“That’s a really nice camera, mister,” is what a young kid said to me the other day about the Pentax Spotmatic I had slung around me. That put a smile on my face. And just think, years ago I gave my original Pentax Spotmatic away to someone who I felt needed it to grow as a photographer. I do this as I realize I’m super fortunate running The Phoblographer. But over the years, I’ve missed that Spotomatic. What’s worse is I haven’t been able to find the crazy good deal I got it for when I previously wrote about it. Since then I’ve written about it several times. And when Blue Moon Camera had one for sale in Burgundy leather, something about it called to me.
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I’m a journalist first and foremost with strict ethics. So, I’ll be honest and say I bought it from Blue Moon Camera. I didn’t get it for free. In fact, I paid full price for it. Because mine was customized, it was more expensive than the standard.
With that out of the way, the Pentax Spotmatic is a truly beautiful camera. It’s not that large, and it sports a beautiful viewfinder. Let me lean into this aspect a bit. I’m legally blind and I often struggle to peer through optical viewfinders. This is why I love medium format SLRs and 35mm film SLRs with manual focus. Those viewfinders are bright, accurate, and easy to use even for someone with keratoconus. I remember years ago when I’d complain about Canon’s DSLR viewfinders and the reps never seemed to take my recommendations seriously. Eventually, mirrorless came and they were forced to adapt.
Then there’s the Pentax Spotmatic’s metal body. Lots of folks think it might be heavy, but it’s actually lightweight. The Spotmatic is as heavy as a basketball according to research. That’s not a fantastic way to think about it though because how to carries and distributes weight is important. With that said, it does a fantastic job. If you’re perfectly able-bodies and think it’s too heavy, you’re either a brand snob or need to do some pushups.
Then we should discuss how the Pentax Spotmatic is in a golden spot for lens selection. The camera is host to the M42 screwmount. There are tons of lenses in this mount from Pentax, Zeiss, Yashica and others. Lots of them are gorgeous! Match those beautiful, small lenses with this camera and you’ve got a perfect pairing.
More than that, it’s my favorite type of vintage camera: mechanical. You can feed it batteries, but that will only power the light meter. Everything else about the camera is mechanical. So, if the battery dies the camera will still work. Cameras like that come from an era long gone. Manufacturers used to care about making beautiful products, but these days they typically don’t.
Maybe we should also consider the fact that mine is customized; that’s the cherry on top of the perfect cup of Carvel Ice Cream on a summer day. The leather feels brand new and pairs well with the fully refurbished camera. On top of that, it’s just beautiful to look at. The modern camera world is majorly lacking beautiful cameras. Granted, it’s not a modern camera.
While camera companies love to say no one would buy those gorgeous cameras, I think their approach is wrong. They can make beautiful cameras and stuff higher-end innards in them to get the results they want. Fujifilm and Olympus changed an industry years ago with retro looks and ergonomics. And while camera companies take their feedback mostly from professionals, professionals aren’t the people who buy the most cameras.
Maybe that’s something to consider.
Essentials is a series featuring products we’re currently lusting over in quick, easy-to-digest posts.