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Pentax MX: The Upgraded K1000 Experience

Online, the Pentax K1000 is held out as the typical student's camera. It's a cliche, but in my case it is true. I learned to focus and meter on a K1000 my family rented. I learned to develop film and produce prints that came out of that K1000. My pictures were bad, but I was having a good time walking around with the camera with a view towards coaxing an entertaining print from my darkroom efforts.

I had no idea what I was doing. For example, I took for granted the excellent 50mm f/2 lens attached to the K1000. In a way, I was barely aware of the lens--I don't think I ever tried to release the lens from the mount. Come to think of it, black-and-white film stocks beyond Ilford's Delta 400 were only dim possibilities to my adolescent mind.

A few months ago, I was looking through the old photographs on my hard drive. Strange, they reminded me of the photographs that weren't there: all those photographs I took on the K1000. I started down a path of eBay searches, and I caught the bug to start shooting film again.

I ordered a Minolta XD with a broken meter. No matter what aperture I set, that camera wanted me to shoot at 1/250th of a second. The seller agreed to take the camera back to my relief. With the Minolta on its way to Japan, I went back to eBay. An idea occurred to me--I wanted a Pentax K1000 to bring back those old joys. Would I get another K1000 as online reviewers tend to suggest? No, I'm a big boy now, so I got a big-boy Pentax, the Pentax MX.

It's a true jewel of a camera. It's small and sturdy with an intuitive meter system.

Did it bring back the joys of the K1000? It did despite all the differences. The viewfinder in the MX displays aperture and shutter speed while the K1000, if memory serves, didn't show either of those items. The meter in the MX relies on colored LED lights while the K1000 relied on a match-needle. On top of that, the MX is smaller than I remember the K1000 to be (although I believe the the old f/2 lens I used was smaller than the f/1.7 that came with my copy of the MX). The K1000 was something that I knew I would give up when my class was over while the MX is mine, all mine.

Perhaps these aren't the joys of the K1000. They're just the joys of shooting a well-made camera that limits the number of things that can distract its user. I've started paring down the amount of information that the electronic viewfinder displays in my Fuji X-T3. The Fuji, my primary camera, now displays the information I have in the MX: shutter speed and aperture. I find this enjoyable although I'm very skeptical that this restriction makes me a better photographer (whatever a "better photographer" is). My goal is only to have more fun with my Fuji X-T3 by making my experience with it more like my experience with the MX.

The MX brings a smile to my face--that's how it's like the old K1000 I used, and that's what I want from all of my gear, whether film or digital.

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