Pentax S1a / H1a

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Pentax S1a / H1a

Pentax S1a  user manual
Pentax S1a current value

In the early post-war years, the Japanese camera industry navigated its way into the mainstream. The market was going towards a single-lens reflex in a rangefinder size body. The Germans led the way, with the Japanese in tow: Canon after Leica, Nikon after Contax, and Pentax chose Praktina. Within ten years, the Japanese industry dropped the look-alikes and congregated around the distinct Japanese SLR looks.

Asahi entered that race with the Asahiflexes of 1951, followed by its derivatives. In 1957 the first modern-looking camera, the K, came on board. After that came the S2, S3, S1, and their extended family ruled supreme till the Spotmatics.

To confuse the future generations’ camera collectors, Pentax sold the cameras under different names at different markets. Adding to that, the naming convention did not follow the alphabetical order. Also, in the US market, models sold by Heiland were later named Honeywell after the latter acquired Heiland. To further baffle the collectors, Pentax sold late models of that series under their name.

Introduced Japan Pentax US Sears Heiland / Honeywell Other markets
1957 AP Tower 26 AP
1958 S Tower 26 S
1958 K Tower 29 K
1959 H2 / S2 H2 S2
1959 SB
1959 S3 H3 S3
1961 SB2
1961 S2 H2 S2
1961 S1 H1
1962 Super S2
1962 SV H3v SV
1962 S1a H1a

The S / H series were held in high regard and were priced at the higher end of the market. To cater to the up-and-coming hobbyist market, Pentax stripped-down specs of the S3 / H3 and sold the newly conceived H1a at $50 less, a drop of $460 at today’s value. To differentiate between the models, they capped the shutter speed at 500 and removed the self-timer. They made a correct decision, as most of the cameras of that generation are S1a models.

The camera is the epitome of straightforward. Not a luxury feature, not a missing one. It still has a ‘T’ option, vanished off later cameras. No accessory shoe, but offered same as an accessory, no batteries to keep a purist happy.

The lens has an auto / manual lever, where with auto the aperture closes to the selected value with the mirror up. On manual, it closes per the set F value.

An optional clip-on light meter is shared with the entire camera line. It sits over the prism hump, with an arm linking into the speed dial, into an indent made for that. Added fresh batteries to the one I got, and the needle happily wiggles. Alternatively, a similar mount cold shoe clips at the same place.


List number 2625
Brand Pentax
Format 35mm
Model S1a
Introduced 1962
Qty made
Country Japan
Type Compact SLR
Body material Metal
Mode Manual
Weight 580 gr,  Body only
Class average weight 590 gr,  Body only
ASA range N/A
Kit lens 2,0/55
Lens make Super Takumar
Filter size 49 mm
Lens mount Thread
Mount size 42mm
shutter Focal plane cloth horizontal
Light meter None
Winder Lever
Lock No
Speeds T, B, 1-500
DOF preview No
Exposure lock No
Exposure compensation No
Shoe No
External sync X/F
Sync speed 60
Timer No
Battery N/A
Integral flash None


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