Trouble in the East… German Camera
Trouble in the East… German Camera

Trouble in the East… German Camera

I’ve got an East German camera to test, and the results are going to surprise you! Well, not really, what would you expect from a camera that’s been sitting on a shelf for who-knows-how-long!?

What is it?

Praktica PLC2 is an SLR camera introduced in 1976, utilizing a common M42 screw mount, but this one goes a bit further – it has a series of three conductive strips on the lens mount used for open-aperture metering with compatible lenses. Quite obviously, it has a built-in light meter, and that needs some kind of battery to operate. Unfortunately, the batteries in question are PX21, 4.5-volt batteries that are next to impossible to find. On the other hand, the camera is fully mechanical, so the battery is needed only to power the light meter, and it works just fine unpowered.

My specimen is a bit scruffy, the leatherette is peeling off on a few locations, it has a dent on the mount, and it’s been sitting on the shelf for an extended time. It came into my possession more than a decade ago, but I always had a better, more interesting, or more practical camera to use, and this one kept sitting on the shelf. It’s not a dusty shelf, but it’s been a long time, and this September, I decided it was the time to see if it’s still working.

Praktica PLC2 with Pentacon Electric 50mm F1.8 and TTArtisan Light Meter

First try

After winding it and dry-firing the shutter a few times, the camera looked and sounded just like it should. I’ve loaded a custom, short roll of AgfaPhoto APX400 film, and after almost a month of misery, I’ve finally finished it. It was a misery to use it because it is a big, not-so-light camera, the peeling leatherette isn’t nice to touch and hold, the light meter isn’t working (I was using TTArtisan Light Meter clipped onto the hot shoe), and the viewfinder is nothing to write home about. And after all that discomfort, I’ve realized that the AgfaPhoto APX 400 film wasn’t an AgfaPhoto film at all. It wasn’t even a 400 ASA film! It was a Fomapan 100, and I’ve just pushed it full two stops. Just great.

After some brainstorming on the Mastodon, I’ve decided I’ll develop that film in Rodinal 1+50, and give it a bit more time – 2.25× more, to be precise. At 22.5°C, that turned out to be 13:37 min. Cool.

But it was not meant to be. The film turned out empty, no photos were present on the roll. All the border markings were there, looking just like they should, so the film was developed correctly, it just happened to be no photos there. Just wonderful.

After some more brainstorming on Mastodon, no conclusion of what happened was reached – the most plausible explanations were either the camera just didn’t trigger the shutter correctly, and/or it didn’t catch the film, so no film was ever exposed. I’m more keen on the second idea, I’ve never checked if the rewind knob was rotating, and that would explain empty roll perfectly.

All that meant I still didn’t have the confirmation the camera is or isn’t working. Another short roll was needed, but I disliked the camera so much.

Second try

I caved in and loaded another roll in December, this time I was double-checking everything – AgfaPhoto APX 400 was loaded correctly, the camera took up the film, the light meter was set to 400 ASA, and I wrote down all the exposures. Again, Rodinal 1+50 was used, this time at 21°C and 17 min. And this time I got pictures, yay!

Not everything was perfect, though! Again, I used a TTArtisan light meter clipped onto the hot shoe so the metering should be the same and not an issue. I used two lenses – Pentacon 29mm F2.8 and Pentacon Electric 50mm F1.8 – and 15-frames, a short roll of APX 400 film, shot at 400.


The first and the second photos on the roll indicate the shutter isn’t working as it should – the top half is just empty, and it was fading softly. But that makes sense, the camera has not been used for quite some time, and the shutter lubrication was stiff and dusty.

Pentacon Auto 29mm F2.8, 1/1000, ƒ/8

Then, suddenly, the next four consecutive photos are looking as good as it gets, with no issues at all. That’s a bit unexpected, but it still makes sense, the shutter’s been working a bit, and the lubrication got as soft as it should be. Cool. I’d expect a few more partly exposed photos, but hey, I’ll take it!

Pentacon Auto 29mm F2.8, 1/250, ƒ/9.5

But, let’s not cheer too early! Again, all of a sudden, the next three photos show that the problems didn’t just resolve fully, all three have the top quarter empty. The shutter is no longer working as it should. Weird.

Pentacon Electric 50mm F1.8, 1/500, ƒ/9.5

And finally, the last six photos, so a majority, are missing their top half. Ugh. The fade area is less soft than in the first two frames, but this is not usable.

Pentacon Electric 50mm F1.8, 1/1000, ƒ/9.5

Again, check the thread on Mastodon.


The intermittent issues the shutter is experiencing indicate that lubrication is the main problem here. Judging by the photos, most issues were visible at the 1/1000 shutter speed, confirming the lubrication issue. Although I’m not enjoying the camera because of its leatherette peeling off and light-meter not working, it’s the only fully mechanical camera with a metal-bladed, vertical travel shutter in M42 mount I have, I’ll certainly give it another try. Dry-firing the shutter through all the speeds and keeping it as slower shutter speeds should help.