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04-23-2016, 04:32 AM   #1
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"Upgrade" experiences (general thoughts on M42 cameras)

So after many months shooting an original Spotmatic, I decided to trade up to a Spotmatic F. Okay, "trade up" is sort of silly in context of the fact that I own multiple K-mount Pentax cameras including a K-5, but let's keep things in M42 world. I have 28/55/135mm SMC Takumar glass, so why not?

Wow, what a difference. Open-aperture metering is just effortless, which is normal with K mount lenses of course but a completely new experience with M42 glass. The ability to shoot 3200 ASA film is nice to have, even if I never use it much, if at all. And throwing on a flash is a breeze - no more coldshoe adapters, no PC Sync cables (unless I want to play with off-camera flash), just throw the flash on, dial in the appropriate aperture for the ASA (to keep the thyristor happy), and blaze away. Focusing also seems a little easier; this may be because the camera is newer and improvements were made, or because (also because it's newer) it's in slightly better condition (although after 40+ years it all comes down to sample variation).

It's like going from a clunky 2-speed manual transmission without synchromesh all the way to a 6-speed auto.

As a comparison and contrast, I also got hold of a Fujica ST705, and there are features it has which I'm going to enjoy as well, particularly a fatter body that feels more ergonomic and also a split prism focusing screen, but that's not Pentax so I'll leave that for another day and another forum.

Who here first got into photography in that era, and can remember the evolution of these features? We take them for granted these days, but contemporary users must have been truly impressed.

04-23-2016, 07:59 AM   #2
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That era is a little bit before my time. My first SLR, at age 16, was a Minolta SR-T 200 - which had manual, match needle, open aperture metering, like a K-1000. But of course, at that time Minolta already had their three-mode XD-11 on the market, and Canon had the A-1 with a program mode too, and a digital readout.

But you're right, the progression of those features, like open aperture metering, took the 35mm SLR a lot closer to being a serious tool that challenged the supremacy of the Leica rangefinder.

In only a few short years, the 35mm SLR evolved from something like the Exakta, with its pre-set lenses (remember to stop down before you shoot!) and non-returning mirror, to the Asahiflex with its instant return mirror, to "automatic" lenses that closed and opened with the shutter, to TTL metering. It was a pretty rapid pace of change, and it all took place in about the same number of years we went from 6 megapixel to 16 megapixel digital SLRs!

But hey, don't forget, that upgrade path is a slippery slope. Today you're discovering the joys of open aperture metering, but before you know it it you start wondering about aperture-priority automatics, then TTL flash, then autofocus, then digital.

And before you know it, you'll want your old Spotmatic back!
04-23-2016, 08:23 AM   #3
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I started in 1969 with a school-owned Spottie and ST55/1.8. After a succession of Instamatics I was given a KX and K50/1.4 as my college graduation present.

Yes, the progress of 'technology' was dramatic in those 8 years
04-23-2016, 08:23 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by pathdoc Quote
Who here first got into photography in that era, and can remember the evolution of these features? We take them for granted these days, but contemporary users must have been truly impressed.
I did! I did!

Pentax was late to the game* and I remember discussions regarding true meter accuracy for open aperture vs. stop-down metering. Aside from issues of meter coupling at low light levels, stop-down is the gold-standard for TTL metering. Open aperture involves multiple assumptions regarding mechanical linkages and accuracy of iris calibration.

Of course, there were also discussions regarding threaded vs. bayonet lens mounts too.


Steve

* Very late to the game...Nikon, Minolta, Konica, and Canon had been offering open aperture metering for several years.

04-23-2016, 09:15 AM   #5
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My K1000s or SPs rarely see a battery.
Most days I carry a Weston II and invercone.
Sunny side /16 still works the way it used to.
By '60 or so most new Exaktas left factory with FAD lenses.
04-23-2016, 09:27 AM   #6
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"They're abandoning aperture coupled screwmount - my SMC Takumars will be no better than presets! I'm jumping to Nikon!"

IIRC the first SMC Taks with open metering were brought in with the Spotmatic II, just before the Electro series were launched; Pentax users must have known something good was afoot. Granted that many of the competitors' cameras had been doing OAM for years; it would still have been a thrill for brand-loyal Pentaxians who had bought in the S/H-series years or early Spotmatics and shifted up to the F with a bundled SMC Tak lens.

