Living with the K1000

I have never really counted them, but there are almost certainly dozens of on-line reviews for the Pentax K1000. So a lack of available information is certainly not why I have chosen this particular camera to talk about. Up to now my blog has talked about using my medium format folding cameras, but I also enjoy using 35mm as well. In fact, if some financial tsunamai were to force me to sell off all my cameras I think I would hold onto my Pentax K1000 right to the very end. You have to keep at least one…right? I can picture it now, homeless in the streets with a K1000 around my neck and a pocketful of outdated black & white film.

Exactly why I am so attached to this camera is a bit of a mystery, even for me. I certainly own much nicer cameras. This one is almost as basic as it gets and has almost no extra features. But there is just something exciting about picking up this camera and heading out to take pictures that makes me feel good; really good. And handling this camera always makes me feel like taking pictures. This is the only camera I own that I will semi-consciously play around with even though I am doing something else. I posted most of this on www.pentaxforums.com a while back and I have chosen to include a revised version here because it probably does the best job of explaining my strange attachment to this camera. This is how I feel.

I Use A K1000

I use a K1000. I’m not sure I understand why. I have lots of other cameras to choose from. I enjoy taking pictures with my digital cameras, and I love the detailed quality of the medium format photographs that I take as well. My K1000 seems somehow out dated and out of place sitting on my desk amid the rest of my autofocus, auto-winding, auto exposing and auto-loading cameras. It has no display screen or digital read out to distinguish it. It doesn’t require a big battery or a battery charger. Somehow it just doesn’t seem to fit in. I am always feeling sorry for it so I frequently pick it up and take it with me.

I use a K1000. There is something reassuring about the solid simplicity of this camera. It is not confusing. There are not so many switches and buttons that I have to stop and think about which ones I should use…and when. I have never once missed a picture with this camera because I didn’t understand how a certain function worked, or which button or dial to use to activate the camera. The shutter dial clicks when I turn to each speed and I can turn the dial and count the clicks, knowing exactly where I’m at all the time. The same with the aperture ring. I don’t need a little Judas window, a viewfinder display or an LCD to know what my settings are. I have never waited for this camera to wake up or been frustrated because the autofocus refused to lock on and release the shutter, allowing me to take my picture. When I use this camera it is me that is slow and deliberate, not the camera. The camera waits for me to tell it what to do, and that’s the way it should be.

I use a K1000. Nothing happens accidentally with this camera. There are no excuses. I cannot claim that I forgot that the mode dial was set on Manual, because there is no Mode dial, and the camera is always on manual. I am never expecting a Program setting to make a decision for me, and then caught unawares when it does not. I am always aware that the Program setting for this camera is in my own mind. I am responsible for the shutter speed, not the camera. I am responsible for the aperture and the depth of field, not the camera. I am responsible for ensuring that my photo is properly focused and sharp as a tack, or dreamy and soft if I want! I am responsible for eliminating camera shake. This camera doesn’t second guess me, it does exactly what I tell it to do, even when it shouldn’t.

I use a K1000. When I lift this camera and look through the viewfinder I am only thinking about the picture, not the camera. What exactly am I photographing? Have I framed it the way I want? Am I trying to isolate something from its surroundings or do I want to show it as part of a larger whole? How do I foresee the picture, what will it look like? This camera is not pretentious enough to be about itself. I don’t have to think about the camera. I know where the controls are and what they do. It is only about the picture.

I use a K1000. Making an image is all about the light. With this camera I am always thinking about the light. Is there enough? Is it the right kind? Is it in the right place? Do I need to add more of it? How will it look on the film? Do I want a filter? If so, which one do I want? The K1000 gives me exactly the right tools to control the light, and not a thing I don’t need.

I use a K1000. I am not distracted. I am not worried about which button controls exposure lock and whether the autofocus has focused on the right thing. I’m not concerned whether I am using matrix or spot metering. I don’t take a picture and then look at the histogram to evaluate the lighting after the picture is taken, I think about the lighting in advance.

I use a K1000. I am not really a student and yet I am always a student. With this camera I am continually learning. There are many nuances to taking a picture and the K1000 requires that I learn those nuances. It doesn’t automatically do it for me. But it doesn’t get in the way of that learning either.

I use a K1000. It is a very, very reliable camera. I take care of it as best I can but it has never failed. When I press the shutter button the shutter fires. When I throw the lever to advance the film, it advances unless I am at the end of the roll. It has been rained on and snowed on. It has taken pictures in a North Dakota winter at 42 below zero (Fahrenheit of course) and it has reliably responded in the Nevada desert at 115 degrees. I bought it used and have no idea how many pictures it has taken but it has gone through a couple of hundred rolls during its’ stay with me. The battery has died but the camera has never stopped yet.

I use a K1000. Like my camera my accessories are very simple. I use a remote shutter cable that does not require electricity. I can use almost any flash I want, as long as I can set it to work manually. I don’t worry about having automatic settings with my flash units. They only work manually with my camera. I have a very fancy and solid tripod, but I’ve also successfully used some pretty cheap tripods to stabilize this camera as well. It has successfully taken pictures with every K-mount lens I have ever tried.

I use a K1000. Most people don’t believe me but focusing is usually very simple and very quick. In fact, I can often take my picture faster then your camera can lock focus so you are allowed to take the picture. I can walk down the streets of my town taking perfectly focused pictures without ever lifting the camera to my eyes, and no one is the wiser. I rarely disturb anyone. There is no whining, whirring autofocus lenses, there are no noises of film advancing following a shot. There is only the sharp snap of the shutter firing. When I reach the end of the roll the film does not suddenly begin re-winding.

I use a K1000. I have lots of other cameras but I don’t really need them, just like I don’t really need another hammer. They are both tools, one drives nails, the other takes pictures. To take good pictures one must learn to use the tool, the camera. Like the hammer the K1000 is simple to learn and doesn’t get in the way of learning to take pictures. But, like learning to use the hammer, there are many subtleties that need to be learned in order to take good pictures. And like a hammer, when I get to cocky I can make a mistake and hit my finger.

I use a K1000. There is a special feeling of pride that comes when I take a really good image with the K1000. I look at the picture and realize that this one is mine. It came from my understandingm, my vision and my creativity. It wasn’t the product of matrix metering or special, computerized exposure algorithms. It didn’t fortuitously appear in a rapid-fire string of shots that were fired off in hopes of getting something good. I planned for it and I waited for the right moment. And when the opportunity arrived I was ready. I made this picture and it is mine!

I use a K1000. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t glamorous. It isn’t fast. It isn’t fancy. It is really just a box with a shutter and a lens. You put film in it and you take pictures. This camera makes it pretty easy to take pictures. If you carry a K1000 it is for the pictures. If I were told one day that I had to get rid of all my cameras but one, it would be tough, but the K1000 is almost certainly the one I would keep.

I use a K1000. It is no longer a spring chicken, but neither am I. Somehow we just seem to work well together.

Stay healthy and keep shooting.

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