This year will always remain memorable because my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary by taking a 3-week trip to Europe. We went with a small group and visited Italy, Switzerland, and France. I took three cameras: Canon 6D, Pentax K1000, and Olypus OM-1MD. I spent most days taking digital shots, but used the two film cameras for early morning walks and evening adventures. Trying not to pack around too much gear each day, I’d swap one of the two film cameras in and out of my bag. Many people have asked us, “What was your favorite place to visit?” There’s no way possible to answer that question. From day-to-day we kept thinking, “Wow, today was fantastic! It can’t get any better than this.” Only to be surprised by the sights and experiences we’d have the very next day.
Category Archives: Pentax
In late 2015 I decided to do a small personal photographic project for the upcoming year. One subject, one camera, one roll of film. I selected the Pentax Spotmatic and a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400.
The subject was to photograph different laundromats in Northern Utah. The locations I selected were: Terrace Laundry in Washington Terrace, Wash Tub in North Ogden, 4th Street Laundromat in Salt Lake City and Hart’s in Roy. The purpose of a personal photographic project is to take you out of your element, try something different, and challenge yourself.
You get a lot of strange looks, questions and questionable looks when you show up at a laundromat with an old camera, not laundry. So, how was this experience? I follow photographers on Twitter that make entire books or zines out of this type of photography. To me, it just felt lazy. I discovered that this type of photography is not my style. If I were to do it again, I would photograph the people in the laundromat, not machines and signs. I learned something about myself, and used this roll to practice developing film at home. Process: D-76 (Stock) 6:45 Min @ 20° C, scanned with an Epson Perfection V600 Photo.
A few months ago I received an email that was sent from the donate page here on Utah Film Photography. It was a message from a local named Eric and he had a camera to donate. Fantastic! I sent him an enthusiastic message back and thanked him for his donation. After another round of email exchanges, we setup a day to meet in downtown Salt Lake City. A few days prior to our meeting, I was thinking about Eric and his last name. I haven’t included his last name in this post to keep him anonymous, here’s why. Eric has a unique last name, and it made me curious. I looked for him on Facebook, nope, not there. I looked for him on Google+, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Not there, or there, or there, or there. The last place, which should have been the first place to search, was Google. And Google knows everything. I found several online news articles that mentioned Eric and they all had the same detail in common, “Eric [last name], a Special Agent for the FBI in Salt Lake City.” This agent had received special awards and notoriety for a some very high profile cases. A few days later when I met Eric, sure enough, he stepped out of a black SUV with tinted windows. He handed me the camera and told me that his mother’s husband had recently passed away. Eric said the camera looked too nice to throw in the trash, so he decided to find someone local that would use it. I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to ask him about his profession, but it was just too interesting to pass up. I asked him, “Are you a Special Agent with the FBI?” He responded, “How did you know?” I told him about my Google search and the newspaper articles I found. Again, Google knows everything. Before we went our separate ways, I thanked him again for the camera and told him it would be put to good use. Thanks Eric for the donation, and thank you for keeping the bad guys off the streets.
The Pentax SP500 was manufactured by Asahi Optical Corporation in 1971. It was made as a budget model after its predecessor, the Pentax SP1000. What’s the difference between the SP1000 and the SP500? Nothing. The shutter speed dial on the SP500 shows the maximum shutter speed as 1/500th of a second. However, if you turn the dial one-click beyond the 500 mark on the dial, you get 1/1000th of second, making it identical to the SP1000. The camera has a match-needle exposure system that is activated by moving the switch on the left side of the camera up. This activates the CdS TTL meter, stops the viewing lens to the set aperture, and gives you a depth of field preview. I tested the SP500 with Kodak Tri-X 400 during an outdoor car show at Peach Days in Brigham City, Utah. The majority of my images were shot with the shutter speed dial set on that extra click. I’ve been told by other photographers that it may not be accurate to 1/1000th like the SP1000, but closer to 1/750th of a second. Like the Spotmatic series, the SP500 uses screwmount M42 lenses. The Super-Takmur 50mm f/2 lens is tact sharp. Overall, a great SLR that’s easy to use.
Another great thrift store find from 2015 was the Pentax ME Super. I actually bought two of them in one week by accident. The second came from a local pawn shop. I gave it to a friend’s 8-year old son as a gift when our family traveled to Portland, Oregon. I’ve detailed some of the features below, but found that my fellow blogger and film enthusiast, Simon Hawketts, has done a great job detailing the specs on his site.
The Pentax ME Super was manufactured from 1980 to 1986, and is the younger, newer sibling to the Pentax ME and MV models. Both of these prior models are all automatic and have no manual modes. The ME Super has aperture priority, manual, 125X and bulb modes. The ME Super features a focal plane shutter with speeds from f/4 to 1/2000. The exposure meter is an open aperture TTL center weighted type that is displayed in the viewfinder with a series of LED’s. The ISO range is 12 to 1600. The lens paired with my ME Super is a SMC Pentax K bayonet mount, 50mm f/2 lens. Overall, the ME Super is a great camera. At the time, it was Pentax’s smallest and lightest SLR at 440g.
Before I started tracking my cameras loaded with film with the Film Roll app on my iPhone, I had forgotten that my ME Super was loaded. There’s a large gap in time between the first group of shots and the end of the roll. They start in early spring and end of Veteran’s Day. For my testing, I shot a roll of Lomography Color 400.
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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.
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.