Pentax SV – Camera Review

Pentax SV – Camera Review

1280 720 Josh Solomon

Life has a way of giving you exactly what you need when you least expect it to. So when I came across a Pentax SV for the first time, I knew life was throwing me a bone. It sat in a glass case at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, its accompanying sign proclaiming it the chosen tool of Ishiuchi Miyako, a photographer from postwar Japan whose photographs happened to be on exhibit that day. The photographs were gritty, stark, and dirty, and the camera was too. Worn and battered by years of usage, this Pentax now found a temporary resting spot as a museum piece.

This camera, surrounded by the haunting and beautiful images it produced brought about a torrent of thought, the predominant one being the mind-boggling realization that this very camera witnessed every single one of the moments hanging before me. Here I was being afforded the unique opportunity to see life as captured through the lens of this very camera, of course masterfully handled by the photographer, and as I continued through the exhibit I found my mind continually marveling that this otherwise nondescript camera could occupy such a place of honor in one of the most famous museums in the world.

My starry-eyed reverie came to an abrupt halt the moment I looked down and noticed my own camera (which happened to be a Minolta SRT-101) hanging around my neck. And it suddenly occurred to me that any camera could be sitting inside that glass case, and indeed, my own camera looked old enough to be at home there too. I realized that the Pentax SV wasn’t the only camera that could’ve taken these pictures; any other camera in the hands of a photographic master could’ve produced the same miraculous images. But still, there was something about the SV that drew me in. It looked somehow special, and I was hooked.

I left the Getty that day equal parts inspired and infatuated, and on account of my acute camera addiction, wholly determined to find an SV for myself.

[Words and images by Josh Solomon]

pentax sv review (5 of 8)

Months passed while I waited patiently for the day that I’d find an SV in good condition, and while I’d occasionally stumble upon them at flea markets and thrift stores there was always an issue. Either their mirrors were locked up or their shutters were too slow- something was always amiss. To my frustration, I seemed destined to live without a pristine SV. But as it did at the Getty, my own SV took me by surprise.

I was walking through the awe-inspiring Pasadena Camera Show with a friend when I spotted a row of Pentaxes. “Cool,” I thought, “perhaps I can find something to sell.” I sifted through a sea of Spotmatics, K1000s, MEs, and MXs before, without warning, a lone SV appeared sitting casually in the middle of the jumble. I snatched it up, peered through the finder, fired the shutter, and felt my spine tingle from sheer satisfaction.

I quickly hailed the seller, a soft, spongey man who gave a distinct impression of being too old and too uninterested to sell another camera. I stole a glance at the vibrant $75 price tag stuck clearly atop the camera’s pentaprism, and asked in my most disinterested voice, “How much for this camera?”

The seller waddled over, took it from my hands and grumbled, “Twenty bucks.”

I stifled a small squeal and hastily groped for my wallet. I gave him the $20, he gave me the SV in return, and I nearly ran out of that camera show cheering for my luck. I finally held in my hands the camera I’d admired through so much glass case. But even though I was excited for my long-anticipated union with the SV, the camera mercenary in me reminded that I could sell it at a tidy profit once the thrill had died. Worse still for the little SV, the camera snob in me reminded that this lowly commoner’s camera could never garner as much use as the Nikon F and Leica in my collection. I’d soon learn that surprises come in threes.

pentax sv review (6 of 8)

A little history; the original Asahi Pentax is notable for many reasons, most importantly for it’s being the first easily-handled SLR with a pentaprism, and for being the very first Japanese SLR with an instant return mirror, a gargantuan innovation that immediately streamlined SLR shooting. The Asahi Pentax (or AP as it’s known in collector’s circles) came out in 1957 and predates the mighty Nikon F, a camera widely credited for doing a lot of things first, by two whole years. One can even rightly argue that it was this original Asahi Pentax that laid the groundwork for the design of every SLR to come over the next twenty years.

