This piece is taken from Classic Camera Magazine
number 10, and is provided to try to demonstrate the style of the magazine.
Note that the magazine article is illustrated, but in order to keep download
times to a minimum, I have omitted the illustrations from this version.
All back issues of Classic Camera Magazine are available;
see the main Classic Camera Magazine page for
Asahi Pentax must be credited with using one of the camera
world's most enduring advertising slogans - "Just hold an Asahi Pentax".
That slogan was used for the camera which it usually seems to bring to
mind - the Spotmatic.
Introduced in 1964, the Spotmatic did not offer spot-metering,
although the prototype which had been exhibited at the 1960 Photokina
did; when the camera specification changed, the name did not. Instead,
the Spotmatic offers full-frame through-the-lens metering with the CdS
cells in the pentaprism taking a reading from the ground glass screen.
This, according to later Pentax advertisements, was the first s.l.r.
camera to offer through-the-lens metering.
The on/off switch is on the left side of the mirror
housing. When the switch is pressed down, the meter is switched on and
the lens is stopped down to the selected aperture. A pointer in the
viewfinder indicates correct, under, or over exposure. Aperture or shutter
speed can be adjusted to give a correct reading. When the exposure is
made, the meter is automatically switched off. The camera offers an
instant-return mirror, self timer, microprism range-finder, and shutter
speeds from 1 sec. to 1/1000 sec. and B. The film sensitivity range
is from 20 to 1600 ASA. Flash synchronisation is provided for electronic
flash or class FP bulbs, by two standard 3 mm. coaxial sockets on the
camera front. (picture)
In a 1967 catalogue the camera is offered with a choice
from two Super Takumar lenses: with the f/1.4 it cost £149 10s.
0d. and with the f/1.8 the price was £119 13s. 0d. However, the
warning message of the time was that these prices applied to existing
stocks only, as the pound had been devalued. In a 1968 catalogue, the
price had risen to £186 0s. 7d. for the f/1.4, and £156 16s.
10d. for the f/1.8.
In 1969, the motor drive version was introduced. The
camera was similar to the Spotmatic, but featured a motor drive and
pistol grip. The motor drive runs at three frames per second, and the
film transport and mirror mechanism had to be modified to cope with
the extra work. The 36-exposure back could be removed and a 250-exposure
magazine could be fitted. The motor drive fits to the camera baseplate
and the pistol grip holds the batteries. An extension cable was supplied
to allow the pistol grip to function as a remote release, and, with
additional power packs, Asahi claimed that the camera could be operated
up to 20,000 feet away. When the film counter reaches zero, the motor
stops, to prevent the film from being pulled out of the cassette.
The basic motor drive unit consisted of a camera, motor
drive, pistol grip, battery loader, battery checker, and 1 metre power
cord, and cost £497 14s. 7d. To convert this to the 250-exposure
version involved further expense. The additional items - bulk film magazine,
camera back, feed- and take-up spools, and counter link - cost £132
By 1971, Asahi were listing the improvements made to
the Spotmatic. Some of these, like the changes made to the mirror mechanism,
probably derive from the development of the motor drive camera; others,
like Teflon coating to reduce friction, were the result of new technology.
Also in 1971, the Spotmatic 500 and Spotmatic II made
their appearance. The Spotmatic 500 was a cheaper Spotmatic, offered
with a 55 mm. f/2 Super Takumar and costing £119.86. The camera
shutter has a top speed of 1/500 sec. and the camera has no delayed
action release. When compared with other cameras in the Pentax range,
the Spotmatic 500 seems cheap at its price.
The Spotmatic II features all of the improvements on
the Spotmatic, and in addition has a new take-up spool, a restyled delayed-action
release with variable delay from 5 to 13 seconds, and a new design of
film type indicator. The film sensitivity range for the metering system
is extended to 3200 ASA, and there is a built-in accessory shoe with
a "hot shoe" flash contact, with synchronisation adjustable to FP or
X by means of a ring switch under the rewind knob. The lenses were inscribed
"Super Multi-Coated Takumar", and the advertisements proudly stated
that the lens coating was "used originally on space-craft windows".
This coating was claimed to reflect ultra-violet light, thus making
UV filters unneccessary. What the advertisements did not say, was that
the Super Multi-Coated lenses had provision for full-aperture metering,
so that they could be used on the yet-to-be-announced Spotmatic F! Supplied
with a 50 mm. f/1.4 lens, the camera cost £171.32, and with a 55
mm. f/1.8, the price was £152.26. The Spotmatic was still available,
at around £145 with the f/1.8 lens, or £171 with the f/1.4.
In early 1974 the Spotmatic 1000 was introduced. This
camera is similar to the Spotmatic 500, but as the name implies it offers
a top shutter speed of 1/1000 sec. (picture).
Also introduced in early 1974, was what is probably
the best-loved Spotmatic of all, the Spotmatic F. This is a similar
camera to the Spotmatic II, but with the valuable additional feature
of metering at full aperture, as well as in stop-down mode. The Spotmatic
F's metering system is operational as soon as the lens cap is removed.
In 1976, this camera, with the 50 mm. f/1.4 lens, cost about £165,
and with the 55 mm. f/1.8, about £145.
Further improvements were made to the Spotmatic range,
notably the switch from the 42 mm. screw to Pentax bayonet mount for
the lenses, a change made in 1975. The camera is still available new
in this form at the present time, designated the Pentax K1000, and priced
at about £156. However, it is the screw-mount versions and their
superb Takumar lenses, which inspire copious quantities of affection
and nostalgia. Maybe there is more to the slogan than meets the eye
- just hold an Asahi Pentax . . . and it will get hold of you!
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