Cameras, Photography

Pentax Spotmatic F

At last: open-aperture metering on a Pentax Spotmatic.

It’s not like stop-down metering is hard. It’s just an extra step, and a quick one: flip the switch. Yet to be free of it! Exposure information in the viewfinder at all times! This feeling of ease makes the Spotmatic F more compelling than any stop-down Spotmatic that preceded it.

Pentax Spotmatic F

Introduced in 1973, the Spotmatic F retained the original 1964 Spotmatic’s chassis. I expect the works are the same, too, except for changes enabling open-aperture metering. To power that meter the SPF got a bigger, more powerful battery: the dreaded, banned PX625 mercury cell. (Earlier Spotmatics used a battery that isn’t made anymore, though other special-order batteries can be adapted to fit.) But that’s not all bad, as highly available alkaline 625 cells fit and work fine despite delivering a little less juice (0.2 volts, to be precise) because Pentax added a bridge circuit to adjust voltage. It’s the only Spotmatic so equipped.

Pentax Spotmatic F

Well-known Pentax repairman Eric Hendrickson cleaned, lubed, and adjusted this SPF, so it works like new. And it may well have been essentially new, serving briefly as a sales demonstrator before falling into the hands of a Pentax employee who kept it without, it seems, ever using it.

Pentax Spotmatic F

The SPF is a 35mm SLR with a cloth focal-plane shutter that operates from 1 to 1/1000 sec., with flash sync at 1/60 sec. The SPF takes M42 screw-mount lenses, but open-aperture metering works only with SMC Takumar and Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lenses, which have a pin that lets the camera read the selected aperture. With those lenses, the stop-down lever (on the right of the lens barrel) provides depth-of-field preview.

SPF_TTL

Inside the viewfinder. Meter needle at right. When it’s horizontal, you have accurate exposure.

The SPF meters through the lens using a CdS cell and a match-needle system in the viewfinder; it accepts films from ISO 20 to 3200. There’s no on/off switch, but at and below 2 EV the meter deactivates. Keeping the lens capped effectively turns the camera off.

The focusing screen includes a microprism patch. You twist the focus ring until everything looks sharp and the patch stops shimmering. The older I get the harder it is to see the shimmer, and so I prefer split-image focusing screens. This is the only serious thing I wish were different about the SPF, because otherwise mine is just a joy to shoot.

This SPF came to me with a 35mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lens. I love 35mm for everyday walking-around photography! Confident in my just-serviced camera I skipped over the inexpensive films with which I normally test cameras and loaded a roll of Ektar.

I took the SPF to Nashville, Indiana, where I attended a conference. My day was pretty packed, but I slipped away at lunch for some photography.

Nashville, IN

35mm lenses are just made for walking around and capturing scenery, of which there is plenty in Nashville. And this Takumar is sharp and renders color well.

Nashville, IN

Downtown Nashville is all little shops and restaurants. It’s a fun day out, easily reached from Indianapolis.

Madeline's

Nooks and crannies throughout Nashville provide plenty of interesting subjects.

Confusing Temptation with Opportunity

On a sunnier day I visited the cemetery near my house. This monument went up in the last year or so but I’ve already shot it many times. The Ektar handled the brown well.

Roman numerals

But wait…what’s that? Up there, in the trees? A little bokeh?

At Washington Park North

Yes, and it’s interesting bokeh, a constellation of little points. If only the subject (those leaves) was more interesting.

Bokeh

I walked through the neighborhood one afternoon with the SPF. This isn’t a neighborhood of picket fences, this one neighbor notwithstanding.

Picketing

Another neighbor recently started parking this mid-1970s Ford Thunderbird curbside. It’s not plated. In a tonier neighborhood the HOA would be all over this Bird’s owner like stink on a garbage truck. Here, we have no HOA. His car can sit there for as long as it wants.

Thunderbird

A lonesome highway makes a pretty good subject.

Old 52

To see more photographs, check out my Pentax Spotmatic F gallery.

I waited until the end to say that the Spotmatic F is essentially the same camera as the 1976 Pentax K1000, except the K1000 uses the then-new K bayonet lens mount. Every other SPF review says that up front and I didn’t want to be tiresome. But I’m mentioning it now because I’ve owned a few K1000s, fine and competent cameras the lot. But I experienced real joy shooting this SPF, a feeling I’ve found elusive with any K1000.

Perhaps some of that joy comes from my SPF’s like-new condition. Buttery operation never fails to impress. But most of it comes from an indescribable quality, something special that got lost in the K-mount translation. If you know your way around apertures and shutter speeds and want to break into film SLRs, just get a Spotmatic F. Pair it with the astonishing 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens and you’ll never fail to have great fun.

 

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

Saturday morning again, Roadies, and time for my weekly blog roundup.

Susie Trexler shares the story and some lovely photographs of a mission-revival school building she found in Reno, NV. It’s just luscious. Read Reno’s Mission Revival Quartet of Schools

If you’re like me, you cameras stuffed into every nook and cranny of your house. James Tocchio did too, and finally cried uncle. Here’s what he did to change his gear acquisition syndrome. Read Why I Got Rid of My Camera Collection And Why You Should Too — Maybe

Here’s one for my fellow car fans. Paul Niedermeyer, writing for Curbside Classic, found a 1951 Hudson someone’s still driving. These were such futuristic cars for their time, and Paul tells the story of their streamlined, aerodynamic design against the context of their time, and how they predicted modern car design. Read Curbside Classic: 1951 Hudson Pacemaker

Jess Cotton, writing for The Book of Life, considers the incalculable value of being unhappy as teenagers. Read The Importance of Being Unhappy Teenagers

Here are the vintage camera reviews and experience reports I found this week.

