May 2018

Pentax Spotmatic Impressions

Its always fun to try a new camera and after reading some inspiring commentary of the Spotmatic online I decided to pick one up to try out. Its got classic 70s looks and is lightweight despite being of metal construct. I got the body and 35mm Super Takumar lens separately off eBay for around £40 in total.

It took far too long to get through a roll of film which was split between a weekend in Rome and one in London with my Family. Its amazing how hard it can be to get through 36 frames!

Now for the review: the first thing I noticed was the microprism focussing screen, which I did not find easy to focus. The finder is also far dimmer than my most comparable Nikon camera, the FM, and this made it less pleasing to use. Weight and size are very similar to the FM although the Spotmatic is around 40 grams lighter. The centre of gravity is quite different though when using 35mm lens as the Super Takumar is far lighter than the Nikkor and so therefore the weight sits more towards the body. Another thing I found quirky is the self timer as I did not realise the shutter release is not used to commence countdown. This led to a few wasted frames before I realised another button underneath the self timing crank needed to be used. Finally I personally do not rate the image quality of the Super Takumar 35mm f3.5 as highly as the Nikon 35mm f2.8 Ai.

Unfortunately, for me the Spotmatic is not a keeper, as I much prefer my Nikon FM. It also confirms that whilst trying out new cameras is fun, I'm very content with the Nikon SLR system I already own. That being said others clearly do really enjoy using the Spotmatic and if you want to try them they are cheap to pick up and find out for yourself!

Home scanning black and white medium format with the Epson v500

For a long time now I have processed my own black and white film, starting in the Imperial College darkroom (where I also did some C41 and E6), and continuing to this day. It is rewarding to process oneself but I must say my main motivation is really the cost. A process and high quality scan will run me around £14 if I decide to mail it in to Peak Imaging which soon adds up if I shoot a number of rolls and so its clear to see why I often choose to do it myself. This comes with some significant compromises: I don't have a great washing / drying process for the negative and my self developed rolls do end up with watermarks and dust (and I'm very thankful for the Lightroom heal brush!).

For self scanning I have owned an Epson v500 now for around 4 years and it has served me relatively well for both 35mm and medium format. Its pretty affordable and perhaps cost me £100 second hand on eBay in 2013. For the cost the scanner is really good in my opinion, particularly for B&W medium format as you can see from the examples below.

The top image was drum scanned by Peak Imaging using their Archive service. To be clear I think their service is very good and the quality of the scans are fantastic but the second I processed and scanned myself with the v500 and small sizes it is no slouch.

For 35mm film the example below should and does illustrate a larger gulf in quality. The top is drum scanned and the bottom I did myself. You may of may not like the amount of sharpening applied in the top one, I personally prefer it, as I do with the colours in the drum scanned version. The vibrancy and analogue gradient between colours I find much more pleasing in the lab scanned image, particularly as the sun is breaking through the mountains of Rio in this shot.

So overall no big surprises - you get what you pay for. For me as a hobbyist it is hard to justify the cost of a pro lab dev and scan for every roll and so I find the self scanning on the v500 a huge help. But when I have a special roll from a once in a lifetime trip I have no remorse paying for the pros to get me the best out of my film.