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01-21-2010, 02:22 PM   #1
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Obscure lens - Spiratone

Surely on of the delights of being a pentaxian is to possibility of using lens from days gone by. Lenses that have layed idle in some attic or closet for decades and then are revived on a digital camera.

I recieved such a lens today. A coworker of mine, knowing that I was looking for old pentax lenses left a bag on the chair in my lab this morning. In the bag was a K1000 (I have one already), a Sigma Mini-Wide 28mm f2.8, a Vivitar MC 70-210
f4.5-5.6 Macro Focusing Zoom, and a Spiratone Pluracoat 35-105mm f3.8-16 Zoom Macro.

The Vivitar and the Sigma came as no great suprise. But I never hear of Spiratone! Anyone have an info on this lens or brand?

Interstingly while the Sigma lens mounts fine on the K1000, it cannot mount on my K200d. The lever that releases the aperature blades is too long and so the lens will not mount flush with the camera body.

Anyway, I'm off to have some fun with neglected lenses!

01-21-2010, 03:10 PM   #2
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Spiratone makes some excellent stuff! 400mm Plura-coat is a great budget long zoom, 17mm wide, slide copiers, bellows + macro lenses, etc. Not familiar with your lens, but it prolly isn't too shabby if judging by the rest of their products. They're not the best of the best, but typically quite excellent results.
01-21-2010, 03:20 PM   #3
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I have a Spiratone bellows assenbly for my Canon film equiptment with acouple of their lenses , it's an OK set up but not familliar with their line of lenses.
01-21-2010, 03:30 PM   #4
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Does it look like this Haminex?
Manual Focus Forum / Any info on this lens (Hanimex)?

(Similar conjecture regarding it's mfg. over there)
No conclusion reached, but not too excited over the wide open results. Yours may be better.

01-21-2010, 04:03 PM   #5
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Back in the day Spiratone used to have these great ads in the major photo mags. There were lenses, film, darkroom supplies, almost everything you could think of. It was like a candy store to me, a teenage photo enthusiast.

Fred Spira
01-21-2010, 05:12 PM   #6
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I have a Spiratone slide/film copying lens that I bought yeas ago, that I have recently used on my K10. Excellent equipment, try to use it in your system, I think it will be a good product.
01-21-2010, 07:38 PM   #7
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Thanks everyone

Yes, Cheekygeek, that's the lens! The one I have differs in a few cosmetic details. I don't know what the quality of these lenses is but it will be a lot of fun checking them out and seeing what they can do (or can't).

I'll have to post some shots in the Off Brand Club thread or maybe the Off, Off Brand Club.
01-21-2010, 07:44 PM   #8
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Welcome to the Forums. Spiratone lenses were often made by Sigma, IIRC. Some of them are quite good. Congrats on the new acquisitions.

01-21-2010, 09:37 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by indytax Quote
Welcome to the Forums. Spiratone lenses were often made by Sigma, IIRC. Some of them are quite good. Congrats on the new acquisitions.
Or made by the same guys that made the lenses for Sigma. Back in the day they sold all sorts of strange and wonderful stuff advertised in the back section of Popular Photography and Modern Photography. I particularly remember both full-frame and full-circle fisheyes, f/8 ultra teles (made in Korea), accessory lens for close-up, wide-angle, and tele, and right-angle spy lenses! They had every imaginable gadget as well.

Here is the NYT obituary for the founder (very interesting):
Fred Spira Obit
Steve
01-22-2010, 10:54 AM   #10
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Much of the stuff they sold was pretty good. They were a very big mail order business back in the 60's and 70's. The lenses sold under the Spiratone brand were made by the same manufacturers who built Vivitars, Soligors, etc. I have seen some of their stuff selling on Ebay for more money than they cost new back in the day. Most of my darkroom stuff came from Spiratone.

