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Wednesday, 11 December 2019

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The clean classic lines of a Spotmatic will be forever appreciated- look at that self timer lever alone! Although I must admit, I tossed in the towel on mine one bitterly cold January day in the '70s when attempting to change lenses, all my rigid, near frozen fingers could manage was to make the lens go round and round and round in an endless dance to attach the dang thing! Made up my mind right there and then to get a Nikkormat.

I’m surprised you haven’t adapted your Super Tak to your X-H1. They were made for each other!

And that beautiful console probably did not have a remote either, unless it had one of the ultrasonic ones.

Back in the transition days I got a digital tuner for my analog TV, so I could actually use this. 8^)

As someone that regularly shoots with a Pentax MX and Spotmatic, I agree completely with what you describe (no Fujifilm though, no that I wouldn't like one)

I like mid century modern things. I AM a mid century modern thing. But I'm not so hot on the Pentax. A Spotmatic was my first camera in college. It was so so basic, a "Panda version." (I hate that term. What, is it on the store shelf right next to the Hello Kitty version?) But that's not why I hated it. It was a reliable camera, with a 50/1.8 lens and all was well made.

But the problem was all the shots I missed when I changed lenses. It takes about 4382 turns to get a lens off and on a body. Traded for a Nikon F, all black and just as reliable, with a fast lens change.

A Pentax Spotmatic was the first 35mm camera I ever used. I borrowed it from a friend who had borrowed it from another friend. Unfortunately I've never owned one. And today I wouldn't really ever use a film camera again or I would buy one.

That home entertainment center brought back memories. My mother bought one of those about the time I graduated high school. I think it was an RCA but it might have been a Zenith. Although it looked like it had huge speakers for the stereo, they were actually tiny. It was furniture, not a real stereo system. Color TV was pretty new at the time. There wasn't a lot of programming in color so most of what we watched was in B&W. If I am recalling it correctly, my mother wanted a color TV so she could watch "Bonanza", one of the few programs broadcast in color. She was a big fan of that series.

Using my Spotmatic(my second, I had loaned the first away and the body came a rear cap for the 50 SUper-Tak I wanted), I'm always reminded that as simple as it is, it's very much the Ur-Camera, even more so than a Leica. The meter isn't great, but learn on a Spotmatic and every camera that follows is familiar.

I very much love the 50 1.4 - small, brilliantly made, and makes the viewfind(Optical or Electronic) pop.

The MX was my first camera.
Its only flaw was a noisy shutter.

I've always had a soft spot for Pentax. My first SLR was a Pentax (I think a Super Program). I left Pentax behind for a while when I dove into medium and then large format film. When I switched into digital with a Sony A7 camera, I soon ended up with Pentax 645 lenses on a tilt-shift adapter. I also had a lot of lovely Takumars (50mm, 55mm, 135mm, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm). The focus mechanism was truly superb on those old Taks, and they did OK on a modern digital camera (except for the 28mm and 24mm, which just didn't cut it).

And here I am again using Pentax 645 lenses on my Fuji 50R -- the same 35mm f/3.5 and 45-85mm f/4.5 that I've once before, along with a tubby little Pentax 67 45mm.

I'm not sure exactly what keeps bringing me back to Pentax. But I also like Honda Civics... Maybe it's that high quality, no nonsense, good to use thing both have going on.

According to this site, the Spotmatic F had 93% viewfinder coverage.
http://www.adeptbg.com/RKOVODSTVA/Drugi/Pentax%20Spotmatic%20F.pdf

[Excellent! Good find Jeff, thanks. --Mike]

100% viewfinders were -5 years in the future in 1964—the earliest one I can find is on the Nikon F in 1959.

Not that I care the slightest bit about 100% viewfinders. When shooting slides you got a different effective frame than when shooting film. When printing in the darkroom you couldn't print to the edge of the frame anyway (except with modified negative carriers, a fetish I avoided), and most important -- real-world pictures aren't rigidly 6x9 proportion anyway.

Ah yes, the Spotmatic. I have such fond memories of that camera. See this little sequence: http://www.marquis-kyle.com.au/trip01.htm

So get a M42->fujifilm-X adapter from ebay and try it on the XH-1. A bit of flare, but pretty good.

