Using a Pentax Espio 738G

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This roll of film was a case of “using” rather than “testing” as I did not put the camera through its paces very thoroughly. I tend to shy away from zoom lens point and shoot film cameras. They have very slow lenses and usually not great optics as well, especially when zoomed. However, I came across three cheap point and shoot cameras, all with film still in them, and two of them with working batteries. So, I bought all three because of the allure of the exposed film, and because the amount I paid would be about what the film cost, if there were a full roll. One of the cameras has an expensive battery in it too. This camera is the Pentax Espio 738G which came out in about 1998. The lens is a 38-70mm f/4.8-8.5 and apparently made by Pentax. I won’t go into much more detail than that – you can find all the specs you would ever care for at this link, and a bunch of others you probably don’t ever want to read.

The roll of film in this camera was Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400 and about half of the 36 frames were already shot, though I had no idea how many as the back had been opened thus resetting the counter. I took one shot in the second-hand store where I bought it, of the proprietor, and it was a double exposure over a frame that was exposed when the back was opened. Even so, there is a bit of an image there, which I have included below. The rest of the photos I took when my granddaughter came to visit for her third birthday. The better of those shots can be found on my blog at Birthday Balloons.

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Whenever I come into some “found images” as with this roll, I always wonder about the stories the photos tell. In this instance most of the photos are taken at the same house, and indoors.

The first two photos are of snow on the back deck – the railing for the deck can be seen through the windows of some of the other shots so it appears to be the same house. On the deck in the snow is a child’s climbing toy ready for a visit from young children, likely grandchildren. The lower part of the railings have a mesh of some kind as if to prevent something small from getting through and falling off – my guess is a yappy little dog, but no one is visible. Perhaps the dog died and has not been replaced.

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The photos of the indoors appear to be taken in July since there is a calendar on the fridge, open to July and there are many cut flowers in vases around the house. The abundant flowers and a shot of a happy couple in their later middle ages – perhaps late sixties or early seventies  might suggest a special event, such as 40th or 50th wedding anniversary. Perhaps though it indicates that one of them is an avid gardener of flowers. In the photos some flowers are repositioned from one surface to another as if arranging the room for the best photograph, with the flowers as centerpiece. I think that the photos are more about the flowers than the rooms and the flowers have some special meaning. The photo of the two of them shows the woman holding a camera, a different camera from this Pentax. I think that the Pentax belonged to the couple and the person that took the picture asked the woman to hold their camera while they used the couple’s camera to take the picture. This too suggests a special date of some kind.

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The couple are posed together and look vigorous, but in one photo is a metal cane placed carefully against the wall near the kitchen table, so one of them, the man most likely, has some mobility issues. On the fridge are posted exercise diagrams of the sort that one might get from a physiotherapist or personal trainer, perhaps connected to the need for a cane.

Most of the pictures on the walls have the ocean and many have boats, so perhaps there is a nautical background to one of the people who lives here. Most of the rooms look as if they are not lived in but kept neat and tidy in the event of visitors. One room might be used for listening to music as it has a record player, amplifier and probably a tape deck since there is a box of Maxell tapes on the shelf underneath. No sign of records though.

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It seems the kitchen has a space off of it that is only hinted at in the pictures where the man can just been seen (above) sitting in a comfy chair – I am guessing that this is where the couple spend their time, and probably clutter and personal items like family photos can be found there. The kitchen table has room only for two, and a meal appears to have been recently eaten, probably breakfast as there is a bowl, marmalade, ketchup and two large mugs as well as plates with bone handled knives on them, as if toast and jam has just been eaten. On a counter near the kettle and sink are two more large mugs which makes me think that perhaps there were house guests, possibly staying over, one of whom took the picture. Likely a grown child and their partner, possibly with children too, but they are off somewhere with the missing half of the couple. The kitchen has a large wooden butcher’s block in the middle, and it has a meat cleaver and tenderizing mallet hanging from it, so it seems highly likely these people are not vegetarian. There is a radio/tape machine on the counter, with aerial extended so probably used primarily for listening to the radio. A large coffee pot and absence of visible teapot suggests tea is not a priority drink.

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Overall the photographs of the house are mostly absent of personality. It is a kind of place I have been in often, representative of a generation that is passing, of people that did not put themselves on display but kept to themselves. It says very little about who these people are, there is no clutter and the collections on display of silver vessels and glassware don’t immediately suggest anything about background, cultural origins and so on.

The final found pictures are taken somewhere else with another couple of similar age, possibly even on holiday. They appear to be in a restaurant with an employee of the place in a Hawaiian shirt suggesting somewhere warm and sunny. Though people wear those shirts in the summer around here too. A sign in the background looks like it might have a palm tree on it, so I am guessing that this camera went on holiday, perhaps later in the summer, or in the fall of the same year as the other pictures, but was used little.

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Then we get to the pictures I took which are of my granddaughter and her dad blowing up birthday balloons, and enjoying the ones that escaped flying around the room. I turned the flash off for most photos because I usually dislike the look of flash photos shot with on camera flash. Speaking of flash, looking at the photos taken by the previous owner, the camera seems to be easily confused by bright windows as there are quite a few “interior” shots that have no flash and are exposed for the view through the window. Some exposures of the play with balloons were quite long, but they make for interesting photos.

