Help me date my Praktiflex !??!

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jodys, Jan 25, 2011.

  1. I have a few hints, notably the style of writing on the front (the 'Praktiflex'), the shape of the speed selector (smooth with 3 ridges), the speeds on the selector (red 'B'; 25; 50; 75; 100; 200; 300; 500); the size of the frame advance knob (27.5mm); the presence of strap lugs; the lack of a hand-scribed 'Germany' on the back (instead, under pop-up hood: KW logo, and "KAMERA-WERKSTATTEN NIEDERSEDLITZ-DRESDEN"); the 'R' over the rewind lever (don't know if it was originally black; the camera had extensive paint loss). From what I've found on the 'net, that would date the camera to roughly 1940-41 (?????). Serial no. is 27xxx. Lens is the M40x1 Victar Anastigmat 5cm f2.8 of course. I have not seen an identical camera anywhere on the 'net, the closest I've seen is here (difference: no KW logo and writing under the pop-up hood):
    I haven't tried any film yet, I still have to find a replacement mirror as it is more than 50% de-silvered. I have already cleaned it and replaced what was left of the original rubberized fabric with kid leather. Everything works as it should, the only major fault was a missing adjustment screw for the plane of the focusing screen, causing it to focus incorrectly on one side of the frame. Shutter curtain looks good, still not 100% sure there are no remaining pinholes after treatment. And of course the 'instant-return mirror' operates correctly :)P). BTW, this is not my oldest camera with an instant-return mirror; both my 1932 KW Pilot (original, fixed lens) and my (1920s?) Thornton-Pickard Bijou Reflex (4.5x6 plate) SLRs have functionally similar mirror lift and spring-assisted return mechanisms. The T-P has the added feature that the mirror will only return if the top focusing hood is retracted; it's a 'self-capping' shutter so the mirror is not needed to block the light from the film or plate as the shutter is cocked. That wasn't an issue with the behind-the-lens shutter of the Pilot, so of course the mirror on that is more like a modern SLR.
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  4. Looking at more cameras on Mike's Praktica/Pentacon pages, it seems my camera is half-way between the 1st generation model 11 and model 12 (I have the film speed selector of the model 11, with the KW logo and writing of the model 12). The 12 is here:
    I should note that I do have the remnants of the original rear film door covering, there was no KW logo in the center.
  5. If anyone is able to help you, it would be JDM. The earliest SLR was the Contax S of 1948, so I'd suggest your camera is fiftyish.
  6. I have to agree that JDM is the man to answer the question but the Praktiflex was introduced a good 9 or 10 years prior to the Contax S. I believe the Contax S may have been one of the first SLRs to introduce the pentaprism finder. It's funny that you ask this question as I have just spent a good part of the day researching the Contax D and the Praktiflex comes up quite often in discussions on that subject. Here is one thread that may be of some help;
  7. You should always keep in mind that many camera manufacturers did not make a "clear cut" between model generations. Of course from one generation to another certain key features were changed but not necessary all details. Many camera manufacturers used to use up parts they had on stock and so sometimes camera models are "mixed up" from parts of different generation. I just read an article about a Leica II with a covered opening on the rear of the body. It was stated that Leitz used Leica I bodies they had on stock when they started the Leica II series.
    Since your camera has some distinct features of the model 12, it probably IS a model 12 with some parts of a model 11 and probably was made during the transition period from model 11 to 12.
    Of course the Contax S was NOT the first 35mm SLR, the Exakta and the Praktiflex were made years before.
  8. Your camera might be older than you suspect? I'm guessing sometime in the 1940's? These were very early SLR's.
  9. The key to this mystery is the size of the lens mount. The 1948 Contax started the 42mm well known lens mount. the Praktiflex started with a 40mm lens mount. The one you have may most certainly have 40mm mount. Another feature is the top deck mounted shutter release. A third feature is lack of a blackout mirror. The mirror in yours goes up in relation to the amount of pressure on the shutter release, stays up while button is at bottom of travel. Once pressure is off the shutter release, the mirror returns to viewing position by gravity. I refer this as a lazy not so instant return mirror, that's the way it was designed! The years f manufacture would be 1938 to 1948 IMHO.
  10. The articles that I read left me unsure so maybe one of you can help. When they introduced the M42 mount did they completely discontinue the M40 mount? Or did they do the usual thing and keep using old parts until the supplies were exhausted or, did they continue manufacturing both? After all they had produced the M40 lenses for 6 or 7 years.
  11. I understood it was only the Gen. 2 cameras that could come with an M42 mount. Production of those was strictly post-war, though the design and prototypes may have been war-time (I don't actually have any of the books on the subject, and don't read German). However, from having just taken apart the camera to clean and change the skin, I can tell you that the M40 lens mount is ridiculously easy to remove; it's held on by 4 screws with matching nuts behind the flange. I considered buying a cheap M42 adapter of sorts from China and replacing the lens mount myself. But I want to try out the M40 lens first, from JDM's photos it is a good enough performer. And who knows, some day I may come across one of the military-version wartime lenses on the 'bay, and have a top-notch Schneider lens on my Praktiflex.
  12. Dang, leave the room for a minute and look what they say about you.
    I think that Dr. Mike Otto's site, already referred and linked to, is the real authority here, even more than Hummel or Schulz, since he's probably seen and got more of them than anyone else.
    I think that you have used your sources well, and have got it pretty close, although I think the date is almost certainly postwar in the 1946 to 1948 period.

