Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Pentax KM

13

This may be the easiest camera review I’ll ever write.

That’s because the Pentax KM is in almost every way the same camera as the Pentax K1000. You see, the KM came first, in 1975. Then in 1976 Pentax removed the KM’s depth-of-field preview button and self timer, called it the K1000, and launched one of the most iconic SLRs of all time.

So if you go read my writeup about the Pentax K1000, you will know almost everything about the KM. They function the same. That cuts at least five paragraphs from this review right there!

My KM belonged to my longtime friend Michael, who parted with it so it could have a place in the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras. That’s Michael there in 1986, shooting me with this KM as I shot him, probably with my Kodak VR35 K40.

And here’s this KM today. I was glad to get it because I know Michael takes excellent care of his things. It performs like new.

Pentax KM

As you can see, this KM came with a 55 mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax lens. It also came with a 28 mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens and an 80-200 mm f/4 Sears zoom lens. I dropped in a roll of Fujicolor 200 and an LR44 cell to power the light meter and got right to shooting. I tried all three lenses. The 28 mm lens was attached when I shot this tulip in my front yard.

Tulip

I attached the Sears zoom lens and stood near the front of my house to shoot the house across the street, formerly abandoned but now being flipped (thank goodness). A shrub from my front bed is in the lower right corner of the image; it was maybe 15 feet in front of where I was standing.

Work on the abandoned house

I had the most fun, and was most impressed, with the 55 mm lens. I attached it and headed to the freshly renovated Juan Solomon Park near my home to shoot its new playground equipment.

Playground

It had recently rained.

Wet seat

I was very impressed with the results from the 55 mm lens for its crisp details, easy blurred backgrounds, and great color that is somehow more bold and interesting than real life.

Tubes

See my full Pentax KM gallery here.

I liked my Pentax KM just fine, but I find my smaller and lighter Pentax ME to be more comfortable to hold and use. Because of that, so far it’s my favorite SLR. Since both cameras share the same K lens mount, one of these days I’ll attach the 55 mm lens to my ME and see if it yields the same magic as it did on my KM.

Do you like vintage cameras? Then check out my entire collection!

13 thoughts on “Pentax KM

    1. Jim Post author

      I tend to look at it the other way around. I’ve yet to find a digital camera that returns results as fine as a good film SLR.

  1. Michael

    It’s a good thing it was large enough to hide my face – egads! :)

    It’s hard for me to fathom why they’d remove two great features, and then it sells like hotcakes. I can’t imagine it dropped the price significantly.

    1. Jim Post author

      I read another review of the KM that called it “the camera the K1000 should have been.” I mean, really, who wouldn’t want a DOF preview button?

  2. Scott Palmer

    Beautiful shots, and a beautiful camera!

    Until I read your description of the first photo, I thought that it was you holding the camera. How did you persuade Michael to part with it?

  3. christopher.

    The DoF on that 55mm is fantastic. I need a good prime lens so bad. To get any sort of DoF in my food photos, I have to set up 3-4ft. from the table and zoom in. Have to use a tripod to even get a decent shot without motion blur. Blergh.
    I’ve been seriously considering selling my 18-200mm/f5 to pick up a 35mm/f1.8 and a cheaper zoom, but I have to admit, for a zoom lens, this 18-200mm is really solid.
    *sigh* Decisions…

    1. Jim Post author

      I’d keep that 18-200 and save your nickels for a prime lens. The 18-200 is just too useful. I’d go no wider than 35 mm for the prime lens — I’d lean more toward 45-50 mm. At least f/2. That f/5 on your zoom is what’s limiting your DOF.

      1. christopher.

        Yeah. Given the focal length on my D5100, a 35mm is pretty much equivalent to a 50, which is what I’m really wanting.

        I have my heart on a Nikon 35mm f/1.8 that isn’t too pricey, but I have to pay off my bike first.

  4. Ted Kappes

    Pentax made some fine looking cameras. I can understand what you mean about the ME. I have been wanting one since I saw one last Fall. That big viewfinder and the small body is hard to beat. I finally went for it and got a ME body on Ebay last week. I hope I get it this week.

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