KW Praktica
KW Praktina
Pentacon F
Kalimar Reflex
Zenit 3M
Polaroid SLR 680
other SLRs


SLR cameras

Here are the various SLR cameras in my collection. Other groups can be found elsewhere:
TLR cameras
focal plane shutters
folding cameras

SLR stands for single lens reflex, cameras that show the subject through the camera lens by means of a mirror and pentaprism or waist-level viewfinder. I tend not to collect these, at least not systematically as I prefer the range- and viewfinders of earlier days (and one has to draw a line somewhere!), but I do have several scattered on this site, including a Retina Reflex and some Exa/Exaktas. I also still own a Minolta 9xi from my pre-digital days and a Sony A77, which technically is called an SLT as it has a semi-transparent mirror. My other SLRs (only one so far!) follow here.

KW Praktica

The KW Praktica was one of the first SLR cameras on the market and sort of a poor man's Exakta. It was a further development by Kamera Werkstatten (KW) if its first SLR, the Praktiflex. KW was based in Dresden and had developed some innovative cameras in the early 1930s, including the Pilot Reflex, a small handsome TLR camera. After WWII KW resumed production fairly quickly and introduced the Praktica with M42 screw mount, which mount had only recently been introduced with the Zeiss Ikon Contax S. The Practica was a great succes and soon after followed a whole range of Praktica SLRs, which lasted until well in the 1990s (as part of VEB Pentacon).
The 1949 Practica was a fairly simple SLR camera with a non-interchangeable waist-level viewfinder, a wind knob and a fastest speed of 1/500s. It was relatively cheap and reliable. A separate pentaprism viewfinder which could be mounted on top of the waist-level viewfinder was available as an option.

KW Praktica Tessar photo

An early version of the KW Praktica, recognisable by its integrated strap lugs, with coated CZJ Tessar 50mm f3.5 lens. The waist-level viewfinder could also function as a so-called sportsfinder by opening the flap with the KW logo on it.

KW Praktica Tessar  photo

Detailed view of the top of the KW Praktica showing the waist-level viewfinder unit with magnifier. Also note the shutter speed dial, the top dial of which functioned as the slow and fast speed selector. If it pointed to the black triangle, the black numbers applied, and if it pointed to the red triangle, the (slow) red numbers applied. The speed itself was indicated by a small red dot on the lower ring.

KW Praktina

The 1954 Praktina was a more advanced model of Kamera Werkstatten's Practica, described above. It was highly adaptable, having interchangeable viewfinder, focussing screen and camera back, as well as a provision to mount a motor wind. In addition, the Praktina had a revolutionary feature: automatic aperture control, which allowed to focus at maximum aperture but would automatically stop down to the selected aperture upon firing the shutter. Of course this was also available on the Ihagee Exakta Varex, but there it was done on the lens whereas on the Praktina it was implemented in the body. Moreover, the Praktina took it a step further. On early models (the Praktina FX) one still had to open the aperture manually after shooting, but on the 1958 Praktina IIA the aperture would be opened during film winding (on lenses that allowed this feature), so one never had to worry about it anymore.
A peculiar feature of the Praktina was the presence of a direct viewfinder in addition to the through-the-lens viewfinder. It was brighter so useful in low light, and would not blank out during shutter release, one of the drawbacks of SLR cameras without automatic mirror return.

KW Praktina FX Tessar  photo

A KW Praktina FX with Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2 lens with semi-automatic aperture control. I believe this to be a Praktina FX-SA3 version 2 according the website, as it has a film reminder dial with both DIN and ASA film speed settings.

KW Praktina IIA Flexon  photo

A KW Praktina IIA with Carl Zeiss Jena Flexon 50mm f/2 lens with fully automatic aperture control. This is a Praktina IIA-A version 2 according the website.

KW Praktina IIA Flexon  photo

Two KW Praktinas with various lenses, including a wide-angle 35mm f/2.8 Flektogon . The one on the right is quite curious. It's marked Jena T, which is what the original East German Carl Zeiss factory called their Tessars after they lost the trademark in a dispute over the rights of the name with Zeiss Ikon, the new West German branch. I removed the front ring from this lens in an attempt to clean the front cell, only to find out there was a second ring beneath it marked Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar and sporting a different serial number. So the ring looks like a quick patch after Carl Zeiss Jena lost the rights to their name. Curiously, the Flektogon has a later serial# but still carries the name C.Z. Jena.

Pentacon F

The Pentacon SLRs were made by the former Zeiss Ikon factories in Dresden, which in the late 1950s merged with several other companies and was renamed VEB Pentacon due to legal disputed with the new Zeiss Ikon company in West Germany. One successful range of cameras produced was the Contax SLR range, which soon after was renamed Pentacon for the same legal reasons.
The Pentacon F was first introduced in 1957 and had a semi-automatic aperture which was set while cocking the shutter.

