Spotmatic Overview

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The majority of Spotmatic controls are right here

After a few weeks
playing with my Pentax Spotmatic camera I find shooting it a blast.

It is a fully manual SLR
with typical layout of the controls.  You won't find much more on this
camera than shutter speed dial & release, film advance level and a
self-timer.  Aperture and focus is of course controlled via the lens.

The Spotmatic has
through the lens (TTL) metering, but unlike newer cameras there is a switch
near the lens mount to enable the meter.  This engages an automatic
diaphragm release on newer M42 lenses to stop the aperture down for metering.

The documented usage
model is to first compose and focus with the aperture wide open and then engage
the meter and adjust exposure as needed.  The image through the viewfinder
darkens during metering as the lens stops down to the chosen aperture.

Personally I found
myself metering first and then disengaging the switch to perform final
focusing; either method works fine.

The only quirks I have
encountered are

  • It required an PX-400 mercury battery, but I used the
    replacement WeinCell instead
  • The battery chamber prong had to be pried up a bit to
    get the meter working
  • The fresnel focusing screen in the viewfinder requires your eye to be dead center to work

Taking a Spin with a Spotmatic

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While I use a variety of film cameras, my SLRs and interchangeable
lenses so far have been mostly Nikon.

I wanted to branch out and try an older interchangeable lens
system and decided on the M42 mount.  There
is some pretty nice M42 glass with unique aesthetics, often available at affordable

M42 is a thread mount where you literally screw the threaded rear
end of the lens into the camera body.  M42
is sometimes known as the Praktica or Pentax thread mounts as those were two of
the most prolific camera makes to use it.

After some research it seemed that the original Pentax Spotmatic was
one of the best camera bodies made to use M42 lenses.  It has TTL metering, a reputation for quality,
and a pleasing design.

It has a few quirks for those used to more modern SLRs; primarily
that you often have to focus and meter as separate steps. But now that I have put a few rolls through one it has a certain
charm to it that I find hard to resist.

Schrödinger’s Photography

Nikon F100, Fuji Velvia 50

You have heard of his cat.  But have you heard his stance on proper tripod use?

Google is celebrating Erwin Schrödinger's birthday today with their doodle.  Schrödinger's famous cat paradox has been used to illustrate the limitations of practical interpretations of quantum mechanics for almost 80 years.

However, reading up on him just now I was fascinated by the end of his original paradox statement:

"There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks."  —Erwin Schrödinger, Die gegenwärtige Situation in der Quantenmechanik

Clearly he was well versed (as you would expect from the 1930's) in the proper use of a tripod to capture long exposures!

The above multi-second, tripod-rooted shot of my own was taken over nine years ago in the mountains just north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Erwin would have been proud that the hills in the distance are nice and sharp.

12 of 17 Signs

Nikon FA, Nikkor AF 85mm/1.8 D, Kodak Portra 400

Consider yourself an analog photographer?  Take a spin through this list and see how
many items you can identify or honestly claim to have used.

I was able to recognize 12 of the 17 items.  I think a few were not too fair or common in
the first place, so I think that was a pretty good score.

And honestly I use 7 of them even to this day, and desire to
pick more up again sometime in the future when I have the time to play around
with a darkroom and/or large format.

Lifeguard Tower

2013 06 JMZ Beach Lego FA Portra 400-0001
Nikon FA, Nikkor Ai-S 50/1.8, Kodak Portra 400

We spent some time in southern California earlier this summer, on the beach or at the poolside.  It was mostly just family fun, but we did enjoy a few sunset photography opportunities.

Even though we headed south right after last school year ended, the next year is starting in just two weeks.  Even if the summer heat is going to last longer, it feels like it is over once we get back into the elementary school scene.

My Nikon FA is really my go-to casual camera these days, and more often than not my Nikkor Ai-S 50/1.8 is attached to it and it is loaded with Portra 400 film.  This is quite the winning combination and I have gotten quite used to it.

