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July 16, 2019

Rat Rod Pentax K1000

I woke up around 6:00 am this particular Thursday in June, and I headed straight for the coffee. While sipping my first cup, I perused Facebook Marketplace to see what was out there.

Someone had advertised boxes of old photographic equipment, aka junk, for a pretty cheap price. Maybe it was the hour, maybe it was because I hadn’t finished even a single cup of Joe, but whatever the reason, my brain thought this would be like my own episode of “American Pickers” or “Storage Wars.” Maybe there is something in there that makes it all worthwhile.

I reached out. “Is this still available?”

There was a picture of the “loot”, well, more of a dark, low resolution likeness of the loot. I saw some interesting things in there. I zoomed in to try to figure out what I might be getting into as I finished my first cup.

“Yes it is,” came a reply at this early hour.

“Hmmmmmmm.” Okay, I didn’t AUDIBLY say “hmmmmmmm” but I thought it.

“He’s in Omaha.”

“It’s a nice day for a drive.”

“I’ve got nothing planned.”

“Could be fun.”

“I have cigars.”

All of these thoughts ran through my head, urging me to head north.

So Biggie Shorty and I hopped in my 1996 Ford F-150 pickup and hit the road to Nebraska. I paid the guy in advance through the app, so I wouldn’t be there long. Drop by his house, load up the stash, head back home.

When I got to the house there were seven boxes of various items. I loaded them all and headed home, looking forward to digging through the stuff and finding something exciting.

I’m still going through it all, but the first fun find was an old Pentax K1000.

I thought it fitting to take this picture of my well-used Pentax K1000 on the roof of my well-used Mazda RX-7. I love them both.

I thought it fitting to take this picture of my well-used Pentax K1000 on the roof of my well-used Mazda RX-7. I love them both.

I see them advertised online all the time, and usually pretty cheap. I’ve almost bought one a few times, but it never happened.

Now I have one and I LOVE it so far, partly because it’s been SO USED that it’s worn down and weathered looking…maybe I identify with it.

When I saw the back of this camera, I HOPED it would work, because I love the look so much. I couldn’t wait to go out in public with her and run a roll of film through her to see if she still works.

For anyone not familiar with the K1000, it was released in 1976 and Asahi continued manufacturing it until 1997. During that time more than 3 million units were sold. If I were to do a poll of the four people who will eventually read this article, my guess is that 75 percent of them have owned or shot one.

It’s mostly metal, stripped down to only the basic features, and a TANK! By the looks of this one, and based on some of the other cameras in the lot this came in, this one was used by the Omaha Public Schools for photography classes. And we all know how careful high school kids are with things.

When I first tried to shoot it, I thought it was broken. The shutter clicked, but the mirror stuck open. I messed with it for awhile and finally got it to relax and work as expected…for three or four frames, then it needed another break. I set it down for awhile to work on other things, then picked it up, fiddled with the shutter dial for a bit and “click,” we’re back in action…for three or four more frames.

It seems that this camera works a lot like a teenager. Good for short spurts, then needs a break.

The other night I put film in it and took her on a test run. It was working GREAT for nearly 20 frames before it needed a breather. I let her rest and shot with other cameras I had with me. She was a real trooper, though, as I was able to finish a 36 exposure roll with only the one break.

I put fresh batteries in and I trusted the light meter, as a test, and it’s spot on.

Here is a gallery of shots I took with it, using the basic 50mm 1:2 lens that comes with it. Cheap kit.

I’m VERY pleased. The building photos are sharp and I had to do very little fiddling with the images post scan. Looking at the negatives, the exposure is perfect with that through the lens, match-needle meter.

Should the end of times come while I’m still alive, this may be the camera I grab to photograph it.

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Russell Viers

I'm just a guy who finds the world an interesting place and likes to capture certain moments with a camera. They aren't for sale, or anything. I just like them. Well, usually. I've taken a lot of photos I don't like, as well.

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