Pentacon F photo

A Pentacon F displayed with a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8 lens. The Pentacon logo om the front can also be found on the Pentona II elsewhere on this site.

Kalimar Reflex

The 1957 Kalimar Reflex was built by Fujita and was an improved version of the earlier Fujita 66 and Soligor 66. Although technically an SLR, it handled very much like the TLR cameras above, the main difference being the mirror which was not fixed (to a viewing lens), but retractable and therefore could use the taking lens as viewing lens. The system is best known from the Hasselblads. A focal plane shutter was used to make this setup possible (as a leaf shutter would block the view). Other than that, one would wind the film with a knob on the side and view the image from the top through a hood with a frosted glass, very much like most TLRs. The Kalimar Reflex also featured an instant return mirror, making the experience even more similar to a TLR.
One important difference was the ability to change lenses, which is simpler to implement on a system like this than on TLRs, as one didn't have to worry about different viewing and taking lenses. In fact, the Kalimar had a 52mm wide angle lens available, one of the few medium format SLR systems to do so. The lens mount was a 46mm screw mount.

Fujita Kalimar Reflex photo

A Kalimar Reflex with Kaligar 150mm f/4 lens. This is not the standard lens for this system, as that would be the 80mm f/3.5, which I do not have.

Zenit 3M

The Zenit line of SLR cameras was introduced in the early 1950s by KMZ, the maker of the Zorki Leica copies, and started in fact off as a Zorki II which had been converted to an SLR model by adding a groundglass screen and a mirror. It kept the same L39 screw mount but the flange distance increased to make room for the mirror, so lenses are not interchangeable between the two mounts. In 1960 the Zenit-3 came out, which featured a film advance lever instead of a wind knob. It was still bottom loading (like most Leica copies), this was however changed to a hinged back on the Zenit-3M, like the one shown below. The next model received a lightmeter in 1967 the lens mount was changed to the more practical m42 mount. Many more generations were to follow; the Zenits were a great succes with a production in the tens of millions, and as recently as the early 2000s.

Zenit 3M photo

An Zenit 3M from 1966, assuming the serial# starts with the year of production. It is fitted with an Industar-50 50mm f/3.5 lens. It is not a particular advanced camera for its time, lacking slow shutter speeds and having a top 1/500s speed, no lightmeter or automatic diaphragm, etc. But that also means not much can go wrong with it, and indeed it still works quite smoothly.

Zenit 3M photo Zenit 3M photo

Top and rear views of the Zenit 3M, showing off its unassuming and functional design. One neat feature of this otherwise fairly low-spec model was the mirror lock-up button in-between the wind-lever and speed dial: push it once and the mirror would lock up, push it twice and the shutter would fire. A similar way of avoiding mirror shake could be achieved with the time delay button, as it would lock up the mirror several seconds before opening the shutter.

Polaroid SLR 680

Polaroid is one of the most recognisable names in photography, but perhaps more so due to those iconic instant photographs with thick white borders which used to cover people's refrigerators and pin boards than as a brand of cameras. The instant camera was developed in the 1940 by Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, hence the name Land cameras for the early Polaroid models. The concept caught on quickly and Polaroid sold many millions of their cameras. Although with the advance of digital cameras and photo printers the concept is less popular now, the Polaroid company still exists.
The Polaroid SLR 680 camera was introduced in the early 1980s and was based on the SX-70, the first fully automatic instant folding camera. The Polaroid 600 series used a film cassette which also included the battery to run the camera. Unfortunately Polaroid recently stopped making these, but a new company, the Impossible Project, has developed an equivalent film. Ironically, Polaroid still advertises a camera that uses this film, as well as the film itself.
Most 600 series cameras were simple point and shoots, but there were some more advanced models, including the SLR 680, a professional quality camera which featured auto-exposure, auto-focussing, automatic electronic flash, through-the-lens viewing and an excellent lens. In addition it folded down to a flat but fairly large package. It was discontinued after about five years, but was reintroduced in 1996 as the SLR 690 with only minor (internal electronic) modifications. Both models are still sought after these days.

Polaroid SLR 680 photo

A Polaroid SLR 680 camera with 4-element lens 116 mm f/8 lens which (auto)focusses from 26 cm to infinity. What looked like a little gold-coloured speaker on the camera was indeed just that: an ultrasound generator that the camera used to calculate the distance to the nearest object and to autofocus the lens, i.e., a sonar system. The flash angle would also be automatically adjusted.

Other SLRs

The following SLR cameras can be found elsewhere on this site. Please click the photo to go there.

Ihagee Exakta photo Ihagee Exa

Ihagee Exakta

Ihagee Exa

Wirgin Edixa-Mat Reflex photo Canon AT-1photo

Wirgin Edixa-Mat Reflex

Canon AT-1

Olympus OM10 photo

Olympus OM10 / OM2