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10-16-2020, 11:17 AM - 9 Likes   #1
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A one owner Spotmatic and its story

A one owner Spotmatic and its story

I'm very excited, honored and humbled about this one. While discussing photo gear, a fellow photographer told me he still had his Spotmatic, purchased new in the late 60's, but unused in about 4 decades. You know where this is going. He was generous enough to decide I was worthy of been the next custodian. As I have mentioned before, I consider myself the custodian of historic artifacts, not just a mere "owner".

The story: (names and some specific details withhold for privacy purposes)
This camera was purchased new in late 1967 or early 1968 to replace a stolen H1a. At the time, he was a graduate science student in New York. He took it around on trips all over from New England to New Jersey. In 1969 he got married to another scientist and they traveled a lot with it, including an assignment in Montana, for which they took the long way trip: Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona(Grand Canyon), California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and eventually to Montana. While in Montana, they went all over the state, Wyoming and South Dakota, where they watched the Moon landing on July 20, 1969. After the assignment in Montana, they went back east to New England. They eventually traveled all over from Florida to Canada. The Spotmatic also went with them on a trip to Europe: England, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
The Spotmatic was a workhorse for taking pictures of specimens for science publications. The 50mm f1.4 was sometimes fitted with a Pentax close-up filter, which he still has and uses to this day. Other lenses that saw service in the Spotmatic were a Vivitar Series 1 90mm macro, a 28mm f3.5, a 135mm f3.5 SuperTak, a 300mm f6.3 preset, and bellows with 100mm f4 bellows Takumar preset. But more than a workhorse, it also took countless family memories.
He fondly remembers the Spotmatic as the best in controls layout / overall ergonomics as it feels so right in your hands.
In March of 1978 it was serviced by Pentax as evidenced in a service sticker. He doesn't recall why so it was not a major failure. Most likely a CLA.
After more than a decade of service, it was then retired and replaced with an ME Super in the early '80s mostly due to advancements in metering.
Now happily retired, he is still active with a current Pentax DSLR.

The camera model:
The Spotmatic was presented at the 1960 Photokina, but it was not released until 1964. This revolutionary camera had an internal TTL (Thru The Lens) metering system. The prototype had a spot meter, hence the name, but it was decided to change to a center weighted meter as the spot meter would have been very hard to use by the general public. But the name was retained. While not exactly the first camera with built in TTL metering, it was the first successful TTL metering camera body. The "early" version was produced from 1964 until '65, when it was revised with what is now known as the "later" version. The differences between early and later versions are mostly cosmetics but some minor internals may have been revised as well.
The original Spotmatic became the most successful camera of its time with a production run until 1973. But other Spotmatic variations were made until 1976. Between all the variants, there were over 4 million made!

The Specimen:
This is what was received:


Like a time capsule, the package included the camera, its original Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 kit lens, its original user manual, original case, a remote cable release (love those) and a third party flash unit.
For a camera that wasn't used in decades, it was in great shape! It was a little bit dusty, had plenty of signs of use but no signs of abuse or dents. It has definitely been well taken care of. Some of the letters have lost their paint and there is some contact cement residue suggesting the leatherette may have been peeling and was reattached at some point. A service sticker from Pentax Corp has the date of March 25, 1978.







It is a "later" version of the original Spotmatic. While it is almost impossible to correlate serial numbers to a manufacturing date, the serial number puts it well over the change in '65 but early in the lifespan of the Spotmatic. Most likely 1966-1967. The fact that it was purchased in '67 or '68 helps to confirm that.
Minor dust in the viewfinder was not enough to justify a full prism teardown. I tested the shutter and it seems the higher speeds may be suffering from a little capping. All shutter speeds complete the cycle which is great. I don't have (yet) the proper battery to test the meter, but I was able to apply voltage to the battery terminals and saw movement in the meter needle. That's encouraging that the meter is probably alive. Accuracy will be another topic. Self timer, film advance, both flash ports (FP and X) and meter switch all seem to be working properly. The lens (which is the 7 element / 6 blades variant of the Super Takumar 50mmf1.4), has minor dust inside but not worth of a teardown. It is in great shape. Aperture and focus rings are smooth as well as the AM switch. However it has a considerable yellow cast most likely due to the radioactive Thorium glass. Yes, these lenses are radioactive but that is a whole other discussion. There are documented processes to clear the yellow. I'll look into that later.

