Praktica MTL3 w/ Pentacon 50mm f1.8

Praktica MTL3 – Back to Film, with a Roll of Expired ‘SupaSnaps’ Film

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?

Contrast, Saturation and Grain - all at the front.
The first shot from the roll, technically imperfect – but important to me

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.

I suspect the film stock may be limiting what the lens is capable of
I suspect the film stock may be limiting what the lens is capable of.

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.

Obligatory Bokeh shot
Obligatory Bokeh shot.

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.

More than acceptable detail and exposure latitude given the kit and film
More than acceptable detail and exposure latitude given the kit and film.

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.

Subject separation from a fast prime, little to beat it.
Subject separation from a fast prime, little to beat it.

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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7 thoughts on “Praktica MTL3 – Back to Film, with a Roll of Expired ‘SupaSnaps’ Film”

  1. I enjoyed reading this article. The MTL3 was my first ‘proper’ camera, bought with my earnings from a temp Christmas job when I was sixteen in 1983. 40 years later i still own it, along with a number of other film cameras. I taught myself to process and print black and white film in the school darkroom which it seemed no one else used, but I was always hampered by lack of funds! . You’ve inspired me to put a film through it for old times sake. I have a roll of retro 80s film somewhere that would be perfect.

  2. My father gave me, the Kodak 66, Model lll Folding 120 Roll Film Camera in 1963 for my 17th. Birthday. My next camera was the Revue 3 Rangefinder (actually the FED 3 with a superior body finish) which I bought in Germany in 1972. My first SLR was the Yashica TL Electro, which used stop down metering, which I bought in 1975. It was a brilliant camera, but I traded it in for a Konica Autoreflex T3n because it had shutter priority, but it weighed a ton. Over the years I bought the Konica Autoreflex T3, the predecessor of the T3n, because it appealed to me. I still have the Kodak 66, Revue 3 and the Konica T3, which I run film through. I get a camera shop in Dublin City to develop and scan the negatives for me. I like the “feel” of film and it brings back memories. The Konica T3n I donated to students studying photography.

  3. This is a great story- my very clever uncles all had M42 Prakticas and my first SLR was one of the not-bad but curiously smelly bayonet Prakticas that my sister borrowed and killed back-packing in Thailand… BCA? BCX?

    Your MTL’s performed admirably, hasn’t it? I suspect you’re right that epically expired, cheap film hasn’t done you any favours, but the thing that makes me smile is the robustness of film photography: that eye brain and fingers come together with a feel for the exposure-triangle or whatever you call it (film speed, shutter speed and aperture) and an image is recorded. I love cameras.

  4. The MTL3 was my first camera, bought brand new, on one occasion I dropped it on a cobbled street in Bristol, Dented the base plate but it was unharmed and carried on working perfectly! I now have a Nikon FM2 which I couldn’t afford back in the eighties!

  5. Another me too. I got mine as a 13th birthday present in 1984 for £50. I found the metering unreliable, as it required judging the needle position. Lots of cheaper M42 lenses available though.

  6. Gideon, a well done piece ! My first camera was a Smena 6, in the high school. While I never owned a Praktica, I do remember them heavy things from those times when learning photography in the high school. Almost all the equipment was of either Soviet or DDR (east German) provenience, so Praktica was seen a lot in the class. And I do remember that the weird angle of the shutter release was something which stuck with me forever.

    Good memories; thank you for posting this really nice article. The photographs are really nice, in spite of the film being well passed of its best date.



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