I use my 50-60+ vintage lenses of all flavours on my XE3/XT20 and its fun, and rescues this beautiful glass from the display shelf.

I note that Leica specifically mentions that its senors are good with oblique light... i.e you can use old M lenses.

Adapters are fun :)

The multi-layer coating process for the Super Multi-coated Takumar (SMCT) lenses actually originated in the Optical Coating Laboratories, Inc. (OCLI) in Santa Rosa, CA from work done for the Air Force. OCLI licensed Asahi exclusively to use the process for camera lenses (for an undisclosed price).

Keppler wrote a very thorough article in Modern Photography (June 1971) about the battle between Asahi and Nikon over the number of coatings that were required to claim a lens was multi-coated. OCLI indicated there were more than 10 thin-film layers for some of their applications but neither they nor Asahi disclosed details of the process for Takumar lenses. Nikon was apparently using 3 anti-reflection coatings on some of their lenses. Zeiss entered the game later according to Keppler.

As a fan of Mid-Century Modern architecture in all it's forms, I've had my eye out for an "entertainment center" just like that. Think of the possibilities ...
Step 1 - gut the electronics
Step 2 - indulge your current audio preferences while preserving the aesthetic.
I have my ideas there and I'm sure each of us would do it differently. Sounds like fun to me.

Love those old consoles. Still see the odd one sitting on a curb. That one looks ready to party, doesn't it? All it needs is an Atari 2600 and a stack of vinyl.

My dad had that camera when I was a kid. He’s 94 next month and still uses a Pentax camera.

In 1976 I was a student employee of the USGS, serving as a field assistant on a project on Kodiak Island, Alaska, working from a ship, taking open boats onto the beaches and coves of the island to do field work. I was issued a Spotmatic with a meter (thank goodness) for the summer. In five days all the fancy and expensive SLRs (N...n, mostly) were dead from getting wet or being dropped in the ocean. That Spotmatic served with flying colors throughout the summer. Still have the slides, though I was never lucky enough to see a Kodiak bear.

Is almost certain this photo was taken with that combo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/schralp/38788153/in/dateposted/

Now you make me want to fix up my Pentax H1a (your camera's predecessor) and go shooting with some Tri-X and its 50/1.4 "Super-Multi-Coated" Takumar lens. I picked that camera out of a dumpster maybe ten years ago; it was likely unused for decades before I saved it. But perhaps I can use it as a Leica substitute; a simple, nice-handling camera (with a fine lens) is a very good thing to have. -Or was that your original point?

Hi Mike,
I hope you can open this "great" image, it is of my first camera, a Pentax S3 and a 55 mm Auto Takumar lens. Both were purchased in 1962 while stationed in Northern Japan with the U. S. Air Force. We had a darkroom on the base and I was given instructions on developing, contact printing and enlarging. I was 19 when I made that purchase and it proved to be my entry into photography. Since then I've worked as both a professional photographer and cinematographer. I'm 76 now and have been retired for awhile but continue with my love of photography. To that end, I recently scaled down from a Pentax K-5 and three Sigma lenses to a much lighter Sony a6000 with two lenses. Thanks for bringing back some fond memories Oh yeah, the "great" photo was taken with my iPad.
Phil K.
/Users/philkrzeminski/Desktop/IMG_1365.JPG

The Spotmatic is close to my heart as the camera I grew up with and learnt on. My father purchased his SPII some time in the 70s and it was a permanent fixture through our lives; every holiday, every school sports day and recital, family gatherings, camping trips. The leather cover has a smell that I cannot find anywhere else.

It has been through a couple of services, and certainly has not had as much use since dad bought his digital SLR at some point in the 2000s. But family photographs taken on the Spotmatic seem more real, more tangible than the album photographs A.D. (after digital).

Even now it brings me joy to pick up and shoot.

I was still in school when I first saw another kid use the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic. I remember his camera well because he screws on his lens when others were bayoneting.

Another reason I remember his Pentax was the number of contest winning pictures he bagged. On account of that I nearly wanted to buy a Pentax instead of a Nikkormat. But Nikkormat won the day because big brother Nikon FTn was famous in 'Nam.

