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Unusual Pentax camera - SM with clip on meter

Ian Rance , Oct 18, 2009; 06:05 p.m.

My local shop has a Pentax camera called 'SM' only - is that short for Spotmatic? It has a large meter on top, with rotary shutter speed dial and an indicator runing under a clear cover on top. It is in almost new condition and I have always wanted to get a Pentax SLR. Is this as good as any, or just a curio?

Any info welcomed.

Thank you, Ian


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Curtis Hedman , Oct 18, 2009; 08:11 p.m.

This sound like one of the last "Pre-Spotmatic" models, though mine (with a similar clip on light meter) is a Pentax SV. I would say that it is more of a collector's item than a day-to-day user... the light meter requires a mercury battery (or substitute) to function. This is one of the "SM" line of Pentax cameras, where "SM" stands for "Screw Mount", referring to the M42 screw mount lenses, as opposed to the "K" series, which use a variation on the "K" Bayonet design to mount the lenses.
The camera may be in fine working condition, and M42 lenses can generally be found almost anywhere, so this could be a reasonably low price entry into the Pentax SLR world... but you may find it limiting fairly quickly, compared to one of the later generation Pentax SLRs. I rarely run film through mine, which was given to me some years ago along with a few interesting SM lenses.

Nick Siebers , Oct 18, 2009; 11:35 p.m.

There are a lot of other Pentax SLRs available for hardly any money that will be a lot easier to use, I suspect. I have never used an SM but the set-up sounds tricky, and while M42 lenses can be easily used on K mount bodies, the opposite is not so true.

jim b , Oct 19, 2009; 11:51 a.m.

Probably an SV. It's probably not the best old Pentax to use because of it's non-TTL meter. If you do buy it, verify that the meter works and is accurate.

Andrew Gilchrist , Oct 19, 2009; 02:52 p.m.

I imagine it's fine for what it is and assuming it's in working order can take good pictures, but it's obviously quite old and simple, and there are lots of more feature-rich Pentax SLR's produced in subsequent decades. Perhaps if you tell us more about your requirements & tastes we can make recommendations.

Ian Rance , Oct 19, 2009; 04:12 p.m.

Thank you for the replies. I did like the design, and it most certainly was a screwmount camera. It caught my eye, and it looked well made.

Andrew, the shop has a MX also for sale - that seemed much more modern and I may well go for that - even if it was not so handsome a design.

Thanks again, Ian

Bob Rapp , Oct 21, 2009; 11:24 p.m.

I would check the model designation again. I have several pre-Spotmatic cameras and there are two meter types - square and oval. They both fit the meter less version of the Spotmatic (SL).
Unlike the Spotmatic, those early meters were voltage dependent and require mercury cell batteries - of which I still have a few around.
If the camera is not a Spotmatic generation camera, it is best to pass as the earlier versions had a different shutter mechanism that was not as accurate or as reliable as the Spotmatic design - used on all mechanical Pentax cameras through the MX.

Andrew Gilchrist , Oct 22, 2009; 10:34 a.m.

Ian, the MX is a really great choice for an all-manual SLR. If you compare the viewfinders between these two cameras the choice may become very easy for you. Night & day is a fairly appropriate description of the difference. I agree that the pre-spotmatic Pentax's were especially beautiful, and I actually own something similiar to the SV above--a S3 in so-so condition. I believe it has a clip-on meter though I'm not sure mine couples with the shutter speed dial like that. I haven't investigated the battery situation for that meter yet. I've actually been thinking a handheld meter might be better for me if I was shooting with that camera. Honestly, so far my S3 is just for fondling. The MX on the other hand I've actually been shooting with. Bright viewfinder, has sturdy-feeling controls (though the shutter speed dial is a little harder to turn than I'd like). The 5 LEDs for the meter can be seen in lower light or when glare might make it a little harder to read some other types of viewfinder readouts, and unlike most of Pentax's older bodies, actually has indicators for +/- 1/2 EV.

BTW, this page has a pretty good summary of early Pentax models. The main difference between an SV and an S3 is the self-timer.

Glenn Holden , Oct 22, 2009; 03:32 p.m.

Most likely to be a collectors item- the shutter will be a fabric curtain, and since it was rubber coated, or a similar material, likely to have pin holes in it.
I have one of the early models with the light meter on top, (not coupled) that, if I recall correctly, was simply a silicon photocell and didn't need batteries.


ps: the MX is a good, sturdy camera, I have one in my collection as well.

Martin VanMeter , Oct 28, 2009; 04:43 p.m.

the Asahi Pentax "S" series was sold in the US as the Honeywell Pentax "H" series. If my failing brain cells get this right....the Asahi Pentax SV was sold as the Honeywell Pentax H3v and used the clip on meter. If it is an SV, then it is a very robust camera body and Eric Hendrickson of www.pentaxs.com can repair it, if needed. He returned my H3v (first "real" camera I bought in 1965) to great shape.

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