    This one looks very similar to my own 1st generation which I posted on at I thought and think that mine is a late 11th version, probably ca. 1946, but certainly before 1948.

    The black lens mount puts both yours and mine into the 1946 and later production, if Schulz is right.

    As you say, the takeup spool is the ca. 27mm and the rewind spool the apx. 17mm of Schulz's version 11 and later.

    Schulz pretty much defined version 12 by the "rhombus KW" and inscription, Mine lacks that feature (v. 11) and bears body number 238xx. Schulz's example of version 11 is serial nr. 12922 and his example of version 12 is serial nr. 29904, so your 27xxx number is right where you put it -- in the development from 11 to 12, but by the back inscription in 12, rather than 11.

    The first of the "second generation" Praktiflexes is version 13 on which the shutter release is moved to the front of the camera.

    One unusual feature of yours is in the speed dial, silver on most of them, black on yours. I don't see a black speed dial in any of the pictures in my sources (Hummel 1994 and Schulz 2002). I don't know if that is a later addition as a repair or something that was tried out and abandoned. It doesn't look like the later Praktiflex or Praktica model speed dials that I know of either. (illustration below of the later 2nd generation Praktiflexes below, see the half covered speed dial).

    As Winfried points out, the model versions are post-hoc creations by the historians (Hummel and Schulz). KW was always famous, along with other German companies in the East, for phasing in new parts as the old ones were used up. This was common everywhere before the war.
    About 21,000 of what Hummel together calls 078, were produced between 2/1946 and 4/1948. This would include both Schulz's versions 11 and 12. The Soviet Military Administration had called for the production of 25,000 Praktiflexes and Pilot Super, according to Hummel. I'm not sure how that was distributed between the various generations and versions - I've long suspected that the removal of the 'instant return' mirror was to simplify production of the reparation models, but do not know that as a fact.
    BTW if your Pilot (also a KW product) does a mirror return it's different from my slightly later KW Pilot Super, on which the mirror only returns when the shutter is wound after the film advance. There is a separate shutter, but the mirror is self-capping. The claim for priority in this particular argument was for 35mm SLRs, since the "spring-loaded" idea had been around for a while. As Winfried noted, the Contax S is a long way from the first 35mm SLR. It is arguably the first eye-level prism SLR, but that is another dispute altogether.
  13. As for the M42 mount on the Praktiflex. According to Hummel there were supposed to have been made between 1948 and 1949 and he says that there were 15,041 of them produced.
    I do wonder about that production quantity. They seem much rarer than that in the marketplace, but it may be that many owners just don't know what they have.
    It may well be that in the transition to the Praktica, they ran out of M40 mounts before they ran out of Praktiflex bodies?
    Those not attuned to the fine points of KW cameras, should note that the camera labeled "Praktiflex FX" is not a Praktiflex at all but is simply a special rebrand of a Praktica FX to get around a complication as to which importer controlled the name Praktica in the USA.
  14. "I understood it was only the Gen. 2 cameras that could come with an M42 mount. Production of those was strictly post-war, though the design and prototypes may have been war-time (I don't actually have any of the books on the subject, and don't read German)."
    I once read Hummel's book, and I think it was him who told the story of the introduction of the M42 mount. The soviets wanted the then KW chief designer to design a more advanced lens mount and told him he was going to be arrested (in his own rooms) until the design was finished. Instead of trying to design a bayonet mount which would have prolonged his time in "home prison" he could convince the soviets that a slightly larger thread mount would be able to carry the features they wanted (probably the automatic aperture mechanism the actuating pin of which could be accomated in the extra space). So the M42 mount was created. The design was definitively post-war if you follow this story.