I still own one of my late father's prized possessions: a Maganavox home entertainment console from the late '40s-early '50s. It's a stately, upright construction of mahogany (or cherry?). It looks of another age from the later, sleeker console you depicted, showing the fast changes in styles in that decade. My mother said it originally cost a thousand dollars.

Long ago I gutted the TV tube and tube radio and amp, along with its primitive turntable. Now it has plenty of space behind the front bifold doors to hold a different generation of obsolete equipment: a Rotel tuner and a Denon CD changer plus a Dynaco PAS-4 preamp. On top sits the Dynaco Stereo 70 amp, beside a Denon turntable. It's the height of mid-fi, circa fifty years following the time of the original console. But it's a lovely hunk of hardwood furniture, and it perfectly suits the purpose- and perfectly fits the alcove off the stairway landing where it is situated. You might call it one of my most prized possessions, too.

Ah, the days of technology as furniture, like the big old telly we had back in the day with doors on the front you could close during the many hours of the day there was no TV on any of the three channels we had back then in the UK.

Still, I'm sure some enterprising craftsperson could take an old TV like that, replace the tube with a modern flatscreen TV and wire up a raspberry pi to the speakers for airplay and spotify.

All of which would be a dang sight easier than turning an old Spotmatic to modern digital spec.

On topic rather, I've got an old Spotmatic F I really ought to use more. It's a lovely camera from a design viewpoint, and looks like it just came off the shop shelves. It's so simple to use!

There’s an interesting article about SLR viewfinder coverage from 2009 by some guy called Mike Johnston. I can’t vouch for its credibility ;-)
https://luminous-landscape.com/understanding-viewfinders/

If you like to play with lenses, an M42 body is a must. You can use adapters to mount M42 lenses on other cameras, like Micro Four Thirds, but if you want to use them the way they were intended to be used, taking advantage of the automatic aperture, get a body.

There are so many M42 lenses to explore!

The TV dates to about 1966. My family had one with the same TV innards and "mask" (the plastic face around the screen plus the controls on the right) but a differently styled cabinet (minus the phono and radio). My dad bought it in 1966.

Also: one of my most favorite cameras of all time is the Spotmatic F that I own. It came from the collection of a Pentax salesman from that period, and was used only as a demonstrator. It came with the 55/1.8 S-M-C Takumar that was the common kit lens at the time. Before it came to me it went to Eric Hendrickson for a CLA. So I have, and thoroughly enjoy, an essentially new Spotmatic F.

There's a decent light meter app for the iPhone called "Pocket Light Meter". I've used it a couple of times with good results. One less thing to carry when occasionally using a manual camera.

As a kid we had one of those consoles with TV, though ours was Curtis Mathis. At the time that was a top brand; Dad never wanted to buy "cheap junk."

I occasionally look for a smallish MCM (mid-century modern) console that I could repurpose as a very sturdy support for my audio gear. They are generally (always?) made from high quality hardwoods and any out-of-date changer/turntable and solid state gear can be pulled and resold or donated. Some of the better changers are actually somewhat desirable if given a good CLA and replacement of parts as necessary.

Generally I look for consoles that were "hi-fi" only, I.e. no TV. Dealing with a big gaping space means more modification.

You likely know this already. Those entertainment centers really sound quite good, many have tube innards. We had one for a long time in a Thrift Store that my organization ran, and we had it on always during our open hours. People tried to buy it daily. Also, I know guys who buy them for the tube amps and remake them into inexpensive stand alone tube amps. I've heard some and they do sound great for a couple of hundred dollars.-and I have a $5000 integrated tube amp currently to compare them to. They are very cool looking as well.

My first SLR was an Ashai Pentax Spotmatic purchased in Hong Kong by the friend of a friend in 1968 right after our first child was born. It had match-needle metering and was my first serious camera. The "kit" lens was a Takumar 50mm f1.8, to which I added a Vivitar 135mm f3.5 soon after. This was the rig I used to document the children's early years until l was lured away briefly by the Nikormat EL only to downsize to an Olympus OM-1 in the mid '70s. (I'm still with Olympus to this day).

The Spotmatic and Vivitar combination gave me some of the most saturated and pleasing images I have ever taken. The prints in our family album still really stand out even after all these years. So maybe technology has NOT moved the needle in this regard as we think.

