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Pentax Electro Spotmatic

Reviews Views Date of last review
4 25,417 Tue April 14, 2015
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
75% of reviewers $39.60 5.25
Pentax Electro Spotmatic

Pentax Electro Spotmatic
Pentax Electro Spotmatic
Pentax Electro Spotmatic

The Pentax Electro Spotmatic was the world's first 35mm SLR with a fully electronic shutter system. It was released in 1971 and only sold in Japan. The circuitry was under constant revision during the year of its release which arguably made the camera a prototype, which was evident due to reliability issues. When the shutter speed was set on automatic, it used a 'stepless' shutter. The Pentax memory device computes and delivers an infinite number of exposures between 8 and 1/1000 second - automatically. If 1/555 second will give you the right exposure, that is what will be programmed.

It utilizes the Super-Multi-Coated Takumar and SMC lenses for open aperture metering. The viewfinder remains bright under all conditions, making focusing easy. In the event that earlier lenses without the open-aperture metering coupling, the Electro Spotmatic, ES, ES II and Spotmatic F provide stop-down metering with the familiar switch near the lens mount. In any case, the meter is activated by partially depressing the shutter release button. These features make it one-quarter inch taller and only six ounces heavier than the Spotmatic F.

The standard color for the Electro Spotmatic was black, which was a departure for previous Pentax M42 bodies where black was a special order. With both the ES and ES II, chrome was the special order version. The ES was released in 1972 and had completely revised circuitry that addressed the reliability issues the Electro Spotmatic had. The name was shortened to ES on the face of the body.

Asahi Pentax Electro Spotmatic
Year introduced
Year discontinued
Automatic aperture stop down
Open aperture, centerweight
Meter range
EV 1 to 18
ISO range
20 to 1600
DX ISO range
No DX coding
Exposure modes
Av, Manual, B
Exposure compensation
1/2x, 2x and 4x
Exposure memory lock
Shutter speeds (auto)
8s - 1/1000s (stepless)
Shutter speeds (manual)
B, 1/60 (X), 1/125, 1/150, 1/500, 1/1000s
Shutter speeds (mechanical)
B, 1/60 (X), 1/125, 1/150, 1/500, 1/1000s
Self timer
Mirror lock-up
Auto bracketing
Multiple exposures
Ratchet type rapid wind lever. 10 pre-advance and 160 advance angle
Flash hot shoe
Built-in flash
TTL/P-TTL flash
Flash sync speed
FP and X terminals - 1/60s
Flash exposure comp
Not applicable
0.89x (with 50mm lens), 93% coverage
Viewfinder type
Pentaprism finder with Fresnel lens + microprism
Diopter correction
Exchangeable screen
Depth of field preview
Image size
24 x 36 mm
6V silver oxide battery
Battery grip/pack
Size (W x H x D)
143 x 98 x 50mm (without lens)

Price History:

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Registered: October, 2012
Location: Colorado
Posts: 1,433

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: April 14, 2015 I can recommend the Pentax Electro Spotmatic: Yes | Price: $19.20 | Rating: 4 

Pros: Ergonomics, rarity of working copies, light meter, stepless shutter, aperture-priority shooting
Cons: Rarity of working copies, limited manual shutter selection, very heavy, limited manual shutter speeds, unreliable meter with non-SMC lenses

The Electro is one of the hardest-to-find Pentax bodies in working condition. The circuit boards were all hand-soldered and the work was not Pentax's best. In fact, to get mine working, I had to take out the circuit board, re-do some wiring connections, and then dismantle the lens mount to free a stuck spring. Now, however, it works perfectly. To test it under fairly brutal conditions, I ran a roll of color film through it and used macro tubes for some extreme close-ups.

The camera may have underexposed slightly at times, or the developing lab may have had weak chemistry. Either way, the images were still okay-ish (not the camera's fault on that point.)

I read a number of reviews that claimed the Electro (and later ES) had a wonky battery chamber placement. I think that the battery chamber placement on them is fantastic. It gives me a solid protrusion to rest my fingers on and helps with the grip. I'm not sure who would have an issue with the battery chamber's placement. It seems like a loss that it was moved for the ESII.

My main complaint about this camera is the limited manual shutter speed selection range. 1/60 to 1/1,000th is a narrow window. It does, at least, have bulb, but there's a whole range of creative imagery that cannot be taken in manual mode. That makes the user dependent upon the camera's meter understanding the image that the user has in mind. This has a good light meter, but it doesn't read your mind. I found that this limitation, on my most recent outing with the Electro Spotty, was problematic and I had to change some of my ideas for images because of it.