The Pentax SV is the final incarnation of this original Asahi Pentax, its healthy production run spanning from 1962-1970. But even though it was the latest and greatest from the old generation of Pentaxes, it’s still about as bare bones as an SLR gets. The SV’s horizontal silk shutter tops out at a distinctly average 1/1000th of a second, bottoms out at an also-average 1 second, and features a bulb and time setting for long-exposure junkies. It also has the bog-standard Pentax M42 screw mount, and unlike previous iterations, the SV has a self-timer (hooray!), which is rather ingeniously found around the collar of the rewind knob. And… that’s it.

Unfortunately for the SV, what it lacks might define the entire camera for most modern shooters. None of the creature comforts we take for granted in the 21st century (and indeed, the latter half of the 20th century) can be found in the SV. The camera lacks any and all shooting aids, offers an unbelievably sparse viewfinder, and perhaps the most jarring of all, doesn’t even feature a built-in light meter.

pentax sv review (7 of 8)

This depressingly spartan feature sheet may almost certainly be a deal-breaker for many of today’s photo geeks, unless we remember that a camera’s true merit is rarely based on its specs. It’s the gestalt product that matters, the overall package that determines whether or not a camera will make an indelible impression on photographers.

Spend some time shooting the SV and it becomes instantly clear that it’s got it right where it counts. What the SV lacks in features it makes up for in the masterful execution of its design. I’m not going to mince words; the SV’s design is one of the best SLR designs I’ve ever experienced. Everything just feels so incredibly natural. Pentax’s design crew somehow managed to make every single function on this camera fall into place. The shutter release falls directly under your finger as you grip the camera (looking at you, Nikon F), and the shutter dial is conveniently placed next to the shutter release, ready to flick at a moment’s notice (looking at you, Olympus OM-1). Everything is where we expect it to be, and we don’t have to compromise or adjust our shooting style to accommodate it.

The SV’s size also contributes to its divinely natural feeling. As touched upon in our Leica IIIc review, the entire 35mm philosophy revolved around portability and compactness, and this Pentax SV expresses this philosophy with understated aplomb. The SV is actually almost as small as the famously compact Olympus OM-1, remarkable considering that the SV predates the OM-1 by an entire decade. And although it’s not the smallest camera ever, it’s not big either, and it doesn’t have the sort of middling, stately feeling we get from its descendants, the Pentax Spotmatic and K1000. In fact, it makes my heavyweight Nikon F look like a caveman’s tool, and when I carried the SV around it didn’t feel like I was carrying a troublesome lump of metal; it felt like I was carrying a small, friendly companion.

The Pentax SV also has the curious quality of looking as natural as it feels. It’s exactly what you’d expect an SLR to be, but it’s not vanilla either. It’s actually incredibly attractive in a camera-next-door kind of way. The lines are straight and well defined, but terminate gently. The pentaprism sits atop the camera as a soft hill instead of a geometrical malady, and the backs and sides of the camera feel like they curve in the hand while still being beautifully angled. The SV’s overall look is defined while being understated, a quality that belies its very operation.

Even the features the SV lacks seem to become features in their own right. As said before, the SV doesn’t have a light meter. This seems cruel and unusual, and it prohibits beginners from using the SV to its full potential. But for the advanced photographer, this sin becomes the SV’s entire salvation. The absence of a light meter results in a viewfinder that is possibly the purest in all of photography. It’s well-sized and bright, and contains absolutely nothing but your image. And though we find the focusing screen could be slightly brighter, things snap in and out of focus beautifully across the entire plane of the image. Through the simple elegance of the SV’s viewfinder, it’s plain to see why shooters originally switched from TLRs and rangefinders to SLRs in the first place; they’re dead simple to focus and shoot.

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Through the viewfinder of the Pentax SV.

