lily.jpg Praktica BC1 35mm SLR Camera

VEB Pentacon

Date: 1984-5   —   £15   —   Electronics

product page


This was the first one I got. The whole idea came to me kind of as a result of this camera. I was due to leave for Edinburgh in a couple of days for the G8 protests and it occurred to me firstly that there may be places I might not want to take my Minolta Dim7 and secondly that if I used up all the space on the CF cards I might not have the ability to download the pics and therefore be stuffed. I decided that buying a cheap and cheerful 35mm camera would at least give me the option of snapping away and if I did end up in any scrapes with the Plod and the like then I wouldn’t have wasted too much money.

I had kind of wanted to try a Praktica since the experience of my Zenit had made me ammenable to Ost Bloc optical equipment and I knew that Praktica had an excellent reputation along with Carl Zeiss. I’ve always had a soft spot for DDR stuff anyway. The Praktica BC1 was on ebay and bought by me for £15 with a Pentacon 50mm lens. I thought for that money you couldn’t really complain and as long as the thing worked I’d be pretty chuffed. You have to bear in mind here that in the mid 80s these were serious bits of kit, in fact at photo dealerships one will still set you back £80 if it’s in decent nick.

I know this isn’t a stunning shot as such but I was impressed by the clarity and detail of this shot, it showed the colour and hue very well which is why I’ve used it. On the close-up lily shot the Praktica did much better than the Minolta, although I am still testing the Minolta to ensure it was not the weird lens letting it down.

Obviously since the demise of my late lamented Zenit 12XP I hadn’t used a film camera in a while and therefore the first film I ran off I found it hadn’t taken because I hadn’t loaded the film in properly. Ah yes the memories of how irritating film photography could be came back to me as easily as how enjoyable it could be! This was of course my fault rather than the cameras.


Whilst in some ways the biggest problem with film photography is the lack of instant playback, this can also be a good thing in terms of the anticipation of the wait for pictures. The pictures I got out of the initial batch in Edinburgh were surprising in their quality. I didn’t know the camera, and I had therefore expected nothing more than half decent snaps but to be honest they were really good quality shots and I don’t mean through any talent of the photographer because God knows I don’t have much but the picture I had wanted to capture had come out pretty much how I would have wanted it to.

The Praktica BC1 is very easy to use, it’s a bit of a doddle really, if you want the shutter speed automatic you can set it as such and simply adjust the aperture, or if you want full manual control you can set the wheel from Brief to 1000. The light metre is easy to read and understand and the camera is small by comparison with many but with a metal casing it is durable. The focusing may take people a little getting used to as it focuses on a diagonal rather than a horizontal like most cameras, I actually find this quite good because it is easier to see when you have not got something exactly focused with a diagonal once you get used to it.

All in all I have decided to keep the Praktica BC1, were I to sell it on I would be unlikely to make more than £20-£25 and I feel I will gain more than that from using it in the circumstances in which it excels.