1other Pentacon camera in my collection

Praktica LTL

 

Exakta RTL 1000 [1969 - 1973]

 

Background

Ihagee were the original manufacturers of Exakta branded cameras, but in 1969, the company was incorporated into Pentacon.

Ihagee and Exakta were once hallowed names in photography. The company introduced the first 35mm SLR in 1936, and by the 1950s, Exakta models were serious contenders for the attention of professional photographers. The backwards compatibility of new models meant there were a huge number of lenses, viewfinders, and other accessories, plus various adapters, which also allowed Exakta cameras to be used in scientific and medical fields.

The Pentacon RTL 1000 was an attempt to maintain the Ihagee heritage whilst injecting the modernity of Japanese styling, and inevitably the two clashed, not least of which because Ihagee models were effectively left-handed, with left side shutter releases and wind cranks.

 

Overview

Exakta RTL 1000 advertThe RTL 1000 is essentially a Praktica L with Exakta characteristics. Many Internet sites say that the RTL 1000 was based on the (1974) Praktica VLC, but obviously it wasn't … because 1969 came before 1974!

The RTL 1000 retained the Exakta bayonet lens mount, which was slightly modified by the addition of an M42 style plunger, and this depressed an internal aperture pin on lenses made specifically for this camera, to achieve automatic stop down (without the use of an external linkage found on earlier Exakta lenses, as per the Miranda PAD system). This change allowed the RTL 1000 shutter release to be relocated on the photographer’s right side of the camera, while a secondary shutter release that supported the diaphragm actuating arm of earlier Exakta lenses was retained on the left side: yes, there are two shutter releases. HOWEVER, the release button on older lenses does not quite reach the release button on the camera body, so Pentacon sold an extension stud that screwed into the left shutter release and reached to the lens diaphragm stop-down button.

The viewfinder is removable and a variety of prisms and waist level viewfinders were available … EXCEPT, the RTL 1000 viewfinder fitting is smaller and incompatible with Ihagee finders. The focusing screen is part of the viewfinder assembly, and can be easily removed and swapped for another type of screen.

According to the user manual, focusing is via a Fresnel screen and micro-prism spot, BUT, the user manual warns that focusing must be performed using a large aperture, as the micro-prism focus doesn't work properly at apertures of f/5.6 and smaller. My camera has a split-image rangefinder, rather than a micro-prism spot, which works perfectly .

The vertically traveling metal blade shutter, which was developed in-house rather than bought-in from a specialist manufacturer, has a reputation for being extremely prone to failure, yet some Internet commentators consider it to be robust and accurate? There's an Exakta style separate slow shutter speed selector incorporated into the self-timer controls. In order to use this the main shutter speed dial must first be set to B, which then allows 2, 4, or 8 second shutter speeds to be set on the self-timer located speed dial.

The RTL 1000 was sold with an Oreston lens, which had an internal diaphragm activation pin. The other lens option was a Tessar, which did not have an automatic diaphragm.

The RTL 1000 was marketed with a TTL metering pentaprism. This couples to the camera's shutter speed selector dial. The metering procedure is complicated, in comparison to alternative Japanese systems of the time, and I'm not going to attempt to explain the process, so here's a link to the meter instruction manual. Briefly, my understanding is there are three types of exposure setting options: stop-down centre-the-needle shutter speed (#1) or aperture (#2) priority, plus open aperture shutter speed priority (#3) for lenses with an automatic diaphragm. With stop-down metering, setting the correct exposure is essentially a matter of centering a viewfinder needle by making aperture or shutter speed adjustments. Open aperture metering works by reading the required aperture from the meter's aperture scale dial, and then manually transferring this to the lens. The PROBLEM is, with the Tessar lens (and therefore other legacy lenses), TTL metering requires a delicate touch to stop down the lens (using the left-hand shutter release) without accidentally tripping the shutter. I guess the way to do it is meter before you wind-on?

There were three badge variations: Exakta RTL 1000 on the prism housing, Exakta on the prism housing with RTL 1000 on the front face of the top plate, and RTL 1000 only on the prism housing.

