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.
Essentially an Spotmatic F, the KM is what many feel the K1000 should have been. Introduced alongside the KX in 1975 as it’s less expensive sibling, the KM still offered a self timer and depth of field preview – both features that were thought to be omissions from the K1000. Interestingly, the depth of field preview lacks the lock-out feature found on the KX.
The meter is a little less sensitive than that in the KX, and the film speed range a little smaller. There’s no aperture window in the viewfinder, but there is the ability to record either the number of exposure or the type of film using a small wheel under the rewind knob.
As with the KX the KM was offered in both chrome and black, though I’ve never seen either in anything but chrome. They weren’t made for more than 2 years, and so there are relatively few still around. This one was pretty dirty when received, but has cleaned up somewhat.
1975 saw the introduction of the KX as the advanced-amateur model in the Pentax K series lineup, seen as one step up from the KM. As with all the K line, the body is essentially a bayonet mount development of the Spotmatic line, and physically very similar.
Metering is of the match needle variety, and the display shows both selected shutter speed and the speed required to achieve “correct” exposure. The pentaprism window looks out onto the aperture ring, so the selected value is also visible through the viewfinder.
As the advanced member of the lineup, the KX also offers mirror lockup, a self timer, depth of field preview (with a lock-out feature) and a switch for the light meter. It’s otherwise similar to the K1000 – the VW Beetle of film cameras – in that it’s pretty heavy, solid, and decidedly mechanical in use.
Surprisingly, given it’s decidedly amateur auto-only positioning, this MV1 was “rode hard and put away wet”. It’s one of the most used models in the museum, and was filthy when received. I’ve included it as an interesting reminder that even supposedly beginner friendly cameras can earn their keep through hard work.
Introduced in 1980, the MV1 is a little less basic than the MV it succeeded – it has a self timer for example, a memo holder, it can accept a data back and – as with this example – a winder. It’s still aperture priority only, with an electronic, focal plane metal shutter. It’s very clearly a member of the ME family, with the same almost implausibly compact body and featherlight controls.
It’s still very much a beginner friendly camera, and the shutter speed isn’t displayed in the finder. Interestingly there is exposure compensation, though it’s a little hidden beneath the rewind lever and requires good fingernails to operate.
Introduced in 1977, and produced until 1985, the MX represented the flagship of Pentax’s 35mm line. Unlike the ME and derivatives, it features a mechanically timed, cloth shutter. It’s smaller and lighter than the KX, which it succeeded, but other than the overall body form factor it shared little with the ME range. Only light metering required a battery, for example, and there were no automatic metering modes offered.
As the “professional” model in their line, the MX offered interchangeable focusing screens, a choice of data backs, a bulk film back, and both a winder and a motor drive. There’s a small window built into the finder pentaprism which peeks out at the aperture ring, and lets the shooter see it through the finder. It’s a solidly built, well crafted piece of jewelry.
Pentax introduced the MG in 1981, as the successor to the MV1 and in the line of simpler, automated, bodies going back through MV and ME of 1977.
The MG is aperture priority automatic, with no manual shutter speed other than the flash sync of 1/100th second. The metal focal plane shutter is electronically controlled – by and large photographers had overcome their initial hesitation about trusting electronics, and the increased accuracy and reliability of such a shutter was now well accepted.
Shutter speed is shown in the viewfinder, but the selected aperture is not. There’s a simple clockwork self-timer, and the hot shoe features an additional electrical contact for use with a dedicated Pentax flash unit.
Film loading is of the magic needle variety, and works well. The museum example is unique to me in that the protective film is still in place on the baseplate, and it was bought fitted with a genuine Pentax zoom – typically I find ebay cameras with some no-name zoom on them