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Cameras, Photography

Photographing old cameras

Fellow film-photo bloggers: how do you like to photograph your old cameras?

Kodak Retina Ia

Reviewing old gear on this blog as I do, I need to show the cameras. When this blog was new a decade ago I’d just set them on my deck’s railing and aim my digital camera at them. But if I shot at midday or in the afternoon, the sun was overhead, leading to harsh shadows and bad reflections. If I shot late afternoon or in the evening, the sun was behind my subject, leading to silhouetting.

Canonet QL 17 GIII

I had so much to learn. I shot handheld, and camera shake was a problem. And I shot my digital camera, a simple Kodak EasyShare Z730, at its default focal length of 33mm (equivalent). That led to my cameras looking a little off square.

Argus C3

Morning-only shooting was too limiting, so I brought it inside. I stuck cameras on a little table in my office and turned on every light in the room. I was still using Corel Paint Shop Pro to edit my photos, and I couldn’t adjust white balance with it.

Olympus Trip 35

It did help considerably when I upgraded my digital camera (Canon PowerShot S80) and put it on a tripod. Zooming in to about 50mm equivalent gave the cameras a more natural look. A switch to Photoshop Elements gave me more tools to make colors look natural.

Pentax KM

It helped even more when I moved to my living room, opened the blinds on the big picture window, and shot cameras on the coffee table. The colorful backgrounds added interest. I also upgraded my digital camera again, to a Canon PowerShot S95. It can zoom directly to common focal lengths, including 50mm, no guessing. That feature is so useful.

Minolta SR-T-101

Because the light varies, in automatic mode the camera sometimes gives me too little depth of field. So I switched to program mode and set ISO to 100 to get a slow enough shutter speed to bring all details in crisp. That sometimes left the shutter open so long that shake from pressing the button would ruin the shot. So I started using the self-timer to delay the shutter.

Kodak 35

I don’t remember just what led me to switch to photographing cameras on my family room coffee table. I probably wanted to shoot a camera well after daylight had passed one day. My family room has the best artificial light in the house. I figured out how to position the camera so that only the coffee table’s surface served as a background, which I find to be a clean look.

Canon EOS A2e

When I shoot during the day, natural light from the nearby window renders the surface red-brown. At night, with every lamp in the room lit, the table looks dark brown. By not I had started shooting RAW, and I had upgraded to full Photoshop, for even greater control.

Yashica-12

Photoshop can’t fix everything, though. With tall cameras I have to raise and tilt my camera such that the images look top heavy.

Yashica T2

Half the time I forget to clean up the camera before I shoot it. I don’t notice the dust until I bring up the image in Photoshop. It’s enough hassle to set up to shoot these cameras that I just shrug and use the images anyway.

Kodak Retina IIc

Keeping the coffee-table surface as the background sometimes leads me to shoot from angles that obscure some of the camera’s details. This Retina’s exposure scale is on the bottom of the lens barrel, not that you can tell it from this shot. The photo below, which I made in seconds with my iPhone, shows these details much better.

image1

My camera photos work well enough to use in my reviews, but I’m hardly proud of them. So do tell: what tricks have you learned that give you fast, easy, inexpensive, but interesting photos of your gear?

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Wrecks Inc

Drive carefully
Pentax Spotmatic F, 35mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar
Kodak Ektar 100
2017

I photograph this sign a lot. I love it! And I drive by it frequently as it’s on the way to Margaret’s.

This time I photographed it from the driver’s seat of my car. The 35mm lens I used let me do that easily from the side of the road, where I had pulled over. Whenever I photograph this sign with a 50mm lens, I have to back way up from it to fit it in the frame.

The more I shoot 35mm lenses, the more I like them. It’s such a useful focal length for road-trip photography. I don’t have to back up nearly as much to get things into the frame, yet when I want to move in close I can still do so credibly.

Photography, Road trips

single frame: Drive carefully

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Photography

Hot dogs on Holmes Street

You might not think free hot dogs are a good way to meet your neighbors, but they worked fine for us at West Park Christian Church on Indianapolis’s Near Westside.

Church event

Our church is in the Hawthorne neighborhood, just steps off old US 40 and the National Road. Its houses were built in the first couple decades of the last century. Our building is on Addison Street, but our parking lot is on the lot behind us and it empties out onto Holmes Street. As cars and pedestrians passed, we called them in. Many stopped.

Church event

Rob, the husband of our youth pastor, manned the grill. Here he is talking to our lead pastor’s wife, Sue.

Church event

On the left is Wanda, who brought one of her friends. At right is one of our neighbors who stopped by with her children.

Church event

Jay brought his DJ gear and provided the soundtrack.

Church event

He has quite a nice little setup.

Church event

He and Phil (right) are our sound engineers on Sunday mornings.

Church event

Our little church has its challenges. We’re small in number and often lack enough people to carry out our plans. Sometimes we don’t collect a large enough offering to cover expenses. Heck, sometimes we show up on Sunday morning to find we’ve run out of communion supplies. Frankly, we count our blessings every time our worship service happens without any glitches.

But we are good at just being easy-to-approach people in our community. People find quickly that we are the most non-threatening, easiest to talk to Christians they’ve ever met. The hot dogs were just our clever ruse to let our neighbors find that out.

Nikon FA, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Agfa Vista 200

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Old 52

Old US 52
Pentax Spotmatic F, 35mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar
Kodak Ektar 100
2017

I spend a lot of time on the Lafayette Road, aka Old US 52, as it is my favorite way to get to Margaret’s. It’s been a four-lane road since about the mid 1930s, but hasn’t been a U.S. highway since the 1960s when I-65 opened nearby and US 52 was routed onto it.

And so this old road, which dates to the 1830s, is empty most of the time.

Photography, Road trips

single frame: Old US 52

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