Pentax K1000 - FPP's 35mm Camera of the Year!

Update 1/20/2014

This January The FPP donated 15 Pentak K1000 cameras (and over 100 rolls of Kodak film)  to Louise Contino and her Project Wanteete so she can teach photography remotely while in Uganda, Africa January to June 2014. Louise is working with two nonprofit organizations, ICP NYC and the FPP to make it all happen!

Michael Raso hand-picked the K1000 as "the" perfect camera for the job and tested each camera before its long journey.

More info soon on her project. In the meantime, you can help by visiting and donating to Louise's Kickstarter page HERE.

Why is the Pentax K1000 FPP's camera of the year? Read on!

Here at The Film Photography Podcast, listener questions are a big part of what we do. You ask, then we do our super best to get you the answer you seek. For at least one out of every ten of these questions, we’re bound to get a question like, “What’s a good camera for somebody just starting out in film?” or “What 35mm camera should I get?”. Though the choices are plentiful, there is one camera that has quickly made its way to the top of our recommendations list, the Pentax K1000.

"Cowboy Joe" by Michael Raso, Pentax K1000 SE

Hitting the scene in 1976, the Pentax K1000’s intuitive design, sleek form factor, and modest price point captivated photographers world wide. After being in production for over 30 years, and with 3 million+ units sold, the Pentax K1000 has been labeled by many as the sturdy “workhorse” of the 35mm world. But just what is it that makes this camera stand out from all other 35mm SLR’s? Let’s have a look at the specs:

  •     Fully mechanical SLR
  •     TTL metering system, powered by readily available LR44 batteries
  •     Wide range of shutter speeds, 1/1000 - 1sec. and Bulb
  •     ASA Range from 20-3200
  •     Hot shoe with flash sync @ 1/60th sec.
  •     Accepts all Pentax K-mount lenses

A fine assortment of K-mount lenses to choose from!

Is there anything really ground-breaking here? Absolutely not. But what is there is everything you need to function as a photographer, and not a lick more. The lack of auto-exposure modes and the ease of operation made this the ideal student camera. Even to this day, The University of Findlay (my Alma mater) still has a fleet of these cameras for its incoming film photography students.

FPP Midwest Meetup attendees Dave Mihaly & Jason Benning

By Michael Raso, Pentax K1000 SE

So how do you know if the Pentax K1000 is the camera for you? If you are: a student, on a budget, a camera junkie with GAS, someone that never has fresh batteries, or just a no frills kind of photographer, the Pentax K1000 is right up your alley. Still need an excuse to try out this bangin’ bargain bin camera? FPP host Michael Raso and regular guest Lauren Bagley love, love, love this camera! Here’s some more on what Mike thinks of his fabulous Pentax K1000SE:



If you’re now on the hunt for a Pentax K1000, have no fear, there are plenty to be had. Just head on over to “the bay”, Craigslist, or even flea market, a used K1000 is bound to turn up. And with prices more reasonable than a dinner and a movie date, you should try one today and see why it’s one of the best selling 35mm SLR’s of all time!

Happy shooting, and long live film.

"For the Love of Polaroid" by Lauren Bagley, Pentax K1000


Jim's picture
My ex, a pro photgrapher, had a K1000 and loved it beyond all reason. There's something about this simple SLR that inspires such devotion.
danielklaas's picture
I love my AE1 for my 35mm shooting, but the K1000 would be my next 35mm purchase (because you can never have too many cameras right? right? ;))
Jean-Pierre's picture
Great insight. Most people flock to all the other manufacturers for their vintage camera needs, but I love my Spotmatic and will be using it for the rest of my life. The camera is just simple. So simple, in fact, that when using anything newer after a few days of handling it I feel a bit overwhelmed by all the doodads. The K1000 seems to have grown in popularity, so I wanted to give a shortout to my M42 mount users too! Thanks for a wonderful article.
kderickson's picture

I love my K1000.  There is something special about it's simplicity.  People call it a starter or student camera but I don't think that does it justice.  Who really uses things like depth of field preview, self timer, and mirror lock up on a regular basis anyway?  You have full control of the important stuff: shutter and aperture.  If you need a dependable, no frills camera the K1000 is a great choice.  My only real complaint is that the lens cap is the only way to shut off the battery.  But you should really have one of those anyway.

