I was sorting through some piles of stuff in boxes in a darkroom cupboard yesterday and came across what I consider to be the best-looking camera of the lot. It's my old Pentax SV from the early 1960s, a rare black model in its lovely and very high quality brown leather case.
It was sitting in a cardboard box along with a few other Pentax SV/S1 bodies only one of which is working. The others aren't really worth fixing so I've just kept them hanging around as spare parts donors.
The black one, unfortunately, isn't working either. There's nothing much wrong with it that a good service wouldn't cure, though. The shutter is sticky - sometimes firing OK and sometimes not. You're probably talking about £80 or so to put it right. I keep meaning to do so but never seem to get round to it - something that passes as the normal state of affairs for me.
The SV is in nice condition although not quite as nice as it looks in the pic. Some of the black enamel to the left of the viewfinder has tiny bubbles on it. It looks something like a camera rash, if there was such a thing. No doubt it's just what happens to enamel after sweat, nose grease, etc have worked away at it for 50 years.
I've got a few lenses for it - the one in the pic above, a 35mm f3.5 Auto-Takumar and a 135mm f3.5 Auto-Takumar. They're all great bits of glass, sharp and contrasty.
The SV is a lovely camera to use as well. I'm not going to claim that it's as well made as a Leica M3 but it's the closest to the Leica feel I've managed to get using a 35mm SLR, although I haven't handled any of the early Leica SLRs. I'm sure it would feel even smoother after a good service.
The viewfinder might not seem as bright as the best from the top SLRs of the 1970s and 1980s but it snaps into focus very easily. Overall, the fully-mechanical, meter-less and battery-free SV is a perfectly usable camera that I'd be perfectly happy wielding, along with the three lenses, as my only 35mm outfit.
But getting back to its looks: are there any better-looking cameras than this? Surely 35mm SLR design didn't peak in the early 1960s?