One of my favorite looking classic cameras is the original 1964 Pentax Spotmatic made in Japan by Asahi. The Spotmatic was the first 35mm SLR camera to use TTL (Through the Lens) metering. The meter originally required a 1.35v mercury cell battery and is the only non-mechanical function on the camera. I found this camera at a local pawn shop for $10 and figured I would take a chance. After some research, I found the meter in my Spotmatic works great with a 1.5v silver oxide battery. I like the match-needle meters in the old Pentax cameras (i.e. K-1000 and ME Super) better than LED lights. There’s nothing simpler than matching up your aperture or shutter speed to a needle in the viewfinder. During early production of the Spotmatic, the TTL meter was designed to be a spot meter, hence the name Spotmatic. However, because it was difficult to use, the meter was changed to average. Averagematic? It’s a good thing they kept the original name.
The Spotmatic takes Pentax M42 screw-mount lenses. Many of these lenses can be found at thrift stores, flea markets, and eBay. They’re plentiful, solid, and relatively cheap. Shutter speeds on the Spotmatic are 1 – 1000 and bulb. Camera ISO settings are 20 – 1600.
To test my Spotmatic, I shot a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400 BW film and developed the negatives in New55 R3 Monobath Developer. The negatives were scanned with an Epson V600 and finished in Photoshop CC. The results were better than I expected. They’re sharp, and the Ilford film has very fine grain. If I were a college student in a film photography class, it would be difficult to choose between the Spotmatic and the K-1000. The decision would really come down to price because these two cameras have a lot of features in common. Since my initial purchase, I bought another Spotmatic body on eBay, knowing the meter didn’t work. To accompany the camera, I also purchased a pinhole lens cap to do some simple 35mm pinhole photography.
Note: Because the film had been in the camera for a few months, I forgot and cracked the back of the camera open. This created some exposed spacing above and below the film sprockets. Several frames were exposed, but I salvaged what I could. This was before I started using Film Rolls on my iPhone.
2 thoughts on “Pentax Spotmatic”
The Takumar lenses are wonderful. But I find stopping down to be a bit of a drag. So I think I slightly prefer my K1000! (Rather, its more fully featured brother, the KM.) I did shoot an ES II recently — Spotmatic with open-aperture metering. That was fun.
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Awesome review and story about an awesome camera! I believe this type of meter display is properly called “swing needle”. Match needle are ones like the Nikon FE wherein the shooter must match two needles for proper exposure. Not a big deal but worth making the distinction! The meter in my Spotty died years ago. It seems to be fairly common for them to die and be beyond repair unfortunately. So you have quite a lucky find here! Nice photos too!