Jean-Pierre's picture
Didn't know that about the K1000 (lens cap)... I'm sure a lot of people out there will find that useful. But yeah, spotmatic and k1000 are so much more than a student camera.
jojonas's picture

oh, man! can't you blow that fantastic bit up (0:59) to wallpaper size and slap a fpp logo in a corner?? I'd love to have that on my computer desktop!
best video production yet guys!

Anonymous's picture
I've won a Pentax KM from the evilbays, It wasn't what I wanted, but something that I needed, and was a pleasant surprise, now I have to wait till it arrives...I hope it's okay. I'm still in shock that I got an real, rootin-tootin' (WHAT!) film SLR camera, I seriously don't know how to react... For the uninitiated, The Pentax KM is similar to the K1000, only it has a self-timer, and DOF-preview, that's basically it. A quick google search will tell you that. Anyway, it will be a great introduction to photography.
Tom Chamberlain's picture
I LOVE THIS CAMERA. I had one once and sold it when I bought a Canon A1. =( Love the A1, but the K1000 so still such a nice machine, especially with that beautiful SMC glass. cheers TC
Iain Kendall's picture
I've never used the K1000 but own a Pentax SP500 (part of the Spotmatic range and M42 lens) and love it beyond all reason. Pentax cameras of this time are wonder tools to use.
Trish P's picture
Thanks guys...that was great! I just had my K1000 refurbished and it's working great. Can't beat it for a basic camera that does, well, just about everything!
Gregg McNeill's picture
The K-1000 was my first 35mm camera. It was a mainstay in my camera bag for 20 years. It's still one of my fav go-to cameras. I bought a lovely screw-mount 400mm f5.6 prime lens made in "USSR Occupied Germany" for it.
Diane Fisher's picture

I was shooting a Pentax DSLR when a friend suggested I might like to try film. He suggested a K1000 and then even purchased one for me, along with two lenses! It was that K1000 that started my love affair with film. I remember taking it with me to night parades when I lived in New Orleans very near the Mardi Gras uptown parade route. Some of the best shots I've ever taken were of Mardi Gras floats with the K1000. I even shot my last few rolls of Kodachrome with the K1000.  I've moved away from that camera, but I think maybe it is time to pick it back up again. It never did me wrong.

Spyderpix's picture
There are a lot of wonderful cameras out there but the K1000 truly is one of the greatest. It has everything you need to capture wonderful images. If you understand the basics of photography and know what a f-stop and shutter speed are, then this camera will work for you. But if you want to just pick up your camera, point it at something, and press the shutter to take your picture, then you probably will not like this camera. But when you capture a great image with this camera, you know without a doubt that it was your decisions that made that image possible. You know that you created that image, not the camera...and there are not many feelings quite as great as that one. Have fun and shoot lots of film.
Ken Dickinson's picture
My wife's K1000 was her first SLR and was bought for her new by her parents to be her first "real" camera, after playing with instamatics and such for a few years. That was over 30 years ago, she still has the K1000, and it still works just fine. She earned her BFA in Photography and shoots professionally, and we've even used that camera on as a secondary camera (in my hands) on shoots we did. Her K1000 was my first exposure *ahem!* to Pentax 35mm cameras and lenses, though I had used a Pentax 6x7 camera before, and I was impressed enough that I now own two Spotmatics and an S1a for myself. Hats off to the K1000 and to all of the 60s and 70s "basic" Pentax cameras and their amazing Super Takumar/Super Multicoated Takumar lenses!
sam's picture
its a very good site i like thiz. Testking 640-461
James Stevenson's picture
My first 'proper' camera as a student. Took mine travelling for a year and it was exposed to all manner of dust, weather, knocks... not once did it let me down, or need new batteries. I never worried about it either as it's inexpensive with the 28-80 zoom. It still works in spite of me bouncing it down an Arizona road on the last day of my trip - the lens went but the body is build like a tank. How many modern digital cameras could endure this? Props to the K1000! I have a great deal of affection for this camera and feel I'll return to using it soon. Here are the best of my photos using it, recently rescanned from original negs with Epson's excellent V700 photo/film scanner:
Sir Wankalot's picture
Is the K1000 better than the Praktica MTL3, which was the first SLR I ever used, or the Zenit TTL, which I recently bought for £5? Or the Minolta SRT101 or Canon FTb or any other MMM camera? I can see that the K1000 is a good and nice-looking camera, but why do people fetishise it so much?
Michael Raso's picture