I can also remember their several pages of ads in the back of Modern Photography. On most months, that was the first thing I opened to when the mag arrived.
01-22-2010, 11:03 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by reeftool Quote
Much of the stuff they sold was pretty good. They were a very big mail order business back in the 60's and 70's. The lenses sold under the Spiratone brand were made by the same manufacturers who built Vivitars, Soligors, etc. I have seen some of their stuff selling on Ebay for more money than they cost new back in the day. Most of my darkroom stuff came from Spiratone.

I can also remember their several pages of ads in the back of Modern Photography. On most months, that was the first thing I opened to when the mag arrived.
Same here.. Bought a ton of stuff back in the day.

Fred Spira - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/14/arts/14spira.html?_r=4&oref...in&oref=slogin

He advertised in all the mags. Modern, Popular and Camera 35.

The main store was in Flushing though. I found this blurb by his son on another forum

QuoteQuote:
Just thought I'd post some corrections to some erroneous statements above.

Bob - My father, Fred Spira, did not sell out to Freddie Abu. The reality is that while my father was the original owner of Spiratone, he sold the company in the late 1960s to a much larger company, Interphoto, in order to expand the company. Unfortunately, Interphoto did terribly in the 1970s and tried to save itself by launching an antitrust case against Kodak arguing that Kodak was breaking ate law by producing better products at cheaper prices. Once that suit was dismissed, Interphoto fell under the control of a greedy and incompetent businessman with possible mob connections who proceeded to personally take over and run every unit of the company into the ground. Finally, in February 1987, when Spiratone was the only unit of the corporation still functioning, he fired my father and proceeded to run Spiratone into the ground within a few years. Once Spiratone went bankrupt, the guy fled to Pittsburgh (not paying many months of rent on the main office building, which my father still owned at the time) and illegally continued to use the Spiratone name. Just before the bankruptcy, the jackal tried to sell the operation back to my father, but the company was too far gone to try to save.

My father is also still alive, albeit barely.

Art - That tiny store in Manhattan was not Spiratone's primary store. The main store was in Queens, first in Astoria and then Flushing. They were both larger than the Manhattan store, though they weren't huge by any definition. And Spiratone later moved to a somewhat larger Manhattan store. You are certainly correct, however, that the bulk of the business was mail order. Spiratone was one of the first retailers in the country to acquire an 800 number and that, along with the monthly ads in Popular and Modern, led to a great deal of growth that couldn't possibly have happened as a film developer/photo supply store, which is what Spiratone started as. That early Spiratone store was a remnant of the early days. Mail-order was really the only way to successfully establish a business around all the unusual photographic gadgets that Spiratone had manufactured abroad; even NYC couldn't have supported a store with that focus at the time

Eventually, I hope to put up a Spiratone site on the web with copies of our old catalogs, ads and newsletters.

Greg Spira
And it seems this stuff is still selling for decent money

http://completed.shop.ebay.com/Cameras-Photo-/625/i.html?_nkw=Spiratone&LH_C...=3&_trksid=m37

Last edited by graphicgr8s; 01-22-2010 at 11:40 AM.
01-22-2010, 03:23 PM   #12
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Isn't that a wonderful, but also sad, tale.

Back in the day there was obviously a huge market that was seen by Fred Spira that could be reached via mail order. That's a shrewd businessman who sees that opportunity and take all the risks to realise it.

But of course, it also must have relied on trading with reasonably good stuff, you can only sell crap for so long.
01-22-2010, 09:56 PM   #13
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Have been doing a bit of reading and found all the main 400mm f/6.3 lenses from back then (including Spiratone) were made by Tamron for all of these different companies to then on-sell under their own badging.

I just purchased a nice clean Tamron 400mm f/6.3 M42 screw mount lens ... which looking at the design of it looks like the Spiratone (there is one for sale in the Marketplace at the moment) .... and other make lenses of this focal length.
01-24-2010, 05:24 AM   #14
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Thank you

What a weath of knowlege there is on this forum! Thanks for the research. Very interesting story. Thanks again!
01-24-2010, 07:35 PM   #15
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Spiratone also makes an awesome 135mm f/1.8 lens, very rare, but awesome IQ.
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