  15. Thanks JDM. I read somewhere that starting in '41 the top speed of these things was bumped up to 1/1000, which was the main reason I had thought it was a wartime camera. But I think you've narrowed this down pretty well as to dating, and considering what happened to the city of Dresden near the end of the war, it's a minor miracle of efficiency that the camera exists at all. BTW, the speed selector top is not black, it's kind of polished aluminum with the 3 ridges, with what's left of black paint (?) in the ridges. I'm not so great with 'product shots'.
    On another note, I had seen a strange Pentax lens in a pawn shop some months ago, and on finding this camera I wondered if it wasn't the equivalent lens from the Asahiflex. Anyway, I went and bought it today, and it turns out it's not (besides, the Asahiflex was M37 vs. the Praktiflex's M40, so I would have had to machine an adapter). What it is is the original AP pre-set lens, the 1957 Takumar (not the 'auto-') M42 55mm f2.2 (serial no. 155xxx). With the original lens shade. Still not a bad buy for $20, I think I'll put that one on my Pentacon ZI/Contax D, where it will look better than the all-black Helios 44/2 I have on it now.
  16. I found a Industar 50mm f/3.5 lens that is the image (pretty close) of a early M42x1 mount Praktica Tessar except also in black, with the same short snout. It is residing as a temporary measure on my early, first model Praktica (Hummel 082, I think) since I haven't yet found an early, stubby Tessar in M42 for it.
    Here that combination is. One of these days, I'll get around to it.
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  17. If I'm not mistaken, the Industar 50 was an exact copy, optically, of the Zeiss Tessar that originally came with that camera? Possibly even made from German glass depending on the date of manufacture (but probably not yours, which looks to be from the 70s)? I've been meaning to get one to try it out, but I'm not quite ready yet to buy another batch lot of lenses.
    Here's my Takumar pre-set 55mm f2.2, cleaned up a little. I took a few shots on the digital, it seems every bit as sharp as the Auto-Takumar 1.8 that everyone, including me, raves about. Perhaps the coatings are primitive though, compared to later Pentax glass. It doesn't have that yellowed look of my 1.4s, more of the amber color of the 1.8s. If I'm to believe 'net sources, it's the only (5-element) Gaussian lens Pentax ever made (?), and it was originally sold on the Asahiflex.
  18. i can see that you have got "the bug" -- good on ya'. It was actually a combination of a Praktica FX2 nostalgia (I used it as a second body when I was shooting Pentax), and the desire to own a Contax/Pentacon that got me into this fix in the first place. When I started some years ago, I have to say they were a lot cheaper than they are now.
    I used to joke that the one thing you could be sure of collecting old East German cameras was that in ten years they would worth just as little as they are today, but to my astonishment, that has not turned out to be altogether true.
  19. Just a little correction, I improperly stated that my KW Pilot 6 had an 'instant return mirror'. This is false; I cleaned the camera yesterday and it's a funky mechanism that uses the mirror itself, with another flap from the bottom, as the shutter. Nice, though, but I don't think it allowed for any speeds faster than the Pilot's top 1/100.
    I must have been thinking of the Reflex-Korelle that I briefly had last year?
  20. ph.


    The ancient threads here are a goldmine of technology.history infomation.

    Inspired by this post on page 300something, I was tempted to post a snap of my DDR cameras, My early Praktiflex with hand- engraved "Germany" on the rear of top cover below the winding knob sits on the right . An interesting device on one of the the praktica-FXa is the prism fitting inside the flip-up viewing hood, Not the Zeiss Jena variety, but engraved KW. Its lens is not original DDR, but the worlds smallest 135mm (a Fujta) .

    p. L1000314-L.jpg
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