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.
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.