It probably isn't dangerous, but remember that the Pentax standard lens of f/1.8 and lower from that era have Thorium in the glass and are radioactive.From what I've found with a geiger counter, most of the radiation comes from the rear element.

Mike,

What a treat to read about the old TV and old camera!

I still find it astounding that fine furniture-quality cabinets were supplied with each television back in the day. The woodwork alone had to cost a pretty penny.

I assume your SL has the standard focusing screen. Those work very well in dim settings, as there is no split in the screen to go dark as with most "split image" focusing screens.

"a reader had claimed that the Super-Multi-Coated Takumar was the smoothest-focusing lens he had ever experienced, smoother than a Leica lens."

I can attest to the smooth focusing of the lenses. I had a chance to buy what the photo shop owner thought was an old Pentax zoom lens. Unfortunately, it was a prime 135mm lens, instead of the very expensive 75-150 zoom (like this: http://whitemetal.com/pentax/stz_70~150_45/index.htm ). I didn't like the way my old 105mm lens would flare if you shot wide open with a bright background behind your subject (I know, stressing the lens). I passed on the 135mm lens, but it focused so smoothly that I insisted the camera shop salesmen try it.

You'll appreciate the freedom from batteries. And here's a link in case you have some non-sunny conditions under which you're shooting (not that you can't find one yourself, but this is small and easy to carry in your pocket): http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm#Light%20Intensity%20Chart

(You also won't have to worry about old electronic parts failing!)

You should be able to find a decent external Pentax light meter like this one, if desired: http://whitemetal.com/pentax/ap_ccem/DSC03854.JPG

Pentax devised a foolproof way of synchronizing the SL light meter via the notch in the shutter speed dial and the film speed dial on the side of the meter's shutter speed "extension piece" that directly adjusted the shutter speed dial of the camera. Photo of film speed dial settings: http://whitemetal.com/pentax/ap_ccem/DSC03852.JPG

You'll want to avail yourself of Eric H. if you need light seals or mirror foam replaced: https://pentaxs.com/ . (He also works on lenses.)

The SL is not the quickest camera to use if you're switching lenses all the time. But, as a news photographer told me, "Those things are built like tanks."

Many good photos have been taken by cameras like the SL. No need to line up focusing spots or light metering areas. Just know the exposure needed and take the photo!

[Mike; feel free to exclude the links if necessary.]

I've been carrying my Canon 7 again and it's selenium meter is long dead not that it was worth using to begin with. (It does make me all the more tempted to find a Canon P to avoid the dead weight)

Instead of a VC or other meter, I do try to use Mk I eyeball to guess exposure during the day but I have a very nice Free app on my android phone for when I want to meter. It does both reflected and incident readings and so far has been a delight to use. It doesn't hurt that it is laid out on the screen just like an old classic meter - very similar to a Luna-Pro class meter. Since we're always hauling a phone around, it's nice to make it even more useful.

I am happy you’re shooting both digital and film! It would be neat to compare B&W results of the same or similar scene... Your experience straddles two major technologies and your many comments are sometimes valid for both without considering their obvious technical differences.

We have a late-mid-century console in our garage, sans TV; my parents owned it in the late '60s and it has an early-model casette recorder. Somewhere we still have the tape where Walter Cronkite narrates the Apollo 11 landing, though no doubt it would crumble to dust if inserted into a player. As I recall, Aldrin's "magnificent desolation" comment is at the very end of the recording.

Just the fact that you felt compelled to explain what a "record changer" was and how it worked (nicely done) makes me feel old.

I purchased a Spotmatic in 1962. It was joy to use, and I had it until 1994. The Spotmatic replaced an Leica IIIF that I purchased used in 1958 for $65. I loved the Leica but made the mistake of lending it to my brother who wanted a camera to take to Paris for his study year abroad in 1961-62. Upon his arrival, he promptly traded it for what he was told was a 14th century map of Europe. He later traded the map for what he was told were an unsigned Picasso print and an unsigned Modigliani print. Experts who examined them at the Art Institute of Chicago could not verify either as authentic. But my brother later learned that the map probably was. I still have the Picasso.

