Praktica PLC3: A Sturdy and Flexible Tool, Not Just a Toy!


If you were to be married somewhere in the Eastern Block during the 1980-ies, this would probably be the camera your wedding would be photographed with. Built like a tank, this monstrosity of East German camera engineering will take you on Lomographic journeys never possible before.

The Practica PLC3 was build in the Pentacon factories in East Germany during late 1970-ies and early 1980-ies. The intended audience included both the professional photographers in the Eastern Block, and the advanced amateurs in the later. Full manual control, reliable operation, and innovative features – meet the Praktica PLC3!

  • Camera type: Manual Focus 35mm Single Lens Reflex camera with interchangeable lenses and focal-plane shutter;
  • Lens: 50mm F/1.8 MC Pentacon Electric, M-42 mount with proprietary electric contacts for open-aperture metering. Any M-42 lens or attachment can be used;
  • Light metering: Yes, Though-The-Lens type, coupled, meter needle in the viewfinder. Open-aperture metering with Electric type lenses, and stopped down metering with ordinary lenses. Film speeds from 25ASA to 1600ASA. The light meter battery is of the now rare Varta V21 PX 4,5V type, but that can be replaced with a stack of ordinary button cells;
  • Viewfinder: Through-The-Lens, mate glass with miroprisms and Split-Screen for quick and precise focusing. No dedicated DOF preview button on camera, but the lens has a stop-down lever on the side;
  • Shutter: Fully mechanical metal blade focal plane shutter, with speeds from 1s and Bulb to 1/1000; Flash sync at up to 1/125. Note: sync at 1/125 speed is selected at the dedicated “Flash” position of the shutter speed dial. The shutter is cocked by the wind-on lever and no multiple exposures are possible;
  • Flash sync: Both Hot-shoe and PC-connector. Sync at first (leading) curtain at any speed below 1/125.
  • Tripod thread: 1/4 on the lens axis;
  • Cable release: Yes;
  • Frame counter: Yes, on top plate, self-resetting type;
  • Self-timer: Yes, mechanical type, about 10 seconds delay;
  • Mirror lock-up: No;
  • Weight: about 1,2 kg with the above lens and leather case.

With impressive spec as the above, and a fast lens, the Praktica PLC3 will open new doors in front of your creativity.

The fast lens allows you to compose images in which attention is drawn automatically to the sharply focused object and the background is blurred and soft:

Credits: adash

This feature is especially usable for portraits:

Credits: adash

With this camera What You See Is What You Get. Well, sort of. The SLR construction allows you to get a preview of what exactly will be exposed on film, and the interchangeable lens type allows you to attach macro rings/bellows and explore the world of the miniature:

Credits: adash

Having the actual image projected onto the ground glass means that you can use all sorts of selective focus contraptions and open to yourself a new world of creative use of selective focus and the like:

Credits: adash

The light meter is uncoupled, which means that it has no effect on your shutter/aperture selection – it just tells you if you’re putting in too much or too little light. This is a neat feature in high-contrast and back-lit scenes:

Credits: adash

Why would I recommend this camera for your Lomographic enjoyment:

  • The sole beauty of the precisely crafted metal body and the staggering click of the metal shutter;
  • You will have full manual and precise control of both focus, aperture and shutter speed;
  • You still have a good idea if your exposure is sufficient;
  • You can use all sorts of lenses with it – from fisheye to long telephoto;
  • You can use all sorts of filters and still have proper exposure (Note: I have not tested it with IR and Linear polarizers);
  • You can use almost all sorts of fresh and expired films in 35mm because of the generous 25-1600ASA settings of the light meter;
  • You can make precise exposures with speeds from 1s to 1/1000 of a second;
  • It produces very sharp and evenly exposed photos;
  • It is a strong, reliable camera, that fits sturdily in the hand;
  • You can explore your creativity with shallow DOF, selective focus and macro.

Why would I not recommend this camera to you:

  • It is heavy;
  • Slightly uncomfortable flat body;
  • It does not do anything by itself – both exposure and focus will require a lot of manual input;
  • You have to be precise when focusing the fast lens;
  • It does not have multiple exposure;
  • No metering for 3, 6 and 12 ASA films;
  • It does not produce blurred and vignetted images like our favorite Lomography cameras.

Are you hungry for more than a vignetted image of the neighbor’s dog? Well, grab this monstrous piece of camera and go explore more creative sides of yourself!

written by adash on 2013-01-02 #gear #35mm #review #slr #praktica #pentacon #professional #gdr #praktica-plc3 #m-42


  1. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    It was a very nice touch to put the pros and cons breakdown at the end.

  2. vivie
    vivie ·

    Amazing photos!!

  3. cosinaphile
    cosinaphile ·

    great info brother and the shots are powerful... you are missed at ep1 .net .....hope to see you there soon

  4. dotted_dress
    dotted_dress ·

    Lovely article and beautiful photos!
    I got this camera from my dad and it sat unused for about 8 years. Now I'm absolutely in love with the old girl. The sound of the shutter is so magical!
    It's a little fiddly to get the film in properly at first but then it works like a charm.

  5. misscarlita
    misscarlita ·

    Great article! Definitely the most helpful I've found:) When using the button cells as a replacement battery, did you just match with the original battery for size and number of battery cells?

  6. drummond
    drummond ·

    weitere vorteile :
    - du kannst einfache AA-Batterien für die PLC3 nehmen, damit misst sie zwar etwas langsam, aber genau (die Kamera hat eine Brückenschaltung)
    - besonders schön ist der Waffelbezug, so wie bei der MTL3
    - die Belichtungsmessung machst du mit dem Auslöseknopf an, indem du halb herunterdrückst, den schwarzen Extrahebel wie bei den anderen Prakticas gibt es nicht

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