The story of the Praktina FX is probably one of the most interesting in the history of our Lomopedia series. It was the world's first professional 35 mm SLR system that incorporated a variety of features that were leaps and bounds ahead of its time. It was sold in the market from 1953 to 1960 by Kamera-Werkstätten (KW), a manufacturer based in Dresden, Germany.
The Praktina FX was the brainchild of Siegfried Böhm, a work manager at KW who envisioned a 35 mm SLR camera that was more technically advanced than what they were working on in 1948. Böhm proceeded to work on his camera study and got KW on board on the condition that he did his side project on his own time without affecting his official work at the factory. After designing a new type of shutter with a single-axis non-rotating shutter speed dial for slow and high speeds, Böhm was given the go-ahead by KW to turn his camera study into a full-blown project.
Later in 1950, a team of about 30 personnel helped Böhm with his project, which included the advanced SLR system's various accessories. The Praktina FX was officially presented at Photokina in 1952 in Cologne, Germany. It was the first 35 mm SLR system that had an interchangeable lens system, viewfinder, focusing screen, camera back, and a winder film drive. It quickly earned the interest of photography enthusiasts and was put into production in 1953.
The camera was nothing short of a design and engineering marvel at the time. The sheer amount of accessories that it could be fitted with was fascinating. However, this same complexity also became the cause of its downfall. The technologically advanced system was too expensive to produce, most notably its proprietary breech-lock lens mount system (which was also way less common compared to the M42 thread mount). The high production cost of the camera was one of the reasons why it was discontinued in 1960. Not only that, the competition brought about by Japanese competitors in the SLR market proved too much for the Praktina FX.
The allure of the Praktina FX endures to this day. Its storied past goes well with its high-quality build and inspired design. From a purely aesthetic perspective, it's one of the cleanest-looking vintage camera designs out there in its stock configuration. Böhm and his team made sure that everything is in the right place for their particular purpose. The Praktina FX can even pass off as a modern minimalist machine with its sleek layout and lack of ornaments. On this merit alone, it is only right to consider the Praktina FX a classic camera that will probably never go out in style.
Other Praktina FX tidbits:
- Siegfried Böhm was transferred from Zeiss Ikon to KW in 1946.
- The FX's successor, the Praktina IIA, was introduced in 1958.
- It took seven years for another camera to match its features. It was the Nikon F (released in April 1959).
- The 17 m magazine back of the Praktina FX lets its users shoot 450 pictures with one load of film.
Sample Photo Gallery
Film: 35 mm cartridge film
Size of Picture: 24 x 36 mm
Shutter Speed: 1-1/1000s, B
Shutter: Cloth focal plane
Lens: 50 mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Tessar coated, 4-elements
Focus Range: 1.65 feet / 0.5 meter to infinity
Mount: Praktina breech-lock bayonet
Flash: PC port F and X flash sync
Viewfinder: interchangeable SLR prism