History Makers: Pentax Electro Spotmatic – Aperture priority is born…..1971

I know what you’re thinking; are these all going to be Pentax cameras?! Well no, they’re not, but the fact the first 3 are all Pentax tells you just what a trailblazing brand they were, particularly back in the early days of SLR photography. But that’s a whole other article…..


In the 1960s, all SLR cameras were fully manual – the user was in charge of everything the camera did, or didn’t do. The Electro Spotmatic (or “ES” as its often badged) introduced Aperture Priority Mode. This enabled the user to simply decide what aperture they wanted to use, and the camera selected the shutter speed needed to get the right exposure.


(read our article about the different camera modes here)


The revolutionary steps didn’t stop there though – this camera had the world’s first electronic, rather than mechanical, shutter. Now there’s much debate over which is better, but it was a first nonetheless!


What it did mean was that the shutter could be “stepless”. Mechanical shutters had to work at fixed, and rather limited, speeds, typically 1/60th of a second, 1/125th, then 1/250th and so on. With the Electro Spotmatic, if you needed 1/185th of a second to get the right exposure, that’s what you would get! This made it so much easier to get correctly exposed photographs.


So not one, but three revolutionary steps, all in one fantastically built camera!


It really does have a claim to be one of the greatest SLR cameras of all time. If the thought of having a fully manual Spotmatic is a bit daunting, and you’d like to have aperture priority mode to

fall back on, this could be the camera for you. It also comes in black as standard, whereas previous Spotmatics were made in chrome, with the black bodies being limited edition, and therefore rarer and more expensive today. So if black bodies float your boat, that’s an added plus too.

In today’s ‘real money’ terms this camera cost around £1,000 on its release in 1971. Just shows what a bargain they are today for those looking to make a start on their journey into film.

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