The SV’s meter-less qualities do require us to change our shooting style slightly, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The absence of a light meter in the viewfinder makes setting exposure entirely separate from the act of composing. We set the aperture and shutter speed, make peace with our decisions, and move on with our composition. With the SV, I find myself worrying less about the accuracy of my exposure, less worried about a needle rising and falling in the periphery of my viewfinder, and instead find myself completely immersed in undistracted composition.

This stress-free workflow combined with Pentax’s signature build quality makes the SV one of the most graceful cameras on the vintage market. The SV is not a child of cold, mass-produced industry. Rather, it’s one of hand-built finesse. Its dials click into place with gentle assurance, the mirror and shutter fly light and carefree with minimal camera shake, and the film advance lever slides gracefully to prepare the next shot. The camera’s ease of use makes the SV feel as if it’s dissolving in your hands as you shoot it, a mark of truly great camera design.

It’s this graceful, light, and carefree quality which surprised me the most about the SV. From the first frame, the SV never made any demands of me beyond metering the light on my own. I took my SV all around Los Angeles and it handled everything from the dark backstreets of Chinatown to the bright beaches of Malibu with consummate ease. The SV nonchalantly slid right into the action when I needed it to, and unobtrusively stowed away when I didn’t. It didn’t interfere or confuse whatever was happening with cumbersome weight or controls, and I loved that about it.

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Finally, and most critically, the SV offers something a lot of cameras don’t- an unbelievably varied range of incredible lenses. The SV’s M42 mount is home to one of the deepest and widest lens systems in photography. The lauded Carl Zeiss Jena lenses are available at reasonable cost, along with the Pentax’s own superb Super Takumars. Additionally, almost every third party lens manufacturer made lenses in M42 mount, bringing the lens count to numbers some would consider astronomical. What’s more, all of these lenses are dirt cheap, and their low price encourages experimentation. My own SV kit boasts an East German Pentacon 135mm f/2.8, a Pentax Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4, and a Vivitar 28mm f/2.5, all purchased for about $80 total. Pretty amazing for the shooter on a budget.

Though it should be said that the M42 mount isn’t without its problems. The system is outdated and slow compared to more modern systems. Screwing in a lens just isn’t as fast, precise, or as secure as snapping one in via bayonet mount. Use these lenses with caution lest you want a dropped and damaged Super Tak. This is the primary reason Pentax abandoned the M42 mount in favor of the swap-friendly K-Mount bayonet system, but even with this caveat the M42 lenses of the SV offer incredible value and can create stunning images.

pentax SV camera review 10

With all this praise being lavished upon it, the SV does have a couple of small drawbacks. The SV has a reputation for troublesome breakdowns and issues of longevity, so you’ll have to really search to find one that’s usable straight out of the gate. I had to wait for months before I found one that was fully functional and even then it needed new light seals.

But once I found a working copy, I felt like I was united with a camera I had unknowingly missed for my entire life as a photographer. Its graceful operation and unassuming demeanor make some of my other, flashier, more famous cameras look needlessly excessive. And today, I’m glad to say that the SV has found a place alongside my trusty Nikon F and my Leica. I’d even venture to say I have more pride in my SV than either of those cameras because it reminds me that great, even museum-worthy images, can come from absolutely anywhere.

Want your own Pentax SV? Buy it on eBayAmazonB&H Photo, or F Stop Cameras

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Josh Solomon

Josh Solomon is a freelance writer and touring bassist living in Los Angeles. He has an affinity for all things analog. When not onstage, you can find him roaming around Southern California shooting film and humming a tune.

All stories by:Josh Solomon
  • What a truly great review of this camera! I love the history lesson with which you began it.

    I own a similar Pentax H3 and found it to be an enjoyable shooter, too. I didn’t mind the lack of light meter either!

    • Thanks so much Jim! Any of the pre-Spotmatic Pentaxes are joys to shoot. I’m glad you one for yourself!

