Why a Spotmatic?

We might say that it all began with it. I was about five, we are talking 1966. My uncle Jorge Sá Dantas came back from Angola, an old portuguese colony, where he served in the army and brought a Pentax Spotmatic, with several lenses, filters and other accesories, everything neatly tucked in a Pentax dedicated black leather case. 

It was the first SLR that I had in my hands, in that moment I decided, this is the type of camera that I'm going to have when I grow up.

In a matter of fact, my first SLR was a Zenit E, and afterwards a few Nikons. 

It took me about forty years to get a Spotmatic, this beautiful black example, it was a gift from my parents for my 49th birthday. 



Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP


A few facts about the Spotmatic:

The Pentax Spotmatic was revealed in Cologne at the 1960 Photokina, as a prototype, by the Asahi Optical Co. Ltd.
This prototype had in fact a spotmeter, that gave the name to the camera.
The production version, which was
launched in 1964, had an average meter, that later was substituted by a centre weighted one.

The Spotmatic was one of the pioneers of the TTL metering and became a cult camera among both professionals and serious amateurs.

The name Pentax was given to SLR cameras with a fix pentaprism, as opposed to the older models, the Asahiflexes, that used interchangeable finders like waist level, prism, with and without metering and so on.

An interesting fact is that the Asahi Optical Co. Ltd. changed its name to the name of its product: Pentax Corporation.


Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP


Main Features and review:

In the picture above, you can see the double flash pc sockets, for electronic flash or flash bulbs, and the exposure meter switch, marked SW.

When it's on the up position it closes the diaphragm, on the lens, to the chosen aperture and gives the light meter readout.


TTV Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP                       TTV Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP


On the picture on the left you can see a TTV picture of the Spotmatic viewfinder with the meter off and the lens fully open.

On the one on the right the meter is on and the diaphragm of the lens closed to the chosen aperture.
You can see now that the meter needle is between the brackets.

When the shutter is released, the mirror returns, the lens diaphragm opens and the meter is turned off, automatically.

This is called stop down metering. It also allows to check the depth of field once the diaphragm is closed.

Later I noticed that the battery was inserted upside down, on closing the diaphragm the needle travelled upwards, towards the + sign, warning overexposure, easy fix, just reversed the battery.


Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP


On this top view you can see, on the left, the film rewind crank, surrounded by a film reminder, in the middle the prism housing, with some abrasion marks, made by an accessory shoe.

On the right, the shutter speed selector, which doubles its function as ASA/ISO selector by pulling it up and turning to the value corresponding to the film loaded. The shutter index, that small green triangle, turns to red if the parameters of film sensitivity and or shutter speed are out of the meter range. I.E., when selecting the highest ISO value, 1600, if a shutter speed under 1/15 sec. is chosen it turns red, the same happens with the lowest ISO value, 20, at shutter speeds over 1/125 sec.

Then the shutter release and barely noticed on the photo, by its right, the reminder of the film advance state, if it's black the film it's not yet advanced, if it's red it's ready to shoot.

Finally, the advance lever with the exposure counter. The exposure counter is reset when the film door is opened.


Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP


What can we say about this view? We have the iconic SPOTMATIC logo, the self-timer lever, and the amazingly sharp SMC, Takumar 55mm 1:1.8 lens, that in the meantime I traded for a 50/1.4.

SMC stands for Super Multi Coated, meaning that the glass elements in the lens have several layers of anti-reflection coating. Pentax made many lenses in m42 mount, with many combinations of focal lengths and maximum apertures some differing in the number of coating layers, the Super Takumar with a single layer, the Auto Takumar  and pre-set with none. 


Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP

Even the lens cap is great.

This is a genuinely nice and perfectly usable camera. With its almost sixty years of work, it still delivers a pinpoint metering, the shutter speeds are perfect, and the lens is sharp.

Another positive point is that I can use all my m42 glass with it and I have some.

Including the Takumars that I've been gathering:

SMC Takumar 4.5/20mm

Super-Takumar 3.5/28

Super-Takumar 3.5/135

SMC Takumar 4/200

All with cases caps and hoods.

On the shopping site where we go to satisfy our GAS, Gear Acquisition Syndrome, I found the leather case, like the one my uncle brought from Angola.


In conclusion I'm incredibly pleased with this camera and its results, that you can see on the end of the page.



Features list:

Type - 35mm single-lens reflex with built-in light meter.

Film and Picture Size - 35mm film, 24 x 36mm.

Standard Lenses - Super -Takumar 50mm f/1.4 or 55mm f/1.8 with fully automatic diaphragm. Filters and lens hood size: 49mm. Equipped with diaphragm preview lever which affords visual check of depth of field. Distance scale: 45cm to infinity.

Shutter - Focal plane shutter. Speeds: B, 1-1/1000 sec. Film speed (ASA) setting dial and window on shutter speed dial. Built-in self-timer releases shutter in 5-13 seconds. Rubberized cloth shutter curtains travelling horizontally.

Out of Range Warning Signal -The index of shutter speeds turns to red when the shutter and film speed settings are off the meters measurably range.

Viewfinder - Pentaprism finder with microprism Fresnel lens for instant focusing; 0.88x magnification with 50mm lens and life-size with 55mm lens

Reflex Mirror - Instant return type with special shock absorbers for minimum vibration.

Film Advance - Ratchet-type rapid wind lever (for film advance and shutter cocking). 10° pre-advancing and 160º advancing angle.

Film Advance Indicator - A red disk appears in a small window alongside the shutter release button when the film is advanced and the shutter cocked, and blacks out when it is released.

Film Exposure Counter - Automatic reset type

Lens Mount - 42mm threaded lens mount.

Flash Synchronization - Equipped with FP and X flash terminals. Electronic synchronization at 1/60 sec.

Exposure Meter - Built-in meter measures the brightness of the ground glass, and couples directly to shutter and film speed settings. Film speed (ASA) setting ranges from 20 to 1600 (LV1-18 for ASA-100 film with standard lens.) Meter is powered with a mercury battery. 
It may be used a 1.55v silver oxide. They work with the Spotmatic which has voltage regulating bridge circuitry, but other older cameras may be more problematic.

Film Rewind - Rapid rewind crank for speedy film take-up. Film rewind release button on bottom of camera body rotates while film is being rewound.

Loaded Film Reminder - Loaded film reminder dial underneath film rewind knob is marked PANCHRO (black and-white), COLOR and EMPTY.

Dimensions - Width143mm x height 92mm x thickness 88mm.

Weight - 868 grams with standard lens, Body alone: 621 grams.


Photo Examples:


Blessed Trip

Blessed trip by RaúlM.


Saint Catherine

Saint Catherine by RaúlM.



Grandeur in death

Grandeur in death by RaúlM.


I let you be the judge of the results.

Stay tuned!