 

According to a dealer advertisement in a 1971 edition of Amateur Photographer magazine, the price of the RTL 1000 was:

  • body only with standard pentaprism = £49.95
  • body only with metered pentaprism = £64.95
  • standard pentaprism + f/2.8 Tessar = £69.95
  • standard pentaprism + f/1.8 Oreston = £76.95
  • metered pentaprism + f/2.8 Tessar = £85.95
  • metered pentaprism + f/1.8 Oreston = £92.95

 

This made the RTL 1000 pretty expensive compared to its Praktica stablemates. For example, a meter-less Nova with an Oreston cost £48.95, or an L with the same lens was £66.95. The Super TL, with its TTL stop-down metering was £66.95 with an Oreston, while the LLC, with its open aperture TTL metering cost £74.95 with the same lens.

As you may have gathered, in addition to being expensive, the RTL 1000 was poorly made and badly designed. The Exakta features failed to woo existing Ihagee fans, and it's hard to imagine who bought it?

 

Specifications

Lens mount: Exakta bayonet.

praktica viewfinderFocus: Fresnel lens with central split-image rangefinder spot and ground glass outer collar. Various viewfinders with removable focusing screens. Film unwound flag.

Shutter: Vertical travel metal bladed shutter with speeds of 8 sec - 1/1000th + B, and self-timer of about 10 seconds. Left and right side shutter release buttons. The left button is threaded for a cable release attachment. The right button has a shutter lock device, which only locks the right button.

Meter: Full scene, average brightness, CdS, TTL, centre-the-needle, prism meter.

Exposure: Manual.

Film Speed: 6 to 800 ASA.

Flash: X-sync at 1/125th. M-sync at 1/30th. PC socket and separate cold shoe accessory which fits around the rewind crank.

Film Advance: Single stroke wind lever. 30° offset and about 180° advance angle.

Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.

Rewind: Via crank and bottom release button.

Size: 142 x 109x 46mm (W x H x D).

Weight: 900g with Tessar lens fitted.

Battery: 1.35v PX625 Mercury type for prism meter.

 

My Camera

Exakta RTL 1000 leafletHere's a link to a leaflet describing the RTL 1000 and its many accessories/applications.

I have a small list of desirable cameras, and their collection is dependant on availability, condition, and mainly cost. I also have to confess to trawling the bargain basement of eBay, looking for inexpensive interesting things. Ihagee has never been a make on my radar ... for either strategy. To my mind, the Exa models are seriously low-tech and blobby, while the Exaktas - despite their cult following - look like someone has made them in their garden shed using bean-cans and Meccano.

Strangely, the RTL 1000's ugliness, frailty, idiosyncrasies and operating awkwardness peaked my interest: camera collections need to comprise the exemplary and just a few of the worst! Although the Exakta was listed at a low price, I didn't pay bargain basement money; it took £29.98 to buy this model in December 2018. My camera is in FWO (apart from the meter not working) and came with an original 50mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lens, plus the essential extension stud. There are a few signs of wear and tear, including a missing Exakta badge and a cracked viewfinder eyepiece (which has no impact on the view), but at the time of purchase there were more expensive RTL 1000s available (bodies only) with a lot more bits missing. I assume the camera once had a mirror damper and light seals, but there are no remaining traces of them.

In the hand, the RTL 1000 feels bulky and unrefined. The fit and finish are poor. What I dislike most is the complicated meter. The manual warns - you must operate all meter controls gently and with care. I suspect this has failed because a linkage has broken somewhere in the unfathomable collection of small dials and switches used to calibrate the meter. Turning to the lens, the focusing ring rotates about 270°, and takes a lot of turning. The focus ring is covered with the same leatherette material as used on the body covering, and looks cheap and nasty.

Ironically, I do like some of the Ihagee features ... but it's not a long list. The bayonet mount, with its simple locking catch is nice, as is the easily removed view-screen - with its uncomplicated flat spring retaining clip - which provides for easy disassembly (useful for cleaning). The left-hand shutter release is surprisingly comfortable to use.

Overall, I think the hybrid Exak-tica/Prak-akta RTL 1000 was a flawed concept and poorly executed. My Praktica LTL, which dates to 1970, is a much better camera in every way.

 

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