      • Christopher Ward January 6, 2020 at 5:21 am

        The SV is a very zen camera. I bought my first Spotmatic and loved the ergonomics and the lenses. Then I bought a very brassy SV and was hooked. I loved using a hand held incident meter and so, a non-metered body and studio shooting were non-issues. The SV has a really excellent focus screen. The ground glass is very definite and allowed easy composition and very selective focusing. The controls are perfectly placed and easy to operate. You can add a light meter to the accessory shoe that couples to the speed dial. There’s also the secret self-timer concentric with the rewind knob. Of course it lets you take excellent pictures, it just gets out of the way. Very similar to using a Leica m3 in layout but as an SLR.

        • I’ve been a M-Leica user, and Leicaflex user since I started in photography. That’s awhile, 40+ years. I’d always thought of the original Leicaflex as the ‘reflex M3,’ build quality, and very bright finder (maybe even brighter with an f2 lens than an M3), and center spot only focus area (rangefinder area size). But, having just got a Pentax SV for one of my teenage sons – with the thought of giving him his first [not so expensive] film camera – it really struck me that this is so Leica-like. It’s a almost exactly the same size as a Leica-M with a pentaprism. Very ‘classic look’ styling, and no battery, electronics, pure glass and metal in built.

          My son has really taken to it. He loves the through the lens view, and just the feel and sound. Focus screen is ideal with it’s center micro-prism, ground-glass collar, and fresnal outer area. Quite a lot less expensive than a Leica, and with so many really good lenses, don’t feel there is any compromise, only advantages.

          Had to get a black paint version with a bit of brass, and showed him some photos of The Beatles with their Pentax cameras on the first America tour. He thought that was very cool to have the same camera. Hay, anything too get him enthusiastic for film and use it! (The camera needs an overhaul, but worth it, not a super great deal with that extra expense, but fully working on return with ‘that look’ on the outside 😉

          A couple ‘standard’ lenses to start with. An Auto-Takumar 55mm f2 (with the semi-auto) has 9-aperture blades, small/light, and beautifully built, and is very sharp. Also, a Super-Takumar 35mm f3.5 for its size, and as a good ‘walk-around’ lens at f8. Solid construction, nice glass, great condition, and at $15 each!

          Have to admit (if you haven’t been reading between the lines here), I bought this with the thought, if my son didn’t use it, I’d be very happy to. Maybe he’ll let me have it now and then to run a roll through it.

  • Haha oh my: ” It’s actually incredibly attractive in a camera-next-door kind of way” 😀

    Lovely review though. Definitely a no nonsense, barebones experience. My grandfather and greatgrandfather both owned early Pentax SLRs back in the day. Might need to go digging around for those. 🙂

    • Haha, I knew somebody was going to pick up on that line 😛 Thanks so much for the kind words! Those old Pentax SLR’s are definitely worth trying to dig up. Happy shooting!

  • Great review – you definitely have a way with words! I’ll have to keep my eye out for one of these.

  • Great review. You sum up nicely the benefits to shooting meterless, “completely immersed in undistracted composition.”

    • Thanks so much! Meterless cameras have been my preferred weapons of choice for the past few months. It definitely pays to not be worried about exposure all the time!

  • I carried a meterless (e.g. broken) Zenit-E around for years – and that didn’t even have focusing aids or a auto stop-down. It’s amazing how quickly the lack of these things don’t matter, and besides, using neg film and guessing EV numbers you can still get good exposures. Brilliant review – loved the girl next door line (I had one of those when I was young – Karen Flynn – wow what memories). I’d love a M42 mount Pentax… one day….

    • Thanks Stuart! It’s incredible what you can do with a raggedy old meterless M42 SLR. Glad you enjoy your Zenit and I hope you make more memories with it soon!

  • Josh, if you don’t know this site already, I think you need to!!/

    Some gorgeous cameras from the same Pentax series… Enjoy!

