Lens Mounts: Praktina

Basic Information on the Praktina mount:

First: No, there’s no typo in the heading or title. This article is really about the Praktina mount (not Praktica). The Praktina was a revolutionary camera of East German design, introduced by KW (Kamera-Werkstätten) in 1952 and manufactured 1953–1960.

Many credit the Praktina FX with being the first true system camera, as it was from the onset designed to be extremely modular: Not only could you you switch lenses, but focusing screens, viewfinders, and even camera backs were interchangeable. In combination with also offering a winder coupling, a proprietary mount that facilitated wide open metering and auto aperture, and a host of other advanced features The Praktina FX was able to lay a claim to being the most advanced and versatile camera system of its age.

Moreover, the Praktina camera (and its mount) was supported by a wide spectrum of European lens manufacturers, including Carl Zeiss Jena, Meyer-Optik Görlitz, Angénieux, Enna, ISCO, Kilfitt, Schacht, Schneider-Kreuznach, Steinheil (and a number of less known manufacturers). As a result, The Praktina system was able to claim that it not only offered an advanced camera and a wide spectrum of advanced accessories (those that make an interchangeable lens camera into a system camera), but also a full range (24–1000 mm) of world-class lenses.

Side note: When KW some years later decided to develop a medium format, interchangeable lens SLR (the Praktisix, later renamed to Pentacon Six), KW felt the Praktina mount offered everything this new medium format needed – except the requisite size. The Praktisix therefore adopted an upscaled version of the Praktina mount. I kid you not: the mounts are basically identical except that the Pentacon Six is bigger in all respects. While KW decided to abandon the Praktina system in 1960, the Praktina mount lives on in the form of the Pentacon Six mount to these days.

Pictured: Enna München Lithagon 35 mm f/2.8 (preset) in Praktina mount

So if the Praktina system was so groundbreaking, why was it abandoned only after 7 years in production? The reasons most often cited are:
a) the proprietary mount meant that competing mounts (especially M42) had a wider ecosystem of lenses, combined with that KW was simultaneously producing M42-cameras (Prakticas);
b) high production costs due to the sophisticated design;
c) disappointing sales (less than 100 000 cameras in 7 years) and, moreover, low demand for the sophisticated accessories;
d) increasing competition from Japanese SLR’s;
e) that the Praktina was not really abandoned, merely the name and the mount. According to this explanation the Prakticas caught up with the Praktinas and KW merely streamlined their product portfolio.

And these are likely all true (both separately and in combination).

Praktina mount specifications

Mount type: Breech-lock (ring on camera)
Flange focal distance: 50 mm
Film format: 36mm x 24mm (‘Full frame’)
Mount communication: aperture stop-down (camera-to-lens)

Adapting Praktina lenses

Note: While I’ve done my research, I’m not pontificating from a position of strength here. With (currently) some 300+ lenses in my inventory, and even though I have a … (Francophiles might call it a ‘penchant’, Germaniacs a ‘Vorliebe’) for German lenses, I do in fact not have a Praktina mount adapter in my possession. Read on, to find out why…

First, why would you want to adapt Praktina lenses? Notwithstanding the situation wherein you’re already in possession of a wide spectrum of quality Praktina lenses, well… A majority of those lenses that were available for the Praktina mount were also available for Exakta and M42 mounts. So, in a way, there are few ‘unicorns’ that would make investing in the Praktina mount (and adapters) especially attractive. On the other hand, one might well encounter the situation where a particular legendary late-50’s lens (e.g. Biotar 75/1.5; Flektogon 25/4; Trioplan 100/2.8) could be most affordable in Praktina mount…

Problematically, Praktina mount adapters are not exactly 13 a dozen. In fact, they’re outright rare. I’ve (as of spring 2022) found one specialised adapter manufacturer that offers Praktina-to–mirrorless adapters (and we’re talking intermediate three-figures prices) as well as a couple of D-I-Y manufacturers that – in my experience to date – are always only for the true enthusiast.

This is – in 2022 – outright unusual, as there are no real reasons why Praktina mount lenses could not easily and fluently be adapted to mirrorless full-frame cameras (assuming that you have an adapter).

Moreover, even though the Praktina mount has a generous flange focal distance, the fact that that distance is computed for a ring-on-camera-breech-lock makes me a bit dubious whether even a Praktina-to-CanonEF adapter with infinity focus is actually possible.

Identifying the Praktina mount

See more here.

Read more:

Praktina.com by Alberto Taccheo
Also Mike Otto offers a fair bit of information on Praktinas

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