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12-15-2009, 08:38 AM   #1
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Help with Pentax K1000

An absolute beginner with SLR's.
I got a Yashica Pentax K1000 with Asahi 50mm 1:2 M lens.
How good is the camera and what would be the scope of photography with
this setup? I mean.. someone told me SLR is best for street photography and
more realistic pictures..
The lens too looks scary.. many many settings.. could someone suggest
me the best settings and how do I go about taking pictures. Please! :P
Thanks in advance. :-)

12-15-2009, 10:20 AM   #2
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Let's hope it's an Asahi Pentax K1000 - Yashica was another camera maker.

In one respect, all 35mm film cameras are the same. They hold the film in a light-tight box until you open the shutter. Then the film goes back in the dark until you develop it. The shutter timing needs to be accurate, the meter needs to work, and you have a fully functioning camera. Although the camera can add many more features to this process, all working cameras are going to produce the same results with the same film, lens and settings. The K1000 is considered a good camera because it does those basic tasks well, but it has no features. It's all up to you.

You need to choose a film. Film has an ISO number stating how sensitive it is to light. Higher numbers are more sensitive. Lower numbers typically have a finer grain for a smoother look to the photos. ISO 100-400 is somewhere in the middle. Then you should consider how you want to view the photos - as color prints, color slides or black and white prints. Getting anything other than color prints developed is harder today.

When you choose a film, its ISO is one variable in "exposure": basically, the amount of light falling on the film. You set the camera's ISO dial to tellit what film you've loaded. The other two variables are the shutter speed on the camera and the aperture or opening on the lens. The fastest shutter speed on the K1000 is 1/1000 seconds. Each slower setting is twice as long (more or less) as the last. The basic lens you have is marked with apertures from 2 to 22, often written with an f in front of them. The numbers are related to the area of the opening in the lens, so the square root of two is involved. You don't need to know why, all you need to know is that the progression starts at f2, then goes f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16 and f22. As you move to a larger f number, you tell the lens to let in half as much light.

The K1000 has a light meter, activated when the lens cap is removed. It's a needle on the right of the viewfinder. The basic idea is, look through the viewfinder at your subject. Turn the focus on the lens until your subject is not blurry. Look at the needle. Move the aperture ring on the lens and/or the shutter speed dial until the needle is centered. That means the light meter thinks there's enough light to make a photo.

Coming up, part 2, a better photo.
12-15-2009, 11:47 AM   #3
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Centering the light meter does not automatically mean a good photo, it just means you'll get something to show up on film. If you are outdoors in daytime, you may notice that the needle can be centered with many possible setting combinations of aperture and shutter speed. You can improve your photo by knowing the impact of each setting and choosing the best combination.

Shutter speed is easier. The shutter speed needs to be fast enough to capture subject motion and eliminate camera motion. Say your subject is a house. A general guideline is that the shutter speed should be 1/(focal length) - the focal length of the lens. Your lens is 50mm, so a good shutter speed to start with is 1/60 sec. You can try a slower speed like 1/30 sec. if you have steady hands, 1/125 sec. if you just finished your 5th cup of coffee. Faster speeds than that are OK too, if you need them to balance your aperture setting to center the needle. More on that in the next paragraph. Some subjects move, and the faster the subject, the faster the shutter needs to move. Sports might need 1/500, a flower in a breeze might need 1/250. The K1000 has 2 special shutter speeds. One is the "flash sync" speed, 1/60 sec, exactly the same as 1/60 sec. without flash. You just use this speed with a flash. Other speeds might not allow the flash to evenly light the photo. The other setting is B, which opens the shutter for as long as your finger is on the button. That's for night photography and other specialty photos.

Aperture is a little trickier. The aperture on the lens doesn't just change the opening size. At the same time, the amount of the image that's in focus changes, and the quality of the image changes too. The amount of the image that's in focus is called "depth of field" or DOF. At small f numbers, the aperture opens very wide and lets in a lot of light. But the lens only renders part of that "field" in perfect focus. In front of or behind that range, objects get softer and blurrier. If the opening shrinks (f number gets smaller), the DOF increases. The effect is most noticeable when the subject is close to the camera. Like with the shutter speed, you need to choose an opening size that gives you enough depth of field to cover your subject. It is possible to calculate this exactly, use scales on the lens and estimate the distance, use a general guideline or just guess. Photojournalists have a saying, "f8 and be there". For them, f8will have enough DOF to cover almost every potential subject and situation. Capturing the right moment is more important than getting the exact correct DOF.

