Camera Reviews

Sears KSX-P

Sears, Roebuck and Company sold cameras under its own brands starting in the 1950s. Outside manufacturers made them all; Sears was a department store, not a manufacturer. From the late 1960s through late 1980s, if you bought a Sears 35mm SLR, Ricoh made it — with one exception. Sears turned to Chinon for its last 35mm SLR, the 1985 Sears KSX-P.

Sears KSX-P

This camera differs only cosmetically from Chinon’s CP-5. It offers two program modes, hence the “Dual2 Program” label on the prism cover. It also offers aperture-priority and manual exposure modes. You can mount any of the huge range of Pentax and third-party K-mount lenses to this camera. I don’t know how they did it, but automatic exposure modes work with any K-mount lens. I mounted one of my SMC Pentax-M lenses and program and aperture-priority modes worked fine. Pentax’s autoexposure SLRs required SMC Pentax-A lenses; older SMC Pentax-M lenses worked only in manual exposure mode.

Sears KSX-P

The KSX-P uses a metal, vertical-travel focal-plane shutter that operates from 30 sec. (8 sec. in manual mode) to 1/1000 sec. It accepts films from 25 to 3200 ISO, selected using the dial around the rewind crank. Pull it up to turn it. The viewfinder features split-image and microprism focusing. The camera also chimes for various reasons mostly related to misexposure; you can turn that off with the switch next to the lens mount and under the KSX-P logo. That switch also activates the self timer. Three AAA batteries power the camera; they’re under the grip.

Sears KSX-P

The two program modes are Program Action (Pa) and Program Creative (Pc), which you select with the gray lever on the mode dial. Pa chooses faster shutter speeds to freeze moving subjects, and Pc chooses smaller apertures for greater depth of field with static subjects. When using one of the program modes, put the lens at its smallest aperture. If you don’t, program mode still works, but the camera can’t choose apertures smaller than the one set on the lens.

Manual mode is unusual: you press the M button (next to the mode dial) to step through shutter speeds in ascending order. If you press the shutter button partway and then press the M button, you step through shutter speeds in descending order. It’s challenging to get both fingers in there. A flashing LED in the viewfinder appears next to the shutter speed. A second LED, glowing steady, shows the shutter speed necessary for the selected aperture. To set proper exposure, adjust aperture and shutter speed until the two LEDs become one.

The KSX-P lets you make multiple exposures on a frame. Slide the lever above the winder to the left and hold it, and wind. The film stays put but the shutter cocks so you can make a second exposure on the frame.

The rewind crank is unusual in that it is round, covering the shaft like a lid. I found the knob to be hard to hold as I rewound my test rolls. It kept slipping from my fingers, which caused the crank to close.

My Sears KSX-P came with a 50mm f/1.7 Auto Sears MC lens made by Chinon, which was probably the kit lens. My Sears KS-2 had a 50/1.7 Auto Sears MC lens too, but Ricoh made it. The easiest way to tell these identically named lenses apart is that the Ricoh lens takes 52mm filters and the Chinon lens takes 49mm filters, and the lenses are marked as such right on the front.

I’ve reviewed other Sears SLRs, namely the KS-2 (here) and the KS Super II (here). These are all K-mount SLRs, shared with Pentax. Check out my reviews of the Pentax KM (here), K1000 (here), ME (here), and ME Super (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I loaded a roll of Fomapan 400 and shot it in Program mode at EI 200, and then developed it in LegacyPro L110 and scanned the negatives on my Minolta ScanDual II.

Sears KSX-P - Suburban scene

I used Pa mode when I was chasing after our little granddaughter and Pc mode otherwise. The KSX-P’s viewfinder shows which shutter speed the camera chooses by lighting an LED along a scale. You can see the lens’s selected aperture in a window at the top of the viewfinder, but in program mode that’s always 22, not the aperture the camera selected. I would have liked know the aperture so I could guess the depth of field I might be getting. The camera has no DOF preview.

Sears KSX-P - Bubbles in the sink

The KSX-P feels plasticky, but it’s got moderate heft. The viewfinder is a little dim, but it’s plenty usable. The battery grip makes the camera comfortable in the hand.

Sears KSX-P - Flowers

This lens focuses down to 18 inches, which ain’t bad for a non-macro lens. I like having the ability to get in close.

Sears KSX-P - VW

This lens has mild but noticeable barrel distortion, which I find to be uncommon among 50mm primes. The lens handles easily, however, and is compact.

Sears KSX-P - Stones on the sill

You’ll never mistake the KSX-P for a professional or luxury camera. The controls are sure, but aren’t hefty or silky.

Sears KSX-P - State Bank

I shot a roll of Fujifilm Superia Reala 100 next in this Sears KSX-P. This stuff expired in March, 2002, but it was stored frozen, so I shot it at box speed. I took the camera to Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, an enormous, sprawling place, for a warm evening walk. Every time I’ve lucked into a roll of ISO 100 Fujicolor film, which isn’t made anymore, I’ve been blown away by the color.

Deeply red

I started the walk with the camera in program mode, but switched to aperture-priority mode after just a few frames. The forecast for full sun proved to be wrong as clouds rolled in. Light was mixed. With such slow film I wanted more control over depth of field, and aperture-priority mode gave it to me. The window at the top of the viewfinder showed me the aperture I’d chosen, and an LED in the viewfinder lit next to the shutter speed the camera chose. Perfect.