The K-1000 isn't better's synonymous with a starter camera and certainly was used in schools across the US and therefore, was the "first" camera for so many people.

It's just a great camera.

Anonymous's picture
I bought my first DSLR in 2006 , sony A 100 . I always used it in full auto mode . It was for me a point and shoot camera at best . I knew that my Dad had K1000 just that i never used it . one fine sunday afternoon .. while cleaning my cupboard I found K1000 Manual .. I took out that camera and understood all the controls ( hardly any !! as it is a fully manual camera ).WOW!!! was the reaction and that started my ever lasting love for film . Sunny 16 rule , manual focus , composing the frame , spending more time deciding on composition , exposure , rule of thirds etc became second nature . It has to be a student camera as it automatically makes you naturally concentrate on basics..!! the Best camera ever.. and now i have three more film bodies.. to dynax 9s and one 7 . I definitely run one roll in a month through K1000 and it still performs like a champ .
Anonymous's picture
I recd a pentax k1000 as a gift from a family member and it has a 50mm lens but I am trying to find a larger lens, telephoto, that I can use with is, I know I need strictly a manual. I did find an as anti smc pentax M 135mm f3.5 Telephoto lens for me mx me, it is manual but I don't know if it it will go with what I have, can u please help me
Will's picture
A K1000 will take a photo, and it is a tough camera that will work without a battery, so that's something. But I gotta say there are many other Pentax cameras that are a better option. I had a K1000 briefly and found it really annoying, lacking obvious things like a lock on the shutter release, DOF preview, and most incredibly no way to turn off the light meter (ridiculously, you have to put the lens cap on to prevent the battery getting drained). I usually recommend to film beginners that they avoid this model. I don't understand why anyone would idolize it as any sort of classic camera. If you want a mechanical get a KX, or MX.
Joe Nobles's picture

The dear little instrument, was my first camera.  I learned so much with it.  I got it back in 1983, my Grandmom gave it to me as a high school graduation gift.  I have the original 50mm f/2.0 SMC and a Promaster 70 -210, I used to have a great little 28-70 Tonkina that went missing from my bag in '87 at a frat party.  Great memories, I seldom use this camera though because I love using rangefinder 35's (FEDs Zorkis and Canons) (I had an Leica M6 TTL with a 35, 50, 90  and 135 up untill a couple of months ago, I needed the money!) but I love medium format especially my Rolleicord III and Brownie Hakeye 6 x 6 slides are overwhelming, but I will never give up my dear ol' K1000!  The only thing I wish this camera had would be DoF preview (the Spotmatic a friend of mine had was just like the K1000 except for the lens mount and the DoF preview).

Keep shooting Film!

paynestaker's picture
Got a k1000 from a friend two weeks ago south a couple of ProSpec lenses. I immediately fell in love. I already found and bought the 50mm 1.7 that just so happened to come with a "broken" body. Well, a little TLC and it's working perfectly. I keep color film in one and b and w in the other.
Gregg McNeill's picture
I too LOVE the K-1000! It was my first camera. It's built like a tank and I still use it. The shutter slap is one of my favourite sounds in the world. Great meter too. Gregg McNeill Flickername: gbmcinephoto
alex luyckx's picture

K1000s never stay in my every changing collection for long, there's always someone who reaches out to me and says "I want to try 35mm" bam, the K1000 is the first camera I send their way.