Ironically, the Spotmatic must have been a step BACK for those who had Super Tak lenses on a camera with the prism-mounted meter; they'd been effectively "metering open" the whole time, so the ES series (if you trusted the newfangled electronics) and the F must have been the true fulfilment of the meter integration promise. I bet there were SV users who took one look at the Spotmatic and didn't want to effectively go back to preset days. They probably said "Pentax is Doomed" as much as any of the whiners who cry it today!
04-23-2016, 01:43 PM   #7
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I spent the day shooting a Canon 7s - their last rangefinder model. Built in CdS meter, but readout needle on top of the body, coupled to the shutter speed, but not the aperture. Meter on/off knob on the back, high/low sensitivity knob around the CdS. Cell on the front near the shutter release. So you turn the meter on at the back, check if you need high sensitivity of the front, meter the scene, being careful not to get a finger in front of the CdS cell while setting shutter speed to a good range for the light, read the f-stop off the meter on top, then set the lens aperture. Finally move the camera to eye level, focus (pretty good viewfinder, but "floating-blob" double image RF was far behind the Leica M.
It is a nice, if big camera, but I prefer the older, smaller Leica or Canon IV with an external meter.
I just dusted off my H1a to give it a go. Now I have the clip on Pentax meter, which I never had in the mid-1960s when I used one a lot. The camera sure feels better without the meter. Time to re-train my eye to go meterless.
04-23-2016, 02:21 PM   #8
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I bought my Spotmatic-F new, fairly soon after release, having started with an S3, then an SV. The SV had a clip-on meter, but the difference in handling, particularly speed, was enormous.

I think people were as interested in new gear then, as now, but I was at a different stage of life then, and news arrived at a much less frenetic pace. Nonetheless, I doubt that the turnover rate then was as high as it has been recently, because the greatest progress was with film technology, so the pressure to change bodies was much less. Dare I also say that disposable incomes were much smaller, and generally put to use on larger household items – not the scenario that fits the narrative about that generation's profligacy, I know.

I think that, for the majority of users, the debates about metering accuracy and methods were largely irrelevant, because colour film was rare and expensive, so most people used B&W, with many developing and printing at home, relying on the latitude of monochrome. Colour film, including its developing and printing, only became more widely adopted as processing costs came down, well after the SP-F appeared.

I've still got my SP-F, by the way.

04-23-2016, 02:59 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by TomB_tx Quote
I spent the day shooting a Canon 7s - their last rangefinder model...
It is a nice, if big camera, but I prefer the older, smaller Leica or Canon IV with an external meter.

The Canon P is real nice. Not rare, and prices are very good.

Chris
04-23-2016, 03:20 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote
The Canon P is real nice. Not rare, and prices are very good.

Chris
Yes it is - I also have a P, and the clip on meter that fits it (and the bottom-wind VIT, which I also have). The P is smaller (without the meter) and handles well, but today was my first try with the 7s after adjusting a stuck RF.
The 7s reminds me of the Leica M5: bigger, more features, an attempt to compete with SLRs. Both the 7s and M5 expected to be the last rangefinder by both companies, but Leica's users kept buying the M4, then the M6,7 and on into digital. Since Leica's SLRs never gained much market, it was the M series that kept them going.
04-23-2016, 03:48 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Of course, there were also discussions regarding threaded vs. bayonet lens mounts too.
Yep the bayonet mount was the big selling point when I bought my KX new. However I never used a screw-mount camera before that, so the salesman was more excited than I was!

Phil.
04-23-2016, 04:35 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by gofour3 Quote
Yep the bayonet mount was the big selling point when I bought my KX new. However I never used a screw-mount camera before that, so the salesman was more excited than I was!

Phil.
Detractors of the thread mount claimed a risk of cross-threading or accidental thread damage along with the time it takes to mount. On the other side, people suggested that bayonet mounts were subject to wear and not durable. Canon and Petri opted for a "wear-proof" breech-lock mount systems.


Steve
04-23-2016, 05:31 PM   #13
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Yes, I went from Pentax H1a to the new Canon FT for the lens mount and selective area TTL meter. Both were very nice, and the optics were good, but the FL auto diaphragms got sluggish within a year giving over exposures. Switched to Leicaflex SL! Great camera, but couldn't afford lenses (just out of college). Added the Pentax MX as a result.
04-23-2016, 06:12 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Canon and Petri opted for a "wear-proof" breech-lock mount systems.
Though the FL and original FD lenses could be a pain to field-swap. (The new-FD lenses were a big improvement in that regards.)
04-24-2016, 09:45 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Detractors of the thread mount claimed a risk of cross-threading or accidental thread damage along with the time it takes to mount.
On the other side, people suggested that bayonet mounts were subject to wear and not durable.
Canon and Petri opted for a "wear-proof" breech-lock mount systems.

I would often grab the wrong ring and loosen the lens on my first SLR, a Canon AE-1.
Fortunately I never actually had a lens fall off, but the close calls were disconcerting.

IIRC Pentax advertising kept insisting thread mount was superior right up to the end
- until they introduced their K bayonet mount cameras and lenses!

Chris

Last edited by ChrisPlatt; 04-24-2016 at 11:53 AM.
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