Praise for the Spotmatic

Noll

Well-known
Local time
2:47 PM
Joined
Oct 22, 2010
Messages
493
While I have for the last year and a half invested much time and money with the Olympus OM system, lately a new obsession has snuck into my photography in the form of a Pentax Spotmatic SPII.

Only reason I bought it from the thrift store was that it was in great condition - clean, fully functional, and came with a 55mm 1.8 SMC Takumar lens that felt wonderful. I figured if nothing else I could have some fun with it and resell it for a at least I paid ($25). Since then, my OMs have been a bit jealous!

There's not much to the SPII - It is just a solid, simple mechanical SLR with your basic settings - shutter, aperture, and ASA. In terms of build, the SPII has a number of nicely fitted metal parts - from the gracefully curved wind lever to the self-timer, there is not much plastic on this machine. There is a switch on the side that turns on the meter and closes the aperture for stop-down metering - automatically giving you a dof preview. Once you've set your exposure, you can switch the meter off return to full aperture focusing, or just shoot in stop-down mode and the meter automatically switches off and the aperture fully opens after the shutter is triggered.

The fresnel screen is BIG, bright, and extremely clear. I read somewhere that it is not as large as the OM-1, but to be honest after looking through both in close succession, I can't see any size difference. They're both huge. In fact I find it easier to assess focus outside of the center microprism than on the OM1. Bonus points to the SPII for having square corners and a longer meter needle "throw" in the viewfinder.

Speaking of the meter needle - I like how it moves with cool, calm authority. Although sometimes slow to arrive at its target, it never bounces around.

That's about all there is to it - just a pure photographic tool with very little to distract the user from the focusing on the image. While my OM kit isn't going anywhere anytime soon, it will have to share the love.
9934516135_910dea12f0_c.jpg


9934518865_da4cb96862_c.jpg
 
Yep, it was the first SLR that I "fell in love" with. Then came the Nikon F/F2. Good solid cameras.

And little things, like the curve of the advance lever. It is like the curve of the Spitfire wing.
 
The only thing I miss in mine is the very smooth film advance that SVs had. Not sure why this is coarse on the Spotmatic F's. Other than that, it's a bliss. One day I might make serious lens testing against some other fine rangefinder lenses, but to me the 55mm Takumar is an absolute bargain, for it is very good and collectors prefer to pour their money onto the 50mm f/1.4.
 
The Spotmatic is such an icon and milestone in camera history (together with Leica M3, Nikon F, Rolleiflex TLR, Hasselblad and others), that even if not working, should have a place in the collection of any camera nut. BTW, the 55/1.8 rendering in B&W is beautiful.
 
The fresnel screen is BIG, bright, and extremely clear. I read somewhere that it is not as large as the OM-1, but to be honest after looking through both in close succession, I can't see any size difference. They're both huge. In fact I find it easier to assess focus outside of the center microprism than on the OM1. Bonus points to the SPII for having square corners and a longer meter needle "throw" in the viewfinder.

The Spotmatics have a 0.89x magnification and the OM1 a 0.92x magnification. The 55mm lens lends a bit of magnification that is not built into the viewfinder - in effect giving 1:1 viewing.
 
Hmmm, I once had a Spotmatic SP II, the viewfinder is dark compared to OM-1.

It maybe sample variation though.
 
By this time I've found many older SLRs suffer from some sort of prism or mirror degradation, there can be a lot of difference in brightness, as well as clarity amongst the same model. There are also of course occasionally different screens installed in cameras with "fixed" screens.
 
The screen on my Spottie is not the brightest I own but I do find it very easy to focus with. It seems that the focus snaps in and out with this screen. I have no split image screen on my Spottie but it is actually easier to focus with than any of my rangefinders. I also find that the screen brightness on a lot of older SLRs is just as dependent on the lens being used as the viewfinder itself.
 
The Spotmatic lenses are a treasure.
If anyone trying to set up a modest camera bag based on a digital camera asked me, I'd point them in this direction.
If your preference is to shoot film but are considering digital also, you'd only need to buy a digital body + adapter.
On a Nex, they work beautifully.
Philip
 
I think the only thing better than a Spotmatic is one of the "pre Spotmatic" Pentaxes - the S1, S1a, Sv etc. They are smaller in size and handle brilliantly. But both camera versions are excellent as are the lenses of this era which are almost without excpetion superb. Maybe not quite as superb as Leica etc but certianly for a more or less modest price (even then) it gave ordinary people wonderful image making equipment. At my peak I ended up with eprhasp 20 or more Takumar lenses of various styles, foacl lengths etc. and even now enjoy using them with adapters on various digital cameras. You could do much worse than to buy Pentax equipment from this era.
 
In some ways, the best of the Era

In some ways, the best of the Era

In some way the Asahi/Honeywell SLR series of S1a, S3v, Spotmatics were the best of the era. Nikon & Canon duked it out for the "professional" market, but the M-body sized Pentaxes were a quiet world of their own. Superb, all-brass & glass, and excellent optics. Close-focus on a "normal" Takumar was like a "macro" in any other brand. Other than the "slowness" of changing a screw-mount vs. bayonet (Leicas ring a bell?) the Takumars are/were an amazing lens system.

