You don’t need new equipment

I recently visited Texas to see the solar eclipse. Apart from eclipse photos, I also took a few aviation themed shots.

My main camera is the Pentax Spotmatic SP, first introduced in 1964. This was one of the first SLR camera bodies to have a built in TTL (Through The Lens) light meter. Pentax are a bit of a joke nowadays, but sixty years ago they were a force to be reckoned with, outselling Canon and Nikon put together.

The default lens I use is the Pentax Super Multi Coated Takumar 50mm f/1.4 from the early seventies. It contains radioactive thorium glass.

For more distant subjects, I have a Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8 LD-IF Model 60B with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters. This lens uses Tamron’s Adaptall mounting system, allowing me to use it on the Spotmatic with its awkward and fiddly M42 screw mount. This lens was first introduced in 1984. It weighs a tonne.

No autofocus or autoexposure here, everything is manual. This takes a bit of getting used to, but with practice I get nicer looking photos using this setup than I did with my digital camera. With no automatic modes, only 36 exposures per roll and considerable film and development costs (roughly 50p per photo), I’m required to actually think about what I’m doing instead of blindly spraying and praying.

Anyway, the photos (all taken on Kodak Gold 200):

BA A380 (G-XLEG) upper deck wing view. This was somewhere near the Labrador coast.

Aerial view of DFW.

After landing on 36L at DFW, we crossed 36R to reach the terminal. There’s an American Airlines 737-800 (N996NN) at the end of the runway, waiting to depart for Santa Ana.

N996NN getting airborne.

Spent a couple of days in Buffalo Gap near Abilene. Two C-130s fly over just after sunset, having departed from Dyess AFB a few miles away.

I went to Dyess AFB and saw a B-1B perform several touch and goes.

Bonus eclipse photo.


as a photographer i always need new equipment :0


I want to see more aviation + film photography

Great shots!

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That eclipse photo = 😍

Amazing photos overall - that camera is a beast!


wowwww! incredible

Call me a skill issue but I like my autofocus haha

film photography in aviation is criminally underrated, nice shots 👀


I love how the B-1 shots look like they came out straight out of the 1990s! Looking forward for more!

Nice shots! I especially like the eclipse shot, with its appearance of solar prominences.

Do you have any discoloration as referred to in this statement:

“Over extended time periods, thoriated glass may develop significant discoloration. This is due to induced F-centers forming in the glass as the radioactive decay of the thorium progresses.”

Also how is the weight and balance of that huge lens structure for handheld shots?

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I felt on another planet with the last one, amazing shot!!

The glass turns yellow or brown over time. This was how it looked when I got it. It might’ve cleared up a bit by now with exposure to sunlight.

The big lens weighs 2096g, but it’s quite well balanced and has a palm rest so it’s not too tiring to hand hold. Focuses internally as well so it doesn’t get front heavy.

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Awesome topic David, a really unique and cool perspective on aviation photography. We all rely so heavily on autofocus and shooting modes, but back 50 or so years ago, this is roughly how most people would have done it.

M42 is definitely a pain in the neck sometimes, but there are so many compatible lanes that it’s worth the tradeoff. Never used Pentax myself though, I always preferred my trusty Olympus OM-1.

I find that film photography always feels more gratifying because of the increased effort to get a good image.


Beautiful shots!