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Pentax ES II cameras (Pic: Stephen Dowling)
(Pic: Stephen Dowling)

Fifty years ago, Pentax brought out the last camera in its  famous Spotmatic family.

The last camera saw Pentax marry the cheap-and-cheerful M42 mount to the new era of electronic automation. The Pentax ES II – the third camera in its short-lived “Electro Spotmatic” range – had both an electronically controlled shutter and a way for the camera to register which aperture the lens was set at.

This turned the ES II (like the original Electro Spotmatic and the ES before it) into an aperture-priority SLR; it became one of the few M42-mount cameras to have it

The ES II is a real gem from the golden age of SLR design – just enough useful features to help creative photographers take great photographs but not enough automation to push the photographer out of the picture-taking process.

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I first started shooting with the ES II back in 2007, after meeting rock photographer Pennie Smith a gig in London. Smith shot arguably the most famous picture ever taken on an ES II, the image of The Clash’s Paul Simonon smashing his bass which became the cover of the band’s seminal ‘London Calling’ album. I’ve since taken them around the world, from New Zealand to Transnistria, Romania to Borneo.

This YouTube video takes a deep dive into the ES II and why I think it’s one of the best SLRs ever made – a fantastic combination of old-school robustness and appealing automation, the perfect camera for photographers who want to make photographs on the fly, rather than just letting the camera do all the work.

(Be sure to subscribe to Kosmo Foto’s YouTube after watching the video – there are more videos like this appearing in the coming weeks.)

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Stephen Dowling
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john S
john S
1 month ago

nice to see a fellow pentaxian waxing lyrical on the takuma glass . brit aussie here living in japan since 93 an avid collector of Japanese film cameras my pride and joy is the tiny first ever Asahi Pentax from 1957 it’s a tad smaller than a spotty or even an SV . you can find me on insta at japanajohn. i’d be very interested in your film stock , do you also have an insta acc? loved learning that the london calling jacket was shot on a takuma absolutely one of the most iconic album covers of all time… Read more »