1. An image quality that is unsurpassed for the price point
2. A build quality that is second-to-none
Pentax made 4 series of lenses going back to the late-’50s. There were:
Super-Multi-Coated Takumar (S-M-C)
SMC Takumar (mostly cosmetic differences)
I try to get the S-M-C and later lenses for the better coating; evidently at the time Pentax had developed the best lens coating available and nearly every other lens maker was paying Pentax for the technology. I’m not planning to write a detailed history of the brand here, so I’ll stop with what I’ve said. A lot of my early information came from this site, very helpful.
Since it’s been 5.5 years since my last post professing my love of Pentax I thought I’d go back through the archives and compile some of my favorite pictures; they’re generally in order of when I shot them and it should be readily apparent how much Tri-X I’ve been shooting (a lot) compared to everything else (not much).
These lenses have a special character which I really like, they’re plenty sharp too, and extremely sturdy (also: damn heavy). Hold one in your hands and turn the focus ring: if this doesn’t make you want to try a Spotmatic out at least once then I don’t think we can be friends. I will however understand if it doesn’t become your main camera outfit after shooting one because there are other SLR systems that are much more advanced. That’s ultimately what made me move on. We had a good run together and I’m sorry to say goodbye to these wonderful lenses. If only Pentax had made a body worthy of their greatness!
The Spotmatics are a great line of cameras but do have some inherent weaknesses which were never overcome. Build quality is standard 1960s which is to say solid and sturdy, no complaints there. I learned to live with stop-down metering, and screw-mount lenses. Actually if both bodies are hanging around my neck I’m much more comfortable unscrewing a Takumar than a Nikkor, so far! Though considering the modular (and advanced) features of the older Nikon F, Pentax did make some pretty strange choices in camera design at the time, for all that they did right. The most complained-about features (screw mount and stop-down metering) were corrected by the mid-’70s but quality started dropping fast soon after, about the time they went to the M-series lenses. I used to wonder why Pentax got such a bad wrap but can start to understand with some of the later stuff where they obviously had to introduce cost-cutting measures to keep going. They still made some quality gear (including their first and only pro-level camera starting in 1980) but eventually were acquired by the closely-associated budget line, Ricoh. Pentax was always playing catch-up to other brands and trying to recapture their former glory by then.
But it was just about 10 years ago that I first bought a Spotmatic (an SPII) with my first Takumar, at a garage sale for $5.00. It looked pretty much like my mom’s Minolta XG-A (chrome and black) and I didn’t know that the lens was made by the same company as the body; I almost didn’t buy the camera because I thought I was getting a cheap off-brand lens, but at $5.00 it was still a deal so I took it. I asked the owner if there were other lenses that I couldn’t see but she said no. Later I studied the lens and body closer and did find that they both had Asahi marked on them so I knew at least I wasn’t getting an off-brand lens thankfully. Shooting a few rolls in 2010 convinced me that this lens was something special so even with acquiring a few more advanced cameras soon after I kept coming back to the Spotmatic, kept buying Takumar lenses. I’m sure I’ll still pull out the system from time to time, I’m certainly not planning on getting rid of it.