Asahi Pentax SV

This is the archetypical 35 mm SLR from Asahi – marketed in the Americas as the Honeywell H3v. It wasn’t Asahi’s first 35 mm SLR – that was the Asahiflex – and there were earlier S model Pentax SLRs – but it is the direct ancestor to the famed Spotmatic.
Pentax SV with Super-Takumar lens

Mine is an early SV which is indicated by there being a green R on the rewind crank. Later models had an orange R which indicated that there was room for the 50mm f/1.4 lens which protruded further into the lens mount. It is an entirely mechanical camera: no batteries, no meter, little to go wrong. To look at, it is just about identical to my Spotmatic SP1000 – the photos will show you the differences. The price of this camera in 1965 was £110. This equates to £3,553 in 2020 values.

Pentax SV top – Pentax Spotmatic SP1000 bottom

My particular camera has been very badly treated. It has been stored somewhere very damp causing extensive corrosion of what appears to be nickel-plating on the top plate and fascia. this corrosion is bad enough to leave the surface of the metal very pitted after I have cleaned the verdigris off. This, however, does not affect the workings which are fine (as far as I can tell). Also, someone has repaired this camera and re-assembled it incorrectly. I know this for two reasons. Firstly, there was a black painted thin brass plate hanging down into the mirror cavity. While this did not obstruct the light path, it did foul on the diaphragm pin on the automatic M42 mount lens. I suspect that this plate was some sort of light baffle and should have gone upwards in front of the pentaprism rather than downwards into the mirror box. This plate was so distorted by fitting and removing the lens that it is no longer there – I just hope it was not a critical component.

Secondly, when I removed the fascia (to aid removing the jammed lens) the screws, while not loose, were surprisingly easy to remove for screws that had been in place for over 50 years.
As I said earlier, this camera has a standard Pentax layout. On the far right is the film advance lever. this advances the film one frame with one easy movement. As was usual by the 60s, it also cocks the shutter. There is a frame counter built into the film advance which automatically resets to -2 when you open the back. Next to the film advance lever and slightly forward of it is the shutter release button. this is threaded for a standard cable release. Next to this is the shutter speed selector. This goes from 1 second to 1/1000 seconds plus B. It also has a T setting. With T, you press the shutter once to open the shutter and then a second time to close the shutter again. This was normal on most cameras in the first half of the 20th century but rather unusual in the second half. The T setting has a large groove cut into the dial. This is a locating device for the optional light meter, allowing the meter to ‘read’ the selected shutter speed.
Next to the shutter speed selector is the pentaprism viewfinder. This is good and clear with a bright micro-prism centre spot for accurate focussing. Outside the central spot is a Fresnel lens area to give even illumination of the image.
Left of the viewfinder is the rewind crank. This is a typical fold-out small crank the same as just about every Japanese camera. Below the rewind crank is a film speed reminder. This has two scales – one silver for monochrome films and one green for colour films. The silver one goes from 25 to 1600 ASA and the green scale goes from 12 to 400 ASA (ASA is broadly the same as ISO, but technically different).
Below the ASA reminder is a delay action timer. You set this by turning the knurled ring clockwise. If turned as far as it will go, you get a ten second delay, but you can choose a shorter delay by only turning the knurled ring part way. There is a ‘V’ on the ring (V = Vorlaufwerk which is German for a delay timer and is the reason for the V in the name Pentax SV) and supposedly the shutter will fire when the V reaches the front of the camera. This is another reason I know the camera has been “repaired” as this camera fires when the V is at the back of the camera – it does, though, still work well. The front of the camera has the lens which is almost central. To the right of the lens (as in looking at the lens) are two PC sockets for flash synchronisation. The top one is for fast flash bulbs and the lower one for electronic flash a M flash bulbs. Synchronisation shutter speed is 1/50 seconds marked on the speed selector as a red X.
The base of the camera has little on it – a tripod boss (1/4 inch Whitworth) behind the lens and a button to release the internal mechanisms for rewinding then film.

In use.

The camera is a delight to use as all the controls fall easily to hand. Focusing is easy with the micro-prisms clearly showing when the image is in focus. The camera came without a lens and for my test film I mostly used my Soviet Helios 44M lens.  While testing the camera, I bought a Super-Takumar f/2 55 mm lens. This is not the lens supplied with the SV but was supplied with the sister model S1. I used this Super-Takumar for the last three frames of the test film.

Although it does not seem to be a design feature, the camera almost has mirror lock-up. I initially thought this might be due to wear on my own camera but I have seen it mention elsewhere on the Interweb. If you press the shutter release button half way, the mirror will come up but the shutter will not fire. You can then press the shutter release all the way and the shutter will fire. This allows you to have a second or so delay for vibrations to die away before the shutter opens.

A selection from the test film are below. Indications are good. I can see no real problems with the camera at all. The lack of the lack of the mysterious black plate I mentioned at the start and had to remove does not seem to have caused any problems.

Pentax SV, Helios 44M lens. Southwell Minster
Rowan leaves and berries
A flower
Ragwort flowers
Vetch flowers
Grazing bullock
Messingham gravel pit
Child’s bike – Super-Takumar lens
Busker, Lincoln city centre – Super-Takumar lens

Author: John Margetts

I am a keen photographer who also collects cameras. I am retired with about 50 years photography experience.

2 thoughts on “Asahi Pentax SV”

  1. I found this camera of the attic of my home when removing stuffs from previous owner, the camera was in a rotten leather bag with all its accessories. The camera was really dirty, the meter was partially dismounted and fortunately, the lenses were in very good state.

    I cleaned the camera with alcohol, put in a box with a few drops of formolin to kill all potential bacteria, fungus and then I fully lubricated twice, once with WD40 to remove rust, fully cleaned and then with machine oil. I replaced all the foam.

    I reassembled the light meter and fully cleaned it, Just to keep it for decoration. But when I put a battery in, it came back to life and is quite accurate for it’s nearly 60 years.

    After restoring, the camera, its meter and all the accessories work now fine and it’s a charm to work with it

    This was a great day when I found this bag as there’re tons of good stuffs in, this Pentax, an OM10 (dirty but working), a Polaroid land camera that seems correct but as I don’t have Polaroid film, I didn’t test it yet. There was also a Pentax auto 110 with all lenses and the flash but unfortunately dead. I think I’d try to print and adapter and try the lenses on my mirrorless camera.

    Liked by 1 person

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