Praktica Super TL 35mm camera review

This is a review of the Praktica Super TL 35mm SLR camera which was made by Pentacon some time between 1968 and 1976. The pictures in the gallery below can also be viewed full screen here.

My Camera

I purchased this camera as a non working model with an aim to servicing it and restoring it to it’s fully working condition. There were several units available from the same supplier on eBay, but because my intention was to improve my repair skills, I concentrated on finding a unit which was in good cosmetic condition to purchase rather than worrying too much about the faults.

As it happens, the mechanical faults with the camera are not too bad. The slow shutter speeds are running at about 1/60th rather than any of their set speeds – I assume this is because the slow speed escapement is not being engaged. The other issue is that the battery compartment lid is seized and can’t be opened so the match needle metering isn’t working, and I don’t know if it will work when the battery is replaced. Initially, the film advance lever was having trouble returning after winding the film on, but with a bit of use that has almost sorted itself out.

Because I bought the camera body only, I’ve matched it with a pentacon 30mm f/3.5 lens, which is actually a bit old for this body, but it’s a reasonable lens to use with a Praktica.

Praktica Super TL description

The praktica super TL was one of a vast range of different models made by Pentacon in East Germany over a number of years. It sports a good range of features for a camera of its time, offering interchangeable lenses in a popular mount, through-the-lens stop down metering, a large bright viewfinder and nicely engineered mechanics.

I remember the Praktica range as quite a mid to low range camera, well below the Pentax and Nikon models which were brand leaders of the time, but better than the Russian Zenit cameras which were the real budget models. I was quite surprised therefore when I first tried this camera out because it sounds and feels really nicely made and not at all as ‘clunky’ as some of the other models in their range which I own.

The camera has an in-built, through the lens metering system with the light sensor built into the prism housing. It works in stop down mode, which means the light meter doesn’t make any allowance for aperture settings in the reading; the lens has to be actually stopped down and the light reduced in order to make an accurate reading. Although the lens I have fitted in the pictures is not an auto diaphragm lens, the standard lens supplied with the camera would have had this feature which would make the stop down metering easy to use. All you need to do is set the shutter speed, press the metering button and adjust the aperture until the meter showing in the viewfinder sits within a small circle and the exposure is correct. Once the metering button is release the aperture will open up again allowing easy focusing. I remember using the same system on my Petri MF-1 and it can be a very effective, fast and accurate system.

The viewfinder has a typical praktica warning flag in the top left hand corner which will tell you that the film needs to be advanced. On the right hand side is the exposure meter needle and target circle and the centre is a micro prism fine focusing aid, with a surrounding ground glass and then fresnel screen. In modern terms the screen is devoid of information, but I seem to remember that we still managed to take reasonable photographs without the information!

The controls on this camera are very useable and well placed. In particular the placement of the angled shutter release on the front of the camera and the large metering button make it a camera which is particularly pleasing to shoot with.

Once I get the shutter speeds sorted out and confirm the metering is working I shall be taking it for a spin.

Praktica Super TL spec.

  • Praktica Super TL 35mm slr camera
  • Shutter speeds 1sec to 1/500 + B and flash sync
  • TTL match needle metering
  • Film exposure count and type reminder
  • Auto reset frame counter
  • Angled shutter release with lock
  • Large conveniently placed metering button
  • Flag in viewfinder to warn if film not advanced
  • ASA 6 to 1600 film speed
  • Auto diaphragm support
  • M42 lens mount
  • X & F flash sync
  • Off centre tripod bush
  • Ser No: 16323
  • Handbook is here

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