Blast from the Past: 1965 Pentax Spotmatic Review


Photography has a rich history that is really fun to peer back into once in a while when you have a spare minute to stop oogling over the next piece of gear (*cough* NEX full-frame *cough*) that’ll steal your heart and most of the funds in your bank account.

On that note, check out this awesome old review of the Pentax Spotmatic. It was written in 1965 by the late Fred Springer-Miller, and it might make you think twice before you take today’s technology for granted.

The primary thing that set the Spotmatic apart form the majority of its competition was the fact that it could do “through-the-lens” light metering. At the time, this and the DOF preview button were both features that allowed photographers to never have to look away from the viewfinder to make calculations or take light readings.

Here’s a look at page one of the review (click here and here for high res versions of pages one and two):


You really have to read the review to get the full effect, so we won’t spoil it all here, but one of our favorite lines include Springer-Miller’s lament that the name gave him “visions of a switch that would let you meter either the whole field of view or just a spot in the middle.” Alas, that wasn’t the case.

Another great statement can be found in the paragraph at the end, where he talks about how well-equipped amateurs with their high-quality zoom lenses “could actually compete on an equal basis with the pros.” Something tell us the pros still got the better shots though.

To see the full review, follow the above links to see the high-resolution images and read the entire thing for yourself. And when you’re done, drop us a line in the comments and let us know what part of the review you liked best.

(via Reddit)

  • Rabi Abonour

    Love the idea of photographers showing up the Olympics with mirror lenses.

  • Rob S

    As a life long Pentaxian this is pretty cool. The needle meter of the Spotmatic is exactly what is in my K1000.

    To me its also interesting how we have gone back and forth between primes and zooms. Back when I got my K1000 I wanted a zoom but couldn’t afford one so I was “stuck” with a 50mm f/2 that was tack sharp. Zooms were so expensive that only well healed shooters could afford them. 30 years later when I got my K200D it came with a 18-55mm zoom and the first thing I did was buy an FA 50 f/1.4. Zooms are now the low cost alternative to primes and I find myself lusting after far more primes than zooms.

    Amazing that photographers back then ever got a single picture with ASA (ISO) 400, 1/1000 maximum shutter speed, no autofocus (let alone tracking). and FPS determined by the speed of your thumb Read to the end and you sill discover the writer used a Spotmatic at the Olympics. Yet somehow my K-5 that can shoot 1/8000th at 8 fps isnt “professional”? A lot of folks need to read this review just to stop worrying about specs,

  • Eric OTW

    Ah, a trip down memory lane. The Spotmatic was my first SLR, and I kept shooting it right up to the moment I bought my first DSLR 8 years ago… I still have 3 spotmatic bodies in a camera bag in the attic, together with quite a few lenses and teleconvertors. The cameras still work perfectly, cameras that can take that kind of wear and tear are no longer made. I will keep them together with my minox B and C microfilm cameras, both relics of long forgotten times….. (Writing this just made me realise I am getting old :-))

  • Syuaip

    Takumar 50/1.4… Love them lenses…

  • Allan Milnes

    I bought a spotmatic II in 1971. Such a brilliant camera, it hitchhiked with me from UK to Australia, USA and through the mail from New Zealand. Fifteen years on the light meter died. It was such a basic and easy camera to use, 40 years on I am amazed how many people have difficulty using manual.[ Some of the camera’s on the market are not easy to use manually.] I still have My Spotmatic though Queensland, Australia humid summers have fogged the lens.

  • Renato Murakami

    Have one right by my side.
    Honestly though, it’s my dad’s. I never really learned how to deal with it even after trying several times during my late teens to early adulthood.
    It was only after I learned, in fully digital land already, how a camera works that I came to appreciate all the equipment my dad had when I was a kid.
    Pentax Spotmatic was the main camera, and we had a restroom at home that was converted to a mini B&H lab. Most of it is gone now though… wooden pieces have rotten, chemicals spoiled, everything metallic rusted.
    All the mechanics in the Spotmatic are still running though. Both lens and body needs a thorough clean up inside out, but I think that’s mostly it.
    Heh, and I clearly remember how I couldn’t take a single good pic out of the camera because I knew nothing about shutter speed, aperture or ASA, and I also could never focus right with it. So I’d go “Meh, screw this, the other camera is far better”.
    To note: The other camera was a plastic automatic point ‘n shoot piece of crap that went to the garbage decades ago.
    So I had all these friends which would take great pics with their crap cameras while I had this pro all metal manual camera which my dad used professionally in the past which I could only take blurry photos with because I didn’t know the most basic stuff.
    Guess the misconception was why it took me another 10 yrs to go into photography again. xD

  • Gman

    Use my SP2 nearly everyday. Great camera. $10 of ebay and M42 lenses are so easy to get that half of my collection was given to me for free.

  • Furunomoe

    I don’t have a Spotmatic, but I LOVE my ME Super. I still can’t believe it’s released in 1979. It has a small and light but very durable body, awesome metering that’s very accurate, Av mode with EV adjustment, seemingly unlimited battery life, very large and bright viewfinder, and many more.

    Oh, and the GLORIOUS shutter sound!

  • Bob Dobbs

    “Under normal use, battery life is about one year.” Sigh…

  • Jamie Furlong


  • jrconner

    They were tricky to use, but lightweight and that allowed a photographer to move around fairly easily. I still have a 500mm f/8 that performs surprisingly well on a DX DSLR. But I gave my Spotmatic IIa to a nephew years ago.

  • oromufinella

    my classmate’s half-sister makes $68 every hour on the internet….­ ­

  • emjaysea

    My dad was stationed in Japan during Vietnam and came home with one of these and a bunch of lenses for it. It’s what I learned on, and I still have it.

  • emjaysea

    I had trouble locating batteries for mine into the nineties and made the switch to Nikon, which I haven’t regretted, but I sometimes miss the simplicity.

  • MMielech

    And let’s not forget the famous screw mount lenses.

  • Michael D

    I remember when it came out. At the time I was getting ready to buy my first new good camera. The only thing it was really missing was a bayonet mount. Ergonomics and optics were great. It was the mount, however, that swung me over to a Nikkormat, which was, ergonomically, seriously inferior.

    They fixed the mount problem with the K1000, but by that time I’d moved on to Leica and Olympus.

  • julianndimare321

    My Uncle Miles got white Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
    by work part-time using a laptop. go to website J­a­m­2­0­.­ℂ­o­m

  • jayKayEss

    This was my very first “real” camera (inherited from my grandfather) and I still miss shooting with it! This is exactly what I wish someone would build in a DSLR—small, lightweight, and with the barest minimum of features and buttons. Just a camera to make pictures with.