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09-27-2013, 12:15 AM   #1
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Pentax SLR prices in the last 60 years?

Just a post to satisfy the curiosity of my young self (I'm in my early 30s).

Dad bought his first camera (SL) in 1969. He said as a new journo grad in those days he saved up 3 months' worth of wages to buy the SL with Super Takumar 50/1.4. Not sure how well he was paid compared to everyone else.

I assume SLR prices have become more affordable over the decades? I just wonder if there's a way to measure the affordability of say, the Asahiflex I in 1952, the Spotmatic in 1965, the K2 in 1975, the LX in 1980, the MZ-S in the 1990s, and the upcoming K-3?

I know there are many many factors, like the LX obviously was special in that it was the only Pentax "pro" model, and it depends on how you define wages and the region you're in, etc etc. But yeah, do share your thoughts

09-27-2013, 12:42 AM   #2
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I bought my Spotmatic with 55mm f1.8 in 1968 for A$180 (= US$201 * at the time).

I was a newly graduated 20-yo radio technician with the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) aka OTC(A) so I was probably earning in the region of A$60 (US$67) per week. That was pretty good money at the time.

I was supporting a Jaguar Mark VII and Yamaha YDS-2 motorbike at the time - all whilst living 400 miles away from home. Fortunately, my employer paid a living away from home allowance which also enabled me to save enough ($25) to fly back home once a month to see my then girlfriend (now wife). I couldn't afford to fly back to work, I'd have to catch the train which was an all night trip in cold compartments.

*In 1968, A$1.00 = US$1.12

Last edited by p38arover; 09-27-2013 at 03:39 PM.
09-27-2013, 12:46 AM   #3
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I got my spotmatic F with 1.7 lens for about $200 in 1974.
As general crap jobs went, $1 an hour was the going rate.
Today the going rate is a little above $13 -$15 an hour
A quick bit of maths and in todays money I would need to pay around $2600
Machined brass must have been expensive
09-27-2013, 05:58 AM   #4
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I bought my H1a in 1965 for $150 with 55 f2. Couldn't stretch for the H3v or Spotmatic. (Finally added both to my collection a few years ago.)

09-27-2013, 06:44 AM   #5
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My college graduation present in 1977 was a KX and K50/1.4. I don't know exactly but I've always thought that kit was about $450. That would be about $1,750 today. Of course K2 was the flagship and K50/1.2 was the flagship normal lens, so compare this to a K50 and 18~135 kit zoom.

From 1973 - 1977 I worked 10 hours a week while at college. My starting hourly was $2.10 and my ending hourly was $2.40. That money represented my entire dating and entertainment budget - $21 - $24 a week - less than $800 my final year at college.

Every summer I worked 10 weeks as a journeyman deckhand on the Mississippi River tow boats. I got on a boat, stayed there a month and got off. I worked First Watch - 5:30 am breakfast, 6:00am - noon, then lunch, shower/laundry and sleep. Dinner at 5:30 pm, work until midnight, then sleep. I was paid $10.50 / hour 40-hour-week equivalent, but also got paid during the month off, so it was really $21.00 I worked "swing" trips the middle two weeks, so I worked ten weeks at $21.00 / hour equivalent and earned $8,400, which was enough to pay tuition, books, room, board and travel almost exactly.

That camera cost my grandmother about 5% of a year at college.

Last edited by monochrome; 09-27-2013 at 08:37 AM.
09-27-2013, 06:59 AM   #6
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There are a few Inflation Calculators on the web that can be used to help put older 'sticker prices' into perspective.

The Inflation Calculator

For instance, my GrandMother's $4.35 1930 Kodak Beau Brownie No.2 (Rose color), would have cost $59.01 last year (2012) !

New Perspective (like my CBA needs any more encouragement!):
The $130 bucks I paid three years ago for my K2 ($50 + $80 CLA), is a down right steal compared to what that camera cost new in 1976 (K2 chrome list price = $448.50). The $130 I paid today for the K2 is equal to $34.33 back when the camera was new

Last edited by Moe49; 10-11-2013 at 08:11 AM.
09-27-2013, 07:07 AM   #7
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Paid U$89.00 (shipping incl) for a 35mm Asahi SV-1 with STak 55/1.8 and STak 35/3.5 lenses in 1967. I ordered it off a magazine ad from Hero Camera Co, Tokyo. I could have bought a Spotmatic, but I did not trust the reliability of its electronics. Back then, everything was done by money order with nothing more than a promise to deliver by the seller and no enforceable warranty. International mail required special tissue thin envelopes. In my case, postage for my letter to Japan was U$1.00. The goods arrived at my central Texas home within a month. I still have them. Being mechanical and all manual, the kit still works great, today.

