The Stories We Tell Ourselves (I) – Asahi Pentax S1a

It fascinates me how a convincing and impassioned story can sway our beliefs, opinions and decisions.

Not least of all when it’s us telling the story to ourselves.

This is an occasional series about some of the stories I’ve woven to myself, to justify a certain decision or purchase.

See all posts in the series here.

Today’s story –

The Asahi Pentax S1a

There’s no denying the Asahi Pentax S1a and the range it formed a part of are very handsome cameras.

My first one was a battered black example, with the brass showing through.

You could argue it was in that kind of condition because its previous owner(s) cared little for it, and chucked it in a camera bag with other bodies so it got clattered and battered and worn out before its time.

Or, as my story went, perhaps it was so loved by its one careful owner, that the paint had worn away purely because it had been held so often, accompanying him or her to every occasion possible over a period of decades, seeing and capturing their life as closely as their own bare eyes.

But alas the black edition didn’t appear to work properly.

Because it was so well balanced, and felt such a joy to hold, I convinced myself that despite having half a dozen other perfectly operational Pentax M42 bodies at the time, that I needed a working S1a in my life.

It seemed to embrace the perfect midpoint between the slightly larger Spotmatics (again good looking, but a little clunkier looking with the hot shoe and larger dimensions) and the later M series, like the Pentax MG and ME Super.

Those M cameras were lovely, but the S1a seemed to fit my hands that tiny bit better, and the wind on and shutter dial were certainly smoother, even on my well loved/worn black S1a.

If I just get a fully working S1a, I can then sell a few other bodies that are obviously inferior in looks, and for me, handling and size, I told myself.

So I found a silver one, in very good condition, especially for its age (over 50 years old when I bought mine).

This one appeared to be in great working order, but in the meantime I’d had some advice about the fault with the black one, removed the bottom plate and given it a little clean and lubrication. And it sprang back to life!

Ironically the silver one soon stopped working like the black example had, so I did the same light maintenance and it recovered also.

So now I had two complementary examples of the loveliest film camera I’d probably ever held in my hands.

Surely time to sell everything else and begin a happily married life (em, albeit a polygamous one!) with the Asahi sisters.

But of course the story(ies) didn’t end there.

From my photostream in Flickr, it appears it wasn’t long before I bought a Pentax MX (which I never got on with) then about a month later an MZ-5N.

Goodness, what was I thinking!

I mean the MZ-5N is an excellent choice as a very late film era Pentax K mount body, with great handling, light weight and of course compatibility with decades of fine K series lenses – and older M42 lenses with a simple adapter.

But it’s in many ways the antithesis of the S1a, with a poky viewfinder, plasticky build, very automated function, and bulbous bland looks.

This is part of the point here with this series of posts, how quickly we can change our direction and apparent requirements by spinning ourselves a different story.

And when I was at the height (or in the depths, depending on your perspective, or the story you tell yourself) of camera accumulation, I managed to turn a blind eye to how many I had.

As well as individual stories about each camera, and why I had to have it, I was interweaving other wider reaching stories to justify the growing collection.

Like “camera prices are going up, I won’t lose any money”.

And “once I’ve fully tested each and every camera I can finally make an informed decision about the two or three I’ll keep and sell all the rest” (which I did kind of do eventually, years later, keeping a Spotmatic F and Contax 139 Quartz only).

And “other people’s habits are far more expensive and destructive, like drinking, smoking and gambling – camera collecting is harmless and very affordable!”

I’m glad that relentless collecting phase is over, even though it did let me experience a wide range of cameras and hone down to what I really loved most.

How about you? What kind of stories have you told yourself to justify acquiring certain cameras?

As always, please share your thoughts below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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8 thoughts on “The Stories We Tell Ourselves (I) – Asahi Pentax S1a”

  1. Lately it seems like someone else has been writing my stories and I keep trying to work myself into the narrative – only to be edited out by the events of the next chapter!
    Yes, there are always those tales we tell ourselves in order to justify our actions. It isn’t limited to buying cameras either.

