Pentax Spotmatic

IT’S A BIT of a wrench, parting with my Pentax Spotmatic 1000 and its Takumar Macro lens but I’ve gone over to digital photography, so I put them up on e-Bay today.

I bought them in my last year at the Royal College of Art in 1975. I’d been won over by this combination of lens and camera when I’d taken the three-week photography course at college, run by Tom Picton and John Hedgecoe.

Macro Lens

London Plane leaf.

Until then all the cameras that I’d used could focus no closer than 3 or 4 feet so the macro lens, the first I’d used, opened up up a whole range of subject matter that had previously been beyond my scope.

Seeing precisely through the viewfinder what would appear in frame was also a big advantage. The closer you got to a subject with a non-SLR camera, the greater the difference between viewfinder and lens-view.

The photography department was then in the basement of a building at Cromwell Place directly opposite the Natural History Museum. I used the heavy studio camera stand and set up a raking light to bring out the textures of any suitable subject that I had to hand, like the pens in my pocket and the label of my parka jacket.

South Coast

For me the highlight of the course was the opportunity to try out the camera on location. A group of us went off in the college minibus, passing Box Hill and the Snow-Drop Inn on our way to a small seaside town.

There were no cliffs, dunes or rock-pools for me to explore but a sandy, shingly bay was a more likely source for the kind of subject that attracted me than the streets of South Kensington.

I wandered off along the coast to the west of the town, photographing fungi and fences, pebbles and pigs.

Even from these low res scans from my contact strips from the Kodak Tri X Panchromatic film that I took that day, you can see that there’s some quality about black and white film that you don’t get with digital. Yes, you can use a filter in Photoshop to add grain to ape the effect of film, but that’s not quite the same as having that limitation imposed by the medium when you go out hunting with your camera.

On a lane about half a mile out of town I came across this old weather-boarded barn (below) with a decaying thatched roof. It could well be a building that no one thought to record at the time, so, if I could remember the name of the town, I’d contact the local history society to see if they’d like to include it in a photographic archive. The winter, early spring of 1973 is very much a part of history now.The camera kit gave me the chance to photograph the kind of subjects that I included in the sketchbooks of my travels. Well, most subjects; bird photography was still well beyond my scope!


Join the Conversation


  1. These photos are beautiful! I still have my Pentax Spotmatic that I bought back in my university days in the early ’70s. I bought a digital camera about two years ago…I’m having fun with it but I’m not completely happy with the camera…or is it me!? Sometimes the pictures seem too dark and the colors off. My husband says to read the manual. Thank you for bringing back some happy memories. I enjoy reading your posts. Just Norma

    1. I’ve still got the camera itself – that didn’t sell on eBay – but the Takamur Macro lens had several bidders and eventually went away to a chap who lives in Gibraltar, so my old lens will be having a more exciting life out there in the sun than it had in my cupboard over the last 7 or 8 years!

  2. These really are fascinating pictures. I think real film captures FAR more of the sense of time and place; just looking at them conveys so well the feeling of when you took them. Digital is anonymous in that regard.

    Anyway. Many thanks for these shots and your website as a whole. I always look forward to seeing on my RSS that you have added a couple more pages to browse!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.