5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Pentax Spotmatic and Kominar 28mm/3.5 – By Toni Skokovic

January 11, 2018

Sometimes we get pockets of time, and these create adventures, discoveries. On a recent trip to North Carolina, decided to take a detour to a local camera store and see what they had in their “garbage” bins – boxes of as-is film photo gear. I always wanted to do a $100 exercise, walk in and get a full kit and some film for $100 or less, and this was the opportunity.

Clouds I, Raleigh, NC – Ilford FP4

For $55US, I found Pentax Spotmatic with 28mm Kominar lens. It was the focal length of the lens that attracted me to this camera. The weather outside was hot and humid pre-storm weather, so I grabbed two rolls of FP4 and decided to spend about 45 minutes in downtown Raleigh shooting a test roll.

Clouds II, Raleigh, NC, Ilford FP4

Following the lunch at the local pub, I set out into the heat to take photos. Out of the bargain bin, the camera worked. Film was loaded easily, and film advance works quite smoothly. The shooting experience itself was the great.

Crosswalk, Raleigh, NC, Ilford FP4

Spotmatic is a relatively large SLR body, definitely heftier than OM-1 or Nikon FE. It feels more substantial to handle, but by no means awkward. Controls and dials are pure efficiency – very easy and intuitive to operate. Viewfinder is rather spartan, but over the years of shooting film, I have grown accustomed to appreciate this.  Spotmatics do have lightmeter built in, but it was malfunctioning in this particular camera. This, however, did not interfere with the shooting experience.

At the corner, Raleigh, NC, Ilford FP4

Fully mechanical operation is what I like the most about this camera. It fits well in hand and does not get in the way of photography, unlike so many electronic and digital models. With a distinct design, this camera certainly stands out, but what makes it even more attractive is pure raw efficiency it offers to a photographer. Combined with a right film, this is a great utility camera .

Provisions, Raleigh, NC, Ilford FP4

The results were great, at least I am happy with them. A purely indulgent purchase, camera I did not need or think of before. Still, one that is quite a lot of fun to use.

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  • Reply
    JR Smith
    January 13, 2018 at 12:13 am

    Invest in an expensive CLA to get the meter working and you’ll really love the Spotmatic.

    • Reply
      JR Smith
      January 13, 2018 at 12:14 am

      I meant inexpensive. 🙂

      • Reply
        March 2, 2018 at 10:57 am

        Hello – yes – done and love it!

    • Reply
      January 15, 2018 at 4:08 am

      If you’re in the US, Google Eric Hendrickson at Pentaxs.com.
      Reliable, honest, highly skilled and inexpensive.
      And no, he’s not my brother-in-law; I’m just a satisfied customer.

  • Reply
    January 15, 2018 at 6:28 am

    Interesting article, thanks for writing it, along with attaching some sample images. I always enjoy reading information about different cameras along with seeing some pictures to indicate the potential quality of the camera system and lenses.

    Don’t know if the meter on this camera was off, but it seems all your images are under exposed. And not very sharp. Consider using an off camera light meter (as someone suggested), or use the Sunny 16 rule when exposing your shots.

    Also, after scanning these images, did you adjust the contrast using the curves adj in Photoshop? And slightly sharpen? I do that to all my scans regardless, and you’ll find thedarkroom.com does similar tweaking, if you’ve ever sent film to be developed and scanned by them. It makes a difference. I know some people are purists and don’t do anything after scanning, but I personally don’t enjoy seeing hair or dirt or some other object in my picture after post processing.

    Just my two cents, I’m not an expert by a far, still learning like everyone else. Please take it as that. Keep shooting film, it is an enjoyable hobby that never ends, too many cameras to experiment with and not enough hours in the day.

    • Reply
      March 2, 2018 at 10:59 am

      Hello John – thanks. Yes – this was the first roll, and was a bit of trial run for the lens and the camera. I usually tweak the contrast in Lightroom and remove an odd imperfection. Better images followed out of this (isn’t photography always an ongoing adventure), but these imperfect ones are special…

  • Reply
    Chris Pattison
    January 15, 2018 at 8:52 am

    Congratulation on the purchase of your Spotmatic. I have an SV, which has no built in light meter or split prism finder. I love its simplicity and beautiful design; a pleasure to use these Asahi Pentaxes!

  • Reply
    Peter Boorman
    March 1, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Another ‘Happy Memories’ camera for me. The first ‘proper’ camera I was given as a child was a Zenith E, so when I wanted to buy a better body the M42 lens mount persuaded me to go for a Spotmatic. I ended up with three of them which traveled a lot and worked very hard for me: straighforward, intuitive, silky smooth, very reliable and they just FELT good. (Three: one for colour slide, one for BW, and one to keep free in case I suddenly wanted a roll of something else…) The Spotmatics in turn got me into Pentax (ie. Takumar) glass and I found I loved the look.

    Years later I moved on to a Pentax MX, then several LX bodies, then some AF (MZ-3 and the wonderful MZ-s, though the LX remained my favourite) and eventually digital Pentaxes. It was the look the glass gave me and the unfussy handling, plus a tendency to design things a bit smaller than Nikon, that kept me going back to Pentax – and it all started with the Spotmatic.

    • Reply
      March 2, 2018 at 11:00 am

      Very cool story – this camera is a tank. Struggles a bit when it’s cold, but otherwise is a solid workhorse.

  • Reply
    Khürt Louis Williams
    March 27, 2019 at 2:08 am

    I’m stunned by the number of vintage lenses and cameras you find in bins. And cheaply. I’ve looked on eBay. A vintage pentax or helios will be $209.

  • Reply
    Steve Snell
    November 24, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    Loved the photography, particularly the cloud images. I purchased the Spotmatic F this spring and had a CLA done by Camera Solutions in Portland OR. Its produced some of my favorite film images. I appreciate that this was a $100.00 low budget experiment and think you were very successful overall.


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