Praktica L Rievew – A Yearning for this old Line of SLRS – By Rock

As a 15 year old I got my first ever SLR for a Christmas present. It was a Soviet made Zenit and served me well for a while. When I opted for ‘A’ Level Photography at school, I decided to upgrade. With a small budget made up from part-time work, the only new camera I could afford was a Praktica, the latest model being the MTL5b. Literally made in their millions in the old GDR (or East Germany as we knew it), Prakticas were relatively cheap and had a decent reputation for reliability. And perfect for learning with. Others in my cohort also had Prakticas. One class mate had a neat, sleek SLR which looked rather impressive. I worked out years later it was an Olympus OM.

An early photo of my mine in London Docklands – I always used to crop my prints even into irregular dimensions

Manufactured by Pentacon in Dresden, the so-called L Line of Prakticas ran from 1969 to 1989 (as the Berlin Wall came down) and produced at least 5 million bodies in at least 50 models, although there were often miniscule changes between each variant. They were all M42 scewmounts and often shipped with either a Tessar or Domiplan 50mm 2.8 prime. Sometimes it was the faster Pentacon auto or Pancolor 1.8. The ones I have used have all had stop-down TTL metering controlled by depressing a switch, but there were also others with different metering options or none at all. The shutter release on all is located on the front of the body, rather than the top plate.

Here are some more prints taken in my youth (somewhere between 1986 and 1989). At the time I was shooting almost exclusively ORWO B&W film, in keeping with the East German theme: it was cheap and quite forgiving to process. None of my negatives from this time exist. However, I did keep some prints. The main exam question was ‘People at work and at leisure’. I remember doing a lot of candid street photography in those days. I was much braver and no-one seemed to mind, unlike modern times! I also enjoyed industrial landscapes. I printed my own photographs, always on Ilford or Kentmere paper, until I no longer had access to a darkroom. Nowadays I scan my negatives and dodge & burn digitally.

Gravesend town centre – we were a bunch of school kids happily snapping away without any bother
My milkman at the time – I asked if I could take his portrait for my school work and he obliged
Gravesend canal basin – workers here were generally a little more suspicious of people taking photos! ORWO film.

Back to Praktica, and photos taken on a LTL3 which is a second generation L from the mid 1970s. I found this camera a few years ago on a charity stall at a country fayre. My sudden and burning desire to reunite with Praktica made me buy it for £15. However, I have only used it for one roll as unfortunately it suffers from what I assume is curtain drag at the hand-held shutter speeds (i.e light leaks from the the second shutter curtain not closing fast enough). At least it came with a clean, working CZJ Tessar.

View of Rochester Castle through Two Post Alley – shame about the light leaks
Getting close-up – is this a case of shutter curtain drag? Fuji C200 film.
One or two frames showed no signs of light leak – I think this one was at 1/30th second

I have tried to find a working MTL5b ever since (which I thought shouldn’t be too difficult considering half a million were made!). Why, you might ask? I believe this is in part to rekindle the kind of passion for photography I had thirty years ago when it all seemed so much simpler. A yearning for that basic, square-edged rectangular body. A yearning for M42 lenses. A yearning for that mechanical shutter that went clank. Ah, beautiful! Luckily I recently acquired a MTL3 which was a Praktica best seller right up to 1984. I specifically went off on a long walk with a roll of Vista Plus to finish this post…..

A Cuxton valley – on a beautiful countryside walk to test out my ‘new’ Praktica L Line SLR
The decent enough CZJ Tessar is now fitted to the MTL3 – it can focus down to 33cm
Private Keep Out – needless to say the Praktica and I went the other way. Vista Plus 200 film.

Thank for reading. Here’s one more photo from those early days, a high contrast study…

Some of my stuff at


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18 thoughts on “Praktica L Rievew – A Yearning for this old Line of SLRS – By Rock”

  1. Enjoyed the article and photos.
    Learned things -think I’m well read but find large gaps in knowledge of other countries, cameras, life.
    Made me smile this AM drinking my coffee

  2. Very interesting post.
    Prakticas have a special place in my heart too. Also for me it was my first camera 30 years ago when my father, that went to East Germany for work, smuggled it to Italy and gave it to me as a gift. It was a PLC3 with three lenses 35 – 50 – 135 made by Carl Zeiss Jena. I still have that camera and lenses and still use them. When I grab that Praktica it feels like home, everything falls in the right place in my hands. I guess there is some kind of imprinting of the photographer and his first camera….

