Gossen Sixtomat exposure meter

Update: 02.07.2017


Sixtomat exposure meter.

The Sixtomat, manufactured  by Gossen in Erlangen Germany, is a exposure meter  to be used for photographic and cine purposes. The meter only measures reflected light. The sensor can be shut off for light by a metal rolling blind. This roller blind protects the sensitive parts of the meter like the sensor and the glass of the reading scale. The blind is made  of special V2a rustles steel.

The Sixtomat has been made in different versions and also in different colors. Most common is the black version rare are the dark blue and dark red versions. The first production date is around 1950 and since then a large number of these meter have been made. Later on this meter has been improved and merged into the Sixtomat J the Sixtomat X2 and the Sixtomat X3. There are some minor differences in the production versions like the color of the scale on the film sensitivity knob and the knob itself. The meter has been developed shortly after the Sixtus 2. The Sixtus 2 is the first post WW2 meter since 1936. The Sixtomat is a complete new design after the well known bakelite versions.

An application for the German patent was done on December 24 1949, the USA patent for the Sixtomat was requested at June 2 1950 by P. Gossen & Co. GMBH Erlangen Germany under number 2,699,087. The inventors are the son of Paul Gossen, Hans Gossen and Erwin Pfaffenberger. 

In December 1950 the American Cinematographer has placed an article in their magazine presenting this meter;  "Sixtomat. New, Automatic Exposure Meter." The Sixtomat is being imported and distributed in the USA by the Mitropa Corporation, New York City and the retail price in that time was about US $32.50. This article describes the function of the meter extensively. But in the issue of Popular photography September 1950 we already see an advertisement for the fully automatic Sixtomat.

It is clearly an automated version of his predecessors, the Photolux, Ombrux, Blendux, Cimbrux,  Sixtus, Ombrux 2 and Sixtus 2. The red button for changing the sensitivity of the meter is now incorporated in the mechanism. When rotating the knob, you can see the scale changing from red to black or vice versa. A internal switch changes this sensitivity accordingly, replacing manual pressing the button. It is a meter of the next generation of Gossen exposure meters for photographic and cine purposes, measuring reflected and incident light (some of them) by use of what Gossen called the 'rollo' a movable blind. The electrical function of the Sixtomat is still based on the older predecessors with the red button on top. This button enables the meter to measure with different light sensitivity. This function is incorporated into the Sixtomat but invisible for the user because it is mounted on the axle were also the knob is mounted. The sensitivity changes when the scale goes from black to red and vice versa. In the newer versions of the Sixtomat this function has been removed. The notch on the axle is still there but the switch has been removed at the same time the metal roller blind has been replaced by a diffuse one enabling the meter to measure reflected light en when the blind is in front of the sensor. also to measure incident light.

The first Sixtomat exposure meter, from the early fifties and still available in the early seventies so it last for more than two decades. In a Gossen brochure from 1971 it still available and in the meantime, more than 1.500.000 meters have been produced. The types that are manufactured are as far as we know the Sixtomat, the Sixtomat X2, The Sixtomat X3, the Sixtomat Deluxe I, the Sixtomat J. Even between the meters of the same type, there are differences in manufacturing. Also there are meters made in different colors but of the same model, like the Sixtomat normally in black is also in dark blue and even in dark red. The Sixtomat X3 has been made with a complete transparent housing.

The Sixtomat is the first meter where the meter element has been made shock proof and drop resistant. The galvanometer coil moves on jewel bearings which in turn are spring loaded.

Gossen and Leica.

During time, Gossen has made several versions of their meters especially for Leica. Some of them are recognizable by the word Leica or just the "L" on the scale or the meter itself but some others have no special mark but can be recognized by the values on the scale. Because Leica uses different values for exposure times, the meters need to be adapted.

On the scale of the Ombrux for Leica we can see 1/8, 1/20, 1/30, 1/40, 1/60, 1/100, 1/200, 1/500 while the normally used values are 1/25, 1/50, 1.100, 1/250, 1/100.

Sixtomat N.

There is a mystery left concerning the versions of the Sixtomat. In time I have seen 3 meters with the designation Sixtomat N on the cardboard box but no clue what this version exactly is. So if anyone can help me out with this please do.

For an overview of al the different meters known see Versions

Special thanks to Richard W Holzman and Simon Spaans for additional information and articles.

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