Still a Flickr Fan


I have read lots of doom and gloom about the recent major changes to Flickr.  However I have to say that I am personally a fan of the new tile view.

In fact I was inspired enough to clean up the mess that my collections and sets had become.

The new tile view encourages scrolling through large quantities of images.  Therefore I deleted almost 100 sets and replaced them with 17 public ones and a number of others just for family shots.

I never ever used the old set/page views, instead viewing my images via the excellent FlickStackr app.  But now I do any serious browsing via the native Flickr interface.

About the only other thing I had to change was my profile image which was terribly low resolution.  I went back to the original file, re-cropped it and uploaded it again as seen above.

I haven't shot my vintage Canon IV-S rangefiner in a long time, but it has a classic profile that serves to show off my bubble level!

Why did it have to be snakes?

Nikon F6, Nikkor AF 50mm/1.8, Kodak Portra 400

We caught an Indiana Jones exhibit at the Discovery Science Center in the spring.  It was a blast seeing many original props and costumes from the Indiana Jones series of movies which are some of our all-time favorites.

The lights were pretty dim but I was impressed what Portra 400 could pull off with my lens wide open.  I checked my metering now and then, but mostly just left the shutter at 1/60 of a second.

Most of my images came out quite nicely, including ones of the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol, Holy Grail, Crusader Shield, and Grail Cross.

Backlit Bridge

Nikon D300, AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6

Here is another of my shots from my Europe trip back in 2010.  After my stay in Oslo I had business for one day in the outskirts of London.

I took a day off to walk around London a bit and I started out at the Tower of London.  This show was taken just outside on the bank of the River Thames.

I had to navigate my way around several busloads of tourists to time the shot just right with the smaller boat caught in the reflection of the sun.  They were all trying to capture a similar shot with themselves (and their many friends) inside the picture, whereas I was trying exactly the opposite…

More of my London shots are on Flickr here.  Cue my Dear Sweet Wife asking for a family trip there, especially to the capital (or is it epicenter?) of her fabric world Liberty of London.

Send Me In

Yashica Electro 35 CC, Ilford FP4 Plus

Our 4-year old has been on the sidelines watching his big brother play soccer last fall and most recently baseball this spring.  That won't last for very long as they are both signed up for soccer this next season.

Summer is here with warm weather, swimming, and hopefully a family trip or two. But we are already looking forward to Kindergarten starting up and having both our sons at the same school again.

Parenting has been an amazing trip so far and shows no signs of slowing up.  Not only has it provided me with plenty of photo ops, but we are also now trying to introduce our sons into the hobby.

Here's to a wonderful summer for you all, whether filled with family, photography or whatever else fills your time!

The Little Flash That Could

Nikon SB-30 Flash (Yes, you mount a flash upside-down on a Rollei 35)

From day to day I may go between handful of different film cameras, but there is almost always just one flash that I take with me.

The compact little Nikon SB-30 Speedlight is a true gem of a flash.  It is incredibly versatile, able to work with almost any camera with a hot shoe.

It supports a variety of operating modes including:

  • Balanced Fill-Flash with modern SLRs like Nikon N90, F100, F6
  • Standard Through The Lens (TTL) flash mode with cameras such as the Nikon FE2, FA, F3 or even other brands such as a Leica M6 TTL
  • Non-TTL automatic flash metering with any other camera such as my Rollei 35S, Sprocket Rocket, or a Holga
  • Fully manual operation a full, 1/8th, and 1/32nd power settings
  • Auto and manual wireless slave function (for firing off-camera driven by another flash)

The non-TTL automatic option is great, as you simply dial in the aperture and film speed combination you are currently using and the flash's own forward-facing sensor measures the light bouncing back from your subject and stops the flash output when it has reached the right level.

It has a handy compensation switch built in which allows you to bump the flash power up or down a half stop.  I often drop the power a half stop this way for fill-flash purposes.

Its lower power output matches is compact size, so for serious work you would be better off with a larger flash.  But it is so small you can take it practically anywhere with confidence that you can pop off a flash whenever needed.