  • Richard Armstrong August 22, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Josh, just loved your review of the Pentax SV. An SV was my first SLR, I loved it, I brought it new when I started my first job in 1967 and it served me well for several years as my Pentax outfit grew to include Spotmatics and many lenses of various models plus an ES, the Pentax advertising slogan of the day “Just Hold an Asahi Pentax” was never truer. I stayed a staunch Pentax man until I got a Canon F1 in 1973. My original SV has long been sold but I now have a beautiful immaculate black SV, your review is a good kick in the arse to put some film in it and relive those day’s. Thanks for awaking the memories of using my SV.

    • Thanks so much Richard! Pentaxes certainly have that special feel to them. I’m glad this review inspired you to take out your SV for a spin again! Send us some shots when you get them!

  • I have a cla’d SV and s1a. Eight element 50 + 85mm + 35mm f2.0 I love these cameras and lenses. Bargain to buy and wonderful to use.

  • The SV was my first SLR too, bought in 1968. I never really noticed it in my hands at the time, but now I still have muscle memory of how nice it was to hold. It got out of the way like no other camera I’ve owned. It allowed me concentrate on the picture, but at the same time forced me to become constantly aware of the light. Looking back over the photos I shot with it brings me back in touch with the “beginner’s eye” where all photography starts. I moved on, as we all did, for reasons good (like the mount) and bad (the ego-shot of owning a Nikon F or a Leica M4) but I still remember the SV as the friendliest camera I’ve ever owned. Thanks for the memories!

  • I just picked up a Ex shape Asahi Pentax SV at my local Goodwill store for a whopping $9.45 it came with a Super Takumar 55mm f1.8 and a top mounted Asahi Pentax Meter. I’m shooting my first roll of film, and I can’t wait to get it back. Holding this camera in my hands make me smile remember the good days of photography. I have owned Pentax from my first days of owning SLRs with the ME Super to my K20D DSLR. But there is something different about holding this camera and it looks dam cool with the light meter on top of the camera.

    • Where are these Goodwill stores with Pentaxes and Canons and Nikon rangefinders for $5.00? I stop by my local one (and Salvation Army) and all they ever have is 1980’s plastic throwaways. (Sad-face-emogi here)

  • I loved your review, especially for its lyrical quality. There is something very refreshing about a camera review that does not offer yet another recital of specifications and history. That information is drearily present on other websites. In your review you touched on the reasons why people appreciate cameras, not only for their utility, but also as crafted objects that bear witness to intelligence, beauty and form. I think it was Pablo Moreira on his YouTube camera who awarded the SV the accolade of what one of the most perfectly beautiful instruments in his collection. I agree. After several eBay hunts I found one myself. It awakened in me my nostalgia for my 1960s Pentax S1a. To handle these cameras is to allow oneself to experience the world in a new way, one that is tactile, visual and, above all, respectfully present to reality. It transforms the camera from a mere tool to something like a contemplative window on the world.

  • They make need service, but there’s at least one guy who will service them in the us

  • There’s one other big feature of the Sv, and any other of the old-school, batteryless mechanical cloth shutter cameras.

    They work in serious cold. Like minus 20 degree cold. I kind of smile when I see guys out in the mountains with battery packs for their souped-up digital cameras in an inside pocket under their coat, with a cable coming out to their camera, that inevitably snags on branches and means they can’t leave their tripods.

    In contrast, in subzero weather cloth shutter mechanical cameras just work! You put film in them, and take pictures just like you would on a summer’s day (well, except for the fact that your fingers get cold.)

    I have an ancient Spotmatic that I use for cold weather photography. The light meter doesn’t work at less than about minus 10, so I use a batteryless handheld meter (one of the most precious photography things I own) and can happily snap photos completely free of cables and clunky external battery packs.

    And all with Pentax SMC lenses that produce images that seem alive, and have that almost three-dimensional look that old, all-glass Pentax optics were so renowned for.

    Note to people interested in trying this: cloth shutters work better in extreme cold than metal blade shutters, and you want to get a camera with no need for battery power to control or drive the shutter. The last Pentax model I know of that fit the bill was the MX, but someone may know of other models.

