The Pentax SV, S1a, or any of the Spotmatics were just delightful to use. An advertising slogan used by Pentax when these were new was:-
'Just hold a Pentax'
One you had you knew what they were talking about. Anything else was an 'also ran'. They didn't come anywhere near for quality, balance and reliability. They had a microprism focussing aid in the centre of the screen which has never been bettered. Absolutely superb.
One little quirk that came with the S1a and Spotmatic SP500 models was, the shutter speed dial had one extra notch AFTER the 1/500th sec mark. This was actually the unmarked 1/1000 sec position for the other more 'sophistocated' models. In fact it was the same shutter with a 1/1000th second position but the shutter speed was not calibrated for accuracy (but in fact was usually not far off).
I love the Yashica TL Electro X, I currently own several of them, but I am growing ever fonder of my SPII. I also have an H2 that needs a CLA, but it is a beautiful work of art. And also a couple of J-series Yashicas that are waiting there turn, but they have build quality that rivals the Pentax. But really, I have not met an M42 body that I did not like.
I have a Spotmatic, a Spotmatic II and a Spotmatic F. I never really liked the stop down metering or clicking on and off of the stop down switch on the first two cameras. My other M42 cameras include a Chinon, a Yashica a number of Vivitar 220SLs and a Mamiya 500DTL. The Mamiya is probably my favorite. Pressing in the wide lever to stop the lens down is a lot more pleasant. I also get the spot and averaging metering. Now that I think of it I do have some other M42 cameras. I have two Richoh Singlex IIs, a Ricoh TLS 401 and two Ricoh Auto TLS EEs. Recently I started collecting Mamiya SX cameras and lenses. I have the MSX 1000, MSX 500, DSX 1000, DSX 500 and a Sears TLS 1000MX. I think the Sears camera is the same as the MSX 1000. I am not including them in my list of M42 cameras because the SX mount is a little different and allows the SX lenses to meter at full aperture. At some point I should add a Mamiya 1000DTL. The 500DTL has no self timer and is supposed to be more reliable. I have seen pictures of the 2000DTL but never a real one. That would also be interesting to have. The 2000DTL and the Olympus OM4 series may be the only cameras to have a cloth horizontally running shutter a top shutter speed of 1/2000. The Canon F-1, Nikon F2 and Minolta XK cameras all had horizontally running titanium foil shutters.
excellent f/1.4 55 mm lens
auto exposure aperture priority 2 to 1/2ooo sec shutter speed with vertical metal fp shutter
viewfinder blind for long exposures.
heavy machined brass body to lessen camera shake
ASA range 25 to 3200
over and under exposure compensation dial
full aperture metering
Interestingly I got both the Fujica and the Mamiya as "rear lens caps" with lenses I bought and the Praktica at a flea market for $15. The Fujica was jammed and assumed not working. The shutter being halfway stuck I merely pushed lightly in it and it snapped closed and has worked great ever since. The Mamiya came with no battery cap so I use it meterless since the shutter needs no battery. And the Praktica has no prism and one looks down as if using a TLR or Hassy. Even has a flip up little magnifier for focusing. It sort of sounds like a 35mm Hassy and acts like it too since I must advance it for the mirror to return.
Well, the Spotmatics are sure nice but I don't own one.
So.....I guess my favorite is the one I do have.
That would be a Fujica ST-605n.
Now they don't feel as nice as the Spotmatic's I held but it was cheap.
The screen's OK, fairly bright and easy to focus with my 50 f1.4 Super Tak mounted.
Meter works too.
The only reason I even got an M-42 mount body was because of finding the 50 f1.4 and 135 f3.5 Super Takumars cheap, $35 for both, clean and working, so I had to get a body and the Spotmatics were $60 and up in working condition.
The little Fujica was $20, clean and working.
So the ST-605n is my favorite. (But if I twern't so doggone cheap I'm sure a Spotmatic would be my favorite.)
How's that for rationalization.
Almost forgot, the Fujica's shutter sound is rather loud too. Oh well.
I've been asking myself the same question re: an M42 body, and while I like my Spotmatics, I can't really applaud their micro prism focusing device. I need a split image! So I'm using a ratty Pentax MX with a K to M42 adapter. Anyone suggest another M42 body with split image?
My only hesitation is the Yashica body: the 'X' (electronic) is more reliable than the simple 'Electro' (mechanical). I have had problems with that. But the Yashica lenses are tops.
On the other hand, there definitely was reason for taking a full four years of R&D in order to bring the Spotmatic to the marketplace. It is truly a refined instrument. But I am happiest to see that its predecessor, the H1a and S series, get its due. For me, at least, the aesthetic appeal of that earlier body is first in line as the most beautiful ever created. And, to boot, its mechanics were excellent and durable and desirable to behold.
Not as 'sexy', the Mamiya DTL series was, nevertheless, reliable and its Mamiya lenses also excellent. The Fuji ST series was one of the unheralded champions of the M42 genre, also.
These cameras mentioned by posters were mostly all great, and, yes, AgX, even if you have 'only' a Zenit, if it got quality control and works well, you also have an excellent, albeit limited in function, camera. The Helios 2/58 is a truly great lens.
But, not mentioned are the Ricoh TLS and various Chinon bodies. All have durability and functions that were noteworthy and robust and just plain fun to work with. - David Lyga
Steve, we are in the digital age. That means that you should be given an opportunity to repurchase what you threw away. The current marketplace is very charitable towards folks like yourself who made the wrong move. - David Lyga