Film Spotmatic, too good, too common to be interesting?

BenG

Regular
The Pentax Spotmatic is a camera that is easy to find as many were made over a long time, is more reliable than other cameras from the 60s/70s, and can often be found for pocket-change. If you find an old one chances are it's shutter will work great, even the one-second speed, even though it has never been serviced. The camera and it's lenses will take photos the quality of which will not be better than those from any other 35mm camera there is.

Yesterday I found another one at a local thrift shop, probably made around 1971, with an extra zoom lens, in excellent condition with it's original case for $10, and at that price I was barely interested because I already had a few at home and many lenses for them, I have had others in the past and given them away or sold them, and I will probably keep running across them. I have run my share of film through them over the years and the images from their standard 50mm takumar lenses can be stunning.

And that is why I am guessing there is very little buzz about these cameras in general, there is nothing to say about them, they are not rare, not valuable, they have no problems to solve and no mysteries to discuss, nor are they fashionable or trendy among film shooters or camera collectors that have been in the game more than a short while.

So I bought another one anyway and I am glad I did because the thrift shop it came from is in a bad part of town and has a reputation of cleaning out it's stock that does not sell into it's trash dumpster. Some of the cameras there have been sitting there since last summer or before and may be on that death row.

Over the years I have found some pretty nice Takumar lenses, some of the faster ones like the f2 35mm, a fast portrait lens and lots of accessories, which if they said Nikon, Leica etc. I would probably not have found or been able to afford. Once at an estate sale there was one of the old 50mm Takumars with the alleged yellow radioactive glass that collectors like, it was the end of the sale, half-price day and the hosts just wanted to get rid of stuff. Nobody had wanted the lens, it just sat there in plain site all weekend, I got it for $2.

So for those interested in 35mmphotography and are willing and able to do it without participating in the fashionable and trendy, they are in the enviable position of being able to have some of the very best equipment ever manufactured for it at relatively no cost.

I have given away more than one Pentax SLR away to acquaintances whom wanted to try film photography, another good reason to pick up good old cameras when they pop up for little or nothing.

So that's it, I did not see much here about one of the greatest SLRs every sold, so here it is, maybe people can put up something about their Spotmatics or some photos they shot with them.

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I bought a Spotmatic with 50mm f1.4 lens at a local thrift store for $12 several years ago. When I got home, I looked the lens over, turns out that it is the elusive 8 element version. You never know when you might get lucky. ;-)
 
I had to check the date of the original post to make sure it wasn't from years ago. I seldom see Spotmatics and when I do they are in poor condition and definitely more than $10.
I did too before I made my response ;) I have been trolling ebay for a Spotmatic F lately. I did find one recently that is listed as working perfectly but it looks like it got put in a rock tumbler for a week. I'm not a big cosmetics person so for $40 I may still bite unless the OP wants to get me that $10 wonder ;)
 
I like the m42 Pentax cameras. They have nice lenses & solid construction + will work without a battery. I've got a couple and will keep an eye out for nice versions.
I do wonder if some of the problematic nature of the early Pentax cameras (& its not exclusive to Pentax) as desirable objects -
  • Dented viewfinder prism - often a lovely body but the viewfinder has an unsightly ding (it'll work fine but just doesn't look very nice)
  • Crappy zooms giving cameras in the 60's - 80's a bad rap (if thats what someone picks up with a body today)
  • Horrible leather cases/felt-lining which seem purpose built to foster mould/fungus
 
I bought a Spotmatic with 50mm f1.4 lens at a local thrift store for $12 several years ago. When I got home, I looked the lens over, turns out that it is the elusive 8 element version. You never know when you might get lucky. ;-)

Lucky in one way, unlucky in another. Collectors go for the 8-element version because it was just sold the first two years of production, photographers would want the 7-element as it was better optically.
 
One thing good about the Spotmatic is that the electronics of the light meter are supposed to be forgiving of what battery is used in them, a certain modern battery is supposed to fit right in and work perfectly, but I do not know the specifics as I never used meters much, my first 35mm camera which I used a lot did not have a working meter so I got very, very good, indoors or out, at remembering what apertures and speeds worked well.

In my area of the country, I have noticed a lot of old cameras that seem to have spent most of their lives in sock-drawers, which applies to three spotmatics I have had and many other cameras, a lot of people bought cameras back after WWII or got them for gifts and did not use them much.

Like all old objects the history of a camera is written in it's wear and scars, it is nice to find mint cameras, but it is just as interesting to me to find an old photographer's kit, a bag with a camera, lenses and notebook with recorded apertures, shutter speeds and conditions rolls of film were shot at, pieces of paper and odd little things they kept with them, I have a few of those time-capsules saved.
 
A free-hand existing light shot at a music show in my town several years ago, shot with the 35mm f2 wide-angle Takumar found at a Goodwill shop with it's Spotmatic and three other lenses for $7, so why waste your time and money participating in the Leica fashion-trend etc.... ?

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Lucky in one way, unlucky in another. Collectors go for the 8-element version because it was just sold the first two years of production, photographers would want the 7-element as it was better optically.
The 7 element IS the better lens, most people think I’m crazy when I say that. Better wide open, about the same when you stop the lenses down a bit.
 
Here are a couple of old Takumars. Sold them a while ago. Kinda wish I hadn't...

I've got the Macro, I doubt if I will ever run across any super-wide Takumars . I am really happy I found a couple of the 35mm though as that is my favorite length lens for 35mm photograpy, I often thought it should have been the standard lens sold with cameras instead of the 50mm.
 
If you really want to go with a Spotmatic, I'd suggest the Spotmatic F as it's the most recent and the most versatile. It has an on-off switch for the meter, can do open aperture metering with SMC lenses and is all around the best of the breed. While it was designed for mercury batteries, it has a bridge circuit so Silver Oxide are just fine in it.

That's the one I've been considering getting though I do have a nice non metered H1a that keeps me from being too serious about it.
 
This thread got me to open a camera bag I received a few years ago. Inside was Spotmatic 2 with a 50 mm lens, 24mm, and a 135mm with a doubler. They brought back film memories to me. I looked on line for information. They said it was good to exercise the camera. It felt nice and stable in my hands, the sound of the shutter was pleasant as I focused the camera and fired shots until after about a dozen the mirror stuck in the up position. I then read that this was a common problem with older Spotmatics, and my memories of developing B&W film and printing, I still have an enlarger and other equipment, but the return to film seemed almost impossible.
 
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