Asahi Pentax SL

This camera is a close relative to the far more famous and successful Spotmatic. When the Spotmatic was released in 1964 it was revolutionary, being one of the first cameras to offer TTL metering in a reasonably prices consumer package. But it appears that Pentax chose to hedge their gamble on this new technology by offering an almost identical model but without the “revolutionary” light meter. It has a notch on top of the shutter speed dial for the clip-on light meter that was used in earlier models. Or of course, it could and frequently was used with a traditional hand held light meter. And back in those days there were a lot of photographers who simply chose to set exposure by making an educated guess. Sadly, that is a skill that has largely been lost in modern times.

So what did this camera have to offer? First, all the sleek looks and handling of the new and wildly popular Spotmatic. And secondly, a cheaper price tag because of the missing light meter. Personally I find the earlier SV to be a bit smoother and it feels a bit more substantial. Maybe that’s just because I know the SL was a budget model.

I found this camera on the junk shelf at Fujiya Camera recently. It worked fine at the store but then the mirror started sticking a bit at home. I pulled it apart and cleaned and lubricated the key lever. I took it out for a first test in very cold temps and the same lever promptly froze up after about 5 frames. I took a few more shots, just guessing at composition, focus and exposure and then decided to call it a day. After bringing it back inside and unloading the film I noticed that the mirror was working again. I guess I’ll give it another cleaning and see if I can get it to keep working even in cold weather.

Here are some photos taken with this camera.

DSC01568 DSC01569 DSC01570 DSC01571

8 Responses to Asahi Pentax SL

  1. shawkparson says:

    compared to SV, this one is missing the T setting (Time exposure similar to B yet with the mirror lock up activated too) but has the advantage of a higher X speed of 1/60 vs the 1/30 on the SV … it also lacks the film speed reminder on the left side if i’m not mistaken, or does it have that ?

  2. shawkparson says:

    i do digital on a regular basis (Pentax K-7, K-5 and K-x) and certainly love it too but i’m dying to take a plain yet great film camera like this, load it with B&W or color reversal film (which i consider both more difficult to work with than color negative film btw!) and go out there and start shooting to my heart’s content and in the end bring the films back home and develop them myself in the darkroom which i don’t unfortunately have right now, which is the main reason why i don’t do film photography anymore!

    • revdocjim says:

      Well, all I can say it, “Go for it!” You don’t need a darkroom. I don’t have one… still hope to set up one some day so I can try out the enlarger I bought a while back. But in the mean time, I load the film into a tank using a dark bag, and develop in the tank and then I scan the negatives. At that point I can process them for online viewing or printing. It becomes sort of an analog/digital hybrid process but still preserves the essence of the film photography experience!

      • shawkparson says:

        yes, i see what you mean but i have worked that way too, long ago, and after also working in real darkrooms and studios of all kinds, professionally and for years in the past, it’s impossible for someone my age and with experience to try it in that manner again! i don’t even have room for this kind of approach to film photography while living in a small 1br apartment, with a bored up wife and a young elementary school kid … so, that just has to wait … (maybe in another lifetime!?) ;-)

      • revdocjim says:

        Ah! I get it. I, on the other hand, never experienced dark rooms at all and my goal is to eventually have one. So far I have accumulated all the equipment and just need to find the right space to set it up. It’s all a new adventure for me so lots of fun. But I’m completely amateur and so I can see how it would be completely different for you, having worked as a professional! I have a lot of respect for professional photographers but am very happy to keep it as just a hobby for myself. When it comes to film photography I rarely shoot 35mm any more as I just don’t see many advantages over digital. But I love medium format film cameras and so I go back and forth between full frame digital and medium format film.

      • shawkparson says:

        i love to mainly concentrate on medium and larger formats too … especially things like the ancient Wet Collodion and that kind of thing … and that does require more room! it is not easy to do that in a small kitchenette or the tiny bathroom i have now! :) the camera alone takes up half a regular room’s space just to stand there doing nothing! :D anyway, thanks for the response and see you around …

        here’s my website btw:

  3. revdocjim says:

    If you mean the ring around the windup dial, the Spotmatic has it with the words “Color”, “Panchro” and “empty”. But I’m pretty sure the SV doesn’t have that feature. I don’t have the camera in front of me right now so I’m just looking at my own pictures of it. The SL and the SV both have the ASA reminder on that ring but the design if different.

    • shawkparson says:

      yes this one has it too but i saw it after i clicked on the image to see it in larger size, which was after i posted my note and i couldn’t edit it as the blog doesn’t let me do so … :)

      the trick used later by all camera manufacturers including Pentax was a lot better though: a slot-box thing on the rear door, where you could put the film box’s flap (or any note you liked, if you were using ‘non-standard’ films such as cine material etc) to identify the exact type and number of exposures of the film you had in the camera … and later, that small window on the rear door which shows the text on the actual film cassette itself … this last one always bothers me though: what if light leaks in? ;-)

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