The Praktina System
From Kamera-Werkstätten to Pentacon Dresden
The History of the Praktina Manufacturer
1919 - 1958
1959 - 1963
1964 - 1990
The company that manufactured the Praktina cameras is famous for the 35mm single-lens reflex cameras produced since 1939. The history began in 1919 and ended in 1990. During this long period, the company changed name, location and logo many times.
Kamera-Werkstätten Guthe & Thorsch GmbH
1919 - Company location: Dresden, Serre-Straße 12 and (office) Zinzendorfstraße 48
Paul Guthe owned a small factory of photographic equipment in Dresden, Ferdinandplatz 1, since 1915. In 1919 Paul Guthe and Benno B. Thorsch established in Dresden a partnership with the name “Kamera-Werkstätten Guthe & Thorsch GmbH". In 1928, the company moved to new premises, in Bärensteiner Strasse 30, near the Ica-Werk of Zeiss Ikon AG. Two years later the production exceeded the 100 cameras per day with 150 workers.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the Kamera-Werkstätten manufactured plate cameras and medium format reflex. In 1920 was released the plate camera Patent-Etui 9x12, a flat folding camera that met a great success. Afterwards were released the Patent-Etui 6.5x9 (1923), the twin lens reflex camera Pilot Reflex 3x4 (1931), the 6x9 single-lens reflex Reflex-Box (1933), the 6x6 single-lens reflex camera Pilot 6 (1935) and the Pilot Super (1939).
At the beginning of 1930, Paul Guthe resigned from the company for health reasons. He died in December of 1930. The old partnership was dissolved in April 1930 but the name of the company was not changed and Benno Thorsch went on leading the company as sole owner.
In 1937, Benno Thorsch needed to leave Nazi Germany because, as being half Jew, he feared for his life. The opportunity came when he met Charles A. Noble. He wanted to move to Germany to open a business related to photography. Charles A. Noble was of German origin. He immigrated to the U.S.A. in 1922 where he became US citizen. He was the owner of a company that manufactured photocopiers, in Detroit.
Kamera-Werkstätten, vormals Guthe & Thorsch
1938 - Company location: Dresden, Bärensteiner Straße 30
At the beginning of the year Benno Thorsch made a deal with Charles A. Noble. Before to immigrating to the U.S.A. he bought the Noble's company and sold to Charles A. Noble the Kamera-Werkstätten. Charles A. Noble became the new owner on April 1938 and the company was renamed “Kamera-Werkstätten, vormals Guthe & Thorsch ".
Kamera-Werkstätten Charles A. Noble
1939 - Company location: Dresden-Niedersedlitz, Bismarkstraße 56
Charles A. Noble moved the company to Niedersedlitz, near Dresden, into the building of a former factory of drops and sweets. The Kamera-Werkstätten released at the Leipzig Fair, spring 1939, the Praktiflex, a design begun in 1937 from Benno Thorsch and Alois Hoheisel. The new camera was a 35mm single-lens reflex with fixed waist-level finder and interchangeable lens with a 40mm thread mount. The Praktiflex (1939-1947) was presented three years after the Kine-Exakta introduced in 1936 by Ihagee Kamerawerk Steenbergen & Co.
After the U.S. entry into World War II, Mr Noble and his family, as Americans, were restricted in their ability to leave Germany but retained their company.
Between 13 and 15 February 1945 the centre of Dresden was completely destroyed by the British and American bombing. It was estimated that about the 80% of the photographic industries were heavily damaged. The factory of Kamera-Werkstätten remained intact because it was situated in Niedersedlitz, in the outskirts of Dresden. Soviet troops occupied Dresden in May 1945. In 1945 the Soviets arrested C.A. Noble and his son John for spying. For father and son began an odyssey through the Soviet concentration camps. The father was released in 1952 and John in 1955 and could return to the US.
After the end of WWII the Germany was partitioned into four military occupation zones. The sectors, controlled by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, were merged on May 1949 to form the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) known as "West Germany". The sector controlled by the Soviet Union became on October 1949 the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), known as "East Germany".
Kamera-Werkstätten VEB Niedersedlitz
Betrieb der Industreverwaltung 24 OPTIK, Volkseigener Betrieb Sachsens
1946 - Company location: Dresden-Niedersedlitz, Edgar-Andre-Straße 56
The camera factory was nationalized by the German Government. The new address is only due to the change of the street’s name from “Bismarkstraße” to “Edgar-Andre-Straße”.
The production of Praktiflex was claimed as war reparations by the Soviet Union. In 1946 the young engineer Siegfried Böhm was transferred by Zeiss Ikon to Kamera-Werkstätten with the aim to upgrade the Praktiflex cameras. The production of the new Praktiflex (1947-1949) is marked by the release button in front of the camera and afterwards by the 42x1 thread lens mount.
The production capacity of the Kamera-Werkstätten was on the increase as well as the number of employees: 288 in 1946, 330 in 1948, 520 in 1950 and more than 1,000 in 1953.
MECHANIK Kamera-Werkstätten VEB Niedersedlitz
1948 - Company location: Dresden-Niedersedlitz, Edgar-Andre-Straße 56
In 1949 Kamera-Werkstätten released the Praktica, the first camera with 42x1 thread mount. The design of this new camera was developed from the Praktiflex from Alois Hoheisel and Siegfried Böhm. The Praktica cameras of the first generation were not provided with synchronization.
In 1949 Siegfried Böhm was commissioned to design a new 35mm single-lens reflex camera with advanced performance and best technical features. Siegfried Böhm and his team reached this ambitious goal in just two years. In 1952 they released the Praktina.
