Saturday, April 15, 2017

Spotlight: Pentax K1000



The Pentax K1000 is a 35mm SLR that was first introduced in 1976. With the bare minimum of features acceptable for the time, the K1000 was designed as Pentax's budget SLR, and the cheapest way to get into the (then new) K-mount system of lenses.

The K1000 has a fully mechanical shutter, and requires batteries only for the internal light meter. Speeds between 1 second and 1/1000th are selectable, along with a bulb setting for long exposures. The ISO speed (20-3200) is set by pulling up and twisting the shutter speed dial. The TTL exposure meter is of the match-needle variety, where you must change the shutter speed or aperture until the needle rests exactly between the + and - indicators in the viewfinder. It's worth nothing that neither aperture nor shutter speeds are viewable inside the finder, unlike with more expensive SLR models. Annoyingly, there is no switch to turn on or turn off the light meter. Either put a cap over the lens or take out the battery, otherwise the battery will drain. The focusing screen is bright with a microprism focusing assist, and is not interchangeable. The K1000 does not have a self-timer or aperture-preview lever.



While light on advanced features, the K1000 is a joy to use. It feels great to go out shooting with only the most basic of manual controls at your disposal. The K1000 demands you to think, and requires you to know the rules of exposure. This mandatory manual operation is why it's on the required materials list for just about every darkroom photography class in existence. I've bought and sold dozens of these cameras over the years on my Etsy page, but I've actually never used a K1000 until last week, after I found one in near-mint condition at a Chicago flea market.

The K1000's build quality is fantastic, as long as you buy an earlier model. The K1000 was produced for over twenty years, from 1976 to 1997. Cameras made between '76 and '90 have all-metal bodies, while models made after that have plastic top and bottom plates. Avoid these if you can. They are more prone to malfunctioning in my experience, and the cheap build makes them less pleasing to use. As a note, the cheaper, newer K1000's do not feature the "AOCO" (Asahi Optical Company) logo on the pentaprism.

The K1000 is a very dependable camera. It's rare that I come across one that doesn't function mechanically. However, there are a couple things you should watch out for when buying a K1000 for yourself. Firstly, always check the light meter. While the K1000 is mechanically reliable, it's pretty common for light meters to be broken in these cameras. Of course, you can always use an external meter if the internal meter is not functional; the camera will still operate just fine. The other issue you need to watch for is viewfinder degradation. K1000's (especially the aforementioned newer models) are prone to pentaprism de-silvering, which appears in the viewfinder as out-of-focus black blotches. Always make sure to take a close look through the viewfinder before making a purchase.

I took my K1000 up to Milwaukee on a day trip with my parents. All photos were made exclusively with a 50mm f/1.4 lens and Ilford HP5 film.








Pic taken by my dad


















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