Time For Changing Times

Yikes.

Times are changing.

As some of you know, since the late 1970s I've recorded interviews for broadcasts, oral history archives, and spoken word tapes. I've used the same equipment all these decades as well, a variety of AKG and ElectroVoice microphones connected to Uher 4000 Report series or Revox A77 analog tape recorders, depending on the venue. I can practically do the recordings in my sleep because I'm so accustomed tot he equipment.

The Uher 4000 Report series are battery-powered reel-to-reel machines designed specifically for recording interviews. They're so good at it I can forgive their poor ergonomics, nearly-useless level meter, and their tendency to be fairly maintenance-intensive compared to other analog recorders.

The rugged, crystal-clear Revox A77 is a classic that has a loyal following all these years later. They're one of the few audiophile stereo tape recorders that was so good that more studios and professionals bought them than did audiophiles. They’re practically “unfuckupable” with regard to getting a great recording. It makes the job just so easy.

The catch: You need to find an AC mains to plug the Revox A77 into. No battery. Revox seems to think that if you put a handle on something that makes it portable. "Oh, here's a great idea -- let's make a portable full-size reel-to-reel. All we need is a nice handle. Just ignore its hernia-inducing 52-pound weight."

But, with the passage of time, I’m finding that a great audio tape of an interview isn’t enough. It’s the YouTube era, and “video killed the radio star.” So, I have to go video.

Eek.

So, being an audio guy first and foremost, I needed a small camera with great audio. An affordable small camera. The only one I found is the Zoom Q8. It has XLR inputs and a super-wideangle lens. I hate the lens. And I hate the cheesy X/Y microphones that stick out from the back like a deformed scorpion stinger. But the audio from the XLR inputs is okay.

Nasty surprise though: many of my 1970s-era ENG microphones don’t interface well with the Q*’s microphone preamplifiers, XLR inputs notwithstanding. The Q8’s microphone inputs are impedance-bridging, my ENG microphones need impedance-matching inputs. You try connecting a 50 Ohm ElectroVoice 644 or Altec 638A, or (worse) a transformerless-200 Ohm AKG D900 to the Q8’s 1.8K inputs. Sounds thin.

But my ElectroVoice 635A and 660, and the Shure VP64 and SM59 microphones seem to connect adequately enough. The SM59s always draw comments and attract crowds. They were once popular with game show hosts, televangelists and The Gong Show.

That’s something to start with.

It's a bit of a shock making the transition. The touchscreen, and its tiny bargraph meters take a bit to get used to. And that super wide lens makes everything look like one of those phony “virtual reality” scenes out of a B-grade science fiction movie directed by Roger Corman.

Oh well.

Stayin’ Alive.

Trends, Status Symbols & Me

One thing that I have been criticized for is that I don't design trendy products. Over the years, I have turned such products down.

It's a valid criticism.

Trendy products come and go. I prefer to spend my time to perfect my designs, with the confidence I can then produce those designs for years, even decades. I'm the slow, methodical type. I don't like rushing my work.

Yes, from time to time my designs have to be freshened up with new styling, or with changed features. This is a necessity to reflect the new preferences of end-users or market shifts. But underneath those surface changes is a design that is just as good decades from now as it is today. A design that will stand the test of time, to borrow a cliche.

In contrast, designing a trendy product is a treadmill. You rush through your design, then get it off to the market as quickly as possible, only to have the product abruptly quit selling once a new trend hits. You then have to repeat the process.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Ugh.

Trendy products just do not interest me. Certainly I can make them, but it just doesn't interest me.

You know what happens to trendy products? They end up on eBay, or in the trash. They're often laughed at years later. They're seldom valued or respected.

I don't want my work ending up in the trash. And I certainly don't want my work laughed at. I want my work to last, to be as valued years from now as it is today.

And that's why I don't do trendy products.

I have mixed feelings about status symbol products. Personally, I don't buy status symbols. Occasionally, something I bought is a status symbol, but it's a coincidence. I did not set out to buy a status symbol.

Status symbols are supposed to reflect a level of achievement, of discernment. It's the visible, ostentatious way to say, "I've arrived. I'm a success."

The reality is, for most people in the United States, that status symbols are an attempt to buy acceptance, esteem, and position among their peers. It's a way to make yourself look successful, discerning, and in-the-know.

That always seemed empty to me.

If someone looks up to me or respects me simply because of something that I've purchased, then they don't truly respect me, they're merely intimidated by something I bought.

It's a mentality that leads to the proverbial "keeping up with the Joneses." No matter what status symbol a person buys, someone can buy a more expensive status symbol.

So what?

Anybody can find the money to buy a status symbol. I've never seen that as a real accomplishment.

Perhaps that makes me a reverse-snob, but there it is. I said it.

Recently, I found out a couple of my designs have become status symbols. This actually bothers me. I'm flattered, it always feels good to have your work valued, especially if it's valued highly.

What bothers me is that I do not want someone to buy anything that I make because it is a status symbol. In fact, if I thought someone was buying one of my products merely as a status symbol to impress others, I probably would refuse to sell it to them.

