Inherited a Praktica Super TL and Minolta X-370... looking for advice!

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by julied, Jun 27, 2018.

  1. Hey everyone,

    So one of my grandfathers passed away earlier on this year. He was super interested in astronomy to the point of building his own observatory from scratch - including telescope - and due to myself investing a lot of time into photography as firstly a hobby before spending some time in a more intense environment as a studio photographer I was given two of his cameras that he kept, both in pretty good condition.

    One is a Praktica Super TL with the original leather casing - it has a Meyer-Optik Görlitz Oreston 50mm f/1.8 lens on it and in a separate bag, a Dimension brand 223mm f=2.8 lens.
    The other is Minolta X-370 with a gorgeous Tamron 28-200mm f/3.8-5.6 lens popped on and a Vivitar Auto Thyristor 550FD flash tucked in the corner of the camera bag.

    There was also a couple rolls of 400 35mm film of which I'm not too sure how old (or new, haha) they all are and neither of them have batteries.

    The problem is... whilst I am familiar with basic stuff like "the exposure triangle" and I've handled modern SLR's on a few occasions before, I am a little bit out of the water when it comes to film cameras! I've done a ton of research on batteries and because the Praktica magnesium battery isn't the best to find, I'm debating in between 625A and 357 to tide me over before I drop a chunk of money on the CRIS MR9 adaptor. I live in relatively small town so even if I was to want it re-calibrated for a 1.5 or 1.55v I don't think there's anyone who would be able to do it nearby and I don't know if I feel comfortable doing it myself.
    The Minolta was pretty straight forward... everyone who I've read seems to have good experience using the SR44 batteries so that seems to be the way to go.

    In terms of film, everyone seems to have their own favourites but with the places I shoot in and the subjects I like, I was thinking about buying a couple of rolls of 200 35mm from Amazon or something but I would love to hear people's opinions about what kinds of film they like, the whole battery situation, or what some favourite subjects to capture with these two are. :)

    Thanks in advance, and sorry for the lengthy post :D
  2. Hi
    You could also try a Wien cell, gives the correct 1.35v, but doesn’t last terribly long.
    In respect of films, remember that you don’t have the option of changing it, once you have loaded (sorry that sounds obvious but I mean it for a reason). If you load 100 ISO, and then take your camera out on a gloomy misty winter morning, you’ll be shooting wide open, or with a tripod, and your creativity will be restricted. Conversely, if you load 400 or 800, and go out on a really bright day, you’ll be restrict to smaller apertures, within reason. Sure there are ND filters etc, but there are always compromises. You are used to being able to increase or decrease sensitivity as you choose, and not having this freedom takes a bit of getting used to.

    I like shooting B&W myself, as I have a darkroom. Typically I’ll load something like Ilford FP4 (125) in bright weather and HP5 (400) in the winter. I have no experience of either lens, but your 50mm is likely to produce plenty sharp enough images in the right hands. I have a hunch you are in the UK, if this is so, plenty of Boots still process film, and will scan it too, if you then want to play around with your shots in photoshop etc. You might want to check the light seals, they can get all gummy with age, but you can change them yourself with a few tools and patience. Door seal is the usual culprit. Have fun!
  3. Julied, the Praktica TL functions perfectly on a 1.5v button cell, 625/625a. There's manual available here; slip Mike Butkus $3.00 for his time and trouble.

    Praktica Super TL manual, user manual, free instruction manual, pdf manuals

    There's probably a manual for the Minolta on the same site.

    Films don't usually have batteries! Amazon has 4x packs of 200 ISO Fujicolor film at a very reasonable price if you want to deal with them. As for subject matter, start simple on scenery and subject matter that catches your eye around your town, until you're familiar with your gear. I'd suggest you master one camera before starting on the next.
    Put the big lens with the Praktica aside, and concentrate on working with the excellent Oreston standard lens.

    Good luck!
  4. The Minolta should be fine with two SR44's or any 1.5V button batteries.

    I believe the Praktica has a bridge circuit which compensates for voltage variation, so you should get correct exposure with a 1.5V battery. It's just a case of making sure the smaller 1.5V battery is making good contact in its chamber. I sometimes use a small wedge of kitchen foil to pack it out.

    However it certainly won't hurt to check the Praktica exposure against that indicated by the Minolta, or against any other camera or meter you have . These old cameras aren't always accurate even with the correct battery. And best of luck, which is often a commodity you need when using old film cameras.
  5. With regards to the Wein cell Stuart, I've scoped it out and whilst I am a little bit concerned about potential leaking, it's a camera that I'd like to push myself to be using every day so the short life didn't appeal to me too much, I've also done some looking into similar zinc hearing aid batteries (675ZA?) but they didn't really appeal to my liking either.
    In terms of film, I would really love to be able to expand and be able to have a lot of options on whatever given day but I think given my limited experience with film to begin with at the moment I'd just like to try to start my learning journey with less variables to worry about if I pop in a 200ISO film and that way I can also test out all the exposure limits!

