|Praktica MTL 5B|
This is a fairly standard late 70s to mid-80s SLR camera. My first Praktica – I also have a TL3. It is squarish and heavy with minimal use of plastics. It is 150mm by 95mm by 55mm, not counting the lens. The controls are standard for the time and where you would expect to find them. The film advance is on the top right of the camera and is a lever which moves about a quarter of a turn. At this late date, advancing the film also cocks the shutter. Next to the film advance is the combined shutter speed selector and film speed setting control. Shutter speeds are noted above and are all any photographer could realistically want. Film speed can be set from 12 DIN/12 ASA to 33 DIN/1600 ASA. The setting can be changed in one DIN increments (one third of a stop).
The camera came with a Soviet Helios-44M lens which is not original. The Helios-44 lenses have a very good reputation – they are good copies of the Carl Zeiss Biotar lens – and this one is in very good, clean condition. It is an automatic version of the lens – I also have a manual Helios-44 lens which came with my Zenit E – with a switch to change between manual diaphragm and automatic diaphragm. The aperture can be changed in half stops which is an improvement on my other Helios-44 lens.
The shutter release is an angled button on the right face of the camera. My finger falls fairly naturally on this and it is comfortable to use. Right by this button is a plastic lever which actuates the TTL metering system. In use, you put your finger on the shutter release and instead of pushing down, you push towards yourself. The diaphragm closes and the needle in the right side of the viewfinder moves. You then adjust either the shutter speed or aperture to get the needle lined up with the notch in the middle (this is basically a match-needle type of meter). It is designed as a shutter priority system, the idea being that you set the shutter speed with the camera away from your eye and then move the camera to eye level and adjust the aperture ring with your left hand while pressing the meter lever with your right hand. Used this way, it is fairly easy to use.
If, like me, you prefer aperture priority metering, you need to set the aperture first and then adjust the shutter speed while looking through the viewfinder. It is just about possible to do this but it is very awkward to do. I am finding myself moving the camera down to adjust the shutter speed which makes the whole operation slower and less fluid. The meter is powered by a 1.33V button battery. Originally, this would have been a mercury cell which is now not available. I am using a same sized silver button of 1.5V which will cause a slight mis-reading of the meter but of less than a stop so this will not be a problem with negative film. With reversal (slide) film this might be a problem.
Focusing this camera is a delight. The focusing screen carries the usual plain ground glass screen with a micro-prism circle and a split-image centre. However, the split-image part on this camera is diagonal. With a standard horizontal split-image centre, it is necessary to find a strong vertical to focus on. With this camera either a strong vertical or a strong horizontal will work as will a strong diagonal. When I was using this camera to photograph a bush earlier today, there were no verticals, horizontals or diagonals I could focus on. I used the micro-prism circle which also worked well. For those who have never used a micro-prism focusing screen, what you do is focus until the micro-prisms disappear. The further from focus you are, the more prominent the micro-prisms are. Once you can not make out the micro-prisms (or until they are as indistinct as you can make them) the image is in focus.
|carving on Lincoln’s Stonebow – 50 mm lens|
|carving on Lincoln’s Stonebow – 50 mm + 2x teleconverter|
|Piano busker, Lincoln|
|Thimbleby main street, Lincolnshire|