4other Pentax cameras in my collection:



JapanAsahi Pentax S1a [1962 - 1968]



In 1957, the Asahi Optical Company introduced the world to their new camera - the Asahi Pentax, which has subsequently become known as the AP, or the original Asahi Pentax. It was the first modern Japanese camera, and acknowledged for combining a pentaprism viewfinder (in place of a view screen with its awkward inverted image), a rapid wind lever and a rewind knob with a small fold-out crank handle (which were easier and quicker to operate than the old style knobs). It established an easy to handle top plate control layout and pleasing design, which became the blueprint for ALL subsequent SLRs.

Asahi Pentax S1a advertisementThe AP went through several iterations, with each improving on the previous. These have become know as the S series, since the family comprised (in chronological order) the S, K, S2, S3, S1, Super S2, SV, and S1a. Yes, the S1 really did come after the S2 and S3. Honeywell models had alternative H designations (H2, H3, H1, H3v, H1a).

The S1a/H1a was an economy model sold from 1962 alongside the better specified SV/H3v. Both were updates to the S1 (not the S3 as you might read elsewhere), with the difference between them being that the S1a lacked a self-timer and came with a slower lens fitted. It was specified as having a lower 1/500th sec., top shutter speed, but actually had a hidden 1/1000th sec., setting (a repeated Pentax tactic for economy models). The critical improvement over the S1 was fully automatic aperture operation lenses: previous models used semi-automatic lenses, where the aperture setting mechanism was manually cocked to remain open and would stop-down to a pre-selected aperture when the shutter was released.

Asahi Pentax S1a meterThe Asahi Pentax S1a/SV were essentially forerunners of the 1964 Asahi Pentax Spotmatic, but without a light meter. The cost of the S1a, with an f/2 55mm Super Takumar was £72 - 10s - 0d. I assume the advertisement (left) dates to around 1962, when the average UK monthly wage was about £86.

Pentax tended to allow new and old models to co-exist for a while, and the S1a remained in production until 1968, when it was replaced by the Asahi Pentax SL - a meter-less Spotmatic. There were early and late versions of the S1a. The latter (post 1964?) has an orange R on the rewind knob, which indicates that the camera can use the 50mm f/1.4 Super Takumar lens: this protrudes further into the camera than other 50mm lenses. Early S1as have a green R.

Pentax made a light meter accessory for the S1a/SV - just as they did for the Spotmatic series SL. The shutter speed dial has a small cut-out slot for the meter to couple to. The image to the left is a page from a brochure for the S1a. The meter cost £13 - 5s - 6d.




Lens mount: M42 screw. Designed to use Super Takumar lenses.

Focus: Fresnel lens and micro-prism centre. Life-size magnification. DOF preview dependant upon lens switch.

Shutter: Horizontal running rubberised silk focal plane with speeds of 1 sec - 1/500th (officially) + B & T (=Time. Shutter stays open until the shutter speed dial is turned in either direction).

Meter: None.

Exposure: Manual.

Flash: Standard ports for FP and X synch at 1/50th.

Film Advance: Single stroke rapid wind lever.

Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.

Rewind: Via crank and bottom release button.

Size: 140 x 92 x 50mm (W x H x D).

Weight: 600g.

Battery: None.


My Camera

To be honest, I bid on this camera for the lens - for use on my SP 500. It was less expensive than buying a similar lens alone; this is often the way of eBay auctions. But, as the days passed and I waited for the auction to end, I realised the Asahi Pentax S1a was actually a noteworthy model, and I really wanted it for my collection. I paid £24 for the camera and a 55mm f/2 Super Takumar lens (September 2018).

The camera is an early - green R - version. It needs new seals (etc), and has now benefitted from a good clean; even the inside was grubby, which is extremely unusual. It appears to be in FWO. The lens is fine too. It's hard to believe this camera is some 55 years old. The S1a has a look and feel that's very similar to a Spotmatic. It's a nice camera. The Beatles were often photographed with Asahi Pentax S series cameras (and then Spotmatics). The image right is claimed to show George Harrison with an S1a, but I think it's an SV: Asahi Optical would have been unlikely to give away their economy model for publicity.



Pentax S1a

Pentax S1a

Pentax S1a

Pentax S1a