Circle Tower is my favorite building on Monument Circle in Indianapolis. This Art Deco beauty, completed in 1930, was designed by Indianapolis architectural firm Rubush & Hunter.
Last year a firm bought the building to convert the unoccupied offices to coworking space, complete with lightning-fast Internet and craft beer on tap.
I haven’t been inside this building in at least 25 years, not since a restaurant called Del Frisco’s used to occupy one of the upper floors. It was a favorite place. On special occasions I’d drive all the way from Terre Haute, bringing friends along for a good meal.
Minton-Capehart Federal Building Pentax ME, 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A Agfa APX 100 (expired 7/1998) 2018
I think it was Mike Connealy who wrote on his blog about being hassled by security when photographing a federal building where he lives. I mentioned that the next time I took a photo walk Downtown I ought to liberally photograph our federal building and see if I would be similarly accosted.
I did it recently, making five or six photos of this building while on the property, in probably a ten-minute span. I was left alone. Perhaps I just went unnoticed.
This photo from across the street benefits greatly from my 35mm lens. It was no trouble at all to fit this giant into my frame. I did have to tilt the camera up to avoid the top from being cut off, which created perspective error. A quick hit of Photoshop’s perspective-correction tool made the top of this building jut out properly.
Cup and carafe Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M Agfa APX 100 (expired 7/1998) 2018
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I love to take it in a restaurant.
When I was in my early 20s I sometimes stopped at a cheerful little cafe downtown on my way to work. It was on 6th St.; I think it was called Boo’s. I always sat at the counter, leaving the few tables to parties of more than one.
Frequently the sheriff ate his breakfast next to me. Such is life in a town the size of Terre Haute. It was his habit to sit at the second stool from the end, and I soon learned to leave it vacant for him. We never spoke, but we always greeted each other by turning our heads toward each other and tilting them back a little.
My eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee set me back only about $3.50, as I recall. Adjusted for inflation, that’s not much more than $6 today. Since moving to Indianapolis I’ve always wished to find a place where I can buy breakfast so inexpensively. The day I drank this carafe of coffee, in a cafe up in Carmel, it and my little egg frittata set me back $13.
“You look tired,” my boss said. “Listen, we can handle everything here. Take tomorrow off. Get a one-day head start on the weekend.”
I was tired. We’d had a changing of the guard at work. The fellow who hired me, a company co-founder, had exited. His replacement had been on the job just a few weeks, and brought with her a whole host of process improvements that she aimed to implement rapidly. It’s been a lot of change in a short time, and it came while I’ve been mourning my father. I’d been pushing pretty hard.
I spent my free Friday alone. A buddy had sent me some expired, but always frozen, Agfa APX 100 film, so I loaded some into my Pentax ME. I started the day shooting my 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens but as my path too me downtown I found myself at Roberts Camera buying a nice used 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A lens.
I spent the rest of the day with it mounted to the ME. This was one of the first shots I made with that lens. Just look at how much life that lens and film rendered into those bricks!
I’m still tired, by the way. At least I am as I write this, near the end of March. But as this post publishes my family is back from a week’s vacation. Hopefully this post finds me refreshed. But I also need some blog breathing room. So all this week I’m publishing single frame posts from that day of photography.
Who knows exactly why a person takes to one camera over another? There are certainly more fully featured and flexible SLRs than this. I own a few of them, and they’re wonderful. Yet I reach for the Pentax ME more than any other SLR I’ve ever owned.
The Pentax ME is small, light, and easy to use. It’s even smaller than the Olympus OM-1, the world’s first compact SLR. The ME is an aperture-priority camera, meaning you choose an aperture and the camera measures exposure through the lens and sets shutter speed for you. It even displays the shutter speed inside the viewfinder. This ease of use comes at the expense of full control, however; the ME offers no manual mode.
If you simply must have manual exposure, you might try the Pentax ME Super, which offers it on the same body. But I love aperture-priority shooting and have never seen the need to upgrade.
You’re not entirely at autoexposure’s mercy anyway – a dial around the rewind crank lets you adjust exposure up to two stops in either direction. And the ME is reasonably flexible, working with films up to 1600 ASA and allowing exposures from 8 seconds to 1/1000 second through its electronic shutter. Its hot shoe syncs at 1/100 sec. All of this convenience relies on two LR44 button batteries. Without them, the shutter operates only at 1/100 sec and at bulb.
This is not a luxury camera. The winder is a little ratchety. The finishes are good but not great. The shutter button has a short throw and is easy to press, but isn’t silky smooth. This all remained true even after I sent it to Eric Hendrickson, the premier Pentax repairman, for a CLA. This is how these worked when new.
The only thing the ME doesn’t have that I sometimes want is depth-of-field preview. Also, I’ve shot the ME a few times with a long zoom lens and I always wish I shot my KM or K1000 instead, as those bodies are larger and would be easier to grip with all that front-loaded lens weight.
But the ME handles so easily with one of Pentax’s great prime lenses. I use my 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M and 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A lenses on this camera most often, both compact enough that the ME feels well balanced in my hands.
If you like compact SLRs, also see my review of the Olympus OM-1 (here) and the Nikon FA (here). If you like Pentax SLRs, see my review of the K1000 (here), the KM (here), the Spotmatic SP (here), the Spotmatic F (here), the ES II (here), and the H3 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
I’ve put so much film through my Pentax ME and gotten such satisfying results that it’s hard to choose which images to share with you here. Here’s one from my very first roll, which was Fujicolor 200, through my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M.
Here’s another shot from that roll, of Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. It was during this first roll that I knew I’d found a real winner. I liked how easily it handled, I knew I’d get great results through my Pentax glass, and they were inexpensively replaced if lost, damaged, or stolen.
Here’s my dog, Gracie, on Kodak T-Max 400 through my 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax. I often load film in my ME and just leave it on the desk for impromptu shots like this one.
Here’s the Orange County Courthouse in Paoli, Indiana, on Kodak Ektar 100 via my 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M. The ME is such an easy body to take along on a road trip.
On another road trip I visited Columbus, Ohio, where I came upon this great old market. Kodak Tri-X 400 through my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M.
I’ve yet to meet a Pentax 50mm lens that I didn’t love. Here’s my uncle Rick’s dog, on Fujicolor 200 via my 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M.
Fast film, a fast lens, and aperture-priority autoexposure let me keep up with the action in available indoor light. These young girls are in line at a church lunch. Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800 and my 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens.
If someone holds still, even medium-speed film works indoors. Here’s my wife, on Kodak Gold 200 via the 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M.
Even the workaday 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M is a wonderful performer. Especially on extra-colorful Fujicolor 100.
You can walk all day with the ME slung over your shoulder — its light weight makes it an easy companion. Here I was shooting Agfa APX 100 through my 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A.
Here’s one of the times I used a long zoom lens on the little ME body. It was awfully front-heavy. Kodak Portra 400 and 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M.
Finally, a Packard hood ornament on Kodak Tri-X 400 through my 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M.
The Pentax ME is one of the great bargains of 35mm SLR photography. I’ve owned four over the years, and I’ve never paid more than $30 for one. The one I kept, had CLA’d, and use regularly cost me just $16! If this review intrigued you at all, don’t hesitate, go get a Pentax ME.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.
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