Jon's picture
My college roommate had one that was duct-taped together, but it still worked fine. Seriously, he had silver duct tape wrapped around the camera because the back wouldn't stay shut. It never leaked light, or so I heard.
DaCosta's picture
Have to look out for one. Had Pentax's ME Super as my first SLR back in the 80s. Pentax made great lenses back then. From what I've seen, the K1000 could survive anything and keep shooting.
Steve Moose's picture
My K1000 was the first 35mm camera that I ever bought when I got into film photography last year. Since then, most of my work is in this medium. I have since picked up a Pentax ME Super which I now prefer to use since it is smaller and lighter, but I will never part with my K1000. It is photographic simplicity at its finest. No frills, no bells or whistles. Just all the basics that a person needs to take a good picture. And the meters in there more often than not are perfect. Pick one up, shoot with it, and let the love affair with film begin. #believeinfilm Steve Moose
dev-stop-fix's picture

My favorite camera. Is it the best? No. Is it sexy? Not really. But there is something so honest and dependable this camera that it is impossible to not become emotionally attached to it. For me, it was my first camera, given to me by my Dad when I was 10. I used this camera exclusively for a decade. Anyway, if you're in the market, the K1000 is a great buy at a great price. Check out some examples...

Nikki's picture
I Love my k1000! My dad gave it to me (it was his) when I first took darkroom photography courses in High School, and I still use it frequently!
Ron T.'s picture
my k1000 was lost moving but still have SMC Pentax 300 mm a 135 a 50 and a 28mm. looking for a k1000 body in excellant condition from a reputable source. also need to know where repairs or light seals can be replaced when the time comes. this was a grest camera and im LOST without mine.
Don's picture
Hi Mike Thanks for giving props to this camera! I just showed this to my daughter as it was an Xmas present! I decided to foster some independence by not making her into a Olympus fanboy like her dear old dad, haha. Now we can get into flame wars over which system is better ;-) Actually, in addition to letting her feel like she had her own camera vs one of my cast offs, I also thought that the K1000 (and so many of those pentax from that general time) is a super awesome camera and a great one to learn the fundamentals of photography. She shot her first couple of rolls and the shots look awesome! Cheers! Don
Jon Woodbury's picture
Forgive me, but I actually think the K1000 is overrated. I'm not saying that it's not a truly great classic camera, but its superstar status has now made it far more expensive than some really amazing cameras that offer aperture priority and other features that make for a much more well-rounded photographic education. I love shooting manual as much as the next guy, and I DO love my K1000, but it's nice to have the versatility to just shoot, and not have to always do everything manually, even as a beginner. For a fraction of the now inflated price of the K1000, you can pick up the Minolta X-700, the Olympus OM-10, or the Canon AE-1 AS WELL AS a full compliment of pretty killer lenses. (The X-700 could be the most UNDERRATED camera of all time. I love that thing.) You could even stick with the K-mount and find so many other great options. I got a Ricoh KR-5 Super II (Also very simple, K-mount, all manual, and LR-44 battery) for $5. Anyway, I am not trying to troll anything, just offer a bit of a different opinion. It's a highly regarded camera for good reason, I just think we all get caught up in the fact that we shot it in school as a beginner when photography was so romantic.
Michael Raso's picture

No romance for me. My heart belongs to the classic Canon FT. I was only introduced to the K1000 in 2011 and (from an emotional perspective) reluctant to give kudos to the K1000.

I love it because it's really "that good", and deserving of its cult status. If anything, this model hasn't been praised enough.

The concept that it's current star status has made it more expensive on e-bay is nonsense. If you check e-bay proper (completed auctions only) you'll see that it still sells from $39. (complete kit w/ lenses) up to $100. (just like every brand classic 35mm SLR camera).

