Friday, 12 April 2013

Praktica TL3

Praktica TL3, front view

lens: Meyer-Optik Görlitz Domiplan
focal length:  50 mm
apertures:  f2.8 to f22
focus range: 0.75m to infinity
lens fitting: 42 mm thread
shutter: metal vertical focal plane
speeds: to 1/1000
flash: bulb or electronic
film size: 35 mm

This is a standard looking camera from between 1984 and 1986.  It is a fairly heavy (very heavy by modern standards) and large enough to hold in two hands.  The ergonomics - the layout of the controls - is, again, normal for the time.  It is my second Praktica, the other being an MTL5B.

This camera takes 42mm thread lenses (also known as Pentax thread) which means that lenses are readily available.  It is specifically designed to work with automatic lenses (those with a pin to stop down the lens) - when the shutter is fired, a cam presses the pin and closes the aperture.  This is not essential, though, and the camera works fine with fully manual lenses.  I have shot half my test film with my Soviet Helios-44 lens from my Zenit E.  So long as you remember to manually stop the lens down for both metering and picture taking there is no problem.

This is a fully mechanical camera and no battery is required for its operation.  It does, however, use a battery for the metering system.  This should be a mercury battery giving 1.3 volts but these are no longer available.  I am using an alkaline 1.5 volt alternative which 'should' cause the camera to underexpose but I have checked the results of the built-in meter with my Ikophot meter and they are in complete agreement.

This is an SLR camera and so both metering and focussing are conducted through the lens (known as TTL, for the uninitiated).  With an automatic lens fitted, metering is done by selecting either the shutter speed or aperture, holding down the metering lever beside the shutter release and the adjusting either the aperture or the shutter speed until the needle in the viewfinder is as close to the circle as possible (i.e. it is a match-needle meter).  With the supplied lens, this is within 1/2 stop of 'perfect', with the Helios-44 it is to the nearest whole stop.

The meter can be set to a range of film speeds from 12 ASA/12 DIN to 1600 ASA/33 DIN.  It is settable in 1 DIN stages which equates to 1/3 stop.

top and rear view
The shutter is a vertical metal focal plane shutter.  It has a good range of speeds - up to 1/1000 seconds which is plenty fast enough for my photography.  There are two flash synchronisation speeds: 1/30 for bulbs and a separate position on the speed selector dial for electronic flash, which the manual says is 'about 1/125.  Both bulbs and electronic flash can synchronise at slower speeds.

Electronic flash can synchronise at 1/125 seconds (quite a high sync speed for the time) because this camera has a vertical shutter with three metal blades.  In the manual, Praktica tout this as a modern invention but Zeiss Ikon used a vertical metal shutter in the Contax I in 1932

The shutter release is not my favourite part of this camera.  It is placed on the front of the camera rather than on the top plate which I always find awkward.  Secondly, the shutter release has to be pressed flush with the housing.  This might be just my camera but a little less travel would be good.

The film winder is a lever which travels through 180 degrees but the first 20 or so degrees do nothing.

On top of the prism is an accessory shoe which has 'hot' contacts for a flash gun.  This is the only way of connecting a flash gun as there is no PC connector.  The only other control on the top plate is the film rewind crank.  As was normal for the time, this is an annoyingly small folding crank.  In the early 1960s several manufacturers introduced a large rewind crank on the base plate and it is a pity this did not become the standard.

Pressing the shutter release, you experience a significant resistance and then there is a loud and tactile 'clunk'.  I had thought my Zenit E had a heavy action but this is much worse.  I am hoping that most of this is the mirror slapping up and not the shutter.

The supplied lens is a Meyer Optik Domiplan f2.8 50mm lens.  This is a triplet lens and a cheap option.  I have yet to see the results of this lens but I have a 50mm Domiplan on my Exa IIa and that lens is fine.  Available apertures are from f2.8 to f22 in 1/2 stop clicks.

Focussing is from 0.75m to infinity and the focussing scale is in feet as well as metres.  The action is fairly stiff and changing the focus from near to far will result in the lens unscrewing rather than focussing.  Hopefully, this is lack of use and will sort itself out with use rather than being down to physical damage.

30 April 2013:

I now have the results of my test film.  It is not good.  There is a large light leak from the hinge end of the back.   I have just removed the remains of the foam light seal and replaced it with a new piece of foam.  Two frames out of the thirty six on the roll came out with no light damage.  So, light damage apart, I am quite impressed - the Domiplan lens works fine even though it is only a triplet

Lincoln Cornhill


Waterside North, Lincoln
Triton Road, Lincoln