  • I dunno, different strokes for different folks, I guess.
    The SV is a beautiful object and a lovely camera, but for me, at 6’2″, 220lbs, the K1000/KX size is much more comfortable. SV is just too small for my hands.

    On another subject, I always thought the Pentax SLRs were what the Leicaflexes should have been.
    Open the back of any early Pentax. Now open the back of a Leica M rangefinder. (Oops, you can’t. So pretend you can.)
    The layout and sizes are very similar.
    Imagine a version of the Pentax with a forged or cast back, instead of pressed metal, maybe $50 worth of “Noise, Vibration and Harshness” damping, a nicer screen…. detail improvements. And a bayonet mount. A small light Leicaflex, consistent with the design of the Leica rangefinders.

    It would sell for twice what the Pentax sold for (instead of 4 times) and the Leicaflexes would have been contenders, instead of the footnote they all were.

  • Herman Klein Nagelvoort August 25, 2018 at 5:18 am

    Just searching reviews of this camera because my father in law had one in his days. My wife got it now because he wants her to have it. I need to look for more info about the camera and will search on the net for it. Had to comment to tell you what a beautiful well written review this is.

    We have 2 lenses with it. I think a 35mm and a zoom lens 135-200mm…. and they are M42 fittings, so I am over the moon with them because I use them on my Canon EOS 5D. Let me know if you need any information or something about it. It also has a light meter in the trunk and everything

  • One of my last eBay purchases was a SV. It will need a going over for light seals and mirror bounce issues. Not a high priority for me, but it will eventually get the TLC it deserves.

  • Your review really did justice to this gem of a camera. Well done!

  • I own an SV, black, and love it. I think it great that you mentioned the AP; I own, and still use the camera, AP, regularly. Aside from the pretty unique means of changing shutter speeds, the AP stands in there with the most modern film SLRs.

  • You got me. I read the article, and had to get one. It was waiting for me at my office this morning.

  • Really great well written article! I’ve been thinking and looking for a good all around camera for my son, and wouldn’t mind to use myself ;-). Hadn’t thought of an SLR being a RF type of user, and familiar with the old Pentax cameras from my collage days, but never seriously thought of owning one. But… this just checks all the boxes so well. I’ve found a black paint SV (so cool), but the only problem being the 1000/500 speeds need adjusting. Not sure if a simple curtain adjustment will do it… thought I’d ask if there is a repair service you can recommend just in case. Only other fun decisions are lenses. Is the 8-element 50/1.4 really that nice ;-? The Takumar SMC 35/3.5 is maybe just too well (cheap) priced to pass on, even though a Zeiss is calling.

    Thanks again for all the knowledge and heart!

  • My uncle bought a Pentax SV in Japan probably in 1965 for my father here in the Netherlands. I was allowed to take my first pictures with the Pentax in 1975 when I was 8 years old. A few years ago I asked my father if I could have his Pentax camera and he gave it to me. It is a great camera, Great memories…

  • Richard Armstrong May 13, 2020 at 4:01 am

    Hi, Just come across your great review of the Pentax SV. In 1967 I started my first full time job out of school in a Camera Store. The Manager of the store let me take various SLR’s home on the weekends to run them through their paces(Up until this time I owned a Braun Paxette IIB). After trying many different SLR’s my short list I liked and could afford cameras came down to Praktica Nova, Canon FX and Pentax SV. Well the Pentax Ads of the day with the the Tag Line “Just Hold an Asahi Pentax” were spot on and the SV won hands down and in short order a SV was mine I was even allowed to pay it off over the next year. Josh’s review sure paints a great picture and I certainly endorse his comments. The SV served me well for several years and was soon followed by a Spotmatic, then Spotmatic II, Spotmatic F, Spotmatic ES then ESII plus many lenses including the 17mm Fisheye. I even added a couple of Pentax 6×7 bodies and several lenses. In 1973 I added Canon to my arsenal with a Couple of F1’s and lenses but kept most of my Pentax’s but unfortunally that first SV was sold off. Over the years as I’ve got into collecting I’ve managed to obtain almost all Pentax Film SLR’s for my collection and have a mint Black SV along with a couple of chrome versions. Occasionally the SV’s get an outing and the feeling is the same, just pure and simple and oh so right. So many cameras not enough time. Keep up the great reviews. Regards Richard