Want an awesome camera that doesn't need batteries, a camera that is so resilient that almost all light meters still work - some with 10+ year old batteries! The K-1000. The logical choice for FPP's donation to the Picturing Wanteete Project.

Jon, you are entitled to your opinion and I understand that you'd prefer to shoot with another camera but let's give the K1000 it's time to shine in the light. It deserves it!

AnonymousRon T's picture
hi again guys. to explain further ...i am recuperating from near death auto accid. out of wheelchair now but will never be able to return to my baking job.You guys have motivated me during my recuperation.How can i buy a film camera that accepts my old Kmount automatic smc pentax 300mm,135,50,&28mm lenses? i have never purchased a used camera before an need advise on how to go about replacing my k1000 with one that isnt a piece of junk .i feel like a beginner and beg you Pros for some guidance. Thank You in advance! keep up the good work and i really hope to be able to join and contribute in the future. Ron T. woodbury new jersey
Lee Johnson's picture
I recently bought a K1000. I own a Kx digital and fell in love with pentax stuff. I love the K1000 in fact I now shot more with that than I do my digital. Anyone wanting a simple film SLR that feels nice and give gorgeous results can't go much wrong with this camera. I can't ever see my bag being without a K1000 in it. Some of my shot are posted on my flickr stream Thanks guys for pushing this camera! Keep up the good work with the podcast. Lee - Lancashire, England
Robert H. Bruce's picture
I wonder what were the other runners up! Perhaps the Minolta SRT 202, or even one with AE?
Jonathon_Chance's picture

No romance for me either. I prefer Konica 35MM AR mount over everything else.

But I would have to agree the best choice hands down for a fully manual, sturdy mechanical camera. The Pentax-M lenses are also very good quality. If you can't get a K1000, try an ME with Pentax-A lenses.

It's not the camera, but the person behind it that matters...

BKulik's picture

I never used a K1000 but did hold one and check it out, it"s a nice camera but you have to get the older models that are built better. Some are made in Japan, some are not. Mr. Raso is correct, the Ebay prices are pretty much the same for any SLR in that range of cameras. Personally, I have a Chinon CG5 with auto chinon 50mm 1.9 and 28mm and 35mm lenses. All K mount. Great cameras and HIGHLY underated, however the ebayers have caught on to it"s true worth lately. I only paid 20 bucks for mine, now you may get one without a lens for 20-30 bucks unless you have a lot of patience and wait a while.


Noel's picture
My name is Noel & I have a K1000... Taiwan serial They do work ok with cheap LA44 from China or SR44 if the shop has none. There is a real off switch but it is a third photo cell if you store the camera in a dark gadget bag or ERC the current drain should be zero in light below normal meter levels. If you foam starts to break up you need to replace before it gets on film or into shutter. You need pencil mousemat and double sided pressure sensitive tape scissors a chop stick sharp knife cotton wool and nail varnish remover or Zippo fluid. Sketch the old foam start and end points and thickness carve the chop stick to point to scoop out old foam. Force cotton waste damp with nail varnish remover into and along groove to get back to clean paint. Cut sliver of mouse mat. fit and trim carefully then remove and stick double sided tape to hold in place refit. Don't forget the mirror damper. I stick card over shutter frame to keep debris out. I use a 35 mm f/2.8-M for street photos.
Marlize Potgieter's picture
Hi. Can someone tell me if i can still get film for the pentax k1000 in south africa?
DougB.'s picture
I started my photographic journey with a brand new Pentax K10D in 2008. While collecting Super-Takumar lenses to use with it I picked up a Pentax Spotmatic along the way. The Spotmatic is basically an old version of the K1000 with and M42 screw mount lens mount. It also has a switch to turn the light meter on and off. (I never understood why the K1ooo got away from this). Camera is beautifully built, strong and will last for years to come. Expect nothing less from the K1000.
Bubba Jones's picture
First sentence of the article, "...This January The FPP donated 15 Pentak K1000...", okay, I know this article is a few years old, however please change it to Pentax.

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