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Nick's Classic Corner - No. 14 - Praktica L Series: an overview

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Benchista, Oct 13, 2013.

  1. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    VEB Pentacon was formed in 1959 from the amalgamation of (amongst other lesser brands) Kamera Werke, the makers of the Praktica, and the East German Zeiss Ikon, responsible for the Contax S SLR. In 1968 various other companies were merged into the group, including Ihagee (Exakta) and the lens maker Hugo Meyer.
    In the 60s, Praktica had made steady progress in the SLR market, but reliability of the Nova series was not great, so in 1969 a new series was unveiled based around a new vertical travel metal blind focal plane shutter speeded from 1s - 1/1000, with flash sync of 1/125. This was the L series, which comprised a number of different models but with 80% of components in common.
    The cameras were to a new, boxy design, quite lightweight but fairly solid. All models had a very simple but very effective quick loading system - the film leader was simply pulled under one of two wire gates, the back closed, and wound on.

    A triangular indicator is visible on the left of the viewfinder if the camera is not wound on.

    Shutter release on all models is on the front so as to avoid camera shake.

    Models within the range were as follows:

    Praktica L - the entry-level model, no built-in meter.
    LB - as the L, but with an external selenium meter and match needle on the top plate.
    LTL (later MTL series, and many, many others) - with stop-down metering via a meter paddle on the front next to the shutter button.
    LLC (later PLC) - full aperture metering switched by partial pressure on the shutter button, with electrical contacts handling communication of the chosen aperture between camera and appropriate lenses.
    VLC - as LLC, but with interchangeable focus screens and viewfinders. A very similar camera was available with a different lens mount as the Exakta RTL1000.
    EE - the only model with aperture priority and manual exposure, and an electronically-controlled shutter.

    The first series (L, LB, LTL, LLC, VLC) ran from 1969-1975. The shutter release was relatively slim, and could be locked; focus screen had a central microprism spot (except VLC). Body covering was a slightly rough rubberised material that gave a decent grip. All models except the L and LB had a self timer.
    The second series came in 1976, with the L2, LB2, LTL3, PLC2, VLC2 and EE2, which featured a broader, non-locking shutter release, a brighter viewfinder screen and several other modifications.
    The final versions of most models came in 1978, with the MTL3, PLC3, VLC3 and EE3 - these featured a new, bumpy rubber body covering, brighter screens again with a split image, and a flash sync socket.

    The B series of more advanced cameras was launched in 1980; most L series models were dropped, but continuations of the LTL/MTL range in a wide variety of garbs continued for some years with countless minor variations - many no more than labels, or with/without flash socket, self timer and sometimes missing the 1/1000 top speed. The most significant difference was the MTL50, with LEDs in the viewfinder for metering info.

    Couple of tips for L series cameras - firstly, although there's no mirror lock-up, it is possible to push the mirror up gently when wound on, and it will lock up. Secondly, when set to B, the self timer will give an exposure of around 3 seconds (this can work with other cameras, too). Finally, sometimes it can be thought that the shutter on one of these cameras is jammed, when it's actually not - remove the lens, pull the aperture activation plate, and the shutter may miraculously unjam.

    Batteries are PX625 for the LTL/MTL series, although later models use an LR44. The full aperture metering models use a PX21 battery which is still available, but rare.

    The cameras were available throughout much of their history with a choice of no less than 4 standard lenses - 50mm f2.8 Domiplan and Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar, and 50mm f1.8 Meyer Oreston/Pentacon and Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar lenses.

    The Domiplan is a lens I consider to be awful, the Tessar isn't bad, the Oreston/Pentacon is a very decent lens up to the standard of just about any 50mm f1.8, the Pancolar outstanding. From the launch of the 2nd series of bodies, the lenses were multicoated.

    A wide range of lenses were available from Meyer/Pentacon and Carl Zeiss Jena in both straight M42 screw and Electric screw mounts - the 20mm f2.8, 35mm f2.4, 80mm f1.8 and 135mm f3.5 Carl Zeiss Jena lenses are lenses I particularly love.

