Accept no copy, the one the only, the iconic camera that started out life as the bargain model that featured the the new K-Mount (Introduced in 1975), but has since gained greater popularity, and the camera you most likely used in your High School Photography Course, is the Pentax K1000. This all mechanical marvel is the essential student camera and general beater that can be used pretty much anywhere in the world today! The wide range of top quality lenses and ease of use saw it named the Film Photography Project’s Camera of the Year for 2014 and after having several pass in and out of my collection, I finally have one that is going to stay right where it is. This all mechanical beast is probably the best known camera, and with well over three million units sold one of the most prolific cameras out there.
Type: 35mm Single Lens Reflex
Lens: Interchangeable, Pentax K-Mount, Manual
Year of Manufacture: 1979-1997
Probably the best thing about the camera is it’s simplicity. This gives any user a full hands on experience from manual focus to manual exposure (there is a built in light meter). Even setting the exposure is easy, just line up the needle visible in the view finder to the gap by adjusting the shutter speed and aperture. Being a mechanical camera means that to operate the camera itself, you don’t really need to have a battery, as the battery simply powers the light meter, no meter, no problem! Simply use an external meter, even your smart phone with an app on it can do the job, or use the tried and true Sunny-16 rule. And the lens selection is fantastic! The K-mount was used on several non-pentax cameras as a result there’s plenty of solid third-party optics not to mention piles and piles of Pentax optics out there. I would recommend using the SMC Pentax and SMC Pentax A lenses as they work the best on the K1000.
If you’re not used to a fully manual camera switching to one might be a bit jarring, there is no automatic mode at all. Which makes it a good learner camera, but often will make you think a little bit more, which isn’t really a bad thing! However you can’t see what you’ve set everything to inside the viewfinder, which makes it a little difficult, you might end up shooting a handheld 1/10th of a second exposure! And the second thing I have an issue with is the lack of a dedicated power switch, which means the meter is always on, as long as you don’t have a lens cap…which is something.
The Low Down
If you’re just getting started in film photography or really want to get a handle on exposure, this is your best and safest bet. It’s not called a student camera for nothing. Plus they last a long time, and on the used market dirt cheap. You can get a decent setup lens, body for 100 dollars or even less. Plus the old manual K-mount lenses will work on modern Pentax digital SLRs.
But don’t just take my word for it, check out what Michael Raso had to say about it as well!
All photos shot along Highway 6 in Ontario, Canada
Pentax K1000 – SMC Pentax 55mm 1:2 – Ilford HP5+ @ ASA-400
Ilford DD-X (1+4) 9:00 @ 20C