  • Terence Goddard June 11, 2020 at 8:46 am

    My first SLR camera was a Praktica FX2 with a pentaprism that fitted inside the viewing hood. The f2.8 auto-preset lens was sharp and looked great. I got a job as a photographer’s assistant while attending the Ealing School of Photography in London. Ah! The ’60’s! What a great time to be alive! Anyway, I bought an f2.0 55mm Takumar lens and my Pentax love affair started. I bought a Contax ‘ll but quickly traded it for a Pentax SV. What a great camera! It was tough, reliable and was a great match for my Prakica. For studio work I used a Yashica Mat and later a Mamiya C3 with an f2.8 80mm. I still have the FX2 with the Tessar lens. the only thing I needed to do was give it the tiniest dots of machine oil on the shutter spindles as they rotate in the aluminium and dry out. I upgraded to a Pentax Spotmatic ll and the Yashica to a Yashica Mat LM. I also use a Canon AE1 Program and a Rollei 35M. But the Pentax cameras from the ’60’s are the greatest unts ever made for the price and the M42 mount means great lenses are in abundance and low cost. My C3 was stolen, I felt like my heart was ripped out, but I stayed loyal to my Yashica. Thank goodness for Japanese cameras.

  • I bought my SV in Vietnam in November 1967 from an American PX. I carried that camera for the next four years on and off in Vietnam and finally changed to a Minolta in 1977. Big mistake. I don’t know how many shots I took over the years but there are storage boxes of slides here that I will never have time to resurrect. It’s never been inside a repair shop and only ever had a wipe over and some dust sucked out of it. As you said, the most basic of basics, but a tough little bugger that is and absolute joy to use. It still gets a run every once in a blue fit with a roll of Ilford HP4 for a nostalgia kick.

  • My first 35mm camera was a Pentax SV with a 35mm, 50mm and 135 lens. I have two of them (cameras only) that have just gone through a CLA and the repairman, one I have known for 30 years, is the best in the business. I need at least one of the top mounted light meters, but I learned photography early and know how to get a good picture without a light meter

  • This is a wonderful review. I had no idea this camera is now so revered. My dad bought an SV in the mid 60s. I used it to take motorcycle racing pics with a F3.5 200mm Sun lense in my mid teens. I later became a motorcycle journalist, and in 2018 I co-authored a book on Australian motorcycle racing, and used one of my photos from 1976 on the cover. A wonderfully balanced, tactile camera. I still have the manual.

  • I have twenty-four m42 Takumars. The Auto-Taks are my favorites and especially the 35mm f3.5. I started thinking that with my appreciation for and history with Asahi Pentax, I should get another film body, so I went looking. Most of those I could find online in the usual places looked a bit rough, but there were a few nice ones, particularly an AP SV from a Japanese dealer described as “near mint”. It came with an equally clean looking Super Takumar 55mm f1.8 and at a very reasonable price with free shipping. I wasn’t familiar with the SV as my experience started with the Spotmatics, but this was the first article I found about the camera, and I bought it before I even finished reading it. I also got a cold-shoe mounted digital light meter to help me get used to assessing the light properly without an internal meter. I just wish I could get film developed where I am (Ecuador). I have four 36 exp rolls of Kodak Gold 400 in the freezer, so I’ll find a way. Thanks for the nudge.

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Josh Solomon

Josh Solomon is a freelance writer and touring bassist living in Los Angeles. He has an affinity for all things analog. When not onstage, you can find him roaming around Southern California shooting film and humming a tune.

All stories by:Josh Solomon