    1. Glad you found it interesting, thanks. I agree that our early cameras seem to hold a special place with us. And, of course, they were generally reliable things that produced decent photos…and Not too complicated.Keep that Praktica alive!

  3. The Practica’s are really excellent cameras and I own a couple.The MTL 3 like yours and the L. As good as they are, the M42 Chinon CS & CX are even better and more solidly made than the practica’s. If you get the chance, grab one off Ebay. Bodies normally go for about £15, £25 with a chinon 55mm 1.7 lens. which is an excellent lens. Great article by the way.

    1. I am a fan of Chinon also! In fact, I did a 5 frames post recently on 35mmc featuring 5 models. I have 6 Chinons, with another on its way. They are massively underrated which keeps their prices down. Currently using a CS4 for a work project.

      1. I recently obtained a decent Chinon CM-1 with M42 mount for about $20 USD. All metal, metal shutter, fully mechanical, simple, and reliable, no frills. I had also considered the CS or CX but the requirement for a PX625 battery made them less desirable. I had wanted to get into M42 lenses particularly because I had a Helios 44-2 that I shoot adapted on my Fuji mirrorless camera and wanted to use it on film. SLRs like the Chinon CM-1 or CS/CX, or even a Hanimex 35SL are basically the cheapest, most reliable way to do that. I had heard really good things about the CZJ 50mm f/2.8 Tessar lenses both in film blogs and from Youtube channels such as “Zenography”, so I bought one of those to complement my Helios 44-2. I already have a Tamron Adaptall SP 90mm f/2.5 macro lens, so I ordered the M42 adaptall mount for that lens too, to give me some mild telephoto reach. Finally, to round out the M42 lineup, I am waiting for the arrival of a Pentax Super-Takumar 35mm f/3.5. I think I am going to enjoy shooting M42.

        1. I have 4 or 5 Chinons, and I like them all. If you don’t mind em heavy, the CE Memotron is the best of the bunch. The Tamron SP 90mm is a keeper and your super-takumar will be fab. Happy shooting!

          1. Nice review of the Praktica L-cameras !
            I’m shooting Praktica SLR cameras since 30 years. I can recommend all of the Praktica L – series. The first models L, LB, LTL and LLC are very pure , but well designed cameras. The later Praktica L – cameras ( MTL, PLC, DTL series ) are a bit more comfortable, especially the viewfinder is brighter.
            The exposure meter on all L – Prakticas is very reliable. You need simple LR 44 batteries, in some cases you have to spin a thin a wire around the battery, there are instructions on the web.
            The metal shutter is very durable over long years, never had problems with it.
            Please always cuck the shutter slowly and carefully ! Never cuck it roughly and quickly ! Your Praktica camera will hold on for long years ! But this hint applies for all mechanical film cameras like Minolta SRT, Canon FTb and others.

  4. I have still got two Prakticas. I admit I haven’t used them for some years now. I used them for taking climbing photos. Never let me down.

  5. Charles Edington

    Great article! My first camera was an MTL5B as well, and I used it for my O level in photography back in the day in Lincolnshire. I wish I’d kept my portfolio from the course. The camera got sold later as a poor student…

    Fast forward 30 plus years I’m now living in the USA but always wanted to get another one – I recently picked up a working MTL5B from Canada. It took me back in time 🙂

    1. I can’t remember how much I sold mine for (bought a Nikon F501 urgh), probably for peanuts. At least my MTL3 is virtually the same

  6. These are fantastic. Especially love the Gravesend Town Centre. “Private Keep Out” is like something from a horror film… Good title too.

  7. Nice article, the same i have to with praktica. Only not with this model, but the BC1. They are really nice and working well. the tessar is a great lens for sharpness, the domiplan great from bubble boked and getting sharper from F4 and avove

  8. Thomas Cervenak

    I have owned 3 L series Prakticas and 3 Exakta RTLs which is basically the same camera body. All the cameras with exception of one Exakta RTL all developed the same problem – as you cock the shutter, the metal shutter blades will not catch but will trip and stay open. I wonder if other readers have had similar problem. The only Praktica that I have that works is a beautiful Praktica Mat. It is beautiful made camera with a great finish. It is far and away superior in every way to the L series. It also has the traditional cloth shutter curtain. I understand that the Praktica Mat was the first European made camera with a behind the lens meter. It is also my understanding that it was made for only a year or so, until the next model came out, which in fit and finish is nowhere near the Praktica Mat.

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