Praktica IV F with E Ludwig Meritar 50mm F/2.9

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by John Seaman, Jul 19, 2021.

  1. This came to me a couple of days ago, with its original box and instructions. I know that these 1960ish Praktica's have been covered before a number of times, and that opinions about them vary. All I can say is, mine is totally unmarked, working 100% and the finder is bright and clear - once you remember to operate the film advance (which is by a bottom mounted lever although the knob on the top can also be used) to lower the mirror.


    One thing which puzzled me was that the bar which operates the aperture pin on the lens did not move forwards when I pressed the shutter, although a lever just behind it did move. It turns out that by moving across a little red dotted knob - seen in the second picture- you can disable the movement of the aperture bar when non automatic lenses are fitted.


    That brings me to the lens, a little E Ludwig Meritar 50mm F/2.9 with a pre-set 5 blade aperture. I didn't expect much from it when I mounted it on my Canon 7D and took some shots in my garden at F/11, after all, a 60 year old low end triplet couldn't possibly match an 18MP sensor --- or could it?

    That's it, thanks for looking.



    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
  2. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    Nice find, John. A while back I picked up a Praktica V F (with instant return mirror). The shutter was dry and one of the curtains had pinholes, but I got it restored to working condition. Also have the Meritar lens and have found it to be surprisingly good, as your samples show.. I'll post some pictures sometime.

    The non-rectangular mirror is interesting, like in the older Zenit SLRs.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
  3. My first SLR was a Praktica VF with Meritar lens. My sample of Meritar (zebra striped and cone-nosed) was awful, and I can't remember it delivering a single truly sharp shot. While a friend with a Praktica got far sharper results from his Domiplan.

    So I looked around for a replacement lens and found a secondhand 55mm(?) Steinheil Auto Quinon f/1.9 at a good price. That lens was pin-sharp. Although the 'Auto' bit was a slight misnomer. It had a pre-tensioned diaphragm mechanism that you had to manually cock after every shot.

    IIRC I got less than £5 in part-exchange for the Meritar.... and I think the dealer was being generous to a 15 year old kid!

    Shortly afterwards both lens and camera were stolen. I often wonder how that old Quinon would perform on a modern hi-res digital camera. And I'm not about to pay the silly prices now asked to find out.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
  4. Not the shiniest moment in the history of VEB Kamerawerk, but they actually worked a lot of the time.

    The Meritar at £5 was a gift, though the lens did have a nice swirly bokeh on some versions.:rolleyes: Praktica-IV-allee.jpg
  5. Thanks for the comments.

    Although the mirror tray is rectangular.

    I suppose the 7D crop sensor covers the favoured central part of the image, and I had stopped well down. But I was still impressed with the sharpness and contrast. Probably sample variation is a factor.

    The Bokeh I got was not noticeably swirly.

    As stated, it's possible to advance the film via the upper knob, as well as with the lever on the base. Perhaps some old school users preferred knob wind. Another quirk is the rewind knob which is in two round parts, the upper part hinging outwards to form a handle. The focusing screen is surprisingly bright, even with the F/2.9 lens, and has a large, clear split image rangefinder.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
  6. I replaced the stolen Praktica with a Praktina FX. Although this had no instant return mirror and only knob wind advance, in some ways I found it better. An auxiliary direct vision finder and interchangeable prism/waist level finder for example. Plus a less fiddly bayonet lens mount. And the 58mm f/2 Zeiss Biotar that it came with was excellent.

    The knob-wind was no issue. You just swing the whole camera around your thumb and finger. It takes maybe half a second.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
  7. Great find, John. While I have a couple of the old dears, they can't match your copy in terms of good looks.This was the first SLR camera I ever handled, at the Camera Club at my school, and it started me on a lifelong love/hate affair with Prakticas in general.The old Meritar lens is certainly one of the better triplets, and I occasionally use it on the full-frame DSLR's for botanical work, as it does create a pleasant bokeh and a nice colour rendition, sample below from a Sony A7R. Thanks for a nostalgic post!

    Spring Meritar.JPG
    greg_nixon|2 and James Bryant like this.
  8. My father had a Praktica VF for many years until the shutter jammed and he replaced it with a Pentax K1000. After he died, I found the Pentax but not the Praktica -- only the manual, which covers both the VF and VFB (the latter model had a built-in meter). His VF came with a 50mm f/2.8 lens, but I don't remember which type. I have scanned many of his slides and negatives; it was soft at all apertures. Ditto for his 80mm f/2.8 and 35mm f/4.5. In addition, the 80mm had a subtle flarey look that Leica users call "glow." Lots of character. John Seaman's pictures are amazingly sharp and clear, as if made with a modern lens.
  9. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    Here are two samples from my Meritar 50/2.9 on a Praktica V F, Ektar 100 film. My lens looks a bit different than John's version.

    Praktica V F, E. Ludwig Meritar 50 2.9.jpg
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2021
    James Bryant likes this.

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