|Praktica Nova B (Pentacon) , 35mm SLR camera, c1965|
Praktica Nova B, an East German made 35mm SLR. The Praktica Nova series adopted the angled shutter release from the Contax S and still retains styling cues from the 1949 Contax D. By the 1960s almost every decent camera was constructed using a die cast zinc aluminium mix body, to which the mechanicals were attached, this Nova B is one such. The bright parts are satin chromed pressed housings covering the top, pentaprism and base. The finish is black rubberized faux leather and black enamel. The ancestry of the Nova series is recognizably following on from the Praktica IV line, but introducing a metering system using a selenium cell mounted on the front of the prism housing and the needle readout on the top. The user being required to dial a matching needle to obtain the exposure setting, then transfer this to the lens. The lens is at least automatic, in that it remains at the fullest aperture until the shutter is fired, when it stops down to the required setting. The shutter continues the proven horizontal running cloth mechanism of earlier Prakticas with a slow speeds selected by both aligning the speed selector and setting the brake independently, a little awkward, but it works well enough. Upon release, the shutter has the characteristic clap followed by a faint ringing that all the angled bodied Prakticas exhibit. Two flash outlets are fitted, F for standard "flash" and X for electronic flash. The difference being that on the F setting it was triggered fractionally earlier to allow the bulb to burn to full brightness, whereas the then relatively novel electronic flash could be considered instantaneous. This dual flash triggering was a common feature on many cameras through the 1960s as electronic flash supplanted the older bulb technology.
This Praktica Nova B was an item of blackmail. If you pass your physics exam, they said, we'll buy you a new camera, they said. So blackmail pays apparently, this is the result, okay it was secondhand - but I was happy. So it was that this Praktica displaced the Dacora and set me on my way to a house full of old photographica. It's a tough one too, it's been dropped from appalling heights and bounced, protected by the robust carrying case it was supplied with. It never missed a beat until the shutter blind split and that, regrettably, was that. Although repaired it was never quite the same again, and was retired, being succeeded by our faithful Pentax K1000.
The history of Praktica is complex to say the least, but Praktica is just the name applied to the camera, the company behind it was an amalgamation of many of Dresden's long standing optical factories. Dresden was the centre of much of Germany's fabulous camera production prior to World War 2. This was thrown into turmoil, first by the war itself, then allied bombing all but destroyed the city and finally what was left became part of East Germany, occupied by Soviet Russia who put the camera factories back to work. This caused a few legal issues as some Zeiss factories ended up in East Germany, whilst others remained in the West making closely related products. The various famous Dresden camera makers were gradually amalgamated by the Soviets and by 1964 the conglomeration was known as VEB Pentacon Dresden. The name Pentacon being obtained by combining the words Pentaprism and Contax. The expertise and some of the surviving staff of Zeiss, Ihagee, Certo and others would wind up making Prakticas. Consequently the Prakticas were well made, often displaying elements of their pre Pentacon history. Pentacon went on to build thousands of popular and well selling cameras up to the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. Sadly Pentacon couldn't survive in market driven reunified Germany, unable to compete, the Praktica silently faded away in 1990.
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