiflex 2.8 Planar. The ARAX are my first choice, in spite they are heavy and noisy, but these issues do not interfere in my work .
    I use my ARAX gear almost allways on a tripod. My lenses are of course Carl Zeiss Jena, but also Schneider (65, 80 and 150mm), and Arsat 30mm and 45mm PC. I am fully satisfied with these MF gear!

  • Hi all,

    I am also one of the lucky guys (owner or both Kiev 60 and Arax for years) that my equipment quality control took place when the technician was on duty. 🙂 I never had any problem with both cameras and i totally rely on them (no film spacing, no light leaks)… just nothing to complain about.
    I don’t want to comment on instruction manuals etc. as i like a lot of DIY therefore its very easy for me to understand without RTFM. 🙂
    I shoot both digital & analogue just for fun and hobby and i don’t use internal meter. Phone apps are for free.

    Thanks for nice Review

  • Hi Torsten! got inspired and bought myself one of those beasts,
    Im curious about the attachment you have on your shutter release button, is that some sort of Relese button lock?


    1. Congrats. It’s a really nice camera. Get also the Sonnar 2.8/180 lens. This thing is a beast.
      The attachment is just extension of the release button. I got it with one of the cameras I bought.

    1. Hi Mark, I had a problem with the shutter curtain which kept always a bit open while advancing the film. I bought another one which worked fine until I sold it to get a Pentacon Six again. I like the slightly smaller size and shutter sound of the Pentacon Six TL. However, most important are the nice lenses you get for the Pentacon Six mount.

  • Hello Mr. Torsten and thank you for this article. I go to Russia every year for photos as well as other European countries. I use the Hasselblad mostly because it’s much easier than dragging the huge Fuji GX 680. I always stop at the camera shops to look at the old cameras they have and have seen an Arax in one store. I was going to get a Kiev 60, but after research and talking to my Russian friends I decided to look more deeply at the Arax. Your article only reaffirms my decision. Lovely, crisp photos from your lenses too. Anyway, thank you again and keep up the good work. Oh, where are you from sir?

  • I stopped by on my way through. I got my cccp-marked kiev 60(no arax,no cover inside) on eBay 3 months ago and have used 10 rolls of color,black and white film so far. The shutter speed seems to be normal, but there are times when the load levers become stiff, and most films take a little or 1/3%
    Now I got a zeiss sonnar 180 f2.8 and I will gonna test 10 more films

    1. the sonnar 2.8/180 is a must have for pentacon mount cameras. this lens is a bit bulky and heavy but the results are amazing. especially when considering how much glass you get for the money.

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