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I won’t bother to run another roll of film through this camera. There is little about it that is interesting to me – the optics are not special, and worse when zoomed. It is slow at the best of times so should always be shot with 400 or even 800 ISO film. It has one of those so-called panorama features, which involves a mask chopping off part of the negative. I just don’t understand how that was a feature. Was it for ease of processing, so that no cropping and associated special handling costs were needed, or something else? Seems like a dumb idea to me to lose a significant portion of a negative. But, it was fun to try the camera out and to see what was on the roll of film, and it was handy to have it kicking around with 400 speed film in it when my granddaughter was being photogenic – the other film cameras on the go at that time had much slower film in them, and no flash which I wanted to try for a flying balloon – my timing was not great though as it had barely left the hand. I should have tried again.

 

 Click on any image below to launch larger versions in the gallery view, navigate with the arrows once in the gallery.

 

 

2016-4: Pentax Espio 738G, Fujicolor Superia Xtra 400, found in camera partially exposed, commercially processed, scanned at home.

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Using a Pentax Espio 738G

  1. I’ve always been interested in the “snapshots” People made, especially with consumer grade equipment such as your camera. If I recall correctly,Kodak made panoramic one time use cameras and provided “panoramic” prints about 10 inches long and 3 or 5 inches high. The film was just 35mm that was masked at the top and bottom to appear as a wide format but in reality it wasn’t much wider than a normal photo uncropped. Other cameras had some osrt of masking device built in to take advantage of the print format, including your camera I guess.The resulting prints were usually of poor quality because of the extreme enlargement. The fad faded fast.

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    • Hi Ken. I too find “snapshots” interesting. Even the word is interesting.

      Originally the word was a hunting term for a quick shot taken without careful aim. Some etymologies date the first use in photography to about 1890, others as far back as the 1860s, which seems unlikely as there was no such thing as a quick photograph in those days.

      The manual for my grandmother’s Kodak Vest Pocket Model B uses “snapshot” throughout – in the instructions for operation of the “I” setting of the shutter refers to a “snapshot or instantaneous exposure” and elsewhere in the manual has the large headings “Instantaneous Exposures” with the subheading ” ‘Snapshots’ “. I am guessing that Kodak popularised the word snapshot to the extent that the word largely fell from the hunting vocabulary.

      Thank you for the information about the Kodak panoramic prints; it seems a likely reason for these masks in cameras. Even though the “fad faded fast” (nice turn of phrase there!), it is surprising how many panorama featured cameras (the masking ones) there are in thrift stores. I would estimate 10% of the consumer grade cameras that I see have this feature.

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    • Thanks Barnaby – I am not sure that I reached a conclusion though. Lots of details but little actual idea from these photos about who these people are, or were. This film could be 10 years old, or even more as the camera model is coming up on 20 years in production. I scanned the calendar at higher resolution, but the film is too grainy to read the date though if I had to guess, I would say 2005. At the age of these people, 11 years is a long time. Perhaps the camera came into a thrift store because they have died or moved to assisted living.

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  2. I like the first image with the granddaughter and her dad with the balloons. My daughters are roughly the same age. This is said to be the best age for children’s photography, because they aren’t too aware of the lens. Sometimes I feel like shooting dozens of pictures in a row, and every single one of them is interesting.

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    • Thanks Pollux. Indeed, I did take a lot of pictures, though not dozens. Most of those are on my blog here: http://wp.me/p1R4lY-7om which is where I put the ones I liked best.

      I agree that it is a great age for photographing children, though our granddaughter has been aware of the camera since she was less than one. She used to call it the “eye” when she had almost no vocabulary, a good name all around that she has since dropped, but which I wish she had kept in use.

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  5. My favorite photograph here is of granddaughter and Dad both with huge smiles of delight over the balloon experiment. It’s so like a child to help us enjoy the simple things in life. Thank you, Ephem.

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    • Thank you Celia, and thanks for looking back and commenting on an older post! I agree – they were having a really good time with those balloons which makes for delightful photos.

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  6. I misspelled your name above. I apologize. I have had quite a few cameras in my lifetime (74yrs). And other people have given me old cameras. My first one, which I received for my 8th birthday was a Kodak Brownie. I began loving photography immediately. (And I had probably asked for it.) I really like the way you discuss the
    art of cameras and photographs, and enjoy your blog. I have never received a camera with partly used roll of film. That’s fascinating, and you remind me of Sherlock, determining the story of these photos. I do have some 1 time cameras sitting around my house, left over from some event of which I do not remember.
    I think I will have the film developed to see what turns up.
    Celia

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    • I started with a Brownie too – I was given one when I was seven because we were departing on a one year trip to live in different parts of Europe (I did a post on photos from that trip here: http://wp.me/p1R4lY-4RD). I still have that camera and last year dismantled it, cleaned it all up, reversed the lens for some special effects and loaded some film. But I loaded it badly, it jammed and I only recently found my dark bag so it has been sitting waiting my attention.

      I do like finding old film in a camera – I just shot a roll that was in a camera, but it seems to have been new, or perhaps I have a roll of double exposures. I will see in a day or two. I bet there will be a couple of treasures on those disposable cameras. If they are not finished yet, then take some pictures first to finish the roll (though the batteries might be dead if really old). Either way, I would definitely take them in for processing. My experience is that previously exposed photos on old film often come out quite well, but images that are taken to finish the roll can be washed out due to desensitizing of the emulsion over time. Still worth it though!

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  7. I was researching the Pentax Espio 738, and a Google search brought me here. What a nice article to read – I was transported into someone else’s life for a few minutes. Thanks for writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Tom! I am taking a break from blogging for a while, but reading this post again reminds me of how much fun I had with it. I am glad you were transported into someone else’s life for a bit – that is one of the joys of found film, if one bothers to stop and look closely.

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