Pentax ES II

Back in the mid-1970s, just when I was beginning to discover "real" photography with a Spotmatic, I saw a National Geographic ad for the Pentax ES II and I thought it was the most sexiest black camera there ever was.  I vaguely remembered that there was a black variant of the Nikon F much earlier, but then with a shape like an M1 Abrams tank, it did not appeal to me.  The Spotmatic fits my hand beautifully; now if only I could those hands on the ES II.

Superseded by the K series and blinded by the splash of the Canon A series later that decade, I have decided that whatever camera I would have next would be black.  As the stories go, I ended up with a Canon AE-1 and it was black.

I would later regret that because black was prone to brassing whenever it was scratched; the chrome/silver cameras seems impervious to that fault since a scratch would be the same color.  These days when the default color for digital SLRs is black, to have a silver camera is a novelty.  Of course, there are now more colors available for the recent cameras of Pentax (K-x and K-r).

Having recently picked up an excellent copy of the ES II, I began to put it through its paces using my Takumars.  What became apparent was the light meter only works when in automatic mode (Av mode; not the term used back then): the camera selected the shutter speed as you chose the aperture.  When set on the manual speeds (1/1000 to 1/60) there was no indication of exposure.  A let down because I usually prefer to shoot in manual mode.  It reminded me of my peeve against the Canon AE-1 which also did not have any exposure reference when set in manual.  The difference, however, was that Pentax had corrected this by the time the Pentax K2 would come around two years later (1975).  Canon, however, would continue to assume full automation and not include an exposure reference in their subsequent cameras in the A series (at least with the A-1 and the AE-1 Program).

Of course, at this point in my photographic journey, that issue is no longer critical since I use the ES II (and even the AE-1 and AE-1 Program) in leisurely situations where I do not have to rush getting the exposure setting right.


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