There are basic cameras and there is the Praktica L, a large block of East German utilitarian metal introduced to consumers and comrades in 1969 as the first camera in Praktica’s L-line. The previous PL Nova range cameras were basic enough with some models having metering, and the whole range having some curves, bevels, lines, circles and a bit of a retro look, even for 1960’s cameras.
With the L range, Praktica embraced modernity, sort of. No lines, curves – just a big heavy functional camera, and to these eyes, a thing of beauty.
The Praktica L has no meter, no split focussing screen, no battery – nothing other than a shutter button, speed dial and a winder. My model has a slight deviation from conformity. A small number of the L’s had the Pentacon logo etched on the prism housing and a small ‘L’. I was delighted when my £8 eBay purchased arrived with this decal.
The winder doesn’t even have the black covering present on many later Praktica L ranges, obviously far too decadent. The shutter speed dial is the usual with a flash hot shoe sync at 1/125, a fastest speed of 1/1000th and an ISO indicator. Just as a reminder as there is nothing electrical in this camera.
The viewfinder is bright and bare. There is a wee pointer which disappears when the shutter is cocked. There is also no focussing aid like a split screen – which can make focussing a bit trickier than usual. So nothing to distract from composition..
Which brings me to the lens – the much derided Domiplan 50/2.8, a lens with a pretty poor reputation out there.
It looks nice with the ‘zebra’ markings, it’s extremely basic in construction and, yes – a bit soft. But it’s not terrible and with metering by sunny 16 it did ok. These shots were taken in changing weather in County Donegal on a roll of Agfaphoto APX100.
Like a lot of old cameras – and basic cameras – there’s a lot to enjoy using without a meter and focussing aids, and using a pretty crappy old lens while getting half decent results. And of course using one so aesthetically pleasing.
The Kodak Retinette 1A. The site Kodak Classics gives in excellent detail the history of the delightfully well-built Kodak Retina range and its budget sibling the Retinette. Mine is the type 042 Retinette 1A from around 1962 and the first thing you’ll notice is that this is one solid wee camera. There’s a lot of metal and it’s not the lightest, there are no lugs for a strap (you’ve to use the case) and it’s fully manual – no meter and viewfinder/guess focussing (there are sort-of zone dots). And it’s a delight to use.
All the business is done on the lens/shutter housing. A Pronto shutter unit with a Reomar 45mm f2.8 lens. With no internal meter, it’s Sunny 16, a handheld meter or the phone app. There is a generous range of four shutter speeds 1/30th to 1/250th and B. Who needs milky water anyway. Aperture is F22 to F2.8.
Focussing is a reasonable guess or using the sophisticated 1-to-3 dots going from close to further away, Father Dougal style.
You could attach a rangefinder to the cold shoe, but since you can pick these cameras up for a tenner, it hardly seems worth the bother. And why not go fully manual – it’s part of the fun of using something of this vintage.
There’s a wee button to open the back and film goes in easily, and the viewfinder ? – nice and clear with zero information apart from the subject.
There is a self timer, they’re the weak link in a lot of vintage cameras and since I’m never going to use it, I’ll assume it’ll work.
The first roll out was Agfa APX100 developed in Ilford Ilfosol with some shots taken in Lloret de Mar, Spain and east Belfast. For the contrast..
The main thing I noticed about the Retinette is that in good light, f8 and smaller, the lens is tack sharp and nicely contrasty. In fact all the over/underexposed and blurred shots were purely down to me and rushing a bit. When you slow down, check the exposure and take a bit of care focussing, this is a terrific camera. If the Irish summer holds up, it’ll see a few more rolls.
Last few shots of Munich. It was my favourite spot on the European tour – the beer, the weather, the very German signage, the beer, the architecture, the metro (clean and punctual) and the fact that every green space contains a beer garden. I’ll go back.
And finally – lederhosen, sex and falafel all under one roof. So German
Munich is all about the beer – there are countless places to drink – indoor and outdoor, particularly outdoor and even on a Sunday, when shops are all closed the drink continues to flow.
Viktualienmarkt round the corner from Marienplatz is a great palce to start.
Away from the main beer garden,you can always find somewhere for a beer when you see that exquisite signage or well turned out staff.
or if you don’t fancy a beer, there’s aways the traditional Bavarian Coffee Haus..
All shot on the Ricoh KR5 and Agfa APX100 – €4 a roll from Drogerie Markt