Using an inflation calculator... | Inflation Calculator

... the 1967 buying power of my $89.00 is $621.11 in 2013 terms.


As to wages... During my college years (1966-69), I worked every summer as a fire-fighter for the US Forest Service in the Lake Tahoe area of CA. I was paid $1.81/hour and cleared about $100/week. The hours were long and physically demanding, but I earned enough money to graduate debt free, plus a new car (VW Beetle).

While all of this sounds like a good deal, trust me... things are a TON better now than, then.

Count your blessings...

Cheers... M

Last edited by Michaelina2; 09-27-2013 at 07:37 AM.
09-27-2013, 08:04 AM   #8
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SLRs were not cheap, in the 70s my father bought his spotmatic and he treasured it because it costed the same as 3 months wages I guess.

there is this fflickr group where there are pictures of ads from the past with camera prices.

09-27-2013, 08:21 AM   #9
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In late 1975 when I bough my K Series kit, I was living at home and working full time making $3.54 per hour.

I can’t find the original bill, but these are the Canadian dollar list prices from 1975 for my K Series kit that I bought new from a local camera store:

KX Body Chrome, Micro Prism = $349.95
KX, KM Soft Leather Case = $29.95
K2, KX, KM Neck Strap = $3.95
Shoulder Pad for Neck Strap = $1.50
K55/1.8 = $124.95
K28/3.5 = $165.95
K135/3.5 = $154.95
Total: $831.20

The CDN dollar was worth about $0.98 in USD in late 1975.

09-27-2013, 10:28 AM   #10
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Looking at some mail order prices:

1958 Sears sold the Tower 26 (AP) with f/2.4 lens for $165
1966 spotmatic w/1.4 lens was $290
1976 B&H sold the K2 w/1.4 for $379
1981 47th st photo wanted $440 for the LX body, in 1985 Adorama wanted $340 + $79 for a 1.4 lens
09-27-2013, 11:10 AM   #11
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I bought my K1000 with the 50mm F2 and leatherette case in 1977 on sale for about CDN$320 from Kerrisdale Cameras. Took me all summer to save up with grass cutting money. And all I had was $290 so my dad made up the shortfall. Using an inflation calculator on the web, it says
$320 of 1977 dollars would be worth: $1,235.52 in 2013
My K30 with auto-everything if I want it was a relative bargain.

The rest of my equipment I bought used.

Camera equipment has gone down in price, whereas houses have not. I remember a house across our street in 1977 sold for $69,900. Using that same calculator...

$69,900 of 1977 dollars would be worth: $269,884.17 in 2013
That house around here now just sold for over $500,000.

Yeah, I know, not an apples to apples comparison. And there are other economic factors. But interesting, nonetheless.

Last edited by Reliant K1000; 09-27-2013 at 11:16 AM.
09-27-2013, 11:27 AM   #12
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A K1000 with an A 50/2 was $160 (B&H) in 1991. That's $274.75 in 2013 dollars.

A SF-1N with Tak F 28-80 was $400 or $687 in 2013 dollars.

Looking at their used selection, a Super Tak 50/1.4 was $89. $152 in 2013 dollars. You could buy a F 50/1.4 at the time for $125.

But B&H really wanted to sell you a medium format or video camera. There were 5 pages of video equipment before you got to the film cameras, and medium format was listed first. Two pages of medium format followed by a page of lighting equipment & used gear, and a page of books before you get to 35mm. Leica and Olympus P&S before you get to SLRs.

This is all from the December 1991 issue of Pop Photo. This issue had their "Top 35 Cameras for 1992". The Pentax' on the list were the not-yet-released PZ-1, the LX, the 645, & the 67.

The cheapest camera at the time came from the infamous Cambridge Camera Exchange. They were selling the Zenit TTL as the Cambron TTL along with the Helios 44m 58/2 for $99.95.

Last edited by boriscleto; 09-27-2013 at 11:43 AM.
09-27-2013, 11:28 AM   #13
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I think our first Spotmatic F with lens retailed for $279 in 1974 which was less than one month's salary. The next year I was working constructing so making big money at $4 hr. Not positive of what we actually paid for the cameras as the first one we got a discount as my wife worked at McBains and the second while she was still working there we bought directly from McQueen who was the distributor. DSLRs are certainly cheaper in comparision with wages now but when they first came out I do not think so. I also think film is no more expensive then it was when I first started shooting.
09-27-2013, 12:52 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
I don't know exactly but I've always thought that kit was about $450
This is what I though she would have paid at a B&M shop in St. Louis.
QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
1976 B&H sold the K2 w/1.4 for $379
Wow!! Was B&H a volume discounter (say, mail-order) back then?
09-27-2013, 01:03 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
Wow!! Was B&H a volume discounter (say, mail-order) back then?
Oops, my error. It was 47th St photo

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