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Pentax Spotmatic SP-500 35mm SLR

The Pentax Spotmatic SP-500 is one of the cut-down versions of the Spotmatic series which Pentax launched after the original Spotmatic. The SP-500 lost the self timer from the spotmatic and also the top 1/1000 shutter speed (although it actually only lost the dial setting – the shutter still works at 1/1000).

Pentax Spotmatic SP-500 Images

My Pentax Spotmatic SP-500

I picked this camera up as part of a bundle of ‘untested’ cameras I bought from eBay.

It was actually a purchase which taught me a bit of a lesson; there are unscrupulous sellers on eBay who use ‘untested’ as a pseudonym for ‘faulty’ (I know, I’ve been buying from eBay long enough that I should have know that). The bundle was of 13 different cameras for £25, amongst  them a couple of Nikon units that I wanted, a Nikon F601 and a Nikon F401. It was a ‘buy it now’ offer so I bought it in the belief that the seller had simply bundled up some cameras he had bought as part of house clearance etc.

When I received the bundle I found that every camera was faulty; the Nikons both don’t power up and the back door catches are broken and every other camera I looked at had faults of one sort or another. When I revisited the seller’s page on eBay and looked at his other sales, I found he mostly sells cameras, so these were obviously ones he had found were faulty and bundled them together. There is nothing wrong with that if they are sold as faulty, but I don’t believe 13 cameras randomly selected without testing would all be faulty.

Anyway, back to the Spotmatic SP-500. I was fortunate that the fault with it was a common one of the mirror sticking on slow speeds and a couple of minutes searching this site found the post I wrote a while ago about fixing this issue. A few minutes later I had at least salvaged something from my buy, and I was pleased to find later that a Minolta X-700, which was also in the bundle, worked after some messing around cleaning the battery compartment and fitting new batteries.

Other than the mirror problem the SP-500 seems to be in pretty good shape. There is a slight dent in the prism housing just above the word ‘ASAHI’, but you need to look pretty hard to see it. The shutter speeds all seem about right and the frame counter and red ‘shutter cocked’ indicator are also ok. I don’t know if the light meter works because I haven’t any batteries which fit at the moment but I’d be surprised if it did – most of the Spotmatics in my collection have faulty meters.

Since the camera was purchased ‘body only’, I’ve matched it with a SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 for the photos above. This is probably not the correct lens in terms of what it would have been supplied with, but it is of similar vintage.

Pentax Spotmatic SP-500 Description

As I said in the intro to this post, the SP-500 was introduced as a cut-down version of the spotmatic series and offers a reduced top speed of 1/500 sec. As I also said, since it would involve quite a bit of work to actually change the shutter design and remove the top speed, all Pentax actually did was remove the 1/1000 dial marking. There is still an unmarked click stop position after 1/500 and the camera will still fire on at this setting. I read somewhere that the 1/1000 position was not guaranteed to be accurate, but since none of the speeds on these types of shutter are accurate to more than about 10 to 15% it was probably fine to use.

The other item missing from the original spotmatic design is the self timer unit which sits in the front of the camera.

I’m not going to write a long description of the SP-500 because it is virtually identical to the SP-1000 which I wrote about here so any description would be repeating that information. I would suggest reading the SP-1000 description but bear in mind that the official top shutter speed is 1/500.

Pentax Spotmatic SP-500 Specifications

  • Pentax Spotmatic SP-500 SLR camera
  • Horizontal, cloth, focal plane shutter
  • Shutter speeds of 1 sec to 1/500 + bulb + hidden 1/1000
  • Match needle, through the lens, stop down metering
  • ASA film speeds of 20 to 1600
  • Auto reset frame counter in film advance
  • Film type reminder
  • PF & X flash sync sockets
  • Shutter cocked marker by shutter speed indicator
  • M42 lens mount
  • Tripod bush in base
  • Single cell powers light meter
  • Serial No: 3251191
  • Manual available on-line here

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I’m a software developer by profession but I’ve been taking pictures since I was about 8 years old. In that time I’ve owned cameras of all types and sizes from 120 roll film thro’ 35mm to my current Pentax K-5, Ricoh GXR + P10/S10/A12 28mm/A12 50mm, Canon S95 and recently acquired Sony NEX 6.

  1. oreston says:

    “I don’t know if the light meter works because I haven’t any batteries which fit at the moment but I’d be surprised if it did – most of the Spotmatics in my collection have faulty meters.”

    The contact inside the battery chamber obviously needs to be clean and free of corrosion. However the base plate is a sealed unit which transmits power to the meter circuit via another contact inside the camera body itself. It’s worth taking off the baseplate and checking this internal contact for corrosion too – and ensuring that it’s making a proper connection with the baseplate (bending it up slightly with the point of a small screwdriver is all that’s needed to fix it if it’s not). It’s amazing how many Spotmatic/SP II/SP500/SP1000 meters spring back into life when this is done.This method doesn’t apply to the Spotmatic F which has a more direct arrangement for the battery contact (which makes it even easier to clean).

    Yes, the CDS cells do occasionally fail (surely to be expected after 50 years) and granted it’s never been particularly good in low light, but I think the Spotmatic TTL meter is gaining an undeserved reputation for high failure rates when (in most cases) all that’s needed is a little basic TLC as described above. There’s even a variable resistor that can be used to fine tune the meter’s sensitivity – and you don’t even need to disassemble the camera very far to use it. Take off the rewind crank and film rewinder dial and a circular hole in the top plate is revealed that gives you access to the adjustment pot. As for batteries, it’s well established that the Spotmatic meter is perfectly usable with modern 1.55v silver oxide cells.

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