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The Pentax K-1000 35mm Camera - Simple, Effective, and a Classic
A Photography Student's Best Choice
My first camera, bought in 1979, was one of the simplest SLR cameras ever made - the Pentax K-1000. Learning how to use this camera taught me all I needed to know to get started in the wonderful world of photography. I still have my first roll of film that I took on the camera, complete with the spots from where the film touched on the film roller. However, my K-1000 is long gone.
The Pentax K-1000 had no automatic features. It had just a shutter control to select the speed and ASA dial to set film speed. All you had to do was get the meter in the viewfinder in the middle of the + and – mark. You would get the exposure correct using the shutter and f-stop together in the correct combination, keeping in mind the depth of field.
The camera lens was focused by getting the two half- circles in the viewfinder combined into one circle. It made you learn how to use the shutter and f-stop settings to get correct depth of field, or how to combine them to capture that football player making a big play.
Flash synchronization was 1/60th of a second with maximum speed of 1/1000th of a second. It did have a Bulb setting for open shutter photos. There was no timer, or depth of field preview or a motor drive. In other words, it was an all manual camera.
The camera had an interchangeable lens mount and used 35mm film. I had two lenses in my kit – stock lens and a telephoto lens, along with a cheap flash.
It came with a metal body, with black leather covering the bottom half. Imagine a digital SLR being all metal today. My two work cameras are a Nikon N-60 and a Canon EOS 60D. They are just a big piece of plastic, but very expensive pieces of plastic. I doubt that either one would survive the abuse that my K-1000 took.
The K-1000 could work without a battery. All the battery did was power the light meter. If you knew what you were doing, you could still take a picture using the settings recommended on the film box per your lighting situation.
As camera companies competed for market share, more advanced features and models were added, giving SLR camera users more choices than ever. Auto exposure, in different modes, became the most popular feature offered. The K-1000 survived all the rapid advances in technology, which went against the grain in camera feature offerings. You could not learn the basics of photography if you depended on the auto settings. Many of the advanced cameras did offer you a choice of shutter priority, aperture priority, auto mode or completely manual, but were often complex to use and had a high learning curve.
Most consumers just want to take a picture and have it turn out in focus, with the correct exposure, so it was the auto-everything cameras that exploded in growth.
Yet the Pentax K-1000 made it through all the advancements, from its beginning in 1976 to its end in 1997 when it was dropped from the lineup. Parts for the camera were getting harder to find. Digital cameras were just on the horizon.
Over three million Pentax K-1000’s were sold in its lifetime, most being purchased by young students like myself. They are still in demand for students to learn on, although I expect there will be a day when film is no longer made, sending all film cameras to a collector's glass case.
If you are interested in these cameras, there are plenty available on the used market, going for about $120 for the camera body. Buy one, and learn how shutter speed and f-stop settings work together to get the correct exposure, or how to focus the lens yourself. You won’t miss a shot waiting for the camera to auto focus, and if the battery dies, it does not become a useless brick.
Take it another step further, and buy a darkroom set up of an enlarger, trays, bottles, timer, etc. As long as they still keep making film, photo paper, and chemicals, one can still learn the art of developing film and printing photos.
And one more thing - the K-1000 was a great looking camera!