Classic Pentax M42 & K Mount SLRs:

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic

by Karen Nakamura



Overview and Personal Comments

This original Spotmatic was released in 1964 and was produced until 1967. It has almost a cult following among many photographers, including myself. You might think a camera with the name "Spotmatic" had a spot-meter or automatic shutter or aperture priority metering. Hah! Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

The original prototype Spotmatic did have a spotmeter CdS cell. But Asahi decided, wisely, that a center weighted meter would give better photos across the broad spectrum of scenes and that spotmeters were difficult for beginners to use (not everyone is a Ansel Adam's Zone freak). The Spotmatic has a stopped-down manual match-needle metering system. This means that:

When you want to take a picture, you lift the camera to your eyes and focus the lens. At this point, the camera's aperture is wide open to allow for easy focusing. Then you meter. With your left thumb, you flip up the "SW" switch on the left side of the lens mount. This stops the lens down to its taking aperture and activates the through-the-lens metering circuitry. A small needle on the right side of the viewfinder moves in response to the light. Using your shutter speed and aperture controls, you move a second needle with a big 'O' on the end until it corresponds with the smaller needle (matching the needle = match needle). Since the lens is stopped down, you check your depth of field, and then shoot away.


What photography instructors and old tyros like is that because you always meter stopped down, you always know what your depth of field is. And because with match needling, you can easily adjust so that your 'O' needle is just above or just below, it teaches you exposure compensation very smoothly. Backlit subject? Just keep the 'O' needle a bit above. A black cat? A bit below. That's much easier than the +1, +2, or -1, -2 type exposure compensation dials in automatic metering cameras, that always seem to be tucked somewhere inconvenient.

By the way, if you're looking for a camera that looks exactly like a Spotmatic, but doesn't have a light meter, then you're most probably looking for a Asahi Pentax S1a or H1a, or maybe an early Asahiflex. All Spotmatics came with a light meter built in. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.


Interesting quirks

The fixed focal length Super-Takumars in the M42 Pentax/Praktica screw mount that came with the Spotmatics easily were at the top of their class when they came out and they still best all of the consumer level zoom lenses that people buy. They were multi-coated with a very hard coating process. If you see a Super-Takumar, buy it.

Although photography teachers like to recommend the Pentax K1000 and its clones for their students, I think they'd be better off recommending early screwmount Spotmatics. The lenses are excellent and in good supply, the metering is still spot on, and best of all, prices are still reasonable. The Pentax K bayonet mount is excellent, but I still have a soft spot for the screw mounts.





Technical Details

Camera Name
Pentax Spotmatic
Asahi Optical
Place of Manufacture


Date of Manufacture
Focusing System

Single-lens reflex with pentaprism eye-level viewfinder

Lens use helicoid focusing

Lens Mount

Pentax/Praktica screwmount (M42)


Focal plane shutter
1 sec ~ 1/1000
X-sync = 1/60

Metering System

CdS TTL metering (stopped down only)
EV 1.7 ~ 18 (ISO 100)


Hotshoe, PC connection

Film type / speeds

135 type (35mm standard film)
ASA - 3200

Battery type
1.3v mercury PX-400
Dimensions and weight


Retail price


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My Pentax Screw Mount Lens Collection

(35mm, 50mm, 55, 135mm)



About Asahi Optical Co.

You see both Asahi Pentax and Honeywell Pentax cameras on the market, what's the difference? Asahi Optical Company is the manufacturer of the cameras and has a very hallowed history. It was founded in 1919 to make optical lenses. It came out with its first SLR, the Asahiflex I in 1951. Pentax is the name of their first SLR with a pentaprism (penta-prism = pentax) which came out in 1957. Since then, it's been their tradename for their series of SLRs, just as EOS is the trade name for Canon's electronic SLRs.

Honeywell was the U.S. importer for Asahi cameras until the mid-1970s. Cameras that they imported are stamped "Honeywell Pentax" on the nameplate, not Asahi Pentax. With the minor except of one camera that was designed to accomodate a Honeywell flash unit, Honeywell Pentaxes are identical to Asahi Pentaxes.

About the only things with a stronger cult following than the Pentax screw mount cameras (Spotmatics) are their K-mount cameras, including the K1000. The K1000 which is now being made by Chinese companies and branded under Chinon and other labels, is often recommended by photography instructors. This has caused the price to stay about $200 for a new set. My own recommendation is to stay with the screw mounts. There is a wider variety of lenses and prices are relatively good. There's also a very strong cult following around their gargantuan Pentax 67 medium format SLRs.

Trivia: "Pentax" was one of the names the Nippon Optical Corporation cycled through when coming up with the name of their new camera in 1948. They ended up calling it the "Nikon" instead.


On the Net

Praktica/Pentax M42 Screwmount


Copyright © 2002-11 by Karen Nakamura. All rights reserved. This page and its images may not be reduplicated in any form. Use in ebay auctions strictly prohibited, violaters will be reported. Please do not jeopardize your feedback ratings by engaging in copyright violations, it is a violation of Federal and International Copyright law as well as ebay terms of service.
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