In the upper room

One of my oldest friends sold me this Pentax KM. His father bought it new in 1976, the year Pentax introduced it and the famous K lens mount. In the 1980s the camera passed down to my friend; somewhere around here I have at least one college-days photo of him using it. I’m very happy to be this camera’s steward today.

Pentax KM

I never fail with this camera. Really. It’s almost magic. According to my notes I shot this tulip with the 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens on Fujicolor 200. I don’t like that lens at all but just look at how lovely it rendered here.


Most of the time I shoot the lens that came with this camera, the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax. It is almost certainly a K-mount version of the sublime 55/1.8 Takumar from Pentax’s earlier screw-mount cameras. This lens never misses. It’s just wonderful.

Under the Clock

I took this kit and a roll of T-Max 400 to Purdue for an afternoon with my son. He brought his K1000 along; we spent the afternoon taking pictures. Goodness, was that ever wonderful to me. A fast-ish lens with fast-ish film and my generally steady hand let me do reasonable work indoors. Above, the Stewart Center; below, the Purdue Memorial Union.

Purdue Memorial Union

This is a shot from a library inside Stewart Center. I was surprised that they still follow the Dewey Decimal System, which I thought was passé among libraries today.

Study tables

This is Spitzer Court, with Cary Quad in the background. Damion lives in Cary. It’s very stately. We walked around inside a little bit and its common areas have this very 1890s feel. When you look past the modern pressboard furniture in those rooms, you can almost imagine young bejacketed pipe-smoking men sitting about in high-backed chairs at mahogany tables.

Spitzer Court

You’ll also find plenty of modern architecture at Purdue, like Hampton Hall.

Civil engineering

Damion’s buddy runs the ham radio club, so we got a tour. I just love old electronic gear. Just dig that great typography on that meter.

Ham radio club

They could have just printed “µA” on the meter on the right, but they went all the way and spelled it out in a sober typeface. The space between the letters lends such gravity, such certainty. You may rest assured in this meter’s reading.

Ham radio club

Okay, this has been more about my day at Purdue than about the Pentax KM. Let me reel this back in: this camera performed flawlessly. And perhaps I’m blinded by my love for Pentax gear but I found this camera to be perfectly unobtrusive as I used it. I framed, matched the needle for exposure, focused, and shot my way through this roll in no time flat. I wished I’d brought another roll of T-Max.

Beetle bug

After our long photo walk we walked over to a favorite pub for dinner. I sat the KM on the table, strap dangling. As we got up to leave and I picked up the KM, the strap caught on the table corner and the camera tore from my hand. It landed on the stone tile floor with a sickening splat. The corner of the bottom plate was dented and the UV filter on the lens shattered. Something must have bent slightly on the lens mount, as the aperture ring on any mounted lens now turns clockwise with difficulty. Some steward I am.


To see more from this camera, check out my Pentax KM gallery.

My Pentax KM has been such a never-miss, sure-fire performer that I simply must get it fixed. I’m just very sad that I damaged this like-new camera.

Verdict: Keep

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33 responses to “Operation Thin the Herd: Pentax KM”

  1. J P Avatar

    Sickening indeed. Even non-photographer me felt ill when I read of that camera falling to the unforgiving floor. I have read so many of these that could have ended with an “oh well” after such a fall, but not this one.

    Murphy remains hard at work.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have simply got to remember to coil up my strap when I set a camera down. This was preventable!

  2. Nancy Stewart Avatar
    Nancy Stewart

    Glad to hear about you and your son sharing and enjoying this time together and making memories to treasure. Sorry about the camera.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s wonderful to take a photo walk with Damion!

  3. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Oh no! Eric to the rescue I imagine?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, but Sover just wrote me to say I can send the F2A in now, so I’m going to do that first.

  4. mellonicoley Avatar

    hopefully it can be fixed quickly and cheaply!

    1. mellonicoley Avatar

      also i really like these image, particularly the first one and the one of Hampton Hall. excellent composition. Love how you’ve positioned the benches in the forefront so that they follow the same line as the stairs

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      I hope so too. And my touch of OCD frequently helps me in composition!

