Pentax K1000 Review - Perfect first film SLR camera?

When I decided to give film photography a try and temporarily ditch my digital Sony, I knew I wanted to shoot on a film SLR. The difficulty was finding which one since I’ll be honest, shooting manually was a skill I had yet to hone. When I went looking for one, everyone kept telling me one particular camera to start with. One legendary, simple and fairly cheap SLR. The Pentax K1000. 

But it’s been a while since I tried it so I thought let’s see how it performs and whether it’s a good enough camera for somebody looking to learn film photography?

The Pentax K1000 was launched in 1976 and was a hit with over 3 million units sold. The beauty behind the K1000 was the simplicity in its design. There’s no extra settings to confuse you. It’s as simple as you’d want for a first SLR. All you need to do is master the ISO, shutter speed, aperture and focusing. That’s it. It even comes with an impressively accurate lightmeter to help get rid of any guesswork. All it leaves is for you to focus on your photography skills. No wonder it was such a successful model and used across thousands of film photography classes around the world!

When you pick up the Pentax K1000, you notice the build quality as it’s practically entirely made out of metal and you definitely feel it. I’ve had the misadventures of dropping a couple Pentax K1000s in my life (I blame alcohol on two of those occasions) and remarkably, it did not scratch or dent. In some cases, I feel they’ll break the ground given how sturdy they’re built. Using it is a cinch as it’s fully mechanical meaning no need for battery (unless you want the light meter to be working). The Pentax K1000 light meter is a built-in match-needle through the lens (TTL) light meter that is very easy to use. Just aim to rest the needle in the middle for a “proper” exposure.  

I had the joys in using a Pentax K1000 with the classic Pentax SMC 50mm F/2.0 which surprised me with the image quality. The Pentax lenses are legendary in their own way for their high quality yet very affordable prices which is a blessing for anyone trying film photography for the first time. Here are some photos I took on the Pentax!

Would I recommend it? Well I did have a few issues with the Pentax K1000. Firstly, their build quality can vary as I’ve come across faaaaaar too many with poor light meter accuracy or terrible light leaks so be weary when buying one. It’s expected though given their age and the fact it wasn’t originally marketed as a pro camera, so people who bought them would’ve likely been more careless with them. The greatest strength with the Pentax K1000 is also the biggest flaw - it’s simplicity. If I was someone starting film photography, or photography, or trying manual shooting or wanting a simple SLR experience, then this is an ideal camera for you. After a while, your skills and maturity will obviously change and the glorious Pentax you once used will no longer cut it. It’s time to move on. The longevity of the Pentax K1000 really depends on your shooting style and what you eventually will want to accomplish and achieve with your photography. 

Would I recommend it? Absolutely if you’re looking to try film photography or want something simple to shoot with. After testing the Pentax, it definitely become apparent why such a camera lasted in production for 20 years. It’s fundamentally exactly what you would want in a film camera. There’s nothing here to make you overthink. Just follow your photography basics and you can make magic with it. 

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