I want people to buy what I make because they genuinely like it. Because it makes the music more fun for them. Because it lets them get more out of their music. Because it makes them feel good. Because they enjoy it. Because they enjoy it for what it is. Because, in some small way, it makes their life more fun, more peaceful, and has enriched the experience of their life.

Otherwise, I don't want someone to buy what I make. I don't my work to become an ego trip, someone screaming, "Look at me, I have one and you don't - Nyah Nyah Nyah."

This means I'll probably never be rich, but that is secondary to me.

The quality of my work, and how it affects those who buy my work is what matters most to me. The money is merely a means for me to do what I want to do, it's a tool, just like a drill or a hammer.

The Canyon

I awoke.

Grogginess slowly cleared from my mind. I looked around. A deep, angular canyon wound jaggedly for as far as I could see in either direction. The walls sloped away at a 45° angle. Every so often, an enormous boulder clung precariously to the wall of the canyon.

I try to determine in what direction the canyon traveled by looking at the angle of the sun. But this proved an impossible task. Bizarrely, the sun spun continuously overhead like a disco light. Worse, the light was a strange color. Not the warm yellow we're accustomed to, but a garish, harsh light.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, I saw that my canyon was a uniform black color. None of the strata, the variegated colors you often see in canyons, but a faceless, monotonous, black. Black. No other color. Just black.

So I was faced with a choice. Climb out of the canyon, or walk along it until I found another way out. I thought perhaps it would be quickest to climb out of the canyon.

As I began to climb, I was presented with the strangest sensation of all. The canyon walls felt, for all the world, like plastic. Despite the 45° slope, the canyon walls were slippery. There were no projections, no footholds. This was going to be a tough climb.

So, I stopped and once again stood at the bottom of the canyon.

As I stood pondering what to try next, I began to hear a distant rumbling. Before long, the rambling became distant, muted music. It was music from a classic album that had been popular in my youth. I smiled, because I had enjoyed that album.

That settles it, I would follow the canyon to the source of the music. That would bring me to civilization.

So, I slowly walked off toward the sound of the music. Walking proved to be tedious, as I often had to step over or around boulders at the bottom of the canyon. The slippery floor of the canyon didn't make matters easier either. Worst of all was the constantly undulating path of the canyon. It was as if the creator of this place abhorred the concept of a straight line or a gentle curve.

As I walked, the loudness of the music grew. Perhaps it was my imagination, but it seemed that the music was growing louder too quickly.

The music was loud now, but the source of the music was not in sight. I continued to walk toward the music. But with each step, with each instance, the music grew ever louder. Soon, the music was unbearably loud. Still, the source of the music did not come in the view. And still the music grew louder, becoming literally painful to hear.

I sank to my knees, overwhelmed by the power of the music. My hands over my ears, nothing could withstand the unimaginable loudness of the music.

I felt a breeze, and my body began to vibrate in sympathy with the music. I looked up in time to see it.

Racing down the canyon toward me was an unimaginable sight. A smooth, colorless mountain, upside down, descended from the sky. Its tip rested against the walls of my canyon perfectly, creating the illusion that the upside down mountain was traveling along the canyon walls.

But it wasn't an illusion. The upside-down mountain was indeed riding along the walls of my canyon, rushing headlong toward me.

Nothing could stop it. The upside-down mountain was nearly upon me.

I froze.

I screamed. My scream was inaudible to my ears, consumed by the solidity of the music.

Meanwhile, John was enjoying his favorite music on a vinyl LP. He smiled with satisfaction. It wasn't just the music. And it wasn't just the superlative sound. It was the accomplishment of setting up the delicate turntable and its fiddly adjustments.

John leaned forward. He heard something in the album that he had never heard before.

A scream.

He had never heard a scream in that particular track before.

A Night At The Lake

Those who have known me for many years are familiar with my passions for nighttime activities, fine-quality film cameras, and analog tape recorders. So, an evening that combines spending time on a lake, at night, with an analog recorder to capture the keening of nighttime insects, and a fine film camera to capture the glow of the distant city lights is as close to a perfect day as possible.

And so it was I found myself at a small, secluded lake outside Lee's Summit, Missouri, nearly midnight, July 7th, 1984. The lake belonged to a friend, and was a favorite place of mine to visit. A private getaway, without having to travel to an exotic location.

The still night was made more pleasant by the refreshing 70-ish degree Fahrenheit temperature.

The solitude of the lake was ironic in the presence of the loud chorus of insects and frogs, punctuated by occasional cries of unseen nocturnal fauna. A distant aircraft thrummed, adding an oddly harmonious undertone that gradually faded away.

The moon lent its cool glow to the lake. Gentle waves shimmered in a relaxing motion. The nearby trees were starkly outlined in sharp relief.

A lunchbox-sized Uher 4200 Report Stereo analog tape recorder, fed by a unique JVC binaural microphone, freed of the necessity of AC power by its