I hate to pick nits but saying a Mid-Century Modern house is “aka a 1950s ranch house” isn’t quite accurate. While the two styles share some broad design similarities, there are a number of distinct cues in MCMs that aren’t usually present in ranch houses. These include (but aren’t limited to) shallow peak roofs with generous overhangs, lots of large windows, open floor plans, vaulted ceilings, enclosed patio spaces for outdoor living.

The Mid-Century Modern design language is enjoying something of a resurgence in the US today. There are a number of companies selling reproduction furniture, and you can even still buy a few iconic originals from that era that are still made (the Eames recliners being one of the most recognizable.)

There are some interesting books about the evolution of the MCM concept:

https://smile.amazon.com/William-Krisels-Palm-Springs-Modernism/dp/1423642325/ref=sr_1_38?crid=HRZITNG1MC4J&keywords=mid-century+modern&qid=1576179278&sprefix=mid-century%2Caps%2C201&sr=8-38

https://smile.amazon.com/Eames-Visual-Mid-Century-Modern-Design/dp/1925811018/ref=pd_sbs_14_6/146-5650396-0587840?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=1925811018&pd_rd_r=04201b66-32e9-443b-8288-c1f52a797133&pd_rd_w=4yWi8&pd_rd_wg=aDE90&pf_rd_p=5873ae95-9063-4a23-9b7e-eafa738c2269&pf_rd_r=BK973QSCBPE0VMF4G3EK&psc=1&refRID=BK973QSCBPE0VMF4G3EK

https://smile.amazon.com/Mid-Century-Modern-Graphic-Design-Inglis/dp/1849944822/ref=sr_1_17?crid=HRZITNG1MC4J&keywords=mid-century+modern&qid=1576179278&sprefix=mid-century%2Caps%2C201&sr=8-17

And making a photography connection, the work of renown West Coast architecture photographer Julius Shulman provides a fantastic look at many fine examples of Mid-Century Modern buildings:

https://smile.amazon.com/Julius-Shulman-Springs-Michael-Stern/dp/0847831132/ref=sr_1_1?crid=239X3X90KOEB2&keywords=julius+shulman+palm+springs&qid=1576179822&sprefix=julius+shipman%2Caps%2C203&sr=8-1

https://smile.amazon.com/Julius-Shulman-Los-Angeles-Metropolis/dp/0847847640/ref=pd_sbs_14_4/146-5650396-0587840?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0847847640&pd_rd_r=32349078-b2b4-4ec3-ac6b-17cdb834077a&pd_rd_w=xf4Fe&pd_rd_wg=KBeK4&pf_rd_p=5873ae95-9063-4a23-9b7e-eafa738c2269&pf_rd_r=VVZXV22R63ACD1TQ5YNS&psc=1&refRID=VVZXV22R63ACD1TQ5YNS

That RCA entertainment console is indeed beautiful. Yes, those legs especially. Well, it’s for the mid-century loungeroom, after all.

The original Spotmatic has the most shapely pentaprism in existence. Its long narrow rake rearward isn’t compromised by having to accomodate a hotshoe.

As you point out, the 1976 MX is a better camera for actual use these days. It was the last and most evolved mechanical Pentax, the high point of Pentax use-ability and design. When my first pair became too ragged from use, the best replacement I could find was another pair. The viewfinder, with its unique circular indicator for shutter speed and precise half-stop indicator for the meter is a genius design.

Hi Mike, my mother in law had one of those entertainment consoles. In later years she surmised that no one in their right mind would, or possible could, steal such a thing. She used to hide her 'emergency cash' in it! A bank in plain sight!

My uncle made his own entertainment console in the late 1950s, by cutting up my grandmother’s mahogany sideboard. (Not sure how he got away with that, actually...) His console left the central cabinet space intact, for record storage, rather than a TV, but the design was otherwise quite similar. Until you posted this, I’d never known that was a commercially available item!

I don't know about other photographers, but I love to photograph tree service workers at work and do so whenever I can:

Check this website for this store in Lynchburg VA
https://www.galaxiemodern.com/

Enjoy
wbill

The SL and the Spotmatic are wonderful photographic machines. And as you have noted in several blog articles, the Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lens was a masterpiece - and still is. But they are not technologically outdated. Load some TMax 100, Ektar 100, or Ilford Delta 100, and you can record photons with the culmination of over a century of R&D, industrial innovation, and brilliant engineering. And the resulting photographs are fantastic. They look like photographs.

