With cameras from the 50s and the early 60s, you typically had to buy a separate light meter and attach it to the camera, if you wanted any help with exposing your images correctly.
(If you don’t know what exposure is all about, have a read of this)
With some cameras you could purchase clip on meters, but they were recording all ambient light, and not the light that was getting to the film through the lens. They were not therefore particularly accurate, and they were often cumbersome to use. A few cameras came with built in meters, but again these were recording the amount of light at a completely different point to the lens, so not a great help.
The Pentax Spotmatic changed all of that.
It was the first SLR to hit the market where metering was done through the lens (or “TTL” as its often abbreviated to) and as an integral part of the camera, without the need for any add ons or separate purchases. All you had to do was peer through the viewfinder to compose your shot, and all the exposure information you needed was there in the viewfinder for you.
The Spotmatic, like the AP before it, was an instant hit and other manufacturers were quick to follow suit. It remains a “cult classic” and it is one of the cameras that people starting out with film photography still look to as their entry point into the wonderful world of film.
Like with all cameras of the time, and especially Pentax ones, the build quality is unrivalled. It’s no cliché to say they simply don’t make cameras like this anymore – in fact, they had stopped making them like this by the mid-70s!
The Spotmatic was so successful that for a long time afterwards – the best part of ten years - Pentax didn’t bother making other cameras, they just kept making this one with the odd alteration every now and then! This is great, because it means there is a Spotmatic out there for every user, and every budget.
They remain an absolute bargain and we think they’re the perfect way to get into film photography for those who want to really learn how it all works.
Our personal favourites would be the Spotmatic F, for its superior metering, and the Spotmatic 500, for the beautiful stripped back simplicity of its design.