Praktica FX3

5 Frames with a Praktica FX3 – by Nathalie Porter

I bought the Praktica FX3 for one reason – to try an SLR with a waist-level viewfinder without spending a lot of money. I didn’t need one with a lens since I already had some M42 ones and so mere 15 euro got me a body with the original case in a very nice condition.

It’s a very simple camera in the best way possible. The minimal amount of controls and aids only means that there’s very little standing between you and your subject. What you do with it is completely up to you. A decent range of manual shutter speeds doesn’t impose a lot of limits and the M42 thread mount means that possibilities are endless when it comes to the lens choice. The controls are pretty standard so anyone familiar with fully manual 35mm cameras can pick it up and start shooting pretty much right away as there’s not much to figure out here. The only “complicated” thing about it is an additional dial to choose between either fast (1/25 – 1/500s and B) or slow (1/2 – 1/10s) range before setting the actual shutter speed – in the end mine stays the whole time on the “fast” setting anyway.

Even the viewfinder is empty and plain – no light meter readouts (since it obviously doesn’t have one), not even a basic microprism to help you focus. Admittedly that last part can be a bit bothersome as it’s easy to start doubting your focus and constantly double and triple-check it. But the downsides aside, the newfound perspective of a waist-level viewfinder created for me an almost magical new way of looking through the lens – especially while using the magnifier. No other kind of camera draws me in quite like that when I hold it to my eye.

Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f/2.4 + Fujicolor 200
Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f/2.4 + Fujicolor 200
Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f/2.4 + Fujicolor 200
Super-Takumar 55mm f/1.8 + Fujicolor 200
Super-Takumar 55mm f/1.8 + Fujicolor 200

It wasn’t meant to be a high-end camera and you can definitely feel that – while it’s not rough or anything like that, the materials and build quality are best summed up by “good enough”. Solid and refined to the point where it’s not unpleasant to handle, but don’t really warrant any praise either. Obviously it’s not fast to operate and hardly perfect for every day use. But as a bit of a different shooting experience to break the routine once in a while it’s a very nice, affordable option.

Thank you for reading! If by any chance you’d like to see more of my pictures, you can find some on my flickr or twitter.

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11 thoughts on “5 Frames with a Praktica FX3 – by Nathalie Porter”

  1. Great result! If you like the WL finder in 35, then you need to get a 6×6 TLR! Rollei -(flex and -cord) are the best, but ‘any ‘real’ camera will delight you. That big negative makes up for a lot! Some will probably suggest the Russian cameras- but the ‘lomolook’ is limiting. Lower end Yashicas, for example, tend to work well, are very capable, and are affordable.

  2. Because you have some nice flower photos, I would urge you to experiment with a tripod or bean bag support and exercise those low shutter speeds. Old lubricants can gum them up if they aren’t exercised. The slower speeds give you an opportunity to use smaller f/stops with close-range motifs.

  3. Around 1953 ish my sister bought a similar waist level viewfinder Practica. A couple of weeks later she was upset that the shop was now selling the new model with a pentaprism and they had kept that secret from her so she never went back to that shop.
    I borrowed her Practica and a Tamron “convertible” zoom lens with a dedicated Tele-extender. I took them to a Grand Prix race car meeting and photographed a couple of rolls of films with the cars going past at 120 mph. I didn’t get one photo with a car in shot, even though I had panned with the cars, because of course the viewfinder image is reversed with the cars going right to left on the track but left to right in the viewfinder.
    Nice photos Nathalie. The waist level viewfinder has some great advantages and the Practica is all you need for a lot of situations, but not car racing.
    I later bought an Asahi Pentax S1 with the same lens mount, and I liked its basic simplicity. My sister bought a nice new Rolleiflex 2.8 from a different shop.

  4. The 35mm f2.4 Flektogon is a real gem of a lens. It’s quite frightening how much money they are going for now, knowing my father brought his for £15 found in a clearance stock bin, London camera exchange store in 1990.

    Great images.

  5. Nice pictures, the colors came out real good. I have two similar one – an original Praktica and a FX2, which I acquired in the hope they would be nice tools for street photography. Still have to take them out seriously though. And I am pondering replacing the original ground glass with one from a more modern camera, with a split screen. It should be reversible…
    You seem to be unimpressed with build quality, still, it makes a much better impression than later Prakticas (MTL.. ) which really feel they never had the love of their makers. In the same stiyle, Edixa had pretty nice models too, going to 1/1000s instead of 1/500, a nice focussing screen, a less quircky speed dial, and much better looks. I’ll have to get one of these someday…

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