Camera Reviews

Pentax KM

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 review of the 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 with my crappy 110 camera.

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 body shows only slight signs of use and wear.

Pentax KM

This KM came with the pictured 55 mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax lens as well as a 28 mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens and an 80-200 mm f/4 Sears zoom lens. I was set for bear!

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If you’re a Pentax fan as I am, you might also enjoy my reviews of the compact ME (here) and the screw-mount Spotmatic SP (here), Spotmatic F (here), and ES II (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

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’m usually not a fan of 28mm lenses but this one performed very well in my front garden.

Tulips

28mm lenses are best used to get wide things in the frame, like this grand old church. I was shooting Kodak Tri-X 400 here.

Second Presbyterian

The KM is solid and hefty, but not oppressively so. There are far heavier SLRs out there. The controls are all in the places SLRs of the era tended to put them, so there’s little learning curve.

Second Presbyterian

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. I was shooting Fujicolor 200.

Wet seat

I was very impressed with the results from the 55 mm lens for its crisp details and easy blurred backgrounds. Here’s a photo of a bouquet I made on Kodak T-Max 400.

Carnations

More from that roll: a broken window at an abandoned school.

Broken window

I kept the 55/1.8 on for a roll of Ferrania P30 Alpha. Just look at that sharpness.

Flowers

I just love the moodiness of this silhouette shot backlit by my bedroom window.

Bedroom Window

I tend to shoot black-and-white film most often in my KM. Here’s more T-Max 400.

Under the Clock

See my full Pentax KM gallery here.

I like my Pentax KM just fine and have used it many times. It’s a great camera. Still, I use my smaller and lighter Pentax ME more often as it is more comfortable to hold and use. I have such an embarrassing wealth of great old gear that a camera as good as this KM takes a back seat.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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19 thoughts on “Pentax KM

  1. Michael says:

    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.

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    • 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?

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  2. 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?

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  3. 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…

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    • 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.

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      • 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.

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  4. 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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  5. Jay says:

    For Sale ..Pentax ME Super
    Comes with a wide angle / Macro Zoom / flash
    and carrying case. Bought new in the early 80s have only used a few times at most.
    100% in perfect condition. Exceeds your $50. rule by $50.
    Would like to get $100. for all if interested ? I only use Digital on occasion now.

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    • This isn’t really a for-sale board. But really, you’ve priced the camera beyond its value. eBay is your best bet to sell it, and if you search for sold listings on “Pentax ME Super” you’ll see what prices are these days.

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  6. Pingback: Time to send my Pentax ME out for CLA | Down the Road

  7. Wayne Andrews says:

    I read this blog in April 2019, a week after having picked up a mint KM for ZAR 200.00 (South African Rands) +- $15.00. I can’t wait to have it CLA’d and to put a roll of film in it. I already have a few Pentax cameras that I’ve been buying along the way as I acquire legacy lenses for use on my FF Nikon and Fuji X cameras.

    I have a SPOTMATIC SPII, Sa1, SP1000,SL, SV and now the KM. I’ve been contemplating shooting some film again and your blog just convinced me.

    Great work, keep it up.

    Best regards
    Wayne

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