The Restoration:
To me, it is CRITICAL when restoring these items NOT to make them new, but to retain their patina and heritage while getting the best out of them.
To that extent, the camera was cleaned to its best but most scratches, brassing and paint rubs were left alone. However, missing paint inside the engraved letters was addressed. The mirror return gear and related mechanics were lightly cleaned and lubed. After that, the capping issue in the higher speeds seems to improve. I don't think it was directly related but it helped exercising it back to life. You see? cameras need exercise, not me! 🙂




Here the left side is been worked while the right side is still untouched.

Disassembly was limited only for cleaning purposes. Since I've never claimed to be normal, even the slots on the screws were cleaned. Emphasis was made in the engraved characters like shutter speeds, rewind and film type ring.
Similarly, the lens was deep cleaned without disassembly. In this case I went bonkers and each and every groove on the rings was carefully cleaned with a dental pick. All the markings were carefully cleaned as well. No paint touch up was required on the lens.

So here it is! As soon as I get the proper battery I'll do a final test before running a roll of film thru it!
Stay tuned! This story is far from over...





















What do you think?

Thanks,
Ismael

10-16-2020, 11:38 AM - 1 Like   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by ismaelg Quote
A one owner Spotmatic and its story

I'm very excited, honored and humbled about this one. While discussing photo gear, a fellow photographer told me he still had his Spotmatic, purchased new in the late 60's, but unused in about 4 decades. You know where this is going. He was generous enough to decide I was worthy of been the next custodian. As I have mentioned before, I consider myself the custodian of historic artifacts, not just a mere "owner".

The story: (names and some specific details withhold for privacy purposes)
This camera was purchased new in late 1967 or early 1968 to replace a stolen H1a. At the time, he was a graduate science student in New York. He took it around on trips all over from New England to New Jersey. In 1969 he got married to another scientist and they traveled a lot with it, including an assignment in Montana, for which they took the long way trip: Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona(Grand Canyon), California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and eventually to Montana. While in Montana, they went all over the state, Wyoming and South Dakota, where they watched the Moon landing on July 20, 1969. After the assignment in Montana, they went back east to New England. They eventually traveled all over from Florida to Canada. The Spotmatic also went with them on a trip to Europe: England, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
The Spotmatic was a workhorse for taking pictures of specimens for science publications. The 50mm f1.4 was sometimes fitted with a Pentax close-up filter, which he still has and uses to this day. Other lenses that saw service in the Spotmatic were a Vivitar Series 1 90mm macro, a 28mm f3.5, a 135mm f3.5 SuperTak, a 300mm f6.3 preset, and bellows with 100mm f4 bellows Takumar preset. But more than a workhorse, it also took countless family memories.
He fondly remembers the Spotmatic as the best in controls layout / overall ergonomics as it feels so right in your hands.
In March of 1978 it was serviced by Pentax as evidenced in a service sticker. He doesn't recall why so it was not a major failure. Most likely a CLA.
After more than a decade of service, it was then retired and replaced with an ME Super in the early '80s mostly due to advancements in metering.
Now happily retired, he is still active with a current Pentax DSLR.

The camera model:
The Spotmatic was presented at the 1960 Photokina, but it was not released until 1964. This revolutionary camera had an internal TTL (Thru The Lens) metering system. The prototype had a spot meter, hence the name, but it was decided to change to a center weighted meter as the spot meter would have been very hard to use by the general public. But the name was retained. While not exactly the first camera with built in TTL metering, it was the first successful TTL metering camera body. The "early" version was produced from 1964 until '65, when it was revised with what is now known as the "later" version. The differences between early and later versions are mostly cosmetics but some minor internals may have been revised as well.
The original Spotmatic became the most successful camera of its time with a production run until 1973. But other Spotmatic variations were made until 1976. Between all the variants, there were over 4 million made!

