Infrared with a Praktica

mtl3-small

I bought this Praktica MTL3 some time in 2017, as an impulse purchase, whilst browsing in an antiques shop in Wooler, north Northumberland. I paid £25 for it – they can go for less on eBay but I had the chance to check it out and was happy to pay that much for a camera I could see working and in very good cosmetic condition.

When I was in my late teens, this was a very common first SLR for the budget buyer. I can recall the models being heavily marketed at the time were the Praktica MTL3 and the Praktica EE2. The EE2 was more expensive because it had aperture-priority automatic exposure whereas the MTL3 has manual exposure. Nowadays,  there are still lots of MTL3’s for sale in working order, but very few EE2’s, probably because their metering systems failed a long time ago. In the long run, a fully manual model is more reliable and better value.

(As it  happens, I never owned either Praktica until I bought this MTL3 in my mid-fifties. Teenage Kevin had a screw-mount Yashica J and then jumped to a Canon AE-1).

The other common budget camera range at that time was Zenith. I’ve never owned one, and when I have handled ones for sale, often haven’t been able to get them to fire. I think the Praktica range were much better cameras. I have, however, purchased a Helios 44-M 58mm f2 lens for use with my Praktica, which was the model generally fitted to Zeniths.

Anyway, coming to the point, I decided to put a roll of Rollei IR400 infrared film through the camera. I first blogged about this film here and I’ve written about the alternative infrared option, Ilford SFX200, here and the defunct Ekfe Aura IR film here.

The Praktica seemed a good option for infrared because it has all of the attributes needed for a 35mmm film shooting infrared:

  • A variable aperture
  • A variable shutter speed, in particular going down to 1second which often is required.
  • A tripod mount
  • A filter thread
  • Ability to take a manual cable release
  • No pulses from auto wind on systems which can fog the IR film.

As you can see this is a very basic list, but some of my cameras fail the list, for example the Olympus 35RC has a slowest shutter speed of 1/15s and the Canon EOS300 has electronic pulses which are not IR-safe.

I fitted the Praktica with this Hoya 52mm R72 filter.

filter-small

As you can see it has chips on the edge, from being dropped on the ground, but that doesn’t seem to have any effect on the images.  (The darker band at the top is just a shadow of a wall).

My first trip with this combo was to “Morpeth bluebells wood”. It might sound strange to take IR film to film bluebells, but I did have another camera loaded with Velvia 100F with me, which I haven’t yet developed as I am saving up my exposed slide film until I have enough to put through an E6 chemicals pack.

2018-5-11, MTL3, IR400, HC110 Dil B, Cumbria, 006
2018-5-11, MTL3, IR400, HC110 Dil B, Cumbria, 018
2018-5-11, MTL3, IR400, HC110 Dil B, Cumbria, 020

I metered at ISO 6 which allows 6 stops to adjust for the R72 filter. In open sun I find that this usually produces an exposure of 1s at f11, but in the woods I may have opened up to f8. The lens for the first two images was a Tamron-Adaptall 28mm f2.5, so there was plenty of depth of field at f8. I think the third image was taken with the Pentacon 50mm f1.8 that came with the Praktica.

Next up was a trip to Cumbria to visit two gardens, a National Trust property called Acorn Bank and a privately-owned garden nearby called Winderwath.

2018-5-11, MTL3, IR400, HC110 Dil B, Cumbria, 011
Walk through wild garlic at Acorn Bank
2018-5-11, MTL3, IR400, HC110 Dil B, Cumbria, 014
The Mill at Acorn Bank
2018-5-11, MTL3, IR400, HC110 Dil B, Cumbria, 015
Acorn Bank House
2018-5-11, MTL3, IR400, HC110 Dil B, Cumbria, 010
The pond at Winderwath
2018-5-11, MTL3, IR400, HC110 Dil B, Cumbria, 001
Another view of the pond

The last image has some strange white ghost-like marks which may be fogging – there was definitely some fogging on the film rebate, so I’ll need to either renew the light seals, or maybe just put some insulating tape around the film door.

As well as the “normal” ISO6 metered exposures, I also did some other views with another stop “just in case” but I ended up with some shots that were grossly overexposed. There may have been the “just in case” shots or perhaps I just forgot to stop down the aperture to the required value. I did end up with enough well exposed shots from this role, but I’m hoping to shoot some IR400 film in my large format Intrepid camera soon. I’ve bought 25 4*5 sheets of the film and a new R72 filter in 77mm size, which can fit my 90mm large format lens as well as all the lenses for my Mamiya RZ67, but I’d like to have a higher “keeper rate” with the large format film.

I developed the film using Kodak HC110 developer, using the times recommended in the Massive Dev Chart

Finally, here’s one shot taken without a filter, of the Middlesborough transporter bridge – just to remind us that Rollei IR400 is quite passable as a “normal” black and white film.

2018-5-11, MTL3, IR400, HC110 Dil B, Cumbria, 005

2 comments

  1. Very interesting, Kevin. TBH, I’ve never quite understood infra-red photography… so my first question is: why? 🙂

    Second,more practically, since AFAICS the filter is a serious ND equivalent, how do you frame your images? Do you have to take the filter off the frame and focus, then put it back to shoot?

    Thanks, Chris

    • Chris, the second question is easier to answer. If you are using an SLR, then yes you need to compose without the filter then put it on before shooting – the kind of multi-step action you’ll get used to when you get your large format camera ! If you use a twin lens reflex or a rangefinder, then you can leave the filter on.

      The first question is much more difficult to answer, beyond saying that I shoot infrared because I like the way it looks. There might not be a better answer but I’ll try to write my thoughts in a blog post as soon as I’ve thought it through.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.