Vintage camera collection – Praktica B100 electronic

This is a brief review of the Praktica B100 electronic 35mm SLR camera.

This camera was manufactured in East Germany in about 1981 by the Pentacon company and is an early example of a common modern phenomena – an all automatic camera. Well – sort of. The camera is fully automatic in it’s choice of shutter speed once the lens aperture has been set.

The lens mount is a Praktica PB bayonet mount which is similar in diameter to the Pentax K mount although the registration distance of the Praktica is a bit shorter. When I bought my camera it had a 28mm f/2.8 lens fitted and I also have a Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 and a Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 lens in PB mount, so if I ever decide to put a film through this camera I’ve got quite a nice little kit ready! I would guess that the lenses are of the same basic design as the equivalent Pentacon M42 mount lenses although I haven’t had need to take any apart so far so I can’t confirm that.

Although small, it’s quite a heavy camera to carry about, which possibly indicates that it’s is made of mostly metal components. The vertically operating shutter is certainly metal, and there is quite a heafty ‘clunk’ when an exposure is made. This was obviously not the camera to use for street photography or anything where you didn’t want to be noticed.

As I said above, the camera has a fully automatic shutter speed setting – it’s not possible to select the shutter speed yourself, other than by changing the aperture to shift it. I would imagine this camera was aimed at the beginner photographer who wanted a ‘point and shoot’ camera. While this is fine if you use the PB mount lenses, any Praktica owner with a collection of M42 lens would have also needed to purchase the M42 to PB lens adaptor if they bought this camera as an upgrade. I’m not sure how this combination would work however since the camera would not be able to read the aperture?

There is an exposure compensation dial fitted around the film rewind crank which allows up to 2 stops either side of the metered exposure value, and a small button next to the dial to keep it locked in place. I find it quite fiddly to push this button and adjust the compensation dial and I certainly couldn’t do it with the camera held to my eye. The metering is carried out ‘through the lens’ at full aperture and is powered by a PX28 battery fitted in the bottom of the camera. The lens has electronic contacts which allow the metering circuitry to read the aperture value set on the lens so all the composition, focusing and aperture selection is carried out with the brightest view possible and the aperture stopped down only at the moment of exposure.

The viewfinder is typical of all 35mm cameras – bigger and brighter than most modern APS-C cameras, but of course with very little of the information which is found in modern cameras either. There is a needle on the right hand side which shows the shutter speed selected, and the aperture which the lens is set to can be seen in a small window at the bottom of the viewfinder (this is an optical view rather than any electronic view, there is a little window in the prism housing allowing you to see the top of the lens). In the centre of the viewfinder is the normal micro prism ring around a 45 degree split rangefinder focusing aid.

A full run down of the spec is:

  • Praktica PB bayonet mount lens
  • Full electronic shutter selection
  • Flash hot shoe and sync socket
  • Vertical metal focal plane shutter
  • Open aperture metering
  • 45 degree split focusing aid
  • ISO range 3200 to 12 ASA
  • +/- 2 stops exposure compensation with lock
  • Self timer (broken on my example)
  • Motor drive contacts and drive thread fitted
  • Shutter lock button
  • Shutter button threaded for cable release
  • Film info slot fitted to film chamber door
  • Tripod bush
  • Ser No – 4651554
  • Lens Ser No – 1050486

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