Mike, when you want to write a spot about Russian/Ukranian cameras, I have some Hartblei equip. that some might find interesting.

As regards how the Spotmatic/probably any Pentax from the 1960's feels today, I would suggest it is a revelation how nice it feels/works. I have 2 Pentax Spotmatics and an Alpa 9D all from 1964 as I recall, and the Alpa is essentialy unusable, while the Spotmatic in some ways is nicer the current DSLRS and in some ways a bit less so: overall a satisfying camera (and even more so the lenses) to use.

The Alpa 50 mm f/1.8 (Kern) Macro Switar is also almost unusable mechanically, while Pentax lenses from then are better than anything even made today. But here I am not talking about the lens image qualities, as my memory/photos from then show this Alpa lens to be perhaps the best 50 mm I personally/extensively used. Not that the Pentax 50 mm isn't good, but my experience was mostly with the Nikons' 50 mm f/1.4 and 55 mm f/3.5, and the Alpa 50 mm--but memory and comparisons of dissimilar images are fraught w/ difficulty. Perhaps it is more a case of "the halo effect."**
_____
** The halo effect [a term AFAIK from management] actually is likely the best criterion for rating/using yours lenses. If you have enormous confidence in the lens you and it will do best.

The TV is c. 1965. I remember the era well. I have also seen an RCA ad for a set with a virtually identical cabinet (slightly different speaker grilles) which was dated 1965.

spotmatic fan here too, and currently using MX with the K 55mm/2.0 :-)

with the spotmatic, i now use "modern" alkaline cells under a voltage converting battery lid.

but even without, correct metering with a 1.5V battery isn't really a problem: set the film speed 2/3 stop slower, and while metering, adjust the needle to the spot where it hovers when the metering is off (that's about the 2/3 under mark).

For any readers who have never known anything but digital, or even those who never used anything other than a fairly automated modern film SLR, I would just like to point out that this is more than just "retro-grouch" sentimentality (to borrow a phrase from my bike-fitter). The old MMM cameras are fascinating objects in their own right -- marvels of engineering and mechanical precision that can be delightful and foreign in today's age.* But it is also true that USING them is a fundamentally different experience from using a digital or highly automated camera. That isn't to say better, just different in a way that is worth experiencing. Unfortunately, processing film and getting prints or negative scans is a real PITA these days, which is why I'm not eager to return to using film cameras. But the experience of walking around with a MMM camera, raising it to your eye, focusing, even pressing the shutter button -- all of those things bear little resemblance to how we operate today. This may or may not be a good fit for your photography and style of working (especially if you shoot sports or wildlife), but the only way to know what it feels like is to actually try it out. Then you can put the camera away and happily go back to using your digital camera (as I do), but at least you will know what that experience is like.

And for the record, there is no MMM camera I liked better than the Pentax MX. I tried dozens, from many brands, and to me it stands out as a high-water mark in mechanical camera design.

Best regards,
Adam

* BTW, I don't mean to imply that today's cameras are produced to lower standards than MMM cameras. If anything, the high resolution of digital sensors and modern production methods surely mean that manufacturing tolerances are much tighter than they were. But it sure feels different in the hand!

It's interesting that a record changer now needs an explanation.

When I was a boy (I was born in 1952-so I guess I'm Mid-Century Modern!) my parents had an Admiral entertainment center in our dining room with a black and white TV on the left and a record changer/radio on the right. My Mom (who passed away last week at 94) used to sing along to Broadway musical recordings and dance around the house. I used to lie underneath the dining room table, watch 50's and 60's TV shows and put my little feet through the front of the speaker enclosure! When he could get away, my Dad came home at lunch time, sat under the table with us and we watched the Soupy Sales Show (Don't KISS Blackfoot!!). =)

Thanks for the Pentax post. I've been fighting off the urge to acquire a Spotmatic. I did purchase a black MX a few years ago. The view through the finder is amazing, but it does not provide quite enough eye relief when wearing glasses. Fortunately, unlike some of my old cameras, it has a plastic bezel that does not scratch my expensive progressive bifocals.

