Pentax K1000 Tips and Tricks

In my previous post about why the Pentax K1000 is such an amazing camera I mentioned that it’s not as basic as you might think. In this post I will share the tricks and tips that I use and find useful. Some of them I read online and others I found just by using the K1000 quite a bit!

Which K1000 to buy? 

With a 21 year production run (the longest of any camera!) there were, of course, a few changes in the techniques and materials employed. The biggest one of these was the fact that production was switched from Japan to Hong Kong in 1978 and then to China in 1990.  As the cameras were hand-made, this was done to keep labor costs low.

While every K1000 has exactly the same functionality it is best to buy a Made-in-Japan one if you can.

They have the following advantages:

  • They have tough aluminium top and bottom plates instead of the cheaper, less durable plastic ones.
  • They have a steel wind lever instead of a pot metal one. This pot metal wind lever can  bend and it will then scrape the top cover.
  •  The meter components are better quality.
  • It doesn’t have the cheaper plastic rewind knob and shaft that could potentially break under heavy use.
  • It’s not Made-in-China ;)

Pentax K1000

How can you tell the difference between the pre-1978 K1000s and then post-1978 ones? It’s pretty simple. The better quality Made-in-Japan K1000s will have “Asahi” above the word “Pentax
There is also a Pentax K1000 SE (Special Edition?) which has a split image rangefinder plus microprism collar focusing screen instead of the normal microprism spot focusing aid. The early K1000 SEs also had brown leather instead of black.  From my experience with my Leica M3 [which focuses with a split image rangefinder] it probably is a more accurate way to focus. So if you find a K1000 SE for a good price then snap it up! Don’t worry about getting a brown leather one, you can find a huge amount of various exotic leather covers for your K1000.

The Pentax K1000 Manual

Pentax K1000 Manual

First things first. Read the manual! Most of these old cameras don’t come with the original manual and so getting to grips with the handling can be a bit daunting at first.

Pentax K1000 Manual Part 1
Pentax K1000 Manual Part 2



Assorted Tips & Tricks 
Pentax K1000 no lens

Depth of Field Preview Trick – The bigger brothers of the Pentax K1000 (KX, LX etc) have a dedicated Depth of Field preview button. You can still preview the depth of field on your K1000. It’s pretty easy. Point your K1000 at your subject and focus. Press the lens release tab which, if looking at the camera from the front, is located around the 8 o’clock position. Check the picture above, you can see it. While holding this tab down start to unhinge the lens. You only need to turn the lens a couple of degrees and it the aperture blades will close to the F-stop you have set. An easy way to test that you are doing this correctly is to set the lens on the smallest F-stop, normally f22. Look through the viewfinder and try to preview the depth of field. The viewfinder should get darker as  less light is getting through.
Easy :)

Mirror Lockup Trick - Apparently this works on all K-mount Pentax cameras of that era  that don’t have a Mirror Lockup option.  I have only tested this on the Pentax K1000. This is quite tricky but with a little bit of practice you should be able to do it every time. Make sure that you practice without any film in the camera! Cock the shutter and then just use a fast sliding motion across the shutter release button. You need to flick it with the tip of your finger. It’s a similar feel to sliding your finger off the edge of a desk towards yourself.  You know you have done it when you hear a different noise and the viewfinder goes black. Very useful for landscape and macro photography.

Double Exposure Trick –  This is easy and you should actually already know how to do it because it’s in the manual that I linked to before which, of course, you read ;)

I advise that you experiment with this technique:

  1. Take your first exposure just as you would normally.
  2. You need to take up any slack thats in the film by using the rewind knob (A) on the top left. Just lightly move it clockwise (looking from the back of the camera) until you feel resistance. This should be, at most, a 1/5 of a turn.
  3. While holding the rewind knob at this position press and press and hold the film rewind button (B) which is located on the bottom of the camera.
  4. Cock the shutter by cranking the wind lever while still holding the rewind knob in position and pressing the film rewind button.
Pentax K1000 Film Rewind

Top left of the camera                                                Bottom right of the camera

 

This can be quite tricky to do while holding the camera in the air but it can be done! Place the thumb of your left hand on top of the rewind knob to hold it in place and use your third or fourth finger to press and hold the film rewind button. Crank the wind lever with your right thumb. Your right hand is holding the camera in the normal shooting position. This works for me but bear in mind that I have a large hand. Try it a few times and find the best position for yourself. 

Accidental Double Exposure

This was an accidental double exposure!

 

What you have achieved by following these steps? You have cocked the shutter but kept the film completely still! This means that the next shot that you take will be taken over your previous shot. You have “double exposed” that bit of film. This can lead to some very interesting photographs and your creativity is the limit!

Important points to remember!

  • After your double exposure take one blank shot. Do this by putting on the lens cap and winding to the next frame and releasing the shutter. This is necessary because after your double exposure the film will only wind forward half a frame. If you just took a normal shot instead of a blank shot you would triple expose half of your double exposure! This method of taking a blank shot does mean that you waste half a frame of film between exposures but worse things happen at sea…
  • Set your ISO on your K1000 to double that of the film you are using when doing double exposures. So if you are shooting ISO 200 film then set your camera ISO to 400 and then shoot the two frames as you would normally. This is to prevent areas of the double exposure being far too over-exposed. Considering that colour negative and black and white films are extremely forgiving for over-exposure this probably isn’t needed but extra detail is always welcome :D
  • If your first exposure has shadows then more details from the second exposure will come up in that area. If you keep a mental note of your shadow and highlight areas you can try and line them up in your second exposure for great effect
  • If you want one of the two exposures more prominent that the other then shoot that exposure at the actual ISO of the film. This allows more light to hit the film and so that exposure will be more visible compared to the other.


