There have been many, many column inches, blogs, Instagram posts in praise of this camera. And there have been many people who have owned and loved this camera.
So whilst it may not be an original place to start our new series of mini-blogs on our favourite SLRs, the truth is it really is one of our favourites, and it’s the camera that started us on our journey into the wonderful world of film.
The Spotmatic was born in 1964. It was largely modelled on Pentax’s previous SLRs….but with one huge difference.
It was the first SLR to hit the market with through the lens metering (We’ve written about that important piece of history previously and why it was so important…). This is probably the main factor in the Spotmatic’s enduring success and legacy – if you were looking to buy a SLR camera in the early 1960s for serious use, you had to try damn hard to find a reason to buy anything other than a Spotmatic and its TTL metering!
Aside from its revolutionary metering system – the basis for all metering systems to this day – it was a pretty high-spec camera. The ISO range was as low as 20(!) and as high as 1600 and the self timer would fire between 5 and 13 seconds after it was set. You had shutter speeds all the way up to 1/1000s too, which wasn’t always the case with these early cameras.
The viewfinder was large and bright, and the needle metering made it super easy to use. You could turn the metering off easily with a switch on the side of the body too, meaning the battery wouldn’t drain, or you wouldn’t accidentally leave the metering on by, for instance, preparing the wind on lever and forgetting.
It also allowed for “stop down” metering. In other words, providing you had the right type of lens you could set a narrow aperture without darkening the image through the viewfinder. Instead the aperture blades on your lens would remain wide open at all times, to allow you to see your image clearly and focus properly, and they would only close to the desired aperture at the moment you fired the shutter to take the image.
Personally we think it’s a gem to look at too. The styling on the front still looks sharp to this day and it has a very uncluttered design generally – In fact, one of our favourite models, the Spotmatic 500, ditches the self-timer all together, which makes the design even more minimalist and pleasing to the eye:
It was surprisingly light for a camera of the time. If you’ve always fancied a fully manual 1960s film camera but have been put off by the perception they’re all super heavy, then this could be the one for you.
The Spotmatic was such a success that Pentax didn’t bother making another camera for another ten years! Instead they just kept re-launching the Spotmatic with either minor tweaks to the design, or by adding new features as technology improved. The 2nd and 3rd generation of Spotmatics increased the ISO range to 3200 for instance, and made using a flash easier too.
The great thing was, not one of them was anything less than an amazing camera; doesn’t matter if you go for a Spotmatic 500 at a bargain price, or a Spotmatic F, with its auto aperture metering, you’ll be getting a gem of a camera that will be a perfect introduction to 35mm film photography.
Don’t take our word for it – get one, and see for yourself - we have a Pentax Spotmatic, our 'Cult Classic' available right here.