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May 2010. Stephanie died peacefully on 19th April after a short stay in hospital. She had been suffering from acute cervical cancer. Fred will continue to run the business to the best of his ability. The web site is slowly getting under control again as he tries to take over some of Stephanie's responsibilities, and learns some of the mysteries of Dreamweaver.

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic Cameras

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 details.

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 9s. 10d.

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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