Photos & Projects

Shooting Praktica MTL 5 B Found in a “Mine” with Expired Tri-X – By Jordi Fradera

April 15, 2021

I would never have thought I was living right on top of a “mine of cameras”. I knew of the love of photography in my neighbour Alvar who lives in the apartment below, so one day I asked him if he had any old cameras I could play with. The answer was yes.

He showed me various cameras of different origins. Among them was a complete Haseblad kit (approx 1980) made up of the camera and three lenses in a beautiful leather case. It was fantastic to see and appreciate that jewel but it was not of my interest. The other cameras were a Leicaflex, two Prakticas, a home modified bellows / plate camera, two small compacts, other cameras, various lenses, leather cases, flashes, accessories etc… I was STUNNED and he added: “I think in I have more cameras tucked away somewhere too”. I did not know what to do or say, but finally I asked him to lend me the Praktica MTL 5 B with a Zeiss 50 /2.8, a Tokina 28 / 2.8 and a Zoom Tokina 80-200 / 4.5. I then asked him if he had old / expired film and, to my surprise, he showed up with two rolls Kodak Tri X, expired in 2016. All at my disposal without limits or expenses.

Excited, I took the stash, thanking him profusely. Once at home I started working. I discovered:

1.The camera was in very good condition and clean (lacks serial number)
2.The shutter worked perfectly
3.The photometer came to life when the battery was installed.
4.The automatic aperture in the Zeiss 50mm / 2.8 had failed.
5.The Tokina worked without problems.

I decided to disassemble the Zeiss to fix it (with instructions). After many attempts the “Automatic aperture mechanism” did not work – something suggested as being a possibility in the instructions. I decided to cut my losses and eliminate all the parts of the automation. With the parts moved by the outer ring, I tied the internal control of the aperture with thread. It now works perfectly as a manual aperture lens. The infinity setting also gave me a lot of work because the focus barrel thread has, I think, 16 input positions and I forgot to leave a position mark when disassembling it. This modification can, of course, be rolled back.

It was time to shoot photos with Praktica but for days the weather was not good, rain and wind were allied against me but I was going to win.

Of 37 shots 5 are blurred or out of focus. Here I show 12 of the good ones, some are edited (more lighting / contrast). They are all shot in Barcelona and developed by Joma Foto, who is my usual supplier.

Zeiss 50 / 2.8 RDD – La Illa – Photo unedited – backlight example

Tokina 80-200/4.5 – Plaça de la Concordia (Les Corts)

Tokina 28/2.8 – Editorial Planeta – Photo unedited

Tokina 28/2.8 – Mercat de l’Abaceria (Gràcia), will be rebuilt.

Zeiss 50/2.8 RDD – Barri de Gràcia

Tokina 28/2.8 – Barri de Gràcia – Winery

Tokina 28/2.8 – Jardí Botànic Històric (Monjüic)

Tokina 80-200/4.5 – Jardí Botànic Històric (Monjüic)

Zeiss 50 / 2.8 RDD – Jardí Botànic Històric (Monjüic)

Tokina 28/2.8 – Jardí Botànic Històric (Monjüic)

Tokina 28/2.8 – Barcelona from the viewpoint of the Museu Nacional de Catalunya

Tokina 80-200/4.5 – Sculpture of Miró (Parc del Escorchador)

Tokina 28/2.8 – Las Arenas shopping center, old bullring.

I have found myself comfortable with the Praktica, even the noise it makes when shooting is pleasant. The viewfinder is magnificent but using the photometer is very difficult since pressing the button that activates it closes the diaphragm and you can hardly see the needle indicator.

Another small problem has been that outdoors the 400 ASA film has forced me to use very high shutter speeds. The Zeiss has problems with backlighting perhaps due to lack of coating but the Tokinas gives good results. In general I am happy with the results. It has been a good experience.

Thank you Alvar for your generosity and patience.

Thanks for reading my article, I hope you liked it.

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  • Reply
    Michael Sherman
    April 15, 2021 at 4:29 pm

    Very nice article! I have one of those cameras myself – the Prakticon lenses are also great, but it looks like that Tokina 28mm is a great lens.

    • Reply
      Michael Sherman
      April 15, 2021 at 4:32 pm

      Sorry – meant to type Praktica lenses.

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 15, 2021 at 5:37 pm

      Thank you for your words and I understand from your next message that where you said Prakticon you meant Praktica. My English is limited and I use Google Translate.

  • Reply
    Sacha Cloutier
    April 15, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    Great article! I really love that you chose your camera. The Praktica cameras are solid cameras. I think lots of people might have taken a Hasselblad without even thinking about the others. Your pictures show that you made the right choice for you. Thank Alvar for giving us the opportunity to see your artistic eye. Can’t wait to see more!

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 16, 2021 at 11:33 am

      Thanks for reading my article and encouraging me to do more. I was not attracted to the Haselblad although Alvar would lend it to me without hesitation. Soon you will see the SEM-KIM camera (France-1947) and the Leicaflex also on loan from Alvar, it will be if I am lucky with the photos.

  • Reply
    Michael J
    April 15, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    I found an MTL5 in a suitcase with some other kit and passed it on to a colleague would might be likely to get it working properly, so never really gave it a try… a shame maybe as it’s a camera with a great shutter noise and a nice feel. That generation of Praktica was used by so many people of my parents’ generation in the UK as they were so affordable and readily available. You’ve done well though- lovely pictures and the Tokina 28mm is clearly a very nice lens. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 16, 2021 at 11:17 am

      I have enjoyed using the Praktica, which reminds me of past times and doing the article, I am glad you like it, thank you.

  • Reply
    Bill C White
    April 15, 2021 at 11:45 pm

    Just to be clear you shot the expired Tri-X for this article? When did it expire? Just curious.

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 16, 2021 at 11:23 am

      The 400TX that I have used expired in June 2016, I think there were enough guarantees for everything to go well. I have another film 400TX that I am already using for a SEM-KIM camera (1947) and a Leicaflex both on loan from my neighbor Alvar. I think you will soon see the result. Thanks for reading my crazy stuff.

  • Reply
    Bryan Costin
    April 16, 2021 at 11:49 pm

    Very nice! Your neighbor sounds like a great guy. You have a good eye and the patience to make the most of your equipment. I hope you share more with us.

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 17, 2021 at 11:43 am

      True, Alvar has been very generous and … soon you will see two new cameras of his property. Thanks.

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