Saturday, 2 July 2016

Pentaflex SL from Pentacon


This Pentaflex SL is a cut-down version  of the Praktica Nova camera. It is missing the slow shutter speeds - this camera only goes down to 1/340 seconds which is slower than I ever go to so the even slower speeds are no loss. It is also missing the light meter. As the camera is fully manual, this is no loss. It is actually easier to use a dedicated hand-held meter rather than using the whole camera as a hand-held meter. The only non-manual part of this camera is the aperture - you set the required aperture and the diaphragm closes as you take the picture.

Someone has attempted a repair on this camera. There are two screws missing from the top plate and the cover of the pentaprism has been messily glued in place with Uhu glue. Having said that, the camera seems to be functioning as it should - test film might say otherwise, of course.

lens: n/a
focal length:  n/a
apertures: n/a
focus range: n/a
lens fitting: M42
shutter: horizontal cloth focal plane
speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500
flash: F and X PC sockets - no shoe
film size: 35 mm


The description:


The camera body measures 150 mm by 48 mm and 95 mm high. It weighs 562 g - not as heavy as some SLR cameras but not up to Olympus OM standards. On the right of the top plate, where we would expect it, is the film advance lever. This is not on a ratchet so has to advance the film in one sweep. The lever moves through about 185 degrees to advance one frame. Around then advance lever is the frame counter. This is reset to -1 when the camera back is opened. It counts up - the highest marked frame number is 36 but the scale moves to an unmarked 40 - above this the film still advances but the counter does not move. In the centre of the rewind lever is a film reminder. This has five options: B&W; colour negative, daylight; colour negative, tungsten; slide film, daylight and slide film, tungsten. In the corner of the advance lever is a small chrome button to disengage the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound.

Camera with Soviet lens attached

Between the advance lever and the pentaprism hump is the shutter speed selector. This goes from 1/30 to 1/500 seconds which is a quite adequate range, plus B. As mentioned above, the slower speeds have been removed from this model.
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Blog (C) John Margetts
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The pentaprism hump is just left of centre. To the left of this is the rewind crank. This is of the small folding variety that was ubiquitous by this time and I find hard to use. Around this is a film speed reminder. As this is a meter-free camera, there is no need to set this but with a memory like mine it is well worth the bother. 

Front of the camera showing the lens mount

The front of the camera is dominated by the lens mount. This is a M42 mount - a 42 mm by 1 mm pitch thread also known as the Pentax thread although it was introduced by Zeiss Ikon with the Contax S. Just inside the mount at the bottom is a lever actuated by the shutter release button which closes down the diaphragm on automatic lenses. If you wish to use older manual lenses which might foul this lever, it can be disabled by lifting the mirror and sliding a red stud to one side. most automatic lenses have a manual/automatic switch which will act like a DOF preview button if required. Also visible inside the mount is a piece of black cloth at the top. I have never seen this before and I am not sure why it is there.
Front and top plate layout

To the right of the lens mount are two PC connectors for flash. the connector nearest the lens is synchronised for F type bulbs and next to that the PC connector is synchronised for electronic flash (marked X).

PC connectors
Left of the lens mount is the shutter release button. I generally prefer the release button to be on the top plate but this is well placed on the front and nicely angled - it works well. The button is threaded for a standard cable release and is knurled - the button can be turned to lock the button to prevent accidental exposures.


The rear of the camera is unadorned. At the top is the viewfinder eyepiece. This looks like it is designed to take an attachment of some sort. The viewing screen is plain ground glass with no focus aids. The ground glass is fine enough and then image bright enough that focusing is quite easy. The image seems to be very close to life size (judging by keeping both eyes open while looking through the viewfinder with a 58 mm lens attached).

The leatherette on the back is embossed with the Ernneman Tower - the logo of Pentacon. There is also Pentacon's quality mark - a triangle with a "1" inside indicating first quality.

The only item on the base is a tripod boss - the standard 11/4 inch UNC (Whitworth on older cameras) thread, This is right over on the left which is a strange place. The ideal position for a tripod is under the node of the lens - this would entail the lens maker fitting the tripod boss here as some do. The next best place is is line with the centre of the lens. The position of this tripod boss puts most of the weight of the camera to one side - not good for level stability and not good for panning on the tripod.

Base of camera
The back is opened by a catch on the right end of the camera. The back has velvet light seals along both the hinge and the catch but not along the length of the back. Light is kept out by the back being sufficiently recessed into the body. This gives the camera a distinct advantage over Japanese cameras of the same age which all require new foam light seals by now. Not this camera!

Judging by the exposed metal around the film gate, the body is made from an aluminium alloy rather than the more usual brass of the time. This will be why the camera is on the light side.

This camera will be tested with film over the next few days and I hope to have the results in place by next weekend.