  5. mike connealy Avatar

    Looks like a great day with a couple great Pentax cameras.
    All of us with too many cameras can come up with similar camera accident stories. I once carelessly swung my Nikon S into a metal light pole denting the front of the lens. That turned out to be a cheap fix at the time. More recently, I dropped and broke the ground glass in my Patent Etui plate camera soon after I got it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for helping me feel less bad. It’s strangely nice to know that camera accidents happen even to the best of us.

  6. Christopher May Avatar
    Christopher May

    Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear about the accident with this cam. Been there, done that with the strap catching table edges, so I feel your pain.

    That being said, I agree with your decision to repair and keep this camera. The pictures that accompanied this post are the strongest I’ve seen out of your Thin the Herd posts. You can always tell when a photographer finds a camera that he/she clicks with (pardon the pun). I definitely have that feeling with you and this camera!

    Best of luck on getting it repaired. I’m certainly eager to see more results when you get it back!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks so much Christopher for complimenting my work! More is coming from this camera tomorrow — a much more extensive look at the Purdue Memorial Union. Thank heavens for an f/1.8 lens and ISO 400 film, which let me get some inside photos.

  7. seatacphoto1951 Avatar

    I enjoyed this story very much. I will never have the time to visit these places but when I read these posts I am at least acquainted with them. The film used was perfect for the mood required. I do not have one camera that I have a special relationship with. I use a camera for a few weeks and then go to something else I own.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I love T-Max 400 for just about any b/w application. It has always performed well for me!

  8. Reinhold Graf Avatar

    Shit happens.
    If it can be fixed … fix it. This beauty is made for walking, not for the shelf

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Is there a German idiom equivalent to “shit happens”?

      Yes, this camera’s going to Eric Hendrickson for repair. If it can be repaired, he is the man to do it.

      1. Reinhold Graf Avatar

        Ich würde sagen … etwas ist “dumm gelaufen” … wäre eine passende Übersetzung.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          “Dumm gelaufen” macht weniger Spass als “shit happens” zu sagen.

  9. dionyb Avatar

    Sorry to hear about your camera but I appreciated the photos of Purdue. I’ve only visited the campus once when I dropped my son off for his first year. I’m hoping to visit him next March and take a proper walk around the campus.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I hope you’ll get more chances to see the campus with your son! I live about 50 minutes away from Purdue so it’s not terribly hard for me to get up there.

  10. JoHawkTheWriter Avatar

    Such lovely photos of Purdue. I have been in every location you mentioned, I am especially fond of Cary Quad. But I gasped out loud and heard the clack as your Pentax hit the floor. I hope the repairs will make it good as new. 😊

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My son got a single in Cary and is happy as a clam there. Even though there’s no air conditioning in his wing! The KM is second in the repair queue. I’m about to send one of my Nikon F2s for repair and CLA. But the KM will go after that!

  11. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    I’m glad I to enjoy the great pictures before getting the sick to my stomach feeling at the end.

    I haven’t been to Purdue, but suspect I would feel at home there. I think I could take most of the same shots on the Michigan State campus.

    My worst camera accident was taking night shots with an Argus C44 and 100 mm lens. A gust of wind blew the tripod over and the camera hit the ground nose first. The big hood protected the lens, but the mount got tweaked enough that the body wouldn’t focus squarely.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh what a shame for your C44. I’ve always wanted to try one of those. Were you able to repair it?

      1. Dan Cluley Avatar
        Dan Cluley

        I think that body became a parts donor. At the time, I was using C44 & C44rs as everyday cameras, so I had a herd of them. Usually had 3 or 4 good working ones at anytime, and just rotated if anything went wrong and repaired them at my leisure.

        If you would like to try one, send me an email. Pretty sure there’s an extra here that could be loaned or sold.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Ooh that sounds like fun. Maybe after I’m done with Operation Thin the Herd!

  12. […] via Operation Thin the Herd: Pentax KM — Down the Road […]

  13. Sam Avatar

    Jim great pics love the VW Bug and the tones on the stairs!

    1. Domingo N Becca Garcia Avatar
      Domingo N Becca Garcia

      Ugly ass

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! Good camera, great lens, lovely film.

  14. Jahid Hassan Avatar

    Thanks very nice camera and i like this

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


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