A Praktica Revisited

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Dec 31, 2016.

  1. I replaced the light seals on this very tidy Praktica PLC3 camera and ran a short test film, and liked the results so much that loaded up another. It really is quite some camera.

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  2. I've had an ongoing love affair with Praktica SLR's extending back over forty years. While still a student, my first SLR camera was a Praktica Nova B with a Domiplan lens, probably the least esteemed combination in Praktica history, but I took some nice photographs with it. Well, they pleased me, and while other classier cameras came and went over the next four decades I upgraded the Prakticas now and then, and began collecting them more seriously about five years ago.
    This PLC3 uses the world-first Pentacon Electrical Diaphragm Simulation system, which permits TTL metering at full aperture, rather than the stopped-down metering that was previously the norm; this was introduced in 1969 with the Praktica LLC model. In 1975 the PLC 2 appeared followed by the PLC3 in 1978; these cameras required the Pentacon Electric lenses to provide open-aperture metering, the lenses having three electrical contact points that came into contact with three points on the lens mount when the M42 thread was screwed fully home. Here's how it looks:
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  3. Non-Electric lenses could be used, but only with the lens stopped down in traditional fashion, these Praktica using an in-viewfinder center-the-needle procedure, still my favorite among the various systems.

    Basically, the PLC3 Camera is a rugged, well-built and (to me) handsome camera, with the excellent Pentacon quick film loading system that uses two opposing bars to fold and trap the film's leader, one of the best and simplest such gadgets around. The somewhat noisy metal shutter has speeds from B to 1/1000th, but it's reliable, accurate and virtually indestructible. The shutter is mechanical and the metering was designed to run on on the now-defunct 4.5v PX21 cell, but I'm indebted to our Subbarayan Prasanna who pointed out quite early in the piece that a 1.5v AA cell is of the same dimensions and the meter will operate perfectly on the lower voltage. Which saves a lot of fiddling around with stacks of button cells and other inconvenient devices. The pebble finish of the covering wears extremely well and provides an excellent grip. For me the crowning glory is the 50mm Pentacon f/1.8 lens, a lens that endured for many years in the Praktica range. Starting out as the Meyer-Optik Görlitz Oreston, with variations only to mounts and coatings it became the Pentacon, Pentacon Electric and the Pentacon Prakticar in the last Praktica "B" series. It's a truly great lens, one I use frequently on my DSLR's; I'll post some samples from a new roll of Kentmere 100 processed in PMK Pyro, with scans from an Epson V700 using Silverfast SE software.
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  4. Nice images. I too have a soft spot for the all-mechanical Prakticas, but the crappy viewfinder, I could never come to terms with (save perhaps for the MTL-50 which received an upgrade in that department and the VLC models with the interchangeable finders). Also the AA battery thing is a convenient solution, but I'm pretty sure that the lower voltage doesn't permit deflection of the needle across the whole range of the light meter, so it's good for showing correct exposure, but you can't over- or under-expose at will, at least based on the needle (you can always simply go up or down one or two stops by changing speed or aperture ignoring the meter).
     
  5. ...and the Pentacon is a truly great lens (esp. in the bokeh department) only marginally inferior to the more expensive Pancolar.
     
  6. Thanks for an informative post, Rick. Great results.
     
  7. IMHO, the whole L series is the high point of Praktica development particularly in terms of a fine design, well executed. My personal favorite among these are the VLC models with the removable prism.
    The gods help me, I do so love these souvenirs of the Workers' and Peasants' State. This is, of course, not strictly explainable in rational terms.
    Thanks for a very welcome post!
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  8. Very fine results. Love the look you get. Excellent tone and sharpness... While I have a soft spot too for DDR cameras, I avoided these early on as yet another line (Praktica) of cameras... I am now so unfocused on models and lines that, camera slut that I am, I will take anything. I may yet go for the VLC model... but that means I will need a second screen etc and then the whole thing goes crazy again. I have the Contax Pentacon line and may yet go for one of these Pentacon 1.8 lenses. I have the Pancolar in Exacta mount. In M42 there are so many desirable lenses.
    I like that you have been consistent in keeping this line as collectible and the later or last "B" model you showed a year back was excellent too. I love success stories with batteries!
     
  9. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    If anyone experiences meter range issues using a AA battery (as Christos mentioned), you can still get Exell 4.5V PX21 alkaline batteries online. I prefer the MTL50 as it takes a PX28 battery, and the LED metering is nice too. Another favorite is the LB2, which is basically an L with a built-in, accurate selenium meter.
    Nice results with the Pentacon lens. Like the Meyer Oreston, the close focusing distance is handy, and I think the multicoatings are an improvement over the Oreston, which I found to be a bit flare-prone.
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  10. As usual, beautiful work Rick. I'm motivated to look at my Prakitica-L and Pentacon Auto 50/1.8 again. Thank you.
     
  11. My luck with a Nova 1B and with a Domiplan lens was not so good. The 1B must have been the most poorly made SLR I have ever owned. I traded it for something. The Domiplan came with an Exakta VX500. I traded the Domiplan for a 50/2 Pancolar. The lens was good but I did not like the camera so I traded both away. Late last year I got a 50/1.8 Pentacon marked auto and MULTI COATING on the front. I must have used it only once or twice so far. This year it should get some more use and I will see how it compares to my other M42 standard lenses.
     
  12. Rick - Beautiful work. I especially liked Swans and Shells.
    I wonder if the Alkaline version of the PX21 cell would work?
     
  13. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    Marc,
    The alkaline PX21 I mentioned (Exell) works fine.
     
  14. Dave E. - Good to know. Thanks.
     
  15. Thanks, Rick, I particularly like "Summer Shed".I used a Nova II, a close relative of the MTL 3 for about 5 years and got 5x7 prints from the local camera shop.It's a charity shop now!
     
  16. Nice, Rick! That Praktica is a handsome little box.
     
  17. Thanks for the responses. I really must try an alkaline PX21 in these cameras, but they're not available down here in New Zealand and, with a landed cost of about USD24 each to import from the US I've always been a little hesitant, given that the exposures seem accurate and consistent with the 1.5v AA cell. Certainly, the reaction time and deflection might improve, but with the needle centered it's a simple matter to move it one stop up or down by adjusting aperture or speed, to achieve exposure compensation. Thanks, Dave E, for the comments; nice assembly of Prakticas you have there.
    I've never had too much of an issue with the viewfinders, though I'll grant that they are not the brightest examples around. However, the ground glass/microprism focusing aids in the PLC3 viewfinder are very effective, and the position of the shutter release, angled upwards on the front of the camera, is pretty much my ideal. With the smaller digital bodies my large fingers have trouble crooking up and back down to the top-mounted releases.
    Thanks, JDM, I agree that the L series are a nice meeting of form and function, and Andrew seems be discerning enough to agree! I'd have trouble picking very much difference in the results from the Pancolar or the Pentacon, Christos, though the Pancolar seems to have something of a cult following and is reputed to be a little sharper. Your experience with the Nova 1B are pretty typical, Jeff, and I'll be interested to learn how you get on with the Pentacon lens. And thank you Chuck, Tony, Alan, Mike and Marc for your kind words.
     
  18. Thanks Rick! for a nice presentation. They are among my favourites along with the Exakta VX series. SP.
     

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