Search
  • milo segundie kpims

AIN'T IT ALWAYS ALL UP IN THE AIR? A REFLECTION AND SURPRISE FOUND IN THE CHROME OF PENTAX SLRs.

(Opinion)

This article was started over a week ago, coming from a completely different angle. It was originally supposed to be about how little the Pentax Spotmatic series gets the love it deserves and how other cameras, such as the Pentax K1000, KX, MX get all the praise, at least in the realm of Pentax SLRs’. Rain has come and gone and returned since then, and winter is on its way. There is a cooling being brought in under the wings of diamond geese shaping this changing sky. This welcomes new feelings, one being a feeling of urgency in settling on something, why not have it be something substantial, something that has caught me off guard even? I was going to say that the reason why the Spotmatic line isn’t as popular, or as sought after as other Pentax SLRs’ or even other film SLRs’ in general is lost to me. Thinking more about it and after using the one I have for almost 2 years, there are some things I can surmise that could be limiting the piling of fingers on tick-tapping fingers, searching to pick up all the Spotmatics one can find. The lack of access to options such as program, aperture, and shutter priority modes and maybe a different kind of metering system, a more user-friendly or flashy one would do. These things may help grab a wider audience for these delicious morsels of the camera world, but there are two things that made me question my future use of this camera.

Pentax Spotmatic, Super Takumar 55mm f1.8, Kodak Ultramax 400


Some of the Spotmatics have stop-down metering, which has the potential to slow focus and one’s ability to do speedy shooting. I do not use meters, internally or externally, so this doesn’t affect me, but for focusing, I find myself needing to open the lens all the way to focus correctly on my subject. This is the thing that gets most tedious. There is also the little reminder, as I like to call it, a freaking Knuckle-like film advance lever that always finds itself the perfect spot for stabbing me in the ribs, sometimes even while I am walking and it swings out, coming back, boom right in the rib meat. If you haven’t experienced this, good, all the better, and I recommend using another camera body/M42 body to avoid this entirely. Or I guess you could go handheld, but then how are you going to hold your pop, and taquitos on the go, come summertime?

Pentax Spotmatic, Super Takumar 55mm f1.8, Kodak Ultramax 400


All in all, I’d still say that those two to three things are the only reasons I could find to warn, not dissuade, but warn of discomfort and the need for attention to detail. These cameras are lovely and simple, like a memory of a childhood hangout, a fort or something, someplace you just long to go back to, to experience, to stand in and remember. Although I was not born when these cameras were being conceptualized and manufactured, there is a pull for me to hold and use these basic cameras in my daily life. They stand side by side with all SLR-shaped stones in their hardiness, which lends to a solidifying of my confidence in these cameras and most older, nonelectric cameras in general.

Recently, I picked up a Pentax K1000. I wasn’t planning on picking one up, I just came across a good deal and couldn’t say no. I was honestly pretty darn happy with the Spotty, and that is why I started this article, but then I got a sort of shock from how nice it has been to use this camera. I Have used the Canon AE-1 and the A1, I’ve used the Minolta SRT bodies, Olympus OM1 and OM10, and so on, but for some reason, this one has been even more of a pleasure than all those, the Olympus OM1 is a close second. I even mentioned in a message to another film shooter right after receiving it that I didn’t plan on keeping the K1000, that I was happy with my Spotmatic and I just didn’t see the reason. I did say that I was happy they liked their K1000 though, that it seems like a nice camera, and now I feel a bit like Michael Stipe of R.E.M. fame “Oh no I've said too much, I set it up." Now I am here in my home, standing around rethinking my choice.

Pentax Spotmatic, Super Takumar 55mm f1.8, Ultrafine Extreme 400


Scouring the web shortly after paying for the Pentax body, I also picked up the 40mm f2.8 separately and have used it to shoot 2 rolls so far, which I have yet to develop. That is sadly why there are no Photos with the K1000 in this article, and I apologize. I've tried to shoot 2 more rolls, that happened to slip out of the take-up spool, losing tension, and causing a sprocket ‘ratatata’ sound as I “advanced." At first, I thought this was the sound of the sprockets being ripped open and torn through the camera leading me to have a flashback to a time I was using a Zenit model and I couldn’t get a single roll through without ripping and loosening and a need to rewind halfway through a roll to save a single image. There have been many times I thought I had fed the spool enough and tightened lightly with the rewind knob for proper tension after loading, yet it would almost always pop out. Honestly, that is the only reason I can think of that would make earlier versions of the K1000 a no go for me, and truth be told, I am certain it was user error, so maybe there is nothing bad about it then? During my second day of having this new puppy, I was sitting on the couch and lightly tapping, nervously rubbing my fingers over the top and bottom plate, feeling the coolness they gave off, slowly realizing that they were indeed made of metal. I found a few message boards that told of the ways to figure this out, easier tactics, ones beyond the feeling and inspecting methods of old. It seems silly to care of such a thing, but plastic top and bottom mean plastic gears and plastic brittles and breaks. The idea of the plastic components making it lighter is not for me, due to this camera already being quite light, it’s not strain to have hardier parts, and longevity.

