In this Pentax K1000 review, we dive into this mechanical workhorse to find out why it is the favorite camera for film photography schools.
Pentax came out with the interchangeable lens film camera, the K1000, in the year 1976. When it came out, the Pentax K1000 was by no means supposed to be a flagship model of some sort. Well, in fact, Pentax did the least to even advertise and promote this camera. But surprisingly, the K1000 was a massive hit . The camera was so popular that it continued until 1997; that’s a total of 21 years, and about 3 million cameras were sold in the market. Impressive right?
The rugged and reliable build, the low cost, and the no-nonsense usability were the main driving factors behind the camera’s popularity. These reasons were perfect for students learning photography, and it made total sense for them to get the Pentax K1000. Today, whether you’re a beginner photographer or an amateur who wants to try your hands with film photography, the Pentax K1000 can be a perfect choice.
You can also check out our Best Film Cameras here.
Who is the Pentax K1000 for?
As I highlighted earlier, what made the Pentax K1000 stand out was its simplicity. When using the camera, it’s almost like nothing could go wrong. To be brutally honest, the camera has no bells and whistles to flaunt. Operating it is very simple. The simplicity makes it a perfect choice for beginners. It allows you to concentrate on the one thing that really matters: taking pictures.
Related: See our Best 35mm Film Cameras here.
So, if you are somebody who’s totally new to photography and would like to get started with film media, the Pentax K1000 is a great choice for beginners. Or, if you are familiar with digital photography and would love to explore the qualities of the film, then again the K1000  is a good choice.
Pentax K1000 features
|Pentax K mount
Pentax screw-mount with adapter
|143×93.5×49.5 mm (5.6×3.7×1.9 in)
|606 g (21.4 oz)
|1 – 1/1000s, Bulb mode
|A76, LR44, SR44 or S76
|0.88x magnification with 50mm lens
Ground glass with central micro prism spot
|Flash sync speed
Design and build quality
Although the K1000 was designed with beginners in mind, Pentax made zero compromises on the design and build quality of the camera. The body is fully made of metal and so has a good weight to it. The build of the camera screams for quality and feels quite durable.
The quality of the internals is assured by the smooth film advance, and the simple design means that everything that’s important is rightly placed. You’ll just find the film winding knob on the left, the shutter speed dial, the film advance lever, and the shutter release button on the right. All the dials, buttons, and levers are placed precisely where they need to be. It’s that good.
The K1000 has no autofocus feature built into it. You’ll need to focus manually and the 0.88x viewfinder does a decent job of letting you see clearly for that purpose. There’s also a micro prism spot at the center which works as a focusing aid to help you to make sure that your image is in focus.
Maybe because it’s a camera designed with beginners in mind, the Pentax K1000 does not feature many fancy metering systems. It comes with a TTL average metering system. Think of it as the matrix metering system in modern cameras (but not so advanced) which considers the luminosity throughout the entire frame, and averages it out to determine the exposure that the camera thinks is correct.
When you look through the viewfinder, you can see on the side that there’s a needle that moves either up or down to indicate if your image is over or underexposed respectively. Adjust the camera settings to have it point somewhere towards the middle and you’ll get a good exposure. However, when the lighting is complex, like in a backlit scenario, this metering system falls apart. You will thus need to take your judgment call in such situations.
Also, keep in mind that the battery that you use in the camera is used to solely power the light meter. So, in order to prevent battery drain, be sure to put the lens cap on whenever the camera is not in use.
On a side note, if you prefer auto-exposure settings, be advised that there’s none built-in. You will thus have to figure out the exposure entirely by yourself. Though a drawback, I like this approach. It really makes you work to nail the exposure.
The Pentax K1000 features the Pentax K-mount system which is a bayonet lens mount. What this means is that you get to choose from a lot of the K-mount lenses that are available. My favorite lens definitely has to be the SMC Pentax 35mm f/2 lens for its excellent image quality and great control. The lens produces images with excellent sharpness, best-in-class bokeh, and contrast.
Besides the native K-mount system, the K1000 also supports working with the M42 mount which is a screw thread mount system. However, you will need to separately purchase an M42 to K-mount converter which you can find at a pretty low price. I personally prefer using the native K-mount lenses as converters tend to degrade the image quality to some extent.
Working with the Pentax K1000
I’ve said it a few times, and I’ll say it again, working with the K1000 is a breeze. The no-clutter design and the no-nonsense layout make everything so intuitive. Simply load the film, set the ISO, check your metering, and take the shot. You can also check out our article on How To Load Film here.
The ease of use also means that you can spend your time perfecting the shot and not in understanding how to work the camera. It’s so simple that turning the camera on is as simple as removing the lens cap. Just perfect to carry around as your first film camera.
And the fact that the camera needs no battery to work is yet another breather. The easily available LR44 that goes in the camera is for the light meter to work. And that too lasts for a really good amount of time.
When you’re done with a roll of film and need to unload it, be sure to press the release button for rewinding the film first. You can find it at the bottom of the camera. Simply push it down, and rewind the film using the rewind knob.
For reviews of the best 35mm film available today see our comparison article.
Final verdict on the Pentax K1000
The Pentax K1000 was not supposed to be the perfect camera, and it really isn’t. For instance, the camera misses out on quite a bit of features. There’s no self-timer option, taking double-exposures is not an easy task, no autofocus and auto exposure, no mirror lock-up, and no depth-of-field preview function, and no intervalometer.
If you cannot do without any of these features, I suggest that you look for some other models. The K1000 was designed with the basics in mind, and doing the basic things right is where the camera shines. The camera feels absolutely clutter-free and is great at doing one thing: taking photos. This camera does not boast of the best features, but will surely make you fall in love with photography.