Giving the Sears KSX-P some exercise

Spiders in Madison

Legendary (but now failed) American retailer Sears white-labeled cameras from a number of manufacturers from the 1950s through the 1980s, including a bunch of 35mm SLRs from Ricoh. For reasons lost to the mists of time, Sears turned to Chinon in 1985 for its final SLR, the KSX-P. It takes the huge range of manual-focus Pentax K-mount lenses. On this camera, Chinon cleverly figured out how to make program and aperture-priority modes work with Pentax-M-class lenses. No Pentax body does that!

Sears KSX-P

I liked this camera all right when I reviewed it last year. But do I need this camera? This is a question I ask myself after testing each new camera acquisition. Operation Thin the Herd reduced my huge collection to about 50 “keeper” cameras, and I intend to keep to about that number. Every camera I bring in must clear a high bar or it won’t stay.

Easy program-mode shooting with my dozen or so Pentax-M lenses is compelling value proposition. It’s great to shoot and not fuss with exposure, which program-mode cameras let me do.

I brought the KSX-P along when my wife and I visited Madison, Indiana, in October. I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and mounted my 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A lens. I like the 35mm focal length over 50mm when I’m walking around cities and towns as it lets me bring more of the built environment into the frame with less backing up into the street.

The camera requires three AAA batteries to operate. When I installed some — they go in the grip — the camera didn’t spring to life. There’s some corrosion on one of the terminals, which is probably the culprit. I didn’t want to clean the terminal right then so I kept fiddling with battery placement and soon got lucky.

Shooting this camera again reminded me that I’m not crazy about its shutter action. When you press the button, the camera makes a wheezy sound, the length of which varies with the shutter speed. Then the camera makes the ka-chunk sound of the mirror moving up and down. It just doesn’t sound confident and sure. But the camera works fine, and returns good exposures. The KSX-P is also light and fairly compact, and is easy to carry around in the hand by the grip. It made a good companion on this evening photo walk, where I blew through the entire 24-exposure roll. I made most shots in program mode and a few in aperture-priority mode.

Madison, IN
Madison, IN
Bathtub planter
Electric Lady
Fair Play Fire Co.
Madison, Indiana
Madison, Indiana

I don’t need this camera. I own three Pentax K-mount bodies that function well and are fun to use. I’m also not wild about the KSX-P’s strange shutter action. But on the balance I liked shooting this camera again. After we got home from Madison I put more film into it and kept going. The KSX-P stays in the collection, for now, at least.

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10 responses to “Giving the Sears KSX-P some exercise”

  1. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

    I hadn’t realised that Sears is no longer around. But I haven’t lived in Canada for a very long time. I once had a Sears boom box that was really good.
    Speaking of really good, I like the colours from the Fujicolor. As always. I don’t remember the last time I saw it for sale here. The only Fuji negative film at my favourite film shop is 24-frame Fujicolor 100, and it’s limited to one roll per customer. And expensive.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Some Sears stores remain, but it’s just a matter of time.

      I just bought a 3-pack of Fuji 200 at the store Saturday. I saw Superia X-tra at another store last week but didn’t have time to stop. It’s sparse, but you do run into it.

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Sears had some very, very good cameras over the years, rebranded as their own, especially in the 50s…for some reason, I ended up with two Sears branded K mount lenses, a 50, which I believe to be a Ricoh, and a 28, which might be a Tokina? Who knows. Both lenses are sharp performers, although the 28 is a little dark on the edges when it’s open more. Because they’re Sears branded, these lenses seem to have zero value for resale on line, but too nice to just toss out. I keep thinking I’ll utilize them as “walk around” lenses with my slightly rough K 1000 body.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve owned a couple of the Ricoh-made Sears lenses and they’re very good. I compared a Ricoh 50 to the corresponding Pentax 50 once and I could almost not tell the difference.

  3. Greg Clawson Avatar
    Greg Clawson

    Jim, nice photos! That old Sears camera did its job.
    Wife and I need to stop in Madison for a weekend.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! Yes, Madison is really lovely, and I hope you can make it down there!

  4. P Avatar

    The demise of Sears is extremely sad. Nice set of photos, Jim.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I wasn’t a Sears shopper so I don’t miss it, but I do understand the important place it had in our society.

  5. Kodachromeguy Avatar

    You recorded some beautiful traditional architecture in Madison. Nice town.

    Recall, some Sears cameras were called “Tower” in the 1950s and 1960(?). I’m not sure how they chose this name.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I always assumed the Tower name was meant to echo the Sears Tower in Chicago.

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