honeywell pentax sp 500

when i wuz a lad back in high skool i wanted to by a 35mm SLR. not having a job wuz a big problem becuz they were $200 or more. during the first half of the 1970’s that was like a month wages for some. as an example, my first job after high skool wuz making $5.50/hr and i thought that wuz a huge amount of money.

i could afford to buy photo magazines and read reviews and look at ads and daydream. all the photo mags were just a buck. i blew my allowance once a month on the latest mags, popular photography and modern photography.

i read a review about the honeywell pentax sp 500. it wuz a cheaper model of the popular (at the time) honeywell pentax. the only difference wuz that the sp 500 had a top shutter speed of 1/500 second compared to the usual 1/1000 second.

it wuz an interesting feature dat the shutter selection dial had a click at where the 1/1000 would be on a normal camera. all the reviews sed that you could select that position and the camera would work. the manufacturer sed dat they do not guarantee any reliable shutter speed at the selection. so the reviews panned the camera in dat respect but sed it wuz a bargain none the less for folks who wanted to save $50. you must understand dat $50 represented a week’s pay for lots of folks so it wuz sort of a big deal.

this review i read in the early 70’s. some time later after i had a decent job in the  early 90’s i saw a used one for sale in a camera store. that wuz a specialty store that catered to photography enthusiasts. i paid $100 for it which wuz $50 off the original price. it looked brand new and wuz fully functional and camera wiff the standard 50mm f/2 lens. i tried to bargain with the clerk becuz the previous owner etched hiz name the top metal covering to the right of the eyepiece, “bob & lois r—-o”. no dice, wouldnt negotiate. this camera is all metal. it is heavy.

well, i still got it, it bean 2015. i tuk it out today, middle of feb, during an extreme low temperature event. single digits have a way of freezing consumer grade electronic cameras. the battery may lose power or the memory card may fail to function. i didnt want to take my $500 DSLR out and subject it to 50 mph wind driven snow or the extreme cold.

the sp 500 cranked for the first 20 exposures but then the mirror locked up and would not return on about 5 exposures. i had to re cock the camera (advance the film) and take another photo. then it worked every time. i used 200 ISO color negative film and f/16 @ 1/500. the sp-500 is fully mechanical. it has a match needle exposure system. a needle is deflected by turning the aperture ring and or the shutter dial until it ends up in the middle of a notch.

i didnt bother becuz it wuz sunny and bright. i also had a sears 28mm f/2.8 why dangle lens on it (all metal with a rubberized focus ring). i picked dat up real cheap at another camera store. you dont see many local camera store any more. big cities like NYC have  some super store mail order outfits which i aint goan to name right now. back in the day film photography wuz such a big deal dat even sears offered it’s own after market lenses for popular cameras.

the sp-500 wuz last of the pentax screw mount lenses. during this time frame other manufacturers started offering bayonet type mounts which are quick on/off changing. pentax eventually came out with their “k” mount bayonet. except for pentax branded lenses i noticed the after markets never ended up with the index marks aperture and focus at top. usually ended up too much to left or right. another big ambiguity was how much to tighten the screw mount. ape it on? just slightly more than snug? mebbe jest till it ever so slightly reaches end of travel?

lots and lots of cheap used lenses were to be had in the screw mount. i have a couple for a complete system.

of course the disadvantage of film is dat one haz to bring it to a processor to get it developed and printed. many drugstore chains still 1 hour film developing. then one haz to scan the film to get a digital file for use on computer and internet. times such as when the mirror locks up leaves one to determine the functionality of the camera until after developing. it was between 8 and 12 degrees F. later after it warms up i’ll burn the the rest of the roll to see it it will lock up at room temps. not too shabby for a device dat id 45 yeers old.


i shot the rest of the film and ran through a number of cycles with the camera empty and the back door open at room temps. it worked 100% and the shutter ran at different speeds depending on the dial settings. that is to say it looked slower at 1/30 than it did at 1/500. it could have been the lens. it has a pin on it that closes the iris. that could have hung the camera up, although it worked at room temp. suffice it to say, i think the extreme cold effected the mechanism. perhaps i should have run through a few cycles with the camera empty before i went out to lube it up. the problem is that i seldom use it and it had film in it. this time i left it empty. before i load it up i’ll just run a few cycles on it.

a pal of mine gave me another pentax screw mount camera before i got this one. it wuz a black pro model. it had the stuck mirror problem. the black plating wuz worn and it look like it tuk a beating. mebbe it had many cycles on it and it could have been dropped. i trashed it. it’s come to that. no one shoots film any more. you cant sell these cameras, no market. they end up bean given away. if yur lucky they work.

of course i tuk it apart. it is full of gears just like the “The Antikythera Mechanism” except smaller. i guess dat if the chassis that all the gear pins line up on gets warped the gears dont mesh proper. dirt or moisture at low temps can freeze up the gear train. the manufacturer must have had special tooling and fixtures to assemble and repair these babies. it is a testimonial to the design and engineering dat they can still function after all these yeers. i suspect dat the model i bought wuz used lightly if not at all. this  happen becuz even back then the price of film and developing wuz a large part of the expense. plus all the dials and focusing required some knowledge and skill to use. cheap cameras with a fixed lens and shutter were used more often. fully automatics which were available just a little later shunted these more complex cameras to closets.




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