There are few better places to start this list than with the K1000. The K1000 is often referred to as “The student camera”. Note the capital “T”. The K1000 is the embodiment of simplicity. Originally introduced in 1976, the camera enjoyed a production run lasting until 1997. This bit of history is germane because it means a squillion of these cameras were produced over two decades and a squillion cameras translates into vast numbers for both purchase and as a supply of spare parts. All those spare parts allow K1000s to be easily refurbished – not that they often need it (I once saw A K1000 survive a house fire, quite literally).
Referring to the K1000 as spartan is a compliment. The camera has little in the way of bells and whistles, giving the user just the three controls they need to make pictures: aperture, shutter and focus. Imagine this for a moment; in a world where cameras drown us in functions, custom settings and menus, the K1000 has just three controls – and they are exactly all you need. No fussing with buttons or dials, or wading through pages of menu options. You want to make a picture? Well, a flick of the wrist and twist of the fingers and you and the camera are ready to go. Of course, the bare-bones approach means the camera does lack some features that can be useful, such as a self-timer and depth of field preview. Metering on the K1000 is also quite straight-forward. The camera uses a simple match needle metering system. A lone, black needle on the right of the viewfinder indicates your exposure. Get the needle in the middle and exposure is good. If the needle drifts up toward a large “+” then you are over-exposing and if it dips down toward the “–” under-exposure is the result.
The lens mount used by Pentax is referred to as the Pentax K mount. Pentax is one of the few brands that has largely left their mount unchanged through the transition from manual focus cameras to auto focus cameras (and don’t forget digital). This means that most Pentax lenses mount to most Pentax cameras, with some exceptions and conditions. This is a handy feature in that it allows Pentax camera owners to pick from a much larger selection of lenses. It also means that if you ever upgrade your K1000 to an auto focus or digital body, you can continue to use all your old lenses. The downside of this continuity is that there is much more competition for the same lenses and prices can be a bit higher for similar lenses amongst Pentax than some other brands.
- Simple. Easy to learn and use.
- Well built. Reliable. Rarely requires maintenance.
- All mechanical camera, only the meter requires a battery (which you will have to change about once a year).
- Versatility of the Pentax K-mount means even later auto-focus lenses can be used (in manual focus) on the K1000.
- Lacks some potentially useful features like self-timer, depth of field preview and multiple exposure lever.
- Versatility of the Pentax K-mount means fiercer competition and higher prices than some other brands for lenses.
Also consider: Pentax MX, Pentax ME Super, Pentax K2
Images from the K1000: www.flickr.com/groups/k1000