Another advantage: while "N" & "C" were slicing up the "pro" and "wanna-pro" markets, the Pentax/Takumar market tended (at least in USA) to favor the amateur/successful business-type who felt they were "supposed" to own a "really good" camera, but didn't want the major prices of the N/C set. Thus, the nice-look (way-cool, color-painted engraving) and nice-feel (smaller, smooth) of the Pentax line tended to be purchased by folks who would shoot a few rolls, then come back for kids' graduation, wedding, etc. and get put away. Ever conscious of their "investment" they would take meticulous care of the set - batteries out (often), kept in the proverbial "cool, dry place". Takumar 135 and 35mm lenses are a dream - sold by the camera stores of the day as the "usual" accessory focal lengths, they receive even less use, and the same care, as the rest of the kit.

If the leather peels, Cameraleather.com has great kits - I know - the BR Green/Sequoia and (former) Burgundy look fantastic. Bottom line: buy Spotmatic, use film. --alfredian
 
I've had my Spotmatic since 1969. It has been a dream all those years. But my favorite lens (still of all time) is the f3.5 28mm Super Takumar. Just a hint of vignette, sharp because of the f3.5, and build like Sophia Loren.
 
In some way the Asahi/Honeywell SLR series of S1a, S3v, Spotmatics were the best of the era. Nikon & Canon duked it out for the "professional" market, but the M-body sized Pentaxes were a quiet world of their own. Superb, all-brass & glass, and excellent optics. Close-focus on a "normal" Takumar was like a "macro" in any other brand. Other than the "slowness" of changing a screw-mount vs. bayonet (Leicas ring a bell?) the Takumars are/were an amazing lens system.

Another advantage: while "N" & "C" were slicing up the "pro" and "wanna-pro" markets, the Pentax/Takumar market tended (at least in USA) to favor the amateur/successful business-type who felt they were "supposed" to own a "really good" camera, but didn't want the major prices of the N/C set. Thus, the nice-look (way-cool, color-painted engraving) and nice-feel (smaller, smooth) of the Pentax line tended to be purchased by folks who would shoot a few rolls, then come back for kids' graduation, wedding, etc. and get put away. Ever conscious of their "investment" they would take meticulous care of the set - batteries out (often), kept in the proverbial "cool, dry place". Takumar 135 and 35mm lenses are a dream - sold by the camera stores of the day as the "usual" accessory focal lengths, they receive even less use, and the same care, as the rest of the kit.

If the leather peels, Cameraleather.com has great kits - I know - the BR Green/Sequoia and (former) Burgundy look fantastic. Bottom line: buy Spotmatic, use film. --alfredian

The Spotmatics are GREAT cameras. When Takumars were cheap on ebay a few years back, I put a nice little system together. The 28mm ƒ3.5 SMC Takumar is one of the better 28mm lenses out there, and the 135mm ƒ2.5 Takumar is a fantastic portrait lens if you have the space to use it in. The 35mm ƒ3.5 is another good lens, but it is kinda dim to look through the viewfinder with. I also have a 105mm Pre-set Tak in a chrome barrel that looks promising, but it needs to be serviced first. The lubricants are dried out and gunked up. Like the guy I'm quoting sez; "Bottom line: buy Spotmatic, use film."
 
I've had my Spotmatic since 1969. It has been a dream all those years. But my favorite lens (still of all time) is the f3.5 28mm Super Takumar. Just a hint of vignette, sharp because of the f3.5, and build like Sophia Loren.

I just mentioned this lens in another post before I read this. I have the same lens, but slightly newer. The Super-Multicoated-Takumar version. Great lens.
 
my Spotmatic SP completely cured me from Nikon or OM acquisition syndrome. really like Super Takumar lenses: small, great build and no plastics anywhere, often more affordable than alternative brands.
 
I've had my Spotmatic since 1969. It has been a dream all those years. But my favorite lens (still of all time) is the f3.5 28mm Super Takumar. Just a hint of vignette, sharp because of the f3.5, and build like Sophia Loren.

Yes, there are two exceptional lenses for the Pentax: 50 1.4 and 28 3.5. Some film, a spot and one of these lenses just blows anything digital away IMO.
 
In some way the Asahi/Honeywell SLR series of S1a, S3v, Spotmatics were the best of the era. Nikon & Canon duked it out for the "professional" market, but the M-body sized Pentaxes were a quiet world of their own. Superb, all-brass & glass, and excellent optics. Close-focus on a "normal" Takumar was like a "macro" in any other brand. Other than the "slowness" of changing a screw-mount vs. bayonet (Leicas ring a bell?) the Takumars are/were an amazing lens system.

Another advantage: while "N" & "C" were slicing up the "pro" and "wanna-pro" markets, the Pentax/Takumar market tended (at least in USA) to favor the amateur/successful business-type who felt they were "supposed" to own a "really good" camera, but didn't want the major prices of the N/C set.

The problem with this view is that actually - Pentax cameras were pretty expensive when new. The difference in price between a Spotmatic and a Nikon F was tiny, the Nikkormat was a bit cheaper than the Pentax even. You could get a Yashica or Minolta and spend a lot less, or buy a Miranda for about half as much.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nesster/7266833026/sizes/l/in/photolist-c59qhA/
 
Back
Top