Pentax Spotmatic, Super Takumar 55mm f1.8, Ultrafine Extreme 400


If you can find a K1000 that is pre-plastic, either the made in Hong Kong or Made in Japan versions, with the original Asahi logo on the prism, and potentially a little metal circle near the screw near the rewind knob, and maybe even with the ‘Asahi Opt. Co. Japan’ engraved on the back of the top plate, you’d be golden! There are slight variations on a theme, but no matter what you get, truly, it will be a great shooter and last you a long while, I recommend ‘em!

Now, back to the lovely Spotmatic. There are some really great articles about these wonderful cameras written by others, one of my favorites, which is more specifically about the Spotmatic F, is written by Bob Janes: https://www.35mmc.com/14/09/2020/pentax-spotmatic-f-review/

There you can learn all you will need to know and more about that model. I don’t own the F, just one of the earlier 1000 ones, but from what I can gather, even though the F is the last in the Spotmatic lineup before the K mount took over, there aren’t too many differences. It was just a slight side step for Pentax to open up the gates and roll out the new and improved version.

Pentax Spotmatic, Super Takumar 55mm f1.8, Ultrafine Extreme 400


As I mentioned earlier, the Spotmatic I have uses stop-down metering and one must open the aperture wide for clear focusing, if you are indoors even with the 50mm f1.4 lens, you are most likely going to be opening the lens to 1.4 to focus. Afterward, if you don’t remember how many clicks it is to say, f5.6, you will be taking your eye from the finder, tilting the camera back to look at the aperture ring, selecting, and then when you plop the camera back at the desired angle, you’ll be looking at a now darker image, and hoping the subject is still focused correctly. This gets a bit tedious, and I’ve noticed even when outside in bright daylight, to focus correctly, I will need to open the aperture all the way to see the center circle in the micro prism to achieve focus, and then stop the lens down to get the right sharpness. It doesn’t take too long, but it feels like a little wall to climb over.

Pentax Spotmatic, Super Takumar 55mm f1.8, Ultrafine Extreme 400


The Spotmatic F has removed this as long as you use SMC Takumar lenses, these have two tabs inside the mount. One of these pins is fixed and lets the camera know how far the lens has screwed onto the thread, the other moves with the aperture ring, and its position in relation to the fixed pin tells the camera what the aperture setting is. This is a really great workaround and one that the Pentax K mount completely avoids. This has been a very wonderful experience since slinging this camera around town. To be completely honest, I have been selling cameras for almost 4 years, and I have mostly avoided picking up Pentax K1000s. I have gotten and sold only one in that span of time, and with prices rising for these very simple machines and the interest and demand for these cameras specifically, not being too high, it’s not enough to pick them up every time they pop up online. It seems that the idea is there, people talk about how great this camera is, and how it's an affordable option for beginners and seasoned shooters, but there are so many out there, I wonder if anyone is taking their own advice.

Pentax Spotmatic, Super Takumar 55mm f1.8, Kodak Ultramax 400


In a floating dream world, I would say the ideal price for a camera this simple, yet beautiful would be $120 with the kit 50mm f2. People online are selling these for $200 up to $300 and some are untested, this is just no good. The one I have was $120 and the 40mm lens was $70, to me this was a deal, but I’d still hope to find one of these older bodies, in this good of shape for no more than $175. There is a little breakdown of the Pentax K1000 price history based on inflation for body and kit lens on the Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentax_K1000#Description

It makes my ideas of pricing feel pretty weird, and lean into thoughts of the rise and fall of film photography playing a big part in inflation. Should the basic Pentax k1000 set up be being sold for $600 now? Are these cameras being sold for $300 actually a deal by today's inflation standards? Would people be buying these for those outrageous prices if that was the only option or would we be collectively boycotting the k1000 with a planetary sigh altogether and picking up Spotmatics or point and shoots to make all of our wonderful memories stand still in time? I don’t think I’ll ever know, but the push of the well-kept“cool factor” and the slow decline of functioning, well-kept, cameras and lenses, making for slimmer options, will continue to push prices up and up. There are reasons these cameras are so special and desired, no matter how many old men say they aren’t all they are chalked up to be and that more advanced cameras with more options are the way to go. Those people are in fact giving in and becoming the car salesmen of the camera world and the cheerleaders of the fancy for over-abundant functional decadence. I am only saying salesmen due to the fact that it is primarily older men who spend their time on message boards telling beginners and others to go for the bells and whistles, and that “student cameras” are not worth dealing with.

Pentax Spotmatic, Super Takumar 55mm f1.8, Kodak Ultramax 400


The Spotmatics having an M42 mount gives the user access to so many great options with wonderful glass, and the K mounts, having great lenses as well makes them nothing to snuff at. Their simple meter read-outs and simple use are great, while being built around sturdy materials and solid standards, these are good cameras for anyone. I just hope standards are found within individuals, through excitement, experimentation, and exploration, rather than a 6-minute video on the WWW. So, this article hasn’t really gone anywhere I thought it would, especially after using the K1000. The thing is that even though these cameras are in the same family, they are their own special tools. They are worth getting and collecting stories with, taking on road trips and to the county fair, and keeping for your children to use and their children to use. Get one or get ‘em both, or pick up something else, like the Mamiya DTL1000, who cares, just make memories and keep them! These two though, are meant to last, and neither of them has seen their last big to do in a day in the life of me!

Thanks for reading.

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All