This is fairly complicated (as many cameras were from this time) as there are two ranges of shutter speeds painted on the selector – in red from 1/2 to 1/10 and in black from 1/25 to 1/500 seconds. To make it more complicated, the black range are not in numerical order. The order is 1/25, B, 1/500, 1/200, 1/100, 1/50 and 1/40 (which is indicated by a lightening flash rather than 1/40 to indicate the flash synchronisation speed). On the top of the selector dial is a second ring to select between the red and black ranges. Around the selector dial is a ring that must be lifted before turning to align the red dot on it to the required shutter speed. When the shutter is fired, this selector dial rotates, as it also does when advancing the film. The manual says that shutter speeds can be selected either before or after advancing the film.
Left of the pentaprism hump is the rewind knob. As is common, this pulls up to allow for insertion and removal of cassettes. This rewind knob is strange in that the top half of it can swivel to one side to turn the knob into a sort of lever – see the photograph – which makes rewinding the film much easier.
In the centre (almost centre, not quite so) of the front is the M42 lens mount. This is shared by both Japanese Pentax cameras, German Praktica cameras and Soviet Zenit cameras so there are a lot of affordable lenses available – Super-Takumar from Japan, Helios-44 from the former Soviet Union and a variety from Germany, not to mention smaller makers. I currently have a 55 mm f/2 Super-Takumar fitted.
Inside the lens mount is a mix of old-fashioned and (for then) modern. The mirror is a non-return one. Once you have fired the shutter, the viewfinder goes black until you advance the film. Also, the focusing screen is plain ground glass with no micro-prisms or split-image centre. On the other hand, it has an automatic aperture plunger so the photograph can be composed with the aperture wide open and then it will close itself when the shutter release is pressed. This is itself rather strange. Under the mirror is a small rivet with a red top. Sliding this to the left engages the automatic aperture plunger and sliding it to the right disengages the plunger for when the plunger would foul a non-automatic lens.
Just below the top late and immediately to the right is the shutter release button. Contrary to later Praktica cameras, this shutter release button is not angled but presses in at right-angles to the front of the camera. This is not ergonomically ideal which is presumably why later Prakticas had the angled release.
On the other side of the lens mount are two PC connectors for flash. Then upper one is for electronic flash and is marked with an “X” embossed in the leatherette. The lower connector is for flash bulbs and is marked with an “F” embossed in the leatherette. These embossings are barely visible but I don’t suppose that matters as a user would soon remember which connector to use for their own flash gun.
Under the lens mount is a sturdy chrome leg which allows the camera to be stably placed on a flat surface in lieu of a tripod for long exposures. There is no delay action available on this camera to allow inclusion of the photographer in group photographs..
To open the camera, the back comers completely off. I always find this an awkward way to load film when out-and-about – what do I do with the back while both hands are busy with the film?
Inside the camera is much as 35 mm cameras always have been. there is a central film gate with guides to keep the film in the correct place. When loading the film, you need to turn the take-up spool until the two slots are facing you. The film goes in the left hand slot and pokes through the right hand slot. When the film is advanced, the take-up spool turns to take up the film with the emulsion on the outside.
At first sight, the back of the back is plain but careful inspection will reveal items embossed in the leatherette. Centrally at the top is the Ernemann Tower – the logo for Pentacon. Lower left is then word “Germany” indicating that this was an official import to the UK. It is just “Germany” with no qualification that it came from East Germany.
On the lower right is a rather indistinct triangle with a “1” in it. This was East Germany’s quality mark to show that the item is of the first quality. What I cannot find, on the back or elsewhere, is any serial number.