The Pentax SP500, one of the best kept secrets of the film photography world. Lomography member Chocochipcookie tells you why you shouldn't pass on this gem next time you spot one.
I happened to have the good luck to purchase a box of used film cameras when I was at an auction this summer. There was plenty there to choose from anywhere from auto focus Canon’s to rangefinders like the Konica C35 and even the legendary “Black Brick” the Argus C3 (complete with three lenses and filters). But towards the bottom of the box, in a dusty forest green camera bag was a Pentax SP500.
I had heard of the legendary Pentax SP1000 and K1000, but not the SP500. The camera was launched in 1971 as Asahi Optical Corporation’s attempt at a budget model. Normally when one hears “budget model”, bottom shelf parts and horrible reliability comes to mind, but lucky for us Asahi never could quite figure out how to make a “cheap” camera.
The “500” in the name is a reference to its highest shutter speed, which is 1/500 of a second…or is it? Instead of re-designing a whole new shutter system to drop off at 1/500, they just changed out the shutter speed knob to one painted up to 1/500. You can turn the knob past 1/500 and you have 1/1000 just like the legendary SP1000. So, it’s like a SP1000, but at a cheaper price. Not bad huh?
Even newer replacement batteries work well with this thing because of the way the internal metering electronics were designed. With the help of a small rubber o-ring a #392 battery makes its home in the camera, or you can look for PX400 battery which is a direct fit (no o-ring needed). This camera is pretty top notch! In order to engage the metering you hit a switch on the left side of where the lens is mounted. This also will stop your lens down to the aperture that’s currently selected, so be aware of that.
In terms of lenses it takes the Pentax Screwmount SMC Takumar lenses as well as any other M42 threaded lenses. Also, if you have the metering engaged it gives you a Depth of Field preview too!
So don’t be fooled by the words “Budget Model”, this camera is almost downright criminal on how much a steal it is!
Find one today!