  2. I like the Spotmatics, one was given to me a couple of years ago, I will keep it because they are a classic, and the lenses are plentiful. Need to send it for a service. And I have several Contax 139s, my favourite camera still. My medium format cameras were also given to me, and I added some lenses and a couple of bodies that came from the estate of a friend, so no stories really, they just fell in my lap and I see no need to look for anything else….

    1. As you probably recall, I only have two 35mm film cameras now, a Spotmatic F and a Contax 139 Quartz. These were what I considered the pinnacle of what I’d tried when I pretty much retired from shooting film in 2017. I do wonder about the S1a now. The Spottie F is fantastic, but the S1a was slightly smaller, fitted better in my hands, and had its only special charm. That silver one I had was so smooth too, I shouldn’t have sold it.

  3. Hi Dan, In reality we are all guilty of such thoughts and making what amount to excuses to justify our spending habits, thankfully I haven’t had this so called “buyers disease” with photography/cameras… but I have got it really badly when it comes to Ham radio transcievers from 1975 to 1990… ( my youth,and chasing that mid life crisis…lol.. ) and it is costing me an absolute fortune… only the other month, I brought what I thought back in the day…was the “top of the tree” in transcievers at a knock down price of £1675…. yep… nearly 2k for a radio that can die in a second and possibly not be repairable… but the point being that we are all guilty of these kind of actions, as Marc comments, this isn’t just a photography issue… my friend is a hifi buff, and some of the prices of amps that he buys can amount to the value of a 3 yr old car and each year he tries at least 3 different amps, many times selling them or trading for a lot less than the intitial cost… so with that in mind I consider myself lucky… oh … and an excellent set of thought provoking posts recently Dan… thank you…. for at least making me think…. kind regards… Lynd..

    1. Thanks for reading and joining the conversation Lynd!

      I think you’re right about buying stuff that “in its day” was top of the range, but we couldn’t afford. My Ricoh GRD III for example was about £700 when it first came out in 2011 (I think) but I paid £150 a couple of years ago. I’d never dream of paying £700 for a camera, but having that high end product and appreciating its quality and design has become an affordable reality, because it’s no longer cutting edge, highly desirable tech. I had a Pentax K10D for a while which was the top Pentax DSLR in its day and I’m pretty sure cost over £1000. I paid about £100 when it about 12 or 13 years out of date, and again appreciated the quality, build, design and performance of a high end machine.

      But I’ve done this with other stuff too, like toys I loved as a child (Action Man, Star Wars, He-Man) but couldn’t afford (or my parents couldn’t) at the time, I bought as an adult. It’s about attaining what was once an impossible dream almost.

  4. I told myself I needed a 24MP camera, and that I needed a replacement for my K-S1 that had developed the aperture block failure. Why 24MP? I don’t even know. But the K-3 has been the most frustrating camera for me, even ore so than the K20D that I hated to do post processing with because the noise levels were so easily provoked, and its noise was the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.
    I’ve since fixed the K-S1 with a part bought from eBay… but haven’t had the heart to sell the K-3 yet, still trying to see if I can learn to get something out of it that I truly like. It’s been getting better…
    But before I bought the K-3 I told myself I needed another K10D because mine was developing issues, and bought a very cheap K200D instead when that popped up. In this case it was the best decision – the K200D is now my most used camera and I just love the results I get from it.
    So, sometimes it is good to make up some reason for an impulse camera buy 🙂
    (I’m looking at a K-m/K2000 like yours now… might just get one for the same quality as K200D in a smaller size body…)

    1. Ha, you got sucked into the numbers marketing!

      My K30 is a bit like that, in that I want to come to love it, and have some kind of breakthrough connection with it. And it is great to hold and use. I just prefer going back to the simpler CCDs, with their better colour output!

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