My next complaint about this body is that it is HEAVY. Maybe because of the small size, but this camera feels heavier around my neck than a medium-format camera. It really lets you know it's there.

One really nice aspect of this camera, and simultaneously a drawback, is that so few of them work. So if you can get a working copy or make one work, then you have a fairly uncommon camera on your hands and something worth telling people about.

If you're looking for a shooter, grab an ES or ESII. Both are fine bodies with the most noticeable difference between them being the battery compartment location. The ESII, fun fact, was the camera body used to take the photo on the cover of The Clash's album London Calling. Either of the later bodies is a good shooter choice.

Overall, I rate this a 4 due to the lack of manual speed options, persnickety nature of the electronics, weight, and rarity of working copies. If it had the same battery compartment as the ESII, I would rate it a 3. Really, the lack of manual speeds is worth -4 points by itself.

Here are some other photos I've taken with my Electro Spotmatic. It's a nice performer and, if you can find one that works, fun for an occasional shoot.

Lomo 800 Film

My Heart (Lucky with a different sticker) 200 ISO

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Registered: September, 2013
Location: Brentwood, Essex
Posts: 313
Review Date: February 1, 2014 I can recommend the Pentax Electro Spotmatic: No | Price: None indicated | Rating: 3 

Pros: sharp SMC Takumar lens
Cons: Unreliable auto exposure

I bought an 'Electro=Spotmatic' in 1973 when I went to Japan for a 10 day trip -- I was in contact with the editor of a Japanese camera magazine and he took me to a dealers where a bloke brought out the camera, new, in original box, brown leather case etc -- well, I did not know THEN that it was the 'Japanese Home-market- version ! That trip I also bought a 24mm f3.5 SMC Takumar and a 105mm f2.8 SMC Takumar from another dealers who were giving 'discount' to tourists -- much cheaper then UK prices with all the TAXES !! I used the PENTAX for local Press Photography, then after about a year it started playing up -- it would take a shot then the next shot would be seriously under-exposed if on 'Auto' so I had to use it on 'manual exposure'-- I found out it had a 'memory effect' in the circuit .... then I was offered 85-00 for it by a Camera Club member who collected PENTAXES as it had the original box, instructions and leather case -- well I TOOK the money as camera was faulty but he was not worried -- I lost hardly anything on the deal, even with paying Import Duty and Purchase tax at Heathrow London Airport !
Forum Member

Registered: September, 2013
Posts: 62
Review Date: January 5, 2014 I can recommend the Pentax Electro Spotmatic: Yes | Price: $60.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: it automatic camera, classic shape. all metal
Cons: battery compartment is disturbing

purchasing this camera for my father as a gift, long time ago...
And It was A GOOD gift.
it is still working.
it takes 4xLR44 battery and working as Aperture-Priority mode, if You have an AUTO M42 lens
for non AUTO lens - stop-down metering also possible.

It was used with Takumar 50/1.4, Takumar 135/3.5 and Miranda 28/2.8 lens
everything was a best.

Yes, it is a old-style camera, and so on, but - it is a good camera.

just one thing - battery compartment disturbing for right hand fingers, it is just located at wrong place.
New Member

Registered: April, 2013
Location: Texas
Posts: 4
Review Date: May 30, 2013 I can recommend the Pentax Electro Spotmatic: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 5 

Pros: A beautiful camera. Has that classic Pentax feel.
Cons: It has issues with its circuit board

Serial Number 5553950
Pentax Electro Spotmatic

I am told that the Electro Spotmatic was a test camera sold only in Japan. It cost a fortune at the time it was made. I must say that it is a beautifully made camera. Many here on for forum are familiar with the Pentax ES. So how is this early version different from the later version sold in the US?

1. Electro Spotmatic is printed on the front of the camera where you would find ES located on the later version.

2. The battery goes in backward from the later version, with the negative pole of the battery towards the front.

3. The speed indicator needle in the viewfinder rests at the bottom of the speed scale when it is not being used, below the 1 second marker. The later versions had the needle resting at the top above the 1000 marker when it is not being used.

4. The stop down metering switch is marked with "MAN." in white lettering.

5. On the shutter speed dial, beneath the word AUTOMATIC is printed 1-1000.

6. On the later versions, the camera will complete the picture taking cycle even when the shutter is set on AUTOMATIC and it has no battery. In this case the shutter speed will not be regulated by the electronics and will probably be something above 1/1000 of a second. On the Electro Spotmatic, the camera will not go through the picture taking cycle on AUTOMATIC if there is no battery and the circuit board working.

I replaced a transistor on the circuit board and got the camera to work for a while, then it failed again. Some day when I have time I hope to continue my work on it.

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