    A huge range of accessories was also available - no winders, but two different bellows, electrical coupling rings, microscope adapters, copy stands - you name it, it was available.

    I'm unaccountably fond of these cameras, and have lots of them. Most are very cheap. Even decent VLC models are fairly reasonable. EE models can be a bit troublesome, but the rest are very reliable and capable of excellent results.
     
  2. PeteE

    PeteE Well-Known Member

    Re: Nick's Classic Corner - No. 14 - Praktica L Series: an overv

    Very Interesting account once more == here are three of MY remaining Prakticas -- I DID have the 'Super TL' but gave it away -- they were saved from the Council Tip -- a Councillor who was asked to dump a load of gear from a deceased friend phoned me up !!
    [​IMG]
    Praktica LB by pentaxpete, on Flickr
    [​IMG]
    Praktica LTL by pentaxpete, on Flickr
    [​IMG]
    Praktica MTL3 by pentaxpete, on Flickr
    The 'PENTACON CLUB ' I joined had a great magazine and lots of Prizes to be won -- I won Zeiss binoculars, Sunpak flashes etc then it went BUST when East Germany merged with West Germany and the Pentacon factory had to pay West German wages !
     
  3. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    Re: Nick's Classic Corner - No. 14 - Praktica L Series: an overv

    Funnily enough, I've just posted some pics from an MTL3 on the Relic Challenge thread - though between Snappy Snaps negs and my scanner, one of us has picked up a lot of dust and some very odd colour casts!

    I was expecting a Zenitesque tank, but it's actually quite light. The metering might require some thought - am I right that it only meters when you press the paddle? Not having a Wein cell to hand, I just used the Weston that came with it - but my only real problem was that every other SLR I've had has the release on the top casing rather than on the front, so I kept trying to take photos with the speed dial...

    Adrian
     
  4. Bob Maddison

    Bob Maddison Well-Known Member

    Re: Nick's Classic Corner - No. 14 - Praktica L Series: an overv

    Although the PX21 battery gives 4.5 volts, it is almost identical in size to the ubiquitous AA which does work as a substitute. Exposure readings are correct, although the "bridge" circuit is much less sensitive because of the lower voltage
     
  5. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Re: Nick's Classic Corner - No. 14 - Praktica L Series: an overv

    I saw that, Adrian - it's why I brought his one forward.

    Yes, the meter only operates whilst the paddle is pressed - it would be a stretch to call it an elegant solution to triggering stop-down metering, but it's effective.

    I've used several different cameras with front mounted shutter releases - the idea is that it doesn't translate the downward pressure of the finger into camera shake, and I used to have no problem shooting hand held with one of these things at 1/15.
     
  6. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    Re: Nick's Classic Corner - No. 14 - Praktica L Series: an overv

    Always glad to play havoc with the scheduling!

    That's a very interesting point about the shutter - must try that sometime, and also see whether it does anything to my wonky horizons, which tend to lean to the right.

    Adrian
     
  7. I have a LTL, bought new in about 1974 IIRC, which has given yeoman service! It has been heavily used, and once bounced of a sidewalk. Just keeps on and on. The stop down metering is the best implementation of such I've ever seen, placing the meter key so close to the front panel angled release is the secret. It's my understanding that the metering uses a bridge circuit which is relatively independent of voltage so while the camera calls for a mercury cell a silver oxide cell which will fit will work just fine.
     
  8. I have a LTL, bought new in about 1974 IIRC, which has given yeoman service! It has been heavily used, and once bounced of a sidewalk. Just keeps on and on. The stop down metering is the best implementation of such I've ever seen, placing the meter key so close to the front panel angled release is the secret. It's my understanding that the metering uses a bridge circuit which is relatively independent of voltage so while the camera calls for a mercury cell a silver oxide cell which will fit will work just fine.
     

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