One day, you feel inspired to take some photos with your trusty old K1000. That old camera never lets you down! You open that cool, smell old case you’ve been lovingly storing your Pentax gear in, load some film and head out the door filled with high spirits. But when you uncap the lens and look through the finder, all that positive energy is suddenly destroyed by an evil, furry little gremlin.
In total horror, you look at the lens, take it off, mess with the aperture. No, the lens is clean. You look inside the mirrorbox. There’s nothing on the mirror or viewscreen. You look in the viewfinder again and that damn little gremlin is still there. WHAT IS GOING ON?!
Well, sadly, your camera is probably ruined.
But why? You took such good care of it.
Actually, I’m sorry to say, you didn’t. 😦
Classic cameras need to be used. Or they at least need to bask in sunlight like the unique and beautiful flowers they are.
That dirty little gremlin is the silver on your pentaprism turning black, thanks to a chemical reaction caused by moisture. Ever seen an antique mirror with grey and black patches all over it? Same thing. The affliction is called desilvering.
Chinese-made K1000’s seem to be prone to desilvering. You know you’ve got a Chinese K1000 because it does not read “ASAHI” above the “PENTAX” name on the front of the camera.
For years I was convinced that Chinese K1000’s are every bit as good as Japanese ones, despite their chromed plastic bodies. But prism desilvering, as it turns out, is their Achilles Heel. And it probably has only started happening in the last 10 or so years. Expect to find many more cameras exhibiting this affliction as time passes.
So what can the proud owner of a late model K1000, do?
Well, if your prism has already desilvered, all that an be done, realistically, is to have the bad prism replaced with a good prism.
I’ve heard conflicting accounts as to if older, better built Japanese prisms can fit into newer Chinese K1000’s. There are several versions of K1000 bodies floating around so some versions may or may not be compatible. If they are, I imagine that replacement would be a good course of action and will likely end any future problems. But doing this work oneself is not recommended as it involves disassembling and reassembling a good portion of your camera. Best thing to do is to consult a reputable classic camera repair shop. Don’t expect the service to be cheap though. I’ve heard that it can cost around $200 for the work to be done.
Personally, if I love and use a vintage camera, I’m willing to dump some money into it to make it right. It’s not as if we can just buy another one at Best Buy. But given that K1000’s, even completely refurb’d examples often only command about $150, the expense may outweigh the value to some.
If your K1000’s prism is not desilvering or has only just started, what you can do is stop hiding your camera! USE IT FREQUENTLY!
And when you’re not shooting, I recommend keeping all your classic cameras and lenses nicely arranged in a windowed China cabinet near a source of sunlight. Allowing your cameras and lenses to get a healthy dose of sunlight on the regular will keep moisture from forming inside them. This will ward off desilvering (which can happen in other camera models too) and the UV will stop potential fungus growth. Another benefit to keeping your cameras on display is psychological; you have to walk past them frequently and be reminded of how much you love them and should be shooting! I find that when things are tucked away, I tend to forget about them. And in this case, lack of use can spell disaster.
I hope your K1000’s and other cameras susceptible to this problem can be nursed back to health or are nice and clear already! Replacement K1000’s and parts may seem readily available today but who knows what tomorrow will bring if we don’t keep our cameras alive and kicking.
Thanks for reading and happy shooting!
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