OPTIK Kamera-Werkstätten VEB Niedersedlitz
1951 - Company location: Dresden-Niedersedlitz, Edgar-Andre-Straße 56
Kamera-Werkstätten released the Praktica FX (1951-1955) fitted with flash synchronization and in 1952 Kamera-Werkstätten showed the prototype of the Praktina, first 35mm single-lens reflex camera with the interchangeability of lenses, finders, focusing screens, camera back and with the capability to use an electric motor or a spring winder. This camera is the first example of a professional single-lens reflex camera system.
VEB Kamera-Werke Niedersedlitz
1953 - Company location: Dresden A 17, Edgar-Andre-Straße 56
In 1953 began the production of Praktina (1953-1958). A pre-series was equipped with an internal mechanism for closing the diaphragm of the lens. In 1956 was released the Praktica FX2 (1956-1959) with the same feature. In 1956 Kamera-Werke released the Praktisix 6x6 (1956-1966), a single-lens reflex with the fully automatic control of the lens diaphragm and with interchangeability of screens and finders. Two years later was released the Praktina IIA (1958-1960) with various improvements and with the same fully automatic control of the lens diaphragm.
VEB Kamera- und Kinowerke Dresden
1 January 1959 - Company location: Dresden A 21, Schandaurer Straße 76
In January 1959 five companies "VEB Kamera-Werke Niedersedlitz”, "VEB Kinowerke Dresden" (Zeiss Ikon), "VEB Altissa-Camera-Werke", "VEB Aspecta Dresden" and "VEB Welta-Kamera-Werke" were merged into "VEB Kamera- und Kinowerke Dresden". The "KW" logo was replaced by the "Zeiss Tower" logo.
In 1959 Kamera-Werke released the Praktica IV (1959-1965) fitted with a fixed prism finder.
After the combination, the company manufactured three different series of 35mm single-lens reflex camera: Contax/Pentacon, Praktica and Praktina. These cameras required two different sets of lenses (thread and bayonet mount). To reorganize the production was taken the decision to stop the production of Praktina (1960) and Contax/Pentacon (1962) and to develop all the future design of the single-lens reflex cameras starting from the Praktica that was simple and inexpensive to manufacture compared with Contax and Praktina.
In 1961 was released the Pentina (1961-1965), a 35mm single-lens reflex with leaf-shutter, fixed prism finder, exposure meter and interchangeable bayonet mount.
VEB PENTACON DRESDEN Kamera- und Kinowerke
1 January 1964 - Company location: Dresden A 21, Schandaurer Straße 76
The Kamera-Werke changed name and the logo was updated to "Zeiss Tower - Pentacon".
In 1964 was released the Praktica V (1964-1965), fitted with instant-return mirror, and the Praktica “nova” series (1964-1975), a completely redesigned camera, with a modern look. Among the models of this line must be mentioned the Praktica mat (1965), with TTL exposure control, and the Praktica PL Electronic (1968), first in the world with electronically controlled shutter and first with shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds.
In 1966 the Pentacon-Dresden showed the prototype of Pentacon Super, a top camera with TTL metering at full working aperture, metal-leaf focal-plane shutter with top speeds of 1/2000 and 42x1 mount. This camera, used in Soviet space stations in 1969, was heir to the Praktina with the same professional features as the interchangeability of lenses, finders, screens, back and the capability to fit a motor.
In 1966 the Pentacon six (1966-1990) replaced the former model Praktisix.
Kombinat VEB PENTACON DRESDEN
1 January 1968 - Company location: 8021 Dresden, Schandaurer Straße 76
"VEB Pentacon Dresden", "Ihagee Kamerawerk", "VEB Feinoptishes Werk Görlitz" and five other companies were merged into "Kombinat VEB PENTACON DRESDEN".
In 1969 was released the Praktica “L” series (1964-1989), with the outstanding feature of metal-leaf shutter. Among the models of this line must be mentioned the Praktica LLC (1969), first in the world to have a lens mount with an electric contact for transmitting aperture information to the camera’s meter at full aperture and the Praktica EE2 (1977), with automatic exposure control, TTL metering at full aperture and automatic electronic shutter speed control.
In 1978 the Praktica EE2 was used in the mission of the Soviet space station Salyut 6.
In 1969 was released the Exakta RTL 1000 (1969-1973), as the Praktica VLC, but with Exakta bayonet mount.
In 1979 was released the Praktica “B” series (1979-1990), with a more compact line and with an original bayonet mount replacing, after 30 years, the 42x1 lens mount.
After the Pentacon Super, Praktica EE2 and Praktisix, the Praktica B200 was the fourth DDR camera used on board of the Soviet space stations.
VEB PENTACON DRESDEN
1 January 1985
"VEB PENTACON DRESDEN" combines "Kombinat VEB Pentacon Dresden" with "Kombinat VEB Carl Zeiss JENA". The production of Praktica “L” and “B” series and Pentacon Six continued with new models.
On 2nd October 1990, one day before the reunification of Germany, began the liquidation of VEB Pentacon Dresden. This marked the end of the long and fascinating history of the photographic industries in Dresden. About ten million of 35mm single-lens reflex cameras were produced in Dresden from 1936 to 1990.
The subsequent activities of Carl Zeiss, Schneider, Pentacon and Noble’s Kamera-Werke don’t belong to this story.
The Praktina System
Praktina FX model DS
Praktina FX model M
Praktina FX model SA1
Praktina FX model SA2
Praktina FX model SA3
Praktina IIA model A
Praktina IIA model DA
Praktina N - Pentacon Super
Lenses with PK mount
Carl Zeiss Jena
Motor and Winder
Copyright © 2000-2015 Alberto Taccheo. All rights reserved.
Last Revision: June 2015