Asahi Pentax S1A: Hidden Depths

13

A bargain-bin at a Blue Mountains junk shop leads to starred-out lights, long exposures, and shallow depth-of-field.

Hello LomoFriends! Say hello to Gladys.

When I chose the name, I was thinking of a tough-as-nails nun, the kind that smoked behind the rectory, fixed the parish bus & took absolutely no backtalk. (and, without realising it, stuck with my theme of choosing women’s names starting with G: Glory, Gretl, Gladys…)

In October last year, my parents-in-law, my wife & I were in Blackheath, New South Wales, in the depths of the Australian Blue Mountains, in an antique shop/junk shop. I busied myself taking a whole bunch of pictures.:

Credits: lokified

My wife was looking for vases, and I stumbled onto a treasure trove of old cameras, a few in a glass case (with exhorbitant prices) and many, many others jumbled together every which way:

After an incautious touch caused the entire pile to slide to the floor, I set about sorting through them. I quickly found a Pentax P30, and a beat-up-looking SLR, an Asahi Pentax S1A with a Super-Takumar 55mm/1.2 lens:

Both had “$68 w/o lens” written on the tag. I took them to the counter, and was greeted with a stern “You know we make no promises that the cameras are working, and we don’t do refunds!”

Okey-doke, thought I, then I won’t tell you the lenses weren’t meant to be included.

The Pentax P30 came with me, and the old SLR was squirreled away by my parents-in-law until Christmas. As it’s the New Year, I’ve had a go, and wow! Very impressed.

Credits: lokified

The Asahi Pentax S1A was Asahi Pentax’s attempt to make a consumer-level version of their S, S2, S1 & S3 professional SLR range in 1963. Their rather counter-productive way of accomplishing this was to remove the mark for the 1/1000 shutter speed (it’s still there, it’s just not marked, you just dial one past 1/500).

“This one goes to eleven. It’s one higher.”

Also, no light meter (once upon a time you could buy a clip-on, but no more). For this roll, I downloaded a light meter app on my iPhone, and took a general reading before I started shooting at each place.

The lens is very sharp, with quite a shallow depth of field, and is very precise in close-up. It also has an Auto setting, which allows you to view with full-aperture, or you can set it to manual and watch your view darken or lighten as you change settings. The best thing about the lens, though, is the triangular etching on the glass:

This leads to direct lights becoming spectacular starbursts in the photos. Wow!

Credits: lokified

Where I did run into some trouble was when I turned the shutter speed dial below 1/30, the prism seemed to stick, blocking the viewfinder completely. I gave the camera a shake, which seemed to knock it back. I didn’t know at the time, but this was due to all the shutter speeds below 30 being exponentially slower than they should be (30 was 15, 15 was 4, 8 was 2, and 1 was a whopping 9 seconds. This lead to some wacky long exposures and streaking lights:

Credits: lokified

So in conclusion, Gladys, and her sort are workhorses, still in good order, despite their years. If you can spot one, pick it up.

written by lokified on 2013-01-15 in #reviews #asahi #pentax #s1a #camera #review #slr

13 Comments

  1. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    Excellent article and gallery!!

  2. stratski
    stratski ·

    I'm jealous of that built-in starburst thingy! Though, on second glance, isn't it in fact a filter screwed onto the lens? Well, whatever, I love it.

  3. alburnkat
    alburnkat ·

    Congrats on such a great find and really nice article. And I love the photo caption “This one goes to eleven. It’s one higher.” I just heard a song from The Tap on the radio last night.

  4. emilios
    emilios ·

    Great gallery and camera. I have the Pentax 67 and the image quality is superb.

  5. alex34
    alex34 ·

    This camera probably just needs a good clean, inside and out. A good CLA should get those shutter speeds closer to where they should be. I suggest it would be definitely worth it.

  6. lokified
    lokified ·

    @stratski You're absolutely right! It just came off when I unscrewed it and now I can use the effect on any of my 49mm screw-thread cameras (except my OM 50mm 1.8 because the screw thread was dented when I dropped the camera). What's the official name for this kind of filter anyhow?
    @alburnkat One of my favourites. :D
    @alex34 I'll check with my local guy!

  7. alburnkat
    alburnkat ·

    I think it might be a CS - Cross Screen

  8. buckshot
    buckshot ·

    Nice write up - makes me nostalgic for the Pentax Spotmatic I had 25 years ago... :-)

  9. lokified
    lokified ·

    @stratski @alburnkat Gadzooks! It seems it actually came with 2 filters! One is a Hoya UV(0), and the other is a Marumi 6X-Cross. Go figure!

  10. stratski
    stratski ·

    @lokified: Haha, lucky you!

  11. gregoriobruning
    gregoriobruning ·

    @lokified, congrats for the find! I got a Pentax Spotmatic F a few months ago and it had the same problem: mirror stuck on low shutter speeds. The tecnician just had to increase shutter´s curtain pression and now it´s working perfectly fine!

  12. photozz
    photozz ·

    I believe they were called starburst filters when I was selling them. There are plenty of old screw mount lenses still available for these cameras as well.

  13. inawur
    inawur ·

    Hi! I'm new to using film cameras and i recently got the asahi pentax s1 (55mm) which is very similar to yours! I was just wondering whether you could tell me what film you used? I'm really new to this and its really hard finding out where to start! Thank you for your insight I have learnt alot about this camera!!

More Interesting Articles

  • At Cemeteries with an Old Nikon F3 and the New Petzval Lens

    written by emmka on 2014-10-28 in #reviews
    At Cemeteries with an Old Nikon F3 and the New Petzval Lens

    I bought my Petzval Lens in September, and of course, I couldn’t wait to test it. To see what I could make out of the depth of field and swirling effect, I took the lens out of the packaging and brought it out to cemeteries in my area.