Fake flowers on the door

My only gripe with this camera is that the shutter sounds weird and cheap: Shhhhhh-chunk-ping. It sounds the same regardless of the shutter speed, which made me wonder whether the shutter speeds were accurate. (I get a sense of shutter function by listening to it. 1/15 sounds a lot slower than 1/500.) It wasn’t until I saw my developed negatives that I was sure the shutter worked properly. I don’t know if this sound is normal for a KSX-P or not, though.

Crown Hill road

A couple times I knew I was photographing into the light, and sure enough, the lens flared. Photoshop let me tone that down.

Military cemetery at Crown Hill

I bought this KSX-P from its original owner, who hadn’t used it in many years. It says something about this camera that when I put batteries in it, it fired right up and functioned properly.

Military cemetery at Crown Hill

Yet I didn’t fall in love with this camera. I suppose my bar is high after having used so many truly wonderful SLRs over the years. I know that if someone had gifted me one of these when it was new in 1985, I would have been thrilled, and I would have made wonderful photographs with it for years.

At Crown Hill

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Sears KSX-P gallery.

I bought this Sears KSX-P because I’m curious about Sears SLRs and this one cost very little. It is a decent performer, but more than that, it’s truly remarkable that automatic exposure works with any K-mount lens. If you have a passel of Pentax glass a KSX-P might be worth adding to your stable for its versatility.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Unknown U.S. Soldier

Some gave all
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8/2006)

2019

Remembering those who died in service to our nation.

Film Photography

single frame: Some gave all

Reflecting on this Memorial Day.

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The view from Crown Hill

Indianapolis from Crown Hill
Canon PowerShot S95
2011

This is the view from the highest elevation in Indianapolis. This spot is inside the sprawling Crown Hill Cemetery — indeed, this spot is atop Crown Hill itself. That’s where Indiana’s poet, James Whitcomb Riley, is buried.

Indianapolis’s skyline isn’t as rich as that of more major cities, but it is distinctive. The tallest building is Salesforce Tower, previously Chase Tower, previously Bank One Tower, originally American Fletcher Tower.

Photography

single frame: Indianapolis from Crown Hill

A view of Indianapolis from the highest elevation in the city.

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Blue Star Memorial

Blue Star Memorial
Nikon F2
50mm f/2 AI Nikkor
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros

2016

I don’t have a military bone in my body. My dad tried hard to convince me to go into ROTC in college. Even though it would have paid most of my way, I wouldn’t have it. Dad was serious about men serving their country. I’m surprised now that he didn’t insist.

But I admire the men and women who did and do serve. I’m always saddened to find military graves in a cemetery, because it reminds me that some gave all.

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Film Photography

single frame: Blue Star Memorial

Military graves at Crown Hill in Indianapolis.

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Under the bridge at Crown Hill

Deer under the bridge at Crown Hill Cemetery
Canon PowerShot S95
2011

I’ve known my friend Debbie longer than anyone I am still in contact with — we met when we were in the fifth grade, in 1977. We’ve passed out of each others’ lives a few times, sometimes for many, many years. But when we reconnect we fall right back into our friendship.

She came to visit one overcast summer day in 2011 and since we both like cemeteries I took her to Crown Hill, the sprawling burial ground in northwest Indianapolis. The cemetery lies on both sides of 38th St., a major east-west artery.

This bridge carries 38th St. over a road that connects the two sides of Crown Hill. I’ll bet most drivers on 38th St. don’t know the bridge is there.

While Debbie and I were looking at grave markers here, she noticed this family of deer headed toward us under the bridge. I was able to bring my camera up to capture them before they ran away.

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Photography

single frame: Deer under the bridge at Crown Hill Cemetery

Deer under the bridge at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis

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Photography

Learning photography lessons with Fuifilm Velvia

Of the twelve images I made on that roll of original Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8/2006 but always stored frozen) at Crown Hill Cemetery, eight were stunning and four had exposure issues. I did what I could in Photoshop to rescue them.

I overexposed this one. Photoshop rescued the trees and sky, but the grave markers were simply too blown out thanks to reflecting sun. I did the best I could with them but I think they just look unnatural. Lesson learned: notice reflected light and consider its effect on the photo.

Herrington

I wanted to see how Velvia handled this tree’s deep, vibrant red. But the sun was off to my left rather than directly behind me, which created some haze in the image I couldn’t Photoshop away. Lesson learned: invest in a lens hood for my 12.

Red tree

Heavy contrast between light and shadow tripped up the Yashica-12 and the Velvia. As I stood at the top of Indianapolis’s highest hill and looked south toward the Indianapolis skyline, such as it is, a cloud partially obscured the sun. The rest of the sky was bright, but the shadowy ground took on a sickly pall. Lesson learned: when using slide film, wait for the sun to come out for even lighting.

Down the lane from Riley's rest

Finally, as I crested this hill on this side lane, Crown Hill opened up before me. I thought it would make a lovely image but I didn’t realize, I guess, how poor the light was right where I was standing. I don’t know much about the Yashica-12’s meter and the Internet isn’t much help. If I had to guess, I’d say it measures the center of the frame. The center of this frame was in the brightly lit distance, so the 12 underexposed the foreground. Lesson learned: meter for the shadows, because with Velvia you can often correct overexposure, but never underexposure, in Photoshop.

Out toward the land

There’s always one more thing to learn in film photography. Especially when shooting Fujifilm Velvia.

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