Actually the SP500, a budget Spotmatic from the early 1970’s whose shutter speed only went as fast as 1/500th. But actually it did 1/1000th but it wasn’t shown on the dial – you just move it round.
I got this for a tenner on the eBay with a Tessar 50mm/2.8 lens, all working except for the meter. So Sunny 16 for using what is an aesthetically pleasing, delightful to handle and well build classic.
The SP500 is a no-frills M42 SLR but it’s useful to compare with the Eastern European counterparts. The Pentax looks and feels smoother and lighter, it handles really well and there’s no recoil from the shutter like the Praktica MTL3.
One of the factors contributing to it’s overall sleekness is the absence of a hotshoe, but there’s sockets for normal flash sync (X, 1/60th) and FP (focal plane) for higher speed fill in flash, not that I’ll be using this much with flash.
On top there’s the basics including the unmarked 1/1000th shutter speed setting. I’m sure Pentax had a good reason for that… Shutter release (threaded for a cable) and a pointless film identifier ring around the rewind crank finishes off the lo-fi feature list of the SP500.
Using it though, with Sunny 16, is a delight. It’s got a bright viewfinder (complete with non-functioning exposure needle), Olympus-OM-levels of ergonomic niceness and is a suitably admirable film camera for the inevitable Instagram post. I took it on a photowalk with a roll of expired Kentmere 100 which was developed in Ilford ID11.
The SP500 – a basic budget M42 Pentax – has no unique selling point other than it’s a delight to handle, looks great and you can pick them up for a song on the eBay. It’s a sleeker alternative to the DDR and Soviet M42 SLR’s and there’s a ton of lenses out there.
I never intended to buy a Canon T50. I had rescued a T70 body from impending landfill, and after a clean and new set of batteries, it seemed to work. Needing a lens, the typical eBay rate for a 50mm f1.8 was around £30-£40 quid. So as is often the case, I ended up buying one attached to camera for a tenner. In this case the camera was the T50.
While the AE-1 and AE-1 Program had wowed the market since the mid-70’s (and continues to do so as a regular hipster choice – and at hipster prices), 1983 saw the release of a new Canon entry in the beginners market. Gone was the sleek-lined black and chrome look the AE1/AV1 shared with it’s competitors in the Olympus OM and Pentax M ranges, and its simple, classic engraved logo . Instead we were given the future of camera design. It was big and chunky, plastic, noisy and a more flashy screen-printed logo. Welcome to the Eighties.
The T range is considered to be a bit of an ugly aberration in the Canon SLR series – a short lived 1980s mistake between the classic A series and the EOS range of cameras which evolved into the DSLRs of today. In a non-revisionist opinion however (as a young Praktica user in 1983 I seriously wanted one of these..) I have to say the T50 is not the ugly duckling of popular opinion but a beautiful design classic of the era.
It’s certainly a bit on the minimalist side.
It has a big black shutter button, a function selector wheel, film rewind lever, a hotshoe and a big black thumb grip.
When I say function selector though, it’s more of an on-off button. The T50 is (almost) a fully automatic point and shoot camera. ‘L’ is off and ‘PROGRAM’ is on. BC checks the battery and ‘SELF’ is the 10 second self timer, which operates in ‘PROGRAM’ mode.
And PROGRAM is a glorious unknown. There is no indication of aperture or shutter speed other than the sound of the mirror slap giving you an idea of duration. You do have a viewfinder warning where the ‘P’ indicating PROGRAM mode flashes when you’re going to get camera shake. Or need a flash.
The other manual intervention is setting film speed. There’s a dial in the usual place.
There is a slight opportunity for manual control. The A setting on the lens is for fully auto operation. But when you move this to an aperture setting, the camera responds with a shutter speed of 1/60th. No metering indication other than an ‘M’ for manual in the viewfinder, so you’re on Sunny 16 for this.
And that’s as complicated as the T50 gets. It takes AA batteries (thank you Canon), has a remote control socket (don’t have a remote control) and takes a dedicated flash (included in my £10 bundle). The other thing about the T50 in addition to its opinion-dividing looks is the audio. Its built-in auto winder is one noisy fecker – no Leica street photography stealth with this camera, it’ll definitely attract the attention. Especially if you keep the shutter button pressed where it’ll go off on a 1.4fps continuous burst.
Using it is a blast. Stick in a roll of film, compose and focus the nicely sharp Canon 50mm 1.8 and press the button. I used Kentmere 400 to ensure decent shutter speeds in what was overcast weather. I was pleased with the results.
And that’s the Canon T50. A big beautiful point and shoot with a Canon FD lens. It’ll wind on for you but you need to manually rewind. It has manual control but only at 1/60th and no metering. You can get it for the fraction of the price of an AE-1 or AV-1. But don’t use late at night – you might wake the neighbours.