Monday, September 10, 2012

Honeywell Pentax H1a

Introduced: 1961 or 1962
Shutter speeds: T, B, 1 - 1/500
Lens: Super Takumar 55mm f/2.0
Metering: Optional clip-on exposure meter.

I got this camera at an estate sale Friday. It is the rare camera where I was able to find some info about its previous owner.  I saw the name M. S. Helm on an airline sticker which was on the case where this camera was stored.  I goggled the name and found a past professor in electrical engineering at the local university.  He died in 2003 at the age of 92.  He had two children, both of whom appear to have had no children.  His son died in 2007 and his daughter had died recently.  So I would guess that this sale was to settle up her estate and that she likely had a lot of her father processions.

The reported interests of  Professor Helm were reflected in the sale.  It was said that he loved trains and there was a train set and much railroad memorabilia. The Honeywell Pentax H1a also is the kind of intelligent choice in a camera that I would expect Professor Helm to make.  The Pentax H1a is a great combination of economy and quality.

Honeywell was the US distributor for Asahi until the late 1970's.  Outside of the US the H1a was the Asahi Pentax S1a.  The Pentax S1a was an economy model and the last in the S series that preceded the more famous Spotmatic series. The H1a had a top shutter speed of 1/500 instead of 1/1000 and it the came with the f/2 55mm Super Takumar instead of the f/1.8.  The strange thing is that the H1a still has an unmarked setting past 1/500.  Some say it is a 1/1000 setting.  Also the Super Takumar 55mm f/2 appears to be the same lens as the f/1.8, just lacking the wider f stop. If you are interested you can do a search and read more about the debate on this camera and lens, however it appears to me that for less money a buyer of a Pentax H1a was still getting top of the line quality.  Just the kind of camera that an astute buyer might seek out in those days.

The attachment over the camera prism is a optional clip-on light meter that Asahi sold in the days before it introduced TTL metering.  I don't now if this one works since it uses a no longer made mercury battery.  Curiosity may lead me to eventually test it with some substitute, however not yet.

Professor Helm's H1a is the cleanest camera of its age that I have ever come across.  Other than a few light marks on the bottom where the camera likely had sat on a tripod the camera seems like new.  The viewfinder and lens is very clean.  Obviously this camera was well cared for.  All the camera functions seem to work like they should.  Although I will find out more when I run some film through it.  Still I would be surprised if there are any problems with it.  

I already have a Super Takumar f/2 and have found it to be a excellent lens.  Probably the biggest bargain in all the Super Takumars.  I would guess I will get the same fine results from it that I have gotten from the one I already have.  So I am grateful to Professor Helm that he took good care of his camera.  Hopefully it will remain in use for a long time.