My first SLR was a Praktica MTL3, obtained from an uncle in 1990, it wasn’t my first camera, that would have been a Kodak Disc camera when I was around 10, but it was my first ‘real’ camera.
It lead me on a 30+ year journey with photography that covers film, digital and even a time in photographic retail in my early twenties. My original MTL3 was long ago part-exchanged, however, the memory of it has stuck with me over the years, and recently I decided to re-collect all of the cameras I’ve owned over the years. An MTL3 was the obvious place to start, £25, and an eBay account later a pretty much mint example arrived at my door. The Praktica MTL3 was, in its day, the choice for those looking to avoid the brutalism of the Russian Zenit, but unable to stretch to the expense of Japanese offerings, but what would revisiting one in 2023 be like?
Before I get to test just how rose-tinted my memory was, let’s take a moment to talk about the Praktica MTL3 itself. Manufactured from 1978 to 1984, it’s a solidly made M-42 mount mechanical camera with stop-down, needle metering, taking the now obsolete PX625 mercury battery for the metering. However, the 1.5v 625A battery works perfectly well as a substitute. Shutter speeds run from 1 second to 1/1000, with bulb, all available without the battery should you need, and the meter operates across a 25 to 1600 ASA range.
One interesting feature is the shutter release, mounted on the front of the Praktica MTL3, at an angle, supposedly designed to help brace the camera against your body as you depress the shutter, helping to steady it. Something it does need, as the metal curtain isn’t exactly quiet or subtle on release! Add in a basic hot-shoe and self-timer and the feature list is pretty much complete, however, it does still have one trick up its sleeve, which is a black coloured wedge that shows in the viewfinder to indicate the shutter has been released, something that not enough cameras have, and I’ve always found handy.
Perhaps the biggest issue I always found with the Praktica MTL3, was its supposed quick/easy-load system, which requires threading the film under a guide plate, something that is neither quick, nor easy, and brought back memories of frustration from decades ago.
Speaking of film, it was loaded with a roll of 24 exposure ‘SupaSnaps’ 200ASA film. For those of you born outside the UK and/or younger than me, SupaSnaps was a mail-order photo development company, that sent a roll of free film out with your prints. This roll, found in a box of old cameras gifted to me by my in-laws, had to be at least 20 years old, so despite its 200ASA rating, I followed the ‘1 stop loss a decade’ rule of thumb and set the MTL3’s meter to 50ASA.
Over the next few days, the Praktica MTL3 accompanied me on my travels and proved to be a solid companion alongside whatever digital camera I was carrying at the time. Once finished the film was dispatched for developing, and I awaited the negatives with bated breath. Upon opening the envelope they looked well exposed and once scanned and edited demonstrated that the 2-stop drop was the right call, with the film holding up remarkably well to time. It had retained much of the contrast and saturation consumer grade film of the time favoured, but with a noticeable increase in grain.
The Praktica MTL3 and film had held up well, the images I’d made I was pleasantly happy with, and I’m once again back into shooting film…
Thanks for reading.
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