Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SPII

Classic Pentax M42 & K Mount SLRs:

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SPII

by Karen Nakamura



Overview and Personal Comments

This camera along with my Pentax MG has great sentimental value for me. My father is also an anthropologist and this was his field camera. I note with interest that the SPII was (according to some sites) released in 1971, the year after I was born. My father was doing fieldwork in Indonesia and we have many black and white family photos from that time. Did he buy it to document me as well as his field informants? Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

I recently asked my dad about this and he says this was actually his second Pentax. The first one he bought before his field research (1970) but while in the field in Indonesia, the lens became coated with a nice layer of mold (a common problem even now in humid areas). He sold the camera to one of his local friends and picked up the SPII in Singapore.

When I turned 16 (in the mid 1980s), I took a photography course at my high school in Japan. My father gave me his SPII for the class. That course gave me my love of photography and the SPII was a wonderful camera to use. I adored its match-needle type, stopped-down metering. It taught me more about proper exposure and depth of field than any modern, all-automatic camera. Tri-X in D76 was my combination of choice. Over two decades later, I still have the bug! And I'm still using Tri-X and D76! Somethings never change.

Unfortunately, after my first year of college I did something stupid. I put the SPII in my checked luggage. I had wrapped it in towels, thinking it'd be OK but it wasn't. It broke in transit (darn you United Airlines!). I took it to Asahi repairs in Tokyo and they said it would be more expensive to fix than it would be worth. I ended up buying an EOS 620 to replace it and that began my second love affair with cameras. My Spotmatic SPII went on a shelf in my dad's house. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

After I got a real day job and income, I finally got around to repairing my SPII which I recovered from my dad. It occupies a special part of my photographic personal history as well as personal family history. I sent it to Mark Hama in Georgia. Even including the 8 days it was in transit, he returned it in 12 days! He totally restored it to working condition and even threw in a new S400PX battery! His price was very reasonable, the repair was fantastic, and I recommend him highly!



Interesting quirks

The Spotmatic SP II added the following features to the Spotmatic SP:

      • Switch for hot shoe (FP and X)
      • Roller on film door for better tracking of film
      • Improved shutter
      • Modified self timer
      • Modified meter and switch (greater EV range)
      • Increased ASA range
      • Shape of top cover
      • Brighter view finder

The SPII has stop-down, match-needle exposure metering. You flip a switch on the left side of the lens mount, which 1) stops down the viewing lens to the aperture you've selected and 2) turns on the metering circuitry. There's a little needle on the right side of the viewfinder that goes from high (too much light, stop down) to low (too little light, open up). What I like about match-needle (as opposed to match-diode) exposure metering is that you can tell exactly how much light you need to add or lose. What I also like about the SPII is that when you engage the meter, you automagically get Depth of Field (DoF) preview, something that even some expensive contemporary cameras don't have.

The fixed focal length Super-Takumars that came with the Spotmatics easily were at the top of their class when they came out and they still best all of the plastic consumer level zoom lenses that people buy these days. They were multi-coated with a very hard coating process. If you see a Super-Takumar, buy it.

Although photography teachers like to recommend the Pentax K1000 and its clones for their students, I think they'd be better off recommending early screwmount Spotmatics. The lenses are excellent and in good supply, the metering is still spot on, and best of all, prices are still reasonable. The Pentax K bayonet mount is excellent, but I still have a soft spot for the screw mounts.

Availability of batteries for the Spotmatic is better than other cameras of the era because the Asahi engineers built in a bridge circuit in the metering which makes it battery voltage independent. This means you can use the original 1.35 mercury PX400 battery, or a 1.5V silver-oxide replacement without problems. An exact fit PX400S is available, or you can use a #392 cell with a small rubber-O ring (purchasable at any fine home repair center or DIY store) as a spacer. I believe a #397 also fits as well.


Technical Details

Camera Name
Pentax Spotmatic SPII
Asahi Optical
Place of Manufacture


Date of Manufacture
Focusing System

Single-lens reflex with pentaprism eye-level viewfinder

Lens use helicoid focusing

Lens Mount

Pentax/Praktica screwmount (M42)


Focal plane shutter
1 sec ~ 1/1000
X-sync = 1/60

Metering System

CdS TTL metering (stopped down only)
EV 1.7 ~ 18 (ISO 100)


Hotshoe, PC connection

Film type / speeds

135 type (35mm standard film)
ASA - 3200

Battery type

1.3v mercury PX400

(when Mark Hama repaired my camera, he replaced the battery with a silver-oxide "Exell S400PX" cell).

Dimensions and weight

Retail price

Note: Using the text or images on this site in an ebay auction without permission is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service. I will report you to ebay if I discover such a violation taking place. This may result in your account being cancelled. I also reserve the right to file claim for civil penalties.


My Pentax Screw Mount Lens Collection

(17mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 55mm, 135mm)
with some for sale!



About Asahi Optical Co.

You see both Asahi Pentax and Honeywell Pentax cameras on the market, what's the difference? Asahi Optical Company is the manufacturer of the cameras and has a very hallowed history. It was founded in 1919 to make optical lenses. It came out with its first SLR, the Asahiflex I in 1951. Pentax is the name of their first SLR with a pentaprism (penta-prism = pentax) which came out in 1957. Since then, it's been their tradename for their series of SLRs, just as EOS is the trade name for Canon's electronic SLRs.

Honeywell was the U.S. importer for Asahi cameras until the mid-1970s. Cameras that they imported are stamped "Honeywell Pentax" on the nameplate, not Asahi Pentax. With the minor except of one camera that was designed to accomodate a Honeywell flash unit, Honeywell Pentaxes are identical to Asahi Pentaxes.

About the only things with a stronger cult following than the Pentax screw mount cameras (Spotmatics) are their K-mount cameras, including the K1000. The K1000 which is now being made by Chinese companies and branded under Chinon and other labels, is often recommended by photography instructors. This has caused the price to stay about $200 for a new set. My own recommendation is to stay with the screw mounts. There is a wider variety of lenses and prices are relatively good. There's also a very strong cult following around their gargantuan Pentax 67 medium format SLRs.

Trivia: "Pentax" was one of the names the Nippon Optical Corporation cycled through when coming up with the name of their new camera in 1948. They ended up calling it the "Nikon" instead.


On the Net

Praktica/Pentax M42 Screwmount



Hey Yann,

I am a high school photography student and I was shooting outside today after sunset in the Canadian winter. As I pushed down the shutter, my viewfinder became black, as it usually would when I take a photo. However, this time the viewfinder remained black for a very long period of time. It's been at least 10 minutes and my viewfinder is still black. I've tried playing around with the external options (aperture, shutter speed, focus) and I've even tried taking another photo after turning the film advance lever. Nothing has happened.

Please help because I have to take 36 shots this weekend and this camera is borrowed from my school!

Thanks in advance,

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