In my little camera bag No. 5: Pentax Spotmatic SP1000

Pentax Spotmatic SP1000 angle
The Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP1000 on the light table with some old Kodak stuff and that Hanimex lens. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP1000 is another one of those damn-near-unkillable, super-simple, all-manual things of beauty you’ll see over and again on lists of best starting film cameras.

This week’s camera isn’t actually in my bag. It hasn’t even been in there for a second yet. This week it’s a tale of love at first sight, in a way.

I’ve seen Spotmatics at thrift stores before, though never have the price and condition matched. Sometimes they’re only $5 but in about as good a shape as if they’d just been driven over by a truck, others they are immaculate but Goodwill wants $49.99 for them.

This last Sunday, Kate and I took advantage of the unseasonably nice day and popped up to Mile High Flea Market to get a little exercise and take in the sights. Being it’s still winter there weren’t as many vendors as there will be in May or June, but there was still quite a bit to see.

I got the Ansco Shur-Flash from a stall at the flea market last year, but otherwise my luck hasn’t been great there. I think I’m about one May trip away from writing it off as a place to look for cameras and accessories any more.

We were about to call it a bust when I spotted this worn but good-looking Spotmatic SP1000 body in between some plasticky 80s off-brand cameras. I checked it over for about 30 seconds and asked the vendor, “How much for this old thing?”

Okay, I hoped I was pulling a bit of psychology, and maybe I succeeded. “Oh, how about eight bucks?” came the reply.

I had already mentally planned to try bargaining to $10, so I decided not to argue and handed the man a few bills. “Eight’s good. Thanks!”

When I got it home, I was sure I had a lens. The lens on my Praktica LTL3 doesn’t stop down for some reason or I would’ve borrowed it straightaway. But I remembered I had a couple of M42 screw-mount (also called Praktica thread mount, Universal Thread Mount, or even Pentax Screw Mount) lenses in a box that I had acquired, probably in bags or boxes with other thrift-store cameras and such.

All off-brand stuff, but some in decent shape. I found a Hanimex Automatic 35mm f/2.8 that looked optically sound and fully functional. From Googling, it sounds like Hanimex lenses are mostly crap, particularly optically. The vast majority of search results are other people trying to unload their Hanimex lenses onto you and I.

After just one roll, I can tell you the Hanimex lens operates smoothly and feels very solid and well-made — it’s really pleasant to use, frankly. But all the machining in the world can’t fix shit glass.

Within about an hour, both the body and the lens were cleaned up and mated together, and a roll of recently-expired Kodak Gold 200 loaded in the back. It was time to try my new toy.

I had an errand in Cherry Creek North that afternoon, so the Spotmatic came along for the ride and before I made it back to my parking spot the roll was rewound and in my pocket.

I’m eager to put the next roll through it. And the next.

Pentax Spotmatic SP1000 dead-on
The Pentax Spotmatic SP1000 looking right down the barrel of the crummy lens. (Daniel J. Schneider)