Pentax K1000 Shutter Ready Indicator

TIP: Shutter Ready Indicator  

I didn’t realise this for a while after I started using the K1000 so I guess a few other people might not see it too! Next to the shutter button there is a tiny little dot which is actually a shutter-ready indicator. If it’s Black it means you haven’t cocked the shutter and if it’s Orange then you are ready to fire away! [Assuming you have film in the camera ;) Everyone forgets to put film in the camera once or twice!]

TIP: Remember to change your ISO when switching films!

Expired Black and White

Not bad for film that expired years ago!

 

My first black and white film was a roll of expired Fuji Neopan 1600 that I found in an old chemist shop in Vienna. I dutifully changed my ISO dial to read 1600 and took some photos I quite liked! You can guess what happened after I finished that roll and then put in a roll Kodak Gold 200. I forgot to change my ISO back to 200 and so all my photos were under-exposed by 3 stops! I generally find that setting the ISO slightly lower than the actual rated speed works well for me [for colour negative and black and white films] as it means I almost never get under-exposed shots even if by mistake I under-expose a shot by a small amount.

TIP: When not in use…cap it!

The cool thing about the Pentax K1000 is that the meter is always on and ready to use. The not-so-cool thing about the Pentax K1000 is that the meter is always on and ready to use. The Ying and Yang of an always on light-meter! As there is no on/off button the only way to stop that tiny battery from dying quickly is keeping the lens cap on when not in use.

When you are not shooting… keep your lens cap on!

That’s it for now…

That is all the useful Pentax K1000 tips and tricks I know. If you know any others or know better ways to accomplish any of the ones in this post then please comment below! As I carry on using the K1000 I am sure I will learn other tricks and I will edit this post in the future to reflect that. Happy shooting!

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for this fabulous article. I’m trying to get into film, and after much research, I just bought a Pentax K1000. I’ll be re-reading this article, for sure, and checking out your Flickr page. Thanks again!

    • says

      Glad you found it useful. When I started using the K1000 all this information was spread around on various forums and websites and it was quite difficult to find. I tried to bring it all together here and use my experience with the camera to help others. If you need any help or have any questions about the K1000 don’t hesitate to leave another comment here or check out the Pentax K1000 Flickr group linked at the end of this post. Happy new year and happy shooting! :)

    • says

      Thanks! I just picked it up, loaded it up and took about 6 photos – and forgot to advance the film at least 4 of those times. Old dSLR habits die slowly… :-)

    • says

      Haha yes they do!

      One more tip: Try and shoot an entire roll in a day because otherwise what may happen is this:

      You may forget if you have film in the camera and then open up the back to put in a new film and you see that you still have film inside and now it’s ruined. This happened to me a couple of times!

      Good luck!

  2. says

    Good article. I have the split screen focus circle, but mine is not a SE model. I didn’t know about winding on after a double exposure. Can’t figure why it only moves a half frame.

    • says

      I guess your K1000 is unique! ;) Either they produced some split-screen models apart from the SE or some clever person replaced the focusing screen?

      I’m not quite sure why it only moves a half frame after a double exposure (perhaps somebody with more technical knowledge can answer this?).

      Thanks for reading and have a great weekend. Feel free to leave a link to your Flickr page (if you have one)

  3. laline says

    I just bought an Asahi Pentax K1000 today from a thrift store and I’m new to SLR camera’s so your blog will be my first lesson in using this camera. My only other experience with cameras is with film 35mm point and shoot, and the Canon S90 digital point and shoot. I took the K1000 to my local camera shop who efficiently sold me a new battery, a new lens cap (cheap) and a few rolls of FUJI 400 film. He checked the light meter and everything works well.

    Thanks so much for the manuals. I will read them first before taking photos and get back to you.

  4. says

    This blog post has really helped me know more about the Pentax K1000. Two days ago, my dad and I went to the camera store hoping to see film cameras. The Pentax K1000 is only $100, so we’re buying it soon. I’m very new to film cameras, I’ve only been using my Nikon DSLR.
    This post was definitely very helpful! Thanks!!
    I’m really excited to start experimenting and just shooting with the Pentax. Though I’m quite nervous about the whole darkroom and the developing of the photos.

    • Anonymous says

      Hi Koleen,
      $100 for a Pentax K1000 is pretty steep.
      I purchased two for under $70 with 3 lenses. It was on Ebay but both are in excellent condition.

    • says

      Welcome to AndBeThere.com Koleen,
      Congratulations on deciding to start shooting film, it’s a wonderful experience. $100 is above average for a K1000 but if it comes with some kind of warranty or has had a CLA (Clean, Lubricate, Adjust) then it may well be worth buying. Try and pick up the trusty Pentax SMC K 50/2 lens that came standard with many K1000 over the years. Prime lenses are truly wonderful and deadly sharp.

      Remember..have fun!

      Ciao,

      Emanuele

  5. says

    I had just actually purchased a Pentax K1000 last month and I must say it has been a very pleasant experience. The lens is dead sharp! I will definitely try some double exposures now that I have read how to do it. Thanks!

  6. Alan Saltmarsh says

    I Have 2 Pentax K1000′s which I use all the time!, Digital doesn’t interest me! One is the SE version with the brown leather & the other is also an early model, made in japan.
    I have added an M42 adapter to one of the bodies & invested in some wonderful screw mount lenses.
    I Do a lot of macro photography & have been using the MLU trick all the time now & you do indeed gain that extra sharpness . Transparency film is expensive but still looks a whole lot better than Digital for me!

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