This is a real oddity, a precision SLR designed around the tiny 110 film format. Pentax introduced this in 1979, at a time when electronic exposure controls could be miniaturised to the point where they could be used in a device this small. And it’s really, really, small!
This is the only interchangeable lens SLR ever produced for the 110 film cartridge – there were fixed lens 110 cameras from other manufacturers. It offers program only TTL auto exposure, and a range of 6 lenses in the Pentax 110 Bayonet format:
18 mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens (equivalent angle of view to a 35 mm lens on a 135 format camera).
24 mm f/2.8 normal lens (equiv. 50 mm). The optical design meant that this was the smallest lens on the system.
50 mm f/2.8 telephoto lens (equiv. 100 mm)
In 1981, three more lenses were included:
18 mm “Pan Focus” lens was a compact lens of fixed focus set to the hyperfocal distance; the short focal length and wide aperture meant that its depth of field stretched from 1.75 m (5.7 ft) to infinity. The camera aperture needed to be set at f/6.3 for this lens to work as intended.
70 mm f/2.8 telephoto lens (equiv. 140 mm)
20–40 mm f/2.8 zoom lens (equiv. 40–80 mm). This lens extended for wider focal lengths and shortened towards the telephoto end.
The Museum Sample
Found, as usual, on eBay complete with flash, filters, case, and all the original manuals for $90. It’s generally quite clean, but the 110 film is tough to find and so difficult to tell if it still works.
The flashgun, tiny as it is, still dwarfs the camera itself.
Introduced in 1971 along with the line of S-M-C Takumar lenses – though still all metal without the rubber grips found on the later models on the SP F. Compared to the original Spotmatic the film transport was improved, as was the light meter. A hotshoe was now included in addition to the standard flash connection.
M42 screw mount lenses support automatic diaphragm for exposure, but manual stop down is required for metering – that’s the lever to the photographers left of the lens mount. Horizontal travel, rubberized cloth shutter offering 1s to 1/1000th is as standard as they come, including flash sync at 1/60th. Metering is of the simple match needle variety through the viewfinder, which features a fixed, ground glass screen with micro-prism center circle. Compared to the prior model the ASA range is now expanded to 3200.
The Museum Sample
Acquired October 2020 through eBay for $140, this is a nice clean sample. As is common for US market Pentax cameras of this era, it’s branded as a Honeywell Pentax.
Launched in 1973, the Spotmatic F was the first Pentax to offer open-aperture TTL metering – 7 years after rivals had first offered the feature. It’s visually very similar to other Spotmatic models, and continued the tradition of refinement and quality in the hand.
In common with the other late models in the Spotmatic line, the F offers an expanded light meter sensitivity range of 20-3200 ASA, up from the 20-1600 of the earliest models. The biggest advance, as already noted, was the introduction of open aperture metering. Unlike earlier models where the meter was activated by a switch which also stopped down the aperture, the F utilizes a new coupling on the SMC Takumar lenses to communicate the selected aperture to the metering system.
Other than the change to metering, the chassis is fundamentally similar to earlier models: a cloth, mechanical shutter offering 1-1/1000 sec range with flash sync at 1/60sec. at 642g weight is very close to the original SP and SPII.
Why it’s special
The first Spotmatic to offer full aperture metering. It also introduced us to the SMC Takumar lenses, which in 42mm screw mount still look very similar to the first generation of K bayonet mount lenses.
The Museum Sample
Acquired in October 2020 with a SMC Takumar 50mm f1.4 for $95, complete with ever ready case and owner’s manual. This is a nice honest sample with little signs of abuse or wear.