The Mamiya/Sekor 500 DTL is from the Sherman Tank School of 35mm SLR Construction — this camera is solid and heavy. Pick it up, and you feel in an instant that this baby is all metal.

Mamiya/Sekor 500 DTL

The 500 DTL was introduced in 1968. It features an M42 screw lens mount and a cloth shutter that operates from 1/500 to 1 second. You can set ISO from 25 to 3,200, and switch its onboard light meter between spot and average metering.

Mamiya/Sekor 500 DTL

The 500 DTL is a refreshingly clean camera, with few controls. The single dial controls shutter speed and ISO. Its specifications make it a plenty useful camera even today. If you’d like a faster shutter, the similar 1000 DTL goes to 1/1000 sec., and throws in a self timer. Mamiya even made a 2000 DTL in all black with a 1/2000 sec. shutter, but I’ve never seen one.

Mamiya/Sekor 500 DTL

Its onboard light meter has two modes: spot, which meters an area near the bottom center of the frame; and average, which meters the whole frame. You change modes with a switch on the side of the lens board: S or A. Earlier versions of this camera, the 500 TL and 1000 TL from 1966, offered only spot metering and did not have this switch.

The viewfinder offers a Fresnel microprism for focusing. (The snippet from the manual at right calls it the Micro Diaprism.) When your subject stops shimmering in the Fresnel area, it’s in focus.

To choose spot or average metering, use the S/A switch on the side of the lens mount plate. An arrow in the viewfinder points to S or A to indicate your choice. Either way, you have to stop down to meter. To do this, move the switch on the lens barrel from M to A. Then pull the winder out to just before it starts to wind the film — this activates the meter. To turn off the meter, press the button on top of the wind lever. The lever pops back in flush with the camera body.

A needle in the viewfinder indicates exposure. When you set aperture and shutter speed such that the needle is within the reverse C, you have good exposure.

If you like mechanical, metal SLRs, check out my reviews of Canon’s FT QL (here) and TLb (here); Nikon’s F2A (here), F2AS (here), and Nikkormat FTn (here); Minolta’s SR-T 101 (here) and SR-T 202 (here); Pentax’s Spotmatic SP (here), Spotmatic SP II (here), Spotmatic F (here), K1000 (here), and KM (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I’ve seen a lot of these clapped out and used up, including one I owned about 10 years ago, which was too broken to use. I got super lucky when I bought this one on eBay – it’s in full working condition and good cosmetic condition. It cost just 20 bucks plus shipping.

Kodak Tri-X expired since October, 2001 went from my freezer into the 500 DTL. I shot it at EI 200 but developed it normally in HC-110, Dilution B. I whiffed exposure somehow on the first handful of frames as here. This expired film loses shadow detail easily when exposure isn’t just right.

Stout's Shoes

I figured it out soon enough and started getting good exposures.

Tavern at the Point

Pro tip: you have to remember to leave that lever in A after you make a photo. The meter keeps running if you forget. I forgot and then laid the camera down, to find the battery drained the next day.

The Chatterbox

The controls all feel hefty rather than silky, but they’re not unduly hard to work.


The 50mm f/2 lens that came with my 500 DTL is a good performer, with good sharpness out into the corners, good resolution, and no detectable distortion.

Old house in Yorktown

Other common prime lenses you’ll find with these cameras include the 55mm f/1.8 and the 55mm f/1.4. Mamiya made a whole range of well-regarded lenses for its DL and DTL cameras ranging from 28mm on the wide end to 400mm on the telephoto end, including a 60mm macro lens.

Lifted up

If you want to try other M42 screw-mount lenses on a DL or DTL camera, beware: lenses made for open-aperture metering, such as Pentax’s Super-Multi-Coated Takumars and Mamiya’s own SX-series lenses, may not mount correctly and may lack the A/M switch needed for metering.

Beech Grove Cemetery, Muncie

I kept going with a roll of good old Fujicolor 200.

On the tennis court

I brought the 500 DTL along on several springtime walks not far from my home. Like most metal and mechanical SLRs, this camera is heavy. I would have been happier with a lighter camera slung over my shoulder.

On the suburban street

But these results speak for themselves: this kit does terrific work.

Statue detail

Just a brief word about this concrete bear. It was my mom’s and sat in her gardens my whole life. After she passed, my wife and I took it so the tradition can continue.

Bear and petunias

I wrapped up with one of my typical photos of my car. It’s an easy subject, and it lets me try for a little blurred background.

VW and Ford

To see more from this camera, check out my Mamiya/Sekor 500 DTL gallery.

The Mamiya/Sekor 500 DTL is a fine and capable camera, as long as you can find one that still works. The world seems to be littered with broken DL- and DTL- series cameras. Pentax’s Spotmatics are of similar age, and in my experience are more likely to function when you find one in a junk store or on eBay. I don’t know why. But if you do find a working DL or DTL, I think you’ll find it to be satisfying to use.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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20 responses to “Mamiya/Sekor 500 DTL”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Quite amazing that you found one this clean, as per your comments, if I see any of these, they are rarely working and pretty messed up. I helped a pal sell his on eBay a number of years ago, which he had purchased at the PX in Vietnam, and It was just in Ok condition, but working, and as I recall, he got nothing for it. He said when he bought it, it was the same price at the PX as a Pentax, but he was “sold” on the dual metering, which he generally never used anyway.

    I remember from back in the day, these came out when I was in high school, that although these cameras felt “heavy”, they did sort of feel more “tinny” than a Pentax. With the back open, it seemed that some of that build quality wasn’t there, and switches felt loose and “plasticky”. Mamiya was certainly an excellent manufacturer, with the 120 twin lens with interchangeable lenses a staple of most of the small portrait and wedding studios I worked for in high school and college. I recall at my local dealer that these Mamiyas were priced a little bit under the Pentaxes, probably commensurate with fit and feel.

