The Prakticas were Pentacon's SLR flagship cameras. This GDR state-owned manufacturer was created after the merge of Zeiss Ikon, KW and other Dresden-based manufacturers.
Praktica cameras are a very large and long-lived family. Some Prakticas have many things in common, while some others have many differences. They were originally made by KW until it merged into Pentacon, which continued them until the year 2001. Praktica cameras were made in millions and exported everywhere, sometimes rebadged as Revue, Porst or Hanimex. They were a cheaper alternative to other SLRs and they proved to be quite reliable and sturdy enough for amateur photographers. According to Ivor Matanle, “During the sixties, as the dominance of the Japanese manufacturers really made itself felt, the ever-changing series of Praktica cameras mantained volume sales throughout the decade” (p.65).
Praktica cameras can be classified in different series or generations. The Praktica super TL 1000 belongs to the fourth and last L series generation. The first L series generation appeared in 1969 with the Praktica L. Apart from a more modern design quite different from the previous PL nova series, the main novelty was the shutter. Instead of the classical horizontal cloth shutter used in the previous Prakticas, the L series featured a metallic vertical focal plane shutter. According to expert repairman Thomas Tomosy, this shutter “is very reliable and does not normally require attention” (p.95).
Being a state-owned manufacturer, sometimes Pentacon cameras were quite old fashioned compared to the contemporary Japanese SLRs. But with this metallic shutter Pentacon made an excellent choice and proved to be ahead of its time: during the seventies and eighties, almost all the Japanese SLR manufacturers would use this kind of metallic vertical shutters as they proved to be faster and more reliable. Of course, Praktica's shutter wasn't the first metallic shutter ever used, but at least proved that Pentacon was trying to offer a competitive range of cameras in a market overwhelmingly dominated by Japan. On the contrary, Russian cameras were just copies without any innovation effort.
All the L series cameras are quite similar between each other. They were all designed by Rolf Noack. According to Michael Sorms, all the L series' top cover is made out of plastic with copper and chrome coatings. Therefore, in spite of its metallic appearance, the top cover is not as sturdy as it looks. Built until the late eighties, the L series remained as one of the last fully mechanical SLR cameras before the Praktica B series.
The Praktica super TL 1000 was introduced in February 1980. It's half way between the third generation Praktica MTL 3 and the fourth generation Praktica MTL 5. They are, after all, very similar cameras, so most of the super TL 1000 specifications also apply for the MTL 3 and MTL 5. It featured a CdS exposure meter, TTL stop-down metering with needle readout, a hot shoe and the everlasting M42 mount, but no self-timer nor PC flash contact, unlike MTL 3 and MTL 5.
According to Mike Otto, until 1984 it was made with a reticulated synthetic leatherette and a chromed shutter speed dial. Starting from 1984 it was made with a smooth leatherette and a black shutter speed dial. It was discontinued in December 1986 with 400,000 units produced. According to Michael Sorms, the Praktica super TL 1000 was sold in UK with lots of different names: Praktica TL 3, Nova II, PM 3, MTL 3 o MTL 5, but it must not be confused with real MTL 3 or MTL 5. These rebadged cameras can be identified because the name was usually placed on a sticker. I didn't buy this Praktica super TL 1000 as a collectable, but mainly to use it. I used it several times between Summer 2010 and Summer 2011 and I had no complaints: reliable, sturdy, easy to use and fully mechanical. By that time, I started to develop my black and white negatives at home. But then I replaced it with the outstanding Nikon F2. Having used the Nikon for a long time, now I can say that I wouldn't recommend a Praktica unless for beginners. After my pleasant experience with the Nikon, I realised that the Praktica was not as sturdy as I thought, the lens mount is in fact quite unstable, the Pentacon lenses are not bad but not excellent and the stop-down metering can be sometimes slow and annoying. On the other hand, the shutter release button is really confortable and the shutter speed dial is very easy to turn even with one single finger. But probably, the thing I like the most of this camera is the idea that it was built in a country that no longer exists during the urban trendy, colourful and dark, pinky clothed, poppy, hair sprayed and unbounded eighties. It's like having in your hands a remain of that fascinating Cold War times.
The CdS TTL meter is powered by a 1.5V 625A or V625 battery. It's activated by pressing the black button near the shutter release. This button also stops down the diaphragm, so the metering is always made in stop-down mode. Therefore, the meter button works also as a depth of field preview. A full aperture metering would have required a different mount from the M42 screw, as eventually Pentacon did with the B series. The viewfinder shows a match needle meter readout with the “+”, “o” and “-” symbols, being “o” the correct exposure. Film speed can be set between 12 and 1600 ASA. If I am right the meter has a sensitivity range of 2 to 18 EV at ASA 100.
As explained earlier, this camera is fitted with a fully mechanical metallic vertical focal plane shutter. Shutter speeds are 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, B and a flash synchro speed (about 1/125). The shutter release button is placed on the camera body in an oblique angle, very comfortable to use. This front-placed button is found also in other Prakticas and primitive SLR Contax. According to Roger Hicks, this frontal position “is supposed to reduce camera shake” (p.45). The sound it makes is quite remarkable, probably due to the noisy mirror. In Matt Denton's words: “In my opinion, this camera's best feature is the super-strong shutter. [...] It's a vertical focal plane metal blade shutter that sounds as strong as if the camera were new instead of over 20 years old. [...] It's hard to describe without doing it for yourself but let's say it feels like a mechanism that knows exactly what it's supposed to do and does it. With feeling”.
The focusing screen provides a split image rangefinder surrounded by microprisms and a circular ground glass area. The meter needle is at the right, while at the left side there is an indicator to show whether the shutter has been set or not. No more information is provided through the finder.
This M42 mount camera was usually sold with the common multi coated Pentacon auto 1.8/50. This 6 elements in 4 groups (double Gauss) lens was a multi coated version of the Meyer Orestor 1.8/50. One thing I like a lot about this lens is that its closest focusing distance is only 1.1 feet (33 cm). Not many 50mm lenses have such a close focusing distance. It takes almost a complete 180° turn to focus between 1.1 ft to infinite. The diaphragm is made up by six blades and stops from f/1.8 to f/16 in half stops with clicks. An A/M switch provides auto or manual stop down.
|Name||Praktica Super TL1000|
|Made in||Dresden, German Democratic Republic|
|Type||35mm focal-plane shutter SLR camera|
|Picture Size||24 x 36 mm|
|Normal Lens||Pentacon auto 1.8/50|
|Lens Mount||M42 mount|
|Shutter||metal vertical focal plane, speeds 1 - 1/1000 sec, B|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|Production Period||1980 - 1986|