PRAKTICALLY SCRAP


It goes against the grain to scrap a camera, even one that isn't working. Someone, somewhere, would surely be able to bring it back to life. Then again, there are bayonet-mount Prakticas. Or even auto-only bayonet-mount Prakticas:

Or for that matter, hopelessly corroded non-functioning auto-only bayonet-mount Prakticas. Look inside the mirror box.


This is a part of the same saga as Five Leicas and SOOZI the 90mm Summicron. Along with the good stuff, our young friend inherited a lot of junk. There will be more about both the good stuff and the junk later. This is about the junkiest end of the junk. 


The guilty party: the short-register 3-claw Praktica bayonet mount. The contacts for the electrical transmission of the aperture are at about 7 o'clock in this picture; the mechanical, Nikon-style auto diaphragm lever at about 2:30.


In 1979 Praktica switched from their old M42 screw mount to a new 3-claw bayonet, with electrical transmission of maximum aperture, and in 2001 they ceased production. Thus the so-called PB mount was both short-lived and (arguably) the least popular lens mount ever. Well, yes, Alpa-mount lenses may have been sold in smaller numbers, but at least they were good lenses selling to discerning enthusiasts. Most Praktica users bought on price: the cameras were excellent value and could deliver excellent results. But they weren't cameras you bought if you could afford anything better. Most things were better. Zeniths weren't at the time, but they were simpler and more reliable, and are probably a better bet today. 

Worse still, the PB mount has a short flange/film register, just 44mm. This admits of few adapters for other 35mm SLRs. As far as I can see, the adapters available today mostly incorporate an optical element, which degrades quality and increases focal length by 50%. Yes, you can use PB lenses on Canon Eos without an optical element, or on a 35mm Alpa, but otherwise the flange/film distance is fairly severely limiting: about 1.5mm less than the M42 mount, and 2.5mm less than Nikon. 


Five zooms. And they're all junk. Sure, zooms from the 1990s are vastly better than zooms from 20 or 30 years earlier, but they're still pretty ropy at the lower end of the market.


OK: who cares? Well, with four bodies and eighteen lenses (including a teleconverter) it's about 20x as hard to scrap everything as it might be with a single, lenseless body. So: the first step was to try putting batteries in these electronic marvels: Two BCXs, a BCA and a BX20. All take either a 4LR44 or a 4SR44. As the name suggests, these effectively consist of four button cells stacked end to end in a common shell, delivering 6.2 volts. 

When I tried it, nothing happened, but this might have been down to its being a rather elderly battery: I borrowed it from Frances's Pentax digital spot meter, which it still powered, but it might have been on its last legs. So I ordered a new spare for that. Even so, I don't hold out much hope. 

How do you knock 10 cents off the value of a rusty split-ring? Put a broken Praktica on it... Again, note the corrosion inside the mirror box. The camera looks quite fancy, with its knobs and dials and switches and levers, and indeed it was a surprisingly good camera. When it worked.


What about the lenses, though? The list starts with a CZ Jena 20/2.8, the front glass etched by fungus. If it weren't etched by fungus it might almost (but only almost) be worth getting SRB of Luton to make up a Pentacon to Leica adapter and use it as a scale focus lens. 

What's a 20/2.8 Zeiss worth? Ummm... but... a 20/2.8 Zeiss Jena in Praktica bayonet mount with fungus damage (hard to see here) is an exercise in declining expectations. In all fairness it may not have been fungus damage: it may have been really awful coating. And with a decent hood, damage like this often makes surprisingly little difference to image quality. Even so, what would you pay for it?


The others were a 28/2.8 Pentacon;  28-200/4-5.6 Sirius (as in "you can't be Sirius"); two 35/2.4 CZ Jena; two 35-70/4-5.6 Sigma; two 50/1.8 Pentacons and one each of 55-200/4-5.6 Sigma, 70-210/4-5.6 Pentacon, 70-210/4-5.6 Sigma. 80-200/4.5-5.6 Sigma, 135/2.8 CZ Jena. Then there's the 2x converter. Combined with almost anything on the list above, this would probably make a good soft-focus portrait lens. 

Then there are two are T-mount lenses that can be used on other cameras -- if anyone wants to!  They are a 300/5.6 Optomax and a 500/8 Centon mirror. 



Even then, the Centon is grievously pocked by fungus.


A few of the primes might just about make decent loupes for examining transparencies or other applications calling for a high quality magnifying glass. The 50/1.8 lenses are probably best for this but the 35mm and 28mm are in with a chance too.

Five loupes?


Now, apart from the two T-mount lenses, and possibly the magnifying loupes, there are really only two hopes for any of these. One is to find an aficionado of Praktica bayonet cameras who wants a lot of indifferent lenses. The other, which is possibly more realistic, is to find someone who wants to try them on mirrorless cameras, possibly for soft focus portraiture. 

The only two usable lenses, and even then, I don't think I'd bother to try the Centon mirror. Lenses like the Optomax 300 are sometimes surprisingly good, though. I'll pull a Nikon T-mount off something else and try it...


What I've done in the past is given away lenses, in return for someone paying the postage and packing (which will usually be more than the lenses are worth) and promising to make a donation to the charity of their choice, in the amount of their choice. But with 18 lenses worth virtually nothing, that looks like more work than either I or their owner wants to get into. She's a busy freelance translator and I; well, I just can't be bothered. So they're going to be put into a box and left to ferment for a while, albeit in plastic bags with a silica get sachet each, until I can think what (if anything) to do with them. 


Go to tombscurtisaditi@gmail.com if you have a burning desire to buy this junk

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Words and pictures copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2017