The Praktica L is the basic of the basics. It is a M42 mount fully manual and mechanical 35mm SLR with no light meter. The L is the first camera released in the BIG Praktica L-series family, manufactured by VEB Pentacon in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR/East Germany). Putting the word “big” in capital letters is in no way exaggerating the number of cameras in the Praktica L-series. In fact, there are more than 70 different cameras (to name a few: L, LLC, VLC, EE 2 and the MTL5 in my previous post) in the family including different models, variants within a specific model and export versions. The production years lasted from 1969 to 1989 (one year before the German reunification), spanning across four generations!
All cameras in the Pratkica L-series use a strong vertical-travel metal-blade shutter, solving the weakness of the cloth shutters used in many of the “pre-L” models. Almost all L-series cameras have mechanical shutters with speeds from 1 to 1/1000 seconds (some low-end models have top-speed at 1/500 seconds) and sync speed at 1/125 seconds. Thus, these models (including the the LLC’s which rely on electronics on the lens for meter-coupling) can all functoin without the battery (of course, with no metering). The only exception are the EE’s because they have a stepless electronically controlled shutter.
The Praktica L shown in the photo above is my favourite L-variant mainly because of the Pentacon tower and the name “Pentacon” on pentaprism. Both the logo and the words are reversely engraved as shown in the photo below. Also I prefer the smaller shutter button (which “looks” more elegant and mechanically precise to me) of this variant of L then the large ones on other variants and later models like the MTL5.
It is a surprise to me that Praktica started using the quick-loading system of the MTL5 in the earliest model of the L-series (see photo below). This was for sure a welcomed feature back in 1969 when the L was introduced. To me, the Praktica film quick-loading design is simpler (but yet as practical as) and easier to make than the Canon’s “QL quick load” introduced earlier (possibly in 1965 with the Canonet QL17 rangefinder).
Since the L is a grand-grandfather (to be precise, the ancestor) to the MTL5, I think comparing them would be kind of interesting. Thus, I took a shot with both cameras side-by-side to show the small by distinct differences between the two (see photo below).
Beside the Pentacon tower and the small shutter button which I prefer, the body cover material of the L are much harder and durable than the smooth leatherette used on the MT5. Other than that, the L also uses slightly more metal parts than the MTL5. Note that the L does not have the stop-down lever because it does not have a meter at all. Finally, another difference not really visible in the photo above is the focus screen of the L does not have split-image and instead just the micro-prism at the center surrounded by a portion of clear-matte. Also, brightness of the L’s viewfinder also seems to be dimmer. It becomes hard to focus indoor even with a f2.8 lens. I then took a close-up shot (photo below) of the mirror box area to show the focus screen. I guess it would be better to shoot through the viewfinder with the camera pointing at a bright diffused light source but I am just a bit lazy…