    One note of the “spot” light meter, those not familiar with how camera metering works could be very disappointed with the results. Before all the algorithm based metering we have today, your meter worked by assuming that a good blend of all the colors and tones in your metering area would render a near “gray card” result, so your results with wide area metering could be relatively correct. Spot metering was sold in many cases, as being able to meter a very small area that you were interested in getting correct because light and tones around it would be overly influential. BUT, the small area you would be metering on the spot setting, would have to be near gray card in tone and density to be correct, otherwise your reading would be wildly off. A lot of spot metering was sold, including this camera, showing someone metering a face in a larger image to get their exposure. If that person was white, your exposure could have been at least 2+ stops “off”! Underexposed, because the meter would be thinking the white face was an 18% gray card. Spot meter a gray card, and in the same light, spot meter your hand, (if you’re white) and you’ll see how far the exposure could be off.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Your description of how spot metering often worked makes sense – but makes spot metering useless for a shooter like me.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Actually, ditto for me. I’ve done very little 35mm for professional level money, but cycled through a lot of 35mm systems, almost like a hobby. I think the Contax system of the 80’s had the finest 35mm lenses I’ve ever used, but the battery controlled bodies would go dead in between photographing assignments that I actually had to do on 35mm. Frustrating. I waiting a long time for them to introduce a manual body, and when they finally came out with the S2, which was spot meter ONLY, I was so disappointed, I ended up just selling the whole thing. Had I known that there was so much backlash that they had to make the S2b, which had full area metering, I would have kept it and probably would still be using only that today!

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          How incredibly frustrating!

  2. Forrest Johnson Avatar
    Forrest Johnson

    Jim: I have a Mamiya/Sekor 1000DL purchased in 1966 in Saigon. Yashinon-R Zoom lens(75mm-230mm) I am willing to give away to a good home. Are you interested?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Forrest, thank you so much for offering. I’m going to pass, as now that I’ve experienced this 500 DTL I don’t need a similar camera. I’m even going to rehome this 500 DTL here soon.

  3. Bob Avatar

    When my son was old enough to hold a “real” camera it let him shoot with one of my Minolta SLRs. He especially liked using a fisheye lens. :)

    About 20 years ago when he was 8-10 years old I purchased a pair of 500 DTLs at a camera show to teach him to use a manual camera. He picked it up very quickly, but never actually developed the interest to be the hobbyist photographer I thought he might become.

    Then early in the pandemic he finally “cashed in” our college graduation gift to pay for something he’d use (such as travel, a kayak, or a couple other choices). What did he finally decide on? A Fujifilm X100V. LOL. So now he’s using the camera that’s since become all the rage.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The latent photographer in him finally came out!

  4. JR Smith Avatar

    I’ve often been curious enough about these cameras to roll the dice and buy one or two over the years but even after being listed as fully operational, mine never were. I am very impressed with the results you got from yours!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The more people comment about the broken ones they’ve encountered, the more fortunate I feel to have landed this one!

  5. tbm3fan Avatar

    These Mamiya SLR’s, whether DTL or SX series are difficult cameras to work on. For a mechanical camera one could almost call it the camera from hell.

    1. tbm3fan Avatar

      Should note that I have a Prismat, 500DTL, and 500 DSX and all work fine. Haven’t checked speed accuracy but they all seem appropriate to the eye. However, the really nice black body Sears 1000MXB, Mamiya built is jammed like many others. I have a 1000 DTL coming in today. Not because I want to shoot it but because it is absolutely pristine, with original decal still on it, and a pristine ever ready case. Being pristine probably means it is not working but it was inexpensive.

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      Too bad to hear it. I suppose one day the supply of these will vanish then.

  6. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    Very interesting! I have that same lens, it came with a Spotmatic that was given to me a couple of years ago. And I have RB and RZ67s which I like, but I have not seen one of these in working condition. It makes really nice images, I must give that lens another try :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I am very impressed with that 50/2. I ought to try it on one of my Pentax M42 bodies just for fun.

  7. Peter Miller Avatar
    Peter Miller

    My brother graduated from Graduate School at the University of Georgia. My mom and dad decided we would all go to GEX (a store for government employees) in Atlanta and buy my brother a graduation present of a “good” camera — a similar model with a fixed lens, possibly a 528TL. As my camera was a Yashica Rangefinder I was jealous. The camera stopped working years ago. When I got the camera from my brother when he was clearing stuff out of the house — for his birthday one year I bought a plexiglas box, made a family photo collage for a backdrop, and put the Mamiya Sekor inside as a photo prop. It looked good on the shelf as a keepsake.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I had to look up the 528TL. A fixed-lens leaf-shutter 35mm SLR? That sounds like a recipe for eventual equipment failure!

  8. John Snellgrove Avatar
    John Snellgrove

    Hi Jim. The 1000 DTL was my first real camera, purchased in 1973 after I finished high school. I recently acquired another with the same lens my first one had, the 55 1.8. The meter is activated by pulling the film advance lever out about 15 degrees to it’s standoff position. The lens can be left on the A setting. To meter, and see DOF, just press the film advance lever in towards the body. The lens is stopped down for metering. When shooting is completed the meter is turned off by depressing the button on top of the film advance lever pivot point.
    I am not sure the meter is working properly or consistently, but I have gotten some great shots using a second camera for metering. I enjoyed your article on the 500 DTL. Great pictures. Thanks!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hunh. Okay, now I have to put another roll through my 500 DTL and see if it works as you describe. Thank you for this tip!

    2. James Avatar

      I was just going to post this! This was my first 35 mm camera and I got used to activating the meter this way.

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