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Nick's Classic Corner - No 30 - Jenaflex AM-1, Praktica BX20 & S

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Benchista, Nov 10, 2013.

  1. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I'll deal with the successors to the B200 as auto/manual expossure SLRs in just one piece, as the differences aren't vast.
    There was a BCX model, but as far as I'm aware, it was just a rebadged B200 - the first real change was the BC-1 in 1985. The changes were very minor - an extra contact on the flash shoe, a flash ready lamp in the viewfinder above the shutter speed indications, and a different body covering - a more traditional leatherette - and a small grip on the right. However, these changes do make it more comfortable to use. My version is a Carl Zeiss Jena-branded Jenaflex AM-1, complete with a Carl Zeiss Jena branded 50mm f1.8, which is actually not the Pancolar, but simply a rebranded Meyer Oreston/Pentacon/Prakticar. I actually like this camera quite a lot - it's competent, comfortable, and capable of great results. "Dedicated flash" was a simple automatic gun which simply lit the ready light.
    In 1987, more significant changes came in the shape of the BX20 - the whole thing feels more plasticky, particularly the revised film speed/exposure compensation dial, the shutter speed dial (now around the shutter release) and the awful shutter lock in front of the dial. Depth of field preview is now handled by pushing the self timer lever towards the lens throat, which is actually easier in use. The battery compartment was simlified - cheaper, but easier to use. The exposure lock button moved to the front of the camera. And a new, slightly faster winder was available.

    The major change with this model is proper dedicated, TTL and Off The Film flash, as pioneered by Olympus. This feature works very well with BD24 and BD36 flashguns. In the viewfinder, the flash lamp, an exposure compensation lamp, and an AE lock lamp are now on the left hand side of the screen. The other introduction was that when the camera was not wound on, the aperture display is in reddy-orange, but returns to normal white once wound on - a reminder of the L series' wind-on indicator, and very useful with such cameras.
    This was my main camera for some years, and although it doesn't feel the best, it's a very useful tool capable of top-class results. Not if you use the dreadful Hanimex 28-70mm zoom I had for a while, though...

    Finally, we come to the BX20S. There were a handful of BX21 models produced, which was a BX20 with DX coding ability for setting film speed, but the BX20S has the distinction of being the last true Praktica. Again, only a handful (37) were made before VEB Pentacon was closed down, but the model was manufactured by a new company - Jos Schneider, later Pentacon Gmbh - and these are branded "Made in Germany".
    This is to all intents and purposes a BX21 (i.e. with DX coding) in a revised, and particularly unpleasant shell. It's all smooth and swoopy plastic, and make the whole thing feel very cheap - although it is of course every bit as competent as the BX20. This camera was introduced in 1990, and was made until 2001, quite a feat.

    So there we have it - Prakticas were cheap and cheerful throughout this period, and generally they were supplied with grotty zooms, but when paired with the better glass available from Zeiss and the former Meyer factories, and latterly some Scneider lenses, they were a match for the best. Just a shame the later ones didn't feel as nice as the earlier bayonet models.

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