Praktica Super TL (Hanimex)

Praktica Super TL



SO we all drove up to Santa Rosa to pay a visit to the scrapbooking store and stopped on the way at Photo Supply to get a negative archival box and some Verichrome Pan, and lo they were having a little photo swap outside! So Casey and I headed over to the first table and there were a slew of wonderful classics I’d only seen in pictures: Rolleicord (nice), Ikoflex Favorit (nice), a nice newer Zorki 4, some miscellaneous old folders, an Exakta (odd-looking fellow, but handsomer in person than photos suggest), and a chunky SLR that caught my eye and wound up in my hands immediately, still don’t know why exactly, but $20 later here’s my first Praktica. I asked if they had the swap every Saturday and it turns out it’s more like three times a year! Some timing.

This classic SLR was manufactured by East German VEB Pentacon (Dresden) and sold in the US by serial rebrander Hanimex. It’s fairly well-designed and well-built though it’s obviously a lower-end camera. The lightseals are all felt and string, and the mirror bumper is rubber, so I didn’t have to go through my usual black foam torture. This lens appears to be world-class, though: it’s a nice big Meyer-Optik Oreston that opens up to f1.8 and focuses down to (gasp) one foot! The depth of field at that distance is so shallow, I held a lens cap in my fingertips and focused on it, and my fingertips were out of focus. Note that the Oreston wasn’t necessarily the standard lens – I’ve seen this camera with the lesser 3-element Domiplan as well.

A few funny things about this camera: no hot or even accessory shoe (though I think there’s an add-on shoe available), but two PC sync ports. Nice prominent aperture preview button, something fairly rare on modern SLRs let alone on an early SLR. In this case it is also the meter switch, a clever way of letting you meter stopped-down while still being able to preview your scene at full aperture. Also, the shutter switch is not on top but on the front… seems strange but is comfortable to use, I think even more so than a top-mounted release. It’s more ergonomic, as they say nowadays. The bottom plate is covered with leather like the sides, something I’ve not seen before. (guess that means I can’t scratch it!).

One other thing I would like to mention is the innovative quick-loading system: the wind spool has two spring-loaded bars on it that clamp down on the film as it turns, not unlike the guard bar on a rollercoaster. All you do is line up the sprockets, wind on, and close the back. No threading at all! Very nice.


Cleaned it up inside & out, looks great. Can’t get the battery cover off to save my life, not sure what to do about that. Probably corroded shut (mercury battery and all). Followup: can you say Robogrip pliers? That’s what it took to get that cover off, and yes there was an old and greenish mercury battery inside. Now it looks like that’s the least of my worries with this one:

Shutter problem. Didn’t know till I got the test roll back, but at 1/60 and below the first curtain lags to the point that the film is not exposed, though ‘B’ works and 1/125 and above works though I can’t depend on the accuracy of those speeds. Everything else is as it should be so I suspect it’s a problem of shutter tension with the first curtain. Will require investigation. In the meantime I did get some pictures out of it, including what may be one of my all-time favorites, so I’m not complaining too much.

Lens fungus. Ew. There are two methods I know of to remove it, either a 50-50 mix of ammonia and hydrogen peroxide (mixed right before you use it), or cold cream. I didn’t have any ammonia and can’t stand the toxic smell, so I opted for cold cream. Lens assembly was cake, just a tiny set screw to be able to unscrew the large outer plastic ring, then the first element comes out with another more typical retaining ring. Opening this one up I found sand in and around the barrel, so took apart the entire thing, cleaned up all the sand and all the elements, and put it back together. Cold cream gets that fungus right off! Then you have to make sure and clean the glass well, as cold cream is primarily mineral oil and your lens wouldn’t be sharp if you left any residue. Windex again.

Tips & Tricks

Not a stealth camera, this one has a loud mirror return. Louder than the K1000? Hm, not sure. But pretty loud. Plus the wind stroke is long and you can’t use multiple strokes like on the Yashica SLRs. The back opens by side lever just like on my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s instead of via the pull-up wind knob, and the film rewind release is in an odd spot – on top near the wind lever instead of underneath the camera (similar to some of the older rangefinders like the Kodak 35 and Argus C3). All in all a very nice useable camera, surprisingly light for its size, and I would even venture to say it was ahead of its time in many ways.

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