We all have our own tales to tell of our very first cameras that our parents allowed us to handle!
In my case, it was the family Yashicamat twin lens camera, an instrument that was kept locked up safe and sound and only brought out at special occasions.
Well when I grew up a little and was able to earn my own money, I scrimped and saved to buy my first real camera, and that was a camera which no doubt many of us cut our photographic teeth upon…the Praktica.
The Praktica cameras originated in West Germany as the Edixa M42 (the M42 referring to the screw mount of the lens), a place that is now non-existent, but what may you ask led to the phenomenal success of these cameras?
In a nutshell, it was a combination of price, reliability and performance….the prices being kept low by subsidies from the Government! To be sure, the lenses weren’t the next best thing to a Leica, but they did nevertheless deliver very good results, at a price the average Joe Public could afford.
Even now, you can put together a complete Praktica kit for less than $100 if you look at camera fairs etc……and taht means a camera body, 2 or 3 lenses and a flash!
The photographic cognoscenti sneered at these cameras, saying they were built like German tanks and sounded like them too, but they were solid and reliable.
There were a plethora of models to choose from, and I won’t waste your time here going through the whole lot. Rather, I’ll mention the best models and lenses that you can snap up these days for a few pennies compared to the prices they were selling at in the 70s.
First the lenses…..the very best is 20mm f4 Flektogon, another one is 135mm Sonnar f4, yet another is the 30mm f3.5 Lydith and finally the 50mm f1.8 Pancolor.
As for the camera itself, many Prakticas will now be worn and i need of care….in fact, it would be worthwhile if you did purchase one, to factor in the cost of a CLA (clean, lube and adjust) into the total cost.
In my experience, the best one to go for would be a Praktica IV or IVb.
Whichever one you go for, they are always a thrill to use, and very heavy and solid compared to the plasticky rubbish we have nowadays!