The Specimen:
This is what was received:


Like a time capsule, the package included the camera, its original Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 kit lens, its original user manual, original case, a remote cable release (love those) and a third party flash unit.
For a camera that wasn't used in decades, it was in great shape! It was a little bit dusty, had plenty of signs of use but no signs of abuse or dents. It has definitely been well taken care of. Some of the letters have lost their paint and there is some contact cement residue suggesting the leatherette may have been peeling and was reattached at some point. A service sticker from Pentax Corp has the date of March 25, 1978.







It is a "later" version of the original Spotmatic. While it is almost impossible to correlate serial numbers to a manufacturing date, the serial number puts it well over the change in '65 but early in the lifespan of the Spotmatic. Most likely 1966-1967. The fact that it was purchased in '67 or '68 helps to confirm that.
Minor dust in the viewfinder was not enough to justify a full prism teardown. I tested the shutter and it seems the higher speeds may be suffering from a little capping. All shutter speeds complete the cycle which is great. I don't have (yet) the proper battery to test the meter, but I was able to apply voltage to the battery terminals and saw movement in the meter needle. That's encouraging that the meter is probably alive. Accuracy will be another topic. Self timer, film advance, both flash ports (FP and X) and meter switch all seem to be working properly. The lens (which is the 7 element / 6 blades variant of the Super Takumar 50mmf1.4), has minor dust inside but not worth of a teardown. It is in great shape. Aperture and focus rings are smooth as well as the AM switch. However it has a considerable yellow cast most likely due to the radioactive Thorium glass. Yes, these lenses are radioactive but that is a whole other discussion. There are documented processes to clear the yellow. I'll look into that later.

The Restoration:
To me, it is CRITICAL when restoring these items NOT to make them new, but to retain their patina and heritage while getting the best out of them.
To that extent, the camera was cleaned to its best but most scratches, brassing and paint rubs were left alone. However, missing paint inside the engraved letters was addressed. The mirror return gear and related mechanics were lightly cleaned and lubed. After that, the capping issue in the higher speeds seems to improve. I don't think it was directly related but it helped exercising it back to life. You see? cameras need exercise, not me! ��




Here the left side is been worked while the right side is still untouched.

Disassembly was limited only for cleaning purposes. Since I've never claimed to be normal, even the slots on the screws were cleaned. Emphasis was made in the engraved characters like shutter speeds, rewind and film type ring.
Similarly, the lens was deep cleaned without disassembly. In this case I went bonkers and each and every groove on the rings was carefully cleaned with a dental pick. All the markings were carefully cleaned as well. No paint touch up was required on the lens.

So here it is! As soon as I get the proper battery I'll do a final test before running a roll of film thru it!
Stay tuned! This story is far from over...





















What do you think?

Thanks,
Ismael
I think that's not a time capsule... time capsules are full of pretty things that are of the moment...
Even if it was put away for decades, it has decades of use worn into it.

I got a Spotmatic F with a box of other things.
It had a plaque on it from Honeywell (the air conditioner end of Honeywell, I think) in honor of 25 years of service for someone.
I know a guy in the engine end of Honeywell, and heard they were making a small museum of Honeywell stuff at their office to try and maintain some of the ancient Honeywell tribal pride.
Obviously, that camera needed to be there rather than at my house...

Hilariously, I kept wondering why it seemed like it was open-aperture metering with my lenses... surely it was broken...
Spotmatics don't do that...

So I get you

-Eric
10-16-2020, 12:34 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Very nice! I hope it works as well now as it did originally. Cool story also.
10-16-2020, 01:42 PM - 1 Like   #4
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Great story and good job cleaning it up.


I still have my original Spotmatic II I got in the early 1970's. Plus the Mamiya/Sekor 50DTL that preceded it. You can get a battery for it here:

Battery, WEIN Cell PX400 Replacement | Micro-Tools


Last edited by gaweidert; 10-16-2020 at 02:47 PM.
10-16-2020, 03:14 PM - 1 Like   #5
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For a bigger initial investment, but much cheaper batteries, you can get a replacement battery cover which allows you to use small hearing-aid batteries which are really cheap. It depends on how much you plan to use it, and if you plan to use the meter much. The Wein cell ones work fine, but have a short life.

BTW, great story! And a great job cleaning it up.