    2
  • An Instant Review: Pixelstick Shots from Lomography Hong Kong!

    written by candilsw on 2015-05-21 in #gear #lifestyle
    An Instant Review: Pixelstick Shots from Lomography Hong Kong!

    Pixelstick is exactly the must-get tool to create mind-blowing light paintings with different colours and patterns: 1.8 meter long, 200 full colour and high fidelity LEDs! Grab your camera with long exposure mode and a tripod, and you can create dozens of dreamy pictures just by moving your Pixelstick in the dark. Take a peep at our friends from Lomography Hong Kong’s shots with the Pixelstick!

  • Creative Ways to Shoot the Lomography LomoChrome Purple Film

    written by Robn Kester on 2015-03-03 in #gear #tipster
    Creative Ways to Shoot the Lomography LomoChrome Purple Film

    The LomoChrome Purple is easily one of the coolest films to come out in a very long time. The amazing colors and vibe it gives each shot and its wide range of exposures make it a must-have and must-shoot film. Here are some cool ways to help you get the most out of your LCP.

    7
  • Shop News

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Really want to bring your film photos to life? We’re now offering totally analogue fine art prints in a host of large sizes and formats! Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • Jason D. Page and the Magic of Light Painting

    written by bgaluppo on 2015-07-05 in #people #lifestyle
    Jason D. Page and the Magic of Light Painting

    Having first discovered light painting by chance, Jason D. Page is now recognized as a leader in the field. He has pioneered multiple light paintings techniques and his work has been featured in many exhibitions and galleries worldwide. He's a passionate, creative artist and the founder of both Light Painting Brushes and LightPaintingPhotography.com — a website dedicated to everything surrounding light painting!

    2
  • Transient Living: The Craft and the Craftsmen of Denver, Colorado

    written by maliha on 2014-12-10 in #world #locations
    Transient Living: The Craft and the Craftsmen of Denver, Colorado

    The people of a city, to me, speak volumes about its culture and sense of community. And that is why I sought out the people who make Denver that much more interesting after the initial period of settling down. My search lead to a few establishments that have contributed to making Denver what it is today. In the second story on Transient Living, I present to you two of such establishments: The Craftsman & Apprentice, and A Small Print Shop.

    2
  • Portraits, Lights, Instant Photos, and Weird Faces

    written by antoniocastello on 2015-03-06 in #gear #lifestyle
    Portraits, Lights, Instant Photos, and Weird Faces

    In New York City, winter has been harsh and long, the nights long and cold, and shooting outside is not fun anymore. So when the Lomo'Instant Boston Edition hit the shelves this week and the new Splitzer arrived at the Lomography Gallery Store New York, we decided to do a round of light painting portraits instead of sunny ones.

  • Shop News

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • 'Lost and Found: The Search for Harry and Edna' by Jeff Phillips

    written by chooolss on 2014-09-03 in #lifestyle
    'Lost and Found: The Search for Harry and Edna' by Jeff Phillips

    With the help of social media, Chicago-based photographer Jeff Phillips was able to learn the identity of a couple that starred in the thousands of Kodachrome slides that he had chanced upon at an antique shop. Find out the fascinating story after the cut!

  • Lomography x Nixon Petzval Video

    written by hannah_brown on 2014-08-13 in #lifestyle
    Lomography x Nixon Petzval Video

    Last month, Lomography Gallery Store Soho held an exhibition of photographs taken at the Nixon Surf Challenge in Russia. Free drinks and live music from Swim Mountain overflowed at the opening party. Using the Petzval lens and a star-shaped aperture plate to give a beautifully soft, dreamy effect, the folks at the Soho Gallery Store created a video of the event. Watch this video after the jump.

  • Petzval Launch Party Recap

    written by hannah_brown on 2014-08-29 in #news
    Petzval Launch Party Recap

    What do you get if you mix a Lomography UK Petzval lens party in the depths of Soho with live music, free bubbly and a photobooth? Find out the answer to this riddle after the jump..

  • Shop News

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    At 25% off you can take dreamy 35mm images with this little black beauty. Beam coloured light into your shots with its accompanying Diana Flash Back accessory and be the analogue king of the night.

  • Lomography Official Petzval Launch Party in Hong Kong

    written by lomographygallerystorehk on 2014-08-26 in #events
    Lomography Official Petzval Launch Party in Hong Kong

    After a long wait, the Lomography Petzval lens has finally officially landed on our online shop and in our gallery stores. To celebrate and to get a glimpse of this legendary Petzval Lens, which was first conceived of in 1840 and reinvented by Lomography last year, we gathered media personalities and photography lovers at the Hong Kong Gallery Store for this very special evening.

  • Bright and Colorful Snapshots from the Community Courtesy of the Lomography Ringflash

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-07-05 in #gear #news
    Bright and Colorful Snapshots from the Community Courtesy of the Lomography Ringflash

    Illuminate your subjects with an even burst of light with the Lomography Ringflash. While you're at it, find out how you can earn piggies and have your very own Ringflash photos be featured on the Online Shop!

  • Chemical Manipulations with the Lomo’Instant

    written by tomas_bates on 2015-01-21 in #gear #tipster
    Chemical Manipulations with the Lomo’Instant

    Perhaps you’ve already had chance to try light painting, multiple exposures and long exposures with your Lomo’Instant, but what can you experiment with next? Well, that’s exactly the thought I had which led to giving this Tipster a go. I wanted to shoot Lomo’Instant photos which felt a bit “messier” than what I’m usually used to and to use a technique which would open up new possibilities with the kinds of images I could create with my favorite instant camera. Well, here I go!

    2