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Asahi Pentax Spotmatic - 1964
    

 

 

 

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 Asahi Pentax Spotmatic - 1964                    New! WidePhotoViewer for iPhone/iPod/iPad       
      

First Pentax with through-the-lens metering

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$299.50 with f1.4 lens in 1965 ($2073 in 2010 dollars)

Pentax* showed a prototype through-the-lens (TTL) metering SLR in 1960 that really did have spot metering, but it never went into production. By the time they introduced the Spotmatic in 1964 it was a different camera, with average metering instead of spot metering, though it retained the Spotmatic name. (Perhaps confusing some buyers?)

To see that the prototype wasn't really a prototype of the 1964 Spotmatic, take a look at this preview of the "SPOT-MATIC" from the 1960 Photokina show that appeared in the January 1961 issue of Popular Photography:

By the time a Spotmatic went into production, two TTL SLRs had already been introduced by others: the Topcon RE Super in 1963 and the Alpa 9d in 1964. But they weren't Pentaxes and didn't take 42mm-screw-mount lenses; the Spotmatic was and did.

The TTL club was exclusive for only a short time. The Topcon Auto 100, which was the first automatic TTL SLR, also came out in 1964, Nikon introduced its Photomic T finder in 1965, and a Popular Photography article in August 1965 listed 6 others. The advantages over just putting the meter on the front of the camera were enormous.

I bought my Spotmatic on eBay for $39. Except for the scratches caused by the flash shoe, it's in nearly perfect condition, as you can see from the photos. (Prices for Spotmatics on eBay in 2009 reflect their popularity in the 1960s; Topcon RE Supers are very hard to find, and Alpa 9ds are practically impossible.) Setting exposure on a Spotmatic is awkward by today's standards. You stop down the lens to the taking aperture to get a meter reading, for which there's a switch on the left side of the lens mount. Sliding it up also turns on the meter. Then you adjust the aperture and shutter speed until the needle in the viewfinder is centered. Stop-down metering does also preview the depth-of-field, an advantage, but it's very hard to focus an SLR with it stopped down. (You're supposed to focus before you set exposure, because an out-of-focus image meters differently—the dual CdS cells are pointed at the ground glass.) The Pentax Spotmatic II, introduced in 1971, still had stop-down metering. The Spotmatic F in 1973 finally had wide-open metering.

Here's a review of the Spotmatic that appeared in the April 1965 Popular Photography. Click on it to see the whole review big enough to read.

(Part of the Spotmatic review in Modern Photography appears at the end of the Topcon Auto 100 review.)


* The manufacturer in 1964 was called Asahi Optical, which is what it says on the back of the camera. Honeywell imported Spotmatics into the US and put their name on them. Here I just use the name Pentax, which is what the company was eventually called anyway.

 

 


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