I have many warm memories of my first "real" camera, a Honeywell Spotmatic (manufactured by Asahi, but imported to the U.S. by Honeywell). I was 13 years old in 1965 and dearly wanted it. Saved some money from odd jobs, but only had half the amount needed to buy it. My parents provided the rest as a birthday present in 1965. I still recall the thrill of going to a local camera store with my dad and purchasing it!

That summer I, of course, brought it to the beach on my family's summer vacation. I thought I was careful, but left it wrapped in a towel on a beach blanket. As I was off playing in the surf, the tide came in and swamped the blanket and my 3 or 4 month old camera. I was devastated. I did all I could do to try to save it, but the sand and salt water were too much. At my mother's urging I wrote a hand-written note to Honeywell explaining what happened and enclosed the camera. To my complete surprise, they replaced it for free! Wow. I used it for many years thereafter and still have a large soft spot in my heart for it. Thanks for the piece that brings back my fond memories.

Hi Mike,

It is fine to use a Takumar screwmount lens on a modern Pentax digital SLR camera, it just requires a simple screwmount to K-mount adapter available on eBay (but get the genuine Pentax adapter to insure a proper fit). There are screwmount threads on the inside of that adapter ring, and a bayonet mount on the outside. Easy as pie.

For me this is all about the results I get; it's a different look than lenses made today, less hypersharp brittleness everywhere in the image. In any case, I'm not simply taking a trip down memory lane. It's fun that there is no need to reach back to an old film camera to see the results these lenses can produce, no need to find an M-42 screwmount film camera either. Yes, you'll need a lens with an aperture ring to use the aperture properly, but all Takumars have an aperture ring. No, not all the modern features on the camera will work since there aren't the electronic connections between lens and camera that there are with a modern lens, but you find that you sacrifice very little really.

Using a classic screwmount lens on a modern Pentax DSLR gives you advantages over using one on a film camera. You get, in the case of Pentax cameras, in-body image stabilization (which effectively gives you four or so extra stops to work with before camera shake becomes an issue) and focus confirmation, as well as very reliable metering. You have to focus manually, but for me, that's a feature, not a bug, I like manual focus. I'm a Pentax fan, so I don't know as much about use on other brands, though they are simply not as compatible with screwmount as Pentax, since the screwmount was native in Pentax's case back in the day. Nikon owners will probably know, they should stick with classic Nikon glass, Canon too, respectively.

I also have one of those fantastic 50mm f1.4 Takumars, in fact mine has the original design with eight lens elements and that adds to its cachet. As it happens, it isn't my favorite 50mm, it's a little mannerist sometimes and I have a metal-body Zeiss that somehow pleases me more. Turns out, another Takumar, the 85mm f1.8, is the lens I use most, and it gives me results that are consistently pleasing to my eye.

The world of classic glass in the M-42 screwmount goes far beyond Takumar, and has various wonderful finds to experience for those who take that path. I particularly love lenses from the German optical companies that flourished in the 1950s and 1960s, names like Schneider Kreuznach, Meyer-Optik, A. Schacht and Carl Zeiss of course. Some of the Russian m42s have fussy features like aperture rings in funny places or numbered backwards that may take a moment (or more than a moment!) to figure out, but the ones I've tried I did manage to use ok. There are one or two pitfalls out there, screwmount lenses from lesser brands with something extra in their mechanics that can damage a Pentax camera if forced onto it, so doing research on a particular lens is helpful before purchasing it to be sure it is Pentax-compatible.

In fact, over time I spent a lot of pleasurable time researching a huge range of M42 lenses on the internet and in one or two books at the library, after happening onto them on that well-known website that is a haven for used camera gear - the one that has a view of the Bay in its name. The main good wrinkle I found was to get my Carl Zeiss lenses "auf Jena," Jena being the city in what is now the former East Germany where a Zeiss plant continued to operate after partition post-WWII, and I have had luck with that.

That Bay website is also a place to look for lenses that have been CLA'd, which is helpful. I've had consistent good luck with Taks in terms of reliable, smooth operation, but on the Carl Zeiss side, I've had one or two that were kind of sticky to focus, and that was a disappointment. Especially since, in the struggle to focus, I sometimes unscrewed the screwmount lens right off my camera. Good catch! Best to go for one whose seller guarantees it is ready to use.

Thanks,
Jeff Clevenger

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