The Pentax K1000

Before I started writing this, I asked myself if it was really necessary to write another review about the Pentax K1000. I decided it was because my experience with this camera might be different than other photographers. It’s such a fun camera to use. Why? The K1000, simply stated, is a basic manual SLR with the core features that any photographer would need. Starting with the camera design all the way to the lack of advanced features. Yes, the absence of features. The K1000 has become one of the favorite cameras in my collection.

The K1000 was introduced by Asahi Optical in 1975 and has one of the longest production runs in the history of photography spanning over 20 years. The original construction of the aluminum K1000 was hand assembled in Japan. To cut labor costs, the production was shifted to Hong Kong (1978) and then China (1990). These changes in production location can be seen in the subtle changes to the camera body. In early models, the Asahi logo is featured on the pentaprism. Later models made in China replaced aluminum parts with plastic. This also reduced the weight of the camera. The camera I own is one of the original models produced in Japan. The K1000 gains its cult following from being used in college photography classes where students are encouraged to use this camera because of the lack of advanced features. It allows the photographer to learn the basics of focusing, adjusting shutter speed, and controlling exposure. Really the core concepts that photographers need to understand, taught in a minimal manual approach.

These are some of my first images using the K100 and Ilford HP5 Plus 400 BW film. The 55mm f/2 lens provides great depth of field in my photos. My favorite single feature of the K1000 is the needle index to indicate correct exposure. Saying I love this would be an understatement. Within the viewfinder is a vertical swing-needle that indicates on the positive or negative if the image is going to be over/underexposed based on the current shutter speed. It’s as easy as that. During my research for this review, I learned something. It’s critical to keep a lens cap or body cap on when the camera is not in use. Why? The exposure needle operates on the camera batteries, and it’s always on. The K1000 uses two LR44 watch batteries to power the CdS (cadmium sulphide) photoresistor cell that meters the light and operate the needle. By not using a cap, the batteries will be dead after a few months. My recommendation if you are looking to buy a used K1000, make sure to ask the seller if the metering works and the needle isn’t stuck. A photographer could use the Sunny 16 Rule to manually calculate exposure, but the needle in the K1000 and Pentax Spotmatic make using the camera effortless.

The K1000 is one of those cameras that everyone should experience. Again, it’s simple and it’s fun to use. I’m such a fan of this camera, I had to get a matching shirt from the Film Photography Project Store. I’ve recently reloaded the K1000 with Ilford XP2 Super 400 BW C41. I’ve never used black and white film that can be processed with C41 color equipment, but since Kodak announced that they’ve discontinued theirs, I’m going to compare the two and see which I like better.

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