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  1. #1
    David Lyga's Avatar
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    SPOTMATIC: Happy 50th Anniversary

    In late 1964 the Spotmatic was (finally!) released into the consumer marketplace after four years of R&D. Judging (in retrospect), the stunning success of this SLR was testament to its build quality, ergonomics, and simplicity of design (which demanded rigorous engineering). I have enclosed a couple of pages from the original operating manual.

    I do have one question that I cannot find an answer to. Recently I got a 'used' body that is practically new. Everything works, but, of course, I had to clean out the prism area because I do not like dust. Also, one of the strap lugs was loose and its internal screw had to be tightened. Removing the top on this one was a bit different.

    I believe that this one was one of the first in formal production because something about it was quickly discontinuted. On the upper SIDE, near the film advance lever, is a chrome screw holding the top to the body. (On subsequent models this chrome screw was placed on TOP, right next to (and partially underneath) that film advance lever.) But what frustrated me this time was the fact that the frame-counter wheel was tensed by a VISIBLE, long, circular spring right under that film-counter wheel. Subsequent models did away with this spring location, (I believe, because of the impediment it caused for removing the top), by placing that spring safely underneath anything that required its removal when taking off the top cover. I had a big problem re-instating that frame-counter spring when I put the top back on and was prepared to sacrifice the frame-counter in return for having a clean prism area. But, after a night's rest, I re-examined the situation and succeeded this morning with everything intact. Also, another indicator of the difference between this model and subsequent ones: the mirror cannot be fully raised by a finger before firing the shutter.

    Question: am I correct in stating that this had to be an initial production model? And that that situation was remedied with subsequent models? - David Lyga
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Spotmatic cover.JPG   Spotmatic one.JPG   Spotmatic two.jpg   Spotmatic three.JPG  
    Last edited by David Lyga; 11-12-2014 at 09:39 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. #2
    Hatchetman's Avatar
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    I concur! Great camera. I will go home and wish them a Happy Birthday!

  3. #3

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    A true milestone. For me, the Spotmatic is the Platonic Ideal of a camera.

    I learned to shoot on my Dad's black Spotmatic F. That camera is now mine, and is THE camera that I would never sell and keep forever.

    I have heard other folks wax about their perfect cameras -- often a Nikon F2, Leica M3 or Canon F-1. The Spottie may seem proletariat amongst that noble crowd. But the Spotmatic's excellent mechanical build, solid heft, and beautiful Takumar lenses do not leave me wanting for anything else. After all these years, the only drawback I find is the slightly dim viewfinder, which may have more to do with the mirror in my specific Spottie than with the model as a whole.
    My other camera is a Pentax

  4. #4
    David Lyga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by filmamigo View Post
    The Spottie may seem proletariat amongst that noble crowd.
    The 'proletariat' analogy attains validity in appearance only, and seems so simply because all of the unnecessary 'errata' have been eliminated. (The Canon 'mechanicals' suffered from internal overkill in this regard.)

    This 'simple' Spotmatic body is, really, the result and refinement of much intellectual labor, and, frankly, one could be justified in calling this a 'professional' machine. - David Lyga

  5. #5

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    My collection of M42 mount cameras includes three Pentax models which are in various states of disrepair. They are a Spotmatic, a Spotmatic II and a Spotmatic F. Of the three, the original Spotmatic was the most important and had the longest run. In some ways the Spotmatic was behind the times soon after it came out. It was an early camera to have TTL metering but it was stop-down metering. It also had a thread mount rather than a bayonet or breech lock mount. Even the Super Takumars had decent coating. The later Super Multi Coating was even better. In 1965 the Konica Auto Reflex (Autorex) was introduced. It had both a bayonet mount and shutter priority automation but it did not have TTL metering. In 1966 we saw the Minolta SRT 101 and the Canon FT QL. Both were match needle metering cameras. Minolta had the bayonet mount and Canon had the breech lock mount. Both had TTL metering. The big difference? The Minolta had full aperture metering. In 1968 Konica brought out the Autoreflex T. It added TTL metering while removing the half frame feature of the Auto Reflex. By 1971 Asahi had the Spotmatic II and lenses with more advanced coating but it stuck stubbornly with stop-down metering and the thread mount. That was the same year Canon had the F-1 and FTb QL models. Both used the new FD lenses and had full aperture metering. By the time the Spotmatic F came out its full aperture metering with the SMC lenses still couldn't compensate for the lack of a bayonet mount. The bayonet 'K' mount finally appeared in 1975 with the KM, KX and K2 models but by then the feature sets of these cameras were nothing special. I use a KM and a K2 now and I am waiting to have a KX overhauled. When I think about the Spotmatic and Spotmatic II models I think about the annoying metering tab which must be reset for each shot (if metering is needed for each shot). Both the Canon FT QL and the Mamiya 500DTL and 1000DTL cameras use stop-down metering but have more smooth operation. The Mamiyas allow you to choose between spot and averaging metering and the FT QL has limited area metering. At some point I will get my M42 Pentax cameras to Eric Hendrickson so I can use them with confidence. When I look through a Spotmatic I see a fairly dim image. This has caused me to use my Takumars mostly with adapters on Minolta X-700 and Canon F-1 cameras. While the Spotmatic was never my favorite camera, it is for reasons of convenience and not of quality. I respect its capabilities and the many years of success it had in the market.

  6. #6
    David Lyga's Avatar
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    Dim image? I think that that might be ameliorated by the sharpness in the viewfinder. Appreciate you comments, dynachrome. - David Lyga

  7. #7
    Ricardo Miranda's Avatar
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    David,
    Could you post a shot of that SP, please?
    Can you tell what is the max ISO under the shutter dial and what is the shape of the meter switch, please? Is the switch small and thin in width?
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  8. #8

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    It is too bad it took Pentax a number of years to go from the first prototype TTL metering before finally producing the Spotmatic. The prototype even sported a spot meter. In the context of their era, I have always appreciated the big bright viewfinders introduced by Pentax starting with the original AP through the Spotmatic F.

    Happy 50th Anniversary to the Spotmatic!


  9. #9
    David Lyga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ricardo Miranda View Post
    David,
    Could you post a shot of that SP, please?
    Can you tell what is the max ISO under the shutter dial and what is the shape of the meter switch, please? Is the switch small and thin in width?
    OK,Ricardo, but wait until tomorrow. I will have time by then.

    And, by the way, Les Sarlie, I happen the think that the Spotmatic's predecessor, the SV, was the most aesthetic body ever produced. I adore them, especially when having to remove the top to clean them: so easy! - David Lyga

  10. #10

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    I still have a lens from mine, which had a lovely rendering I often miss with my more modern super-contrasty Nikon lenses. So if I can find one of these Spotmatics in good condition (still good seals) I wouldn't mind picking one up. It's almost unbelievable what kind of hell I put it thru in the mtns, trip after trip. It even took a serious dunking in ice water with me once. Finally the shutter speeds started wearing out. But no fancy electronic camera would have ever endured a fraction of the punishment I gave that machine. Mine was an early Honeywell that required an externally coupled meter. But I never got even Kodachrome incorrectly exposed.

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