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Review: Pentax K1000

As a disclaimer, this review more or less covers my thoughts and opinions on a camera. By definition, given that they’re subjective, you may or may not agree. If you’ve read the article on getting a first film camera you’ll know that I completely support anyone and everyone getting into film and support however they can do it.

I would also just like to say that the body of the camera does little to nothing in terms of getting the image you’re looking for. In its most simplistic form, it is a tool that holds the film in place and connects to a lens that allows for control of the light hitting the frame. Mechanically, the only thing that needs to work are the film advance, the film winder, the mirror, and the shutter curtain. As such, I personally judge a camera by the price and availability of good lenses as well as well as the build quality of the lenses and camera body. Having a metering system, automatic film advance, mirror lockup, and autofocus are nice but not necessary. That said, I can’t imagine having a camera meant for hand held shooting that doesn’t have a meter. Cameras meant to be shot on a tripods are a different story – the RB 67 in my case – does not have a meter built in and I couldn’t care less.

What is the Pentax K1000?

Without a doubt the most popular student camera, the K1000 is arguably the most ubiquitous film camera out there. So much so that when I went to trade mine in to the local shop, they wouldn’t give more than $20 for it. My thoughts on it are judged by my other experiences and you’ll find that I prefer my other cameras most of the time. That said, I recognize and tip my hat to the reputation of this camera. It is what it is for a reason. It’s a solid camera.

Some Pros

  • Lightweight
  • In-camera metering
  • Bright focusing screen
  • Hot shoe
  • Standard cable release threading
  • Availability

While these are not all the features, they are the features that stand out among the other cameras I own and frequently use. As mentioned in the guide to getting your first film camera, this camera is relatively lightweight – compared with the Nikon F2 and heavier. The metering is convenient although I don’t often use it. I typically keep TMax 3200 in my K1000 and shoot around the house when it’s too dark to shoot anything slower. The reason for this is a combination of the nice, bright screen and the fact that I use my Nikon gear way more so this one sits around the house.

While having a hot shoe and standard cable release threading (people refer to it as the ‘standard’ for a good reason) are not really anything special when comparing this camera to many others in the K1000s same tier, they are a commodity to me. The Nikon F2, a camera I would call superior in just about every way, has neither of these two things.

Probably the best thing about this camera is the availability. Just about any respectable camera shop with used equipment will have K1000s in multiples. Depending on the shop and whether it comes with a lens and what the lens is if so, the kit can be relatively inexpensive. I got mine because a buddy gave me one with a busted meter. The used camera shop up the street from my place had junked K1000s by the dozens so I found on with a functioning meter for $10 and fixed it with parts off the camera my buddy gave me. I doubt I would have had any sort of an experience if something like this happened with any of my other cameras.

Some Cons

  • Lightweight
  • Lens lineup
  • No interchangeable parts
  • Reputation (it’s too good)

I know “lightweight” is also a Pro – in all honesty, I feel like this camera is too light. I’m almost certain if this camera fell, it would shatter. Whereas if my F2 or any other camera fell, it would hurt the floor/ground more than the camera itself was hurt. While I’m obviously I’m being hyperbolic, I’m serious when I say the camera doesn’t feel like it could take a beating like my other cameras. Though I try to prevent beating my camera, I like using them in any and all situations and I would honestly feel concerned I would break the Pentax if anything happened.

As for the lens lineup, the K1000 took lenses that have the Pentax’s original bayonet K-mount. Prior to the K1000, Pentax used a screw mount so any and all Spotomatic lenses are useless without an adaptor. That’s not to say the adaptors don’t work – I just prefer to not use them. In addition, the lenses are generally more expensive than good in my opinion and not particularly easy to find.

If it sounds unusual to complain not having interchangeable parts, then you should read into cameras that have them. The F2 has 14 different screens to choose from and 5 different metered heads as well other, non metered heads including a waist level finder.

Conclusion

While I would not choose this camera for myself if I were to start over nor would I suggest it as a first camera, I think they’re great for what they are. I still use mine around the house and will continue to keep a roll in it so long as it continues to work.

Below are some of my favorite photos I’ve taken with it. Keep in mind that all are in and around my house as I use this camera to document our life when it’s took dark to use slower film.

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