PS: https://www.smallbattery.company.org.uk/sbc_h-b_adapter.htm
10-16-2020, 05:50 PM - 1 Like   #6
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That's amzaing that you know the history of the camera, that's unusual if you aren't the first original owner, of family. It looks like a fine camera, and I can tell you are already enjoying it even without putting film in it. But really Ismael, do you enjoy using the cameras or restoring the cameras more; or both equally. Keep up the good work!
6 Days Ago - 2 Likes   #7
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Thank you all for your comments!

QuoteOriginally posted by ramseybuckeye Quote
do you enjoy using the cameras or restoring the cameras more; or both equally.
Tom, that is a very interesting question: I wish I had more time to be out there shooting. But work, family and a hectic life don't allow that very often. So this has become part of my "escape". The only time I have to tinker with old cameras (or to work in my other hobbies for that matter) is usually late at night, after everybody goes to sleep. If I can get a full hour on the workbench then I consider it a great night. Many times I go to the workbench close to midnight thinking, I have a conference call at 7AM. I shouldn't be here

Thanks,
6 Days Ago - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by ismaelg Quote
Thank you all for your comments!

Tom, that is a very interesting question: I wish I had more time to be out there shooting. But work, family and a hectic life don't allow that very often. So this has become part of my "escape". The only time I have to tinker with old cameras (or to work in my other hobbies for that matter) is usually late at night, after everybody goes to sleep. If I can get a full hour on the workbench then I consider it a great night. Many times I go to the workbench close to midnight thinking, I have a conference call at 7AM. I shouldn't be here

Thanks,
That time alone doing that is the mental relaxation you need, if you didn't you would probably lay in bed thinking about it. I've got to believe working on the cameras probably makes you a better photographer, and taking photos makes you a better camera tech. Anyway I really enjoy your posts on these projects and such, so keep up the good work!

6 Days Ago   #9
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Hello,

The 53 years old Spotmatic User Manual sees the light again...



Just having fun with this.

Thanks,
5 Days Ago - 1 Like   #10
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I really like looking through old manuals. I have a box full of the things, along with a number of Pentax lenses and accessories booklets. Enjoy the Spottie. Mine is loaded with Berlin 400 film and is coming with me for a walk this afternoon.
5 Days Ago - 1 Like   #11
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Really a great story, and fun to read. thanks for sharing.

Note that the camera is engraved with the product number 23102 which gives away that it is the "late" model. The early model would / could have been engraved with P.number 231.
5 Days Ago - 1 Like   #12
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Another great job Ismael and lovely to work on one that has a known history. Like you I have an OCD issue and usually work late at night when partner is snoozing. It helps me unwind.

I have to do some stuff with daylight so I usually work late at night on mechanics and prep and do the final bits at the weekend.

Just finished a Chines made K1000 which was horrible. I also have a Spotmatic 500 which is a complete mess, I was going to break it for parts but reading this has set me off to see if I can remake it....like ai dont have enough to do with an SRT303 and the trouble box Yashica Auto Electro
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Hello!! Great story, and really cool camera! It cleaned up nicely, and has lots of character. I have a Spotmatic F with screwmount that I inherited 34 years ago after my grandfather died when I was 14, so I guess 1986 or thereabout. It has a 55mm f1.8 Takumar lens, and I remember the light meter working back then, but I was completely baffled by the camera and thought I had to have a degree in rocket science to understand photography!! I carried that camera around untouched until 2015 when I got a digital superzoom and used the Spotmatic to learn about shutter speed, aperture size and how photography works, since you can easily observe everything as it is all manual! In fact, that Spotmatic spurred my curiosity about modern Pentax, and that led me to a KS-2, and then a KP, and picking up photography as a hobby that I can incorporate into backpacking and everyday life. My son has also started with photography using my KS-2 and looking toward the K-70. I never did get a degree in rocket science, but I think I understand the basics of photography fairly well, and I have a great new hobby that I can share with my son, thanks in part to the Spotmatic!!
4 Days Ago - 1 Like   #14
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Spotties are great cameras!!! that model you have can take a SR battery with no problem 387S is the perfect fit, or 392 and a rubber o-ring
I have a few of them as well. including the Asahi SP that my father bought new in Japan in the early 70s
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