    At the moment I'm doing some experiments with the Praktica to see what kinds of exposure I get without using batteries. I have had some people say they have a bridge circuit John but not every place that I read mentioned that so I wasn't sure if it was limited to some models or what not. Thank you for the luck though :) maybe I will have to do a comparison by taking an image of something and then coming back to it in a few weeks when I've got a better feel of how each of the cameras work...

    And thank you Rick for the link to the manual. I will definitely have a run through that and see if there's anything I'm not familiar with. In terms of subjects I think it'll be interesting shooting with the film cameras and comparing them to what they look like through the lens of my usual camera, which is a Fuji HS20EXR
  6. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Actually, you can unload & reload 35mm film with some care, and fuss. You do loose a couple of frames. Note the number of exposures, Rewind the film till you feel the film click free of the sprocket - open in complete darkness the first couple of times to be sure you are right. Use a sharpie to note the number of exposed frames on the leader. When ready to use the rest, reload normally, set shutter speed to max, f stop to smallest aperture, put lens cap on, and in the dark again snap off the number of exposures noted plus two. At most you'll sacrifice one exposed frame, but usually not.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2018
    stuart_pratt likes this.
  7. as rick says.
  8. The Tamron 28-200 is a "super zoom" which does make a few optical compromises in exchange for its great range of focal lengths. Also, it is not a true zoom as at settings other than infinity it has to be focused again. However, as far as this type of zoom goes it is one of the better ones (I have had one for years). If you use it at medium apertures it can perform surprisingly well. You might notice more distortion at the extremes of focal length when compared to single focal length lenses. If you like the Minolta you can pick up prime lenses for it at reasonable prices. Also, the Tamron lens has a mount that can be changed (Adaptall) meaning you could also get a mount so the lens could be used on the Praktica.
  9. Indeed, I have done it many times By max shutter speed, you mean the shortest time, minimum duration. I read a post on flickr recently where a guy was taping a short bit of leader to his film in order to get 40 frames from a roll!, so you can gain a couple back this way if you are cheap, like me (I've done it, it works fine!).
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  10. julied said:
    The camera functions perfectly well without batteries; the battery merely powers the light meter that switches on when you depress the button on the front of the camera below the shutter release. It's a mechanical camera, and if the meter no longer works (as is often the case) the camera still operates just as it was intended, everything else being equal. I have several Prakticas with dead meters, and I use them accompanied by a hand held exposure meter, or by guesstimating the exposure. Excellent description of your camera here:

    Praktica super TL
  11. Almost all actually existing (surviving) color and B&W films have great latitude and can be exposed with good results by the "Sunny-16" rule (LINK).
    Light meters were, from their first days, always the weak link in the cameras.
    I consider it to be a miracle when I do get an old camera whose meter still works.
    stuart_pratt likes this.
  12. Even if any exposure error was in direct proportion to the battery voltage difference - which I very much doubt - substituting a 1.5 volt battery for 1.35v only gives an 11% over-read. That would result in all of 1/6th of a stop underexposure; I.e. not even noticeable among all the other practical variables and tolerances.

    Some people sweat the small stuff far too much.
    stuart_pratt likes this.
  13. Several good online film vendors. Of course, color print film is still sold in some big stores (like Wal Mart). Black & white almost always has to be ordered. I buy mine from Freestyle and B&H.
  14. Hi Julied !

    I have posted a number of writeups in this Forum about Praktica Super TL. You may want to look up the archives against my name. It is a good camera with an excellent lens. Praktica shutter timings remain intact for long years/decades. It is also easy to lubricate after opening the bottom plate.
    While on slow speeds please do remember to hold the shutter button until the exposure mechanism returns to normal, fully. It does not matter at faster shutter speeds. But at slow speeds the aperture is likely to open up before the shutter closes, unless you keep the button depressed.
    Good luck; my tow pennies' worth. SP.
  15. my two pennies' worth. SP
  16. unfortunately no big stores near me, so I was looking on Amazon instead... I'll have to look into those that you mentioned, thanks!

    Thank you!
    That's an interesting way of putting it into perspective :)
  17. Julied- the stores I suggested have online stores and shipping (B&H out or New York and Freestyle from California) usually gets my order delivered (north central Mississippi) in two or three days with standard shipping. Of course, if you have the Amazon Prime you would have free shipping with that.

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