Depth of field can have a large impact on a photo. The lens also is better in the middle of its aperture range than either extreme. It will be sharpest there and any flaws will be minimized. The impact on photos is much less, but you may notice it more with experience.

continued in part 3
12-15-2009, 12:19 PM   #4
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Besides the technicalities of exposure, there is lighting, framing, composition and perspective. Part of this is natural and obvious. Photos of people look better without telephone poles growing out of their heads, light on their faces, etc. Horizons look better if they're straight. Eliminate boring unrelated things from the frame. Books have been written about the details of each of these elements, so I will not oversimplify them here. You can learn a lot from photos you like if you identify these elements and how to control them.

Part of the SLR is using different lenses. The K1000 can use many different types, except for the newest models which don't have an aperture ring. Lenses will be marked with a focal length in millimeters, a maximum aperture opening or range, and sometimes a word describing a specialized feature. The manufacturers love to tack on letters and numbers indicating the lens family, coatings, type of glass, format, focus type, and anything else. It is easy to get caught up in numbers and then cost, but that's backward. Instead, try to figure out what exactly you want a new lens to do. The more detailed you are at spelling out what you want to do, the easier it is to find a lens to do it. People who can't define a task for their new lens often go out and buy a lens with the broadest range of focal lengths they can find. There, a lens that does it all, done! If you know what you want, you can do a lot better.

Your camera may need some service before it can live up to its reputation. It could be 12 to 35 years old. Here is one place you can send it:


Here's a site that has the manual:

Free camera instruction manuals, camera instructions, free film camera user guide, camera manual, camera instruction manuals,* Canon camera manual, Nikon camera manual, Ricoh camera manuals, Sears Camera Manuals, camera instruction manual, replacemen

Your local library probably has a ton of books on film photography that can be very helpful. I know I've glossed over, skipped or forgotten stuff here.

Last edited by Just1MoreDave; 12-15-2009 at 12:28 PM.
12-15-2009, 12:36 PM   #5
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Here's an example photo to show the effect of a wide aperture and thus narrow depth of field:

This was at f2. Although I used a digital camera, you could get something similar to this with your camera and lens. You can see how parts of the dog are not in focus. Portraits usually look best when the eyes are in focus.
12-15-2009, 01:21 PM   #6
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Recommended Reading

I suggest that you get and study a copy of Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Exposure". It is a great book that explains the fundamentals of getting a "proper" exposure. (After reading it, you'll understand why I used quotes).

His latest edition has been updated to talk about digital photography, but the basics are the same with either film or digital. The only major difference is that, with film, you can't change the ISO (sensitivity) setting for each picture. It is fixed for the entire roll of film.

He explains the relationship between the four factors that make up exposure: light levels, aperture, shutter speed and film/sensor sensitivity (ISO). He also explains how to get equivalent exposures with different settings and why you might want to use, for example, a faster shutter speed and wider aperture. Depth of field is covered, as well.

The K1000 is a very good camera, even if it is pretty basic by today's standards. It was in production from 1976 until 1997, so Pentax must have been doing something right. It is still considered by many to be the ideal student camera. Its plentiful, affordable, high quality and there are lots and lots of lenses available for it.
12-15-2009, 04:08 PM   #7
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Just1MoreDave, - I am not the OP but thanks for the links to the manuals and for your detailed posts.

Best Wishes,
12-16-2009, 09:28 AM   #8
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All of this sounds very complicated but really it isn't. The best way is to go out and shoot and see the results. Most of us who are older started out with that camera or one very similar as our first SLR. The drawback of course is that you have to buy film and get it developed. Get Peterson's book already mentioned if it is available where you live and take it step by step.

01-09-2010, 06:22 PM   #9
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Possible problem with my light meter?

I bought a Pentax K1000 a little over a month ago. All the controls seem to work properly, but I think there's a problem with my light meter. When I set the camera to ISO 100 and the shutter speed to B, the meter needle tends to go all the way up to the "+" side of the scale, which is as it should be. However, the needle moves at certain shutter speeds, but stands stock still at others. The same thing happens when I use the aperture ring.

Another thing that bugs me is that when I manage to get the needle centered, cocking the rapid wind lever and/or pressing the shutter button causes the needle to move off-center.

I've heard the Pentax K1000's light meter is slow to respond, but I don't think that is the problem I'm having here.

Can someone help me out?
01-09-2010, 10:21 PM   #10
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Some ideas:

Does the meter ever go down? There are two coils, one for positive movement and one for negative. So if it never drops below center, the negative coil is broken.

It could be dirt causing intermittent contact in the variable resistors. Both would be affected here, but in an older camera it's not unusual. The shutter speed dial and ASA setting control one resistor. The other one is in the lens mount, on the opposite side of the shutter button, a small black finger at about 2 o'clock. It's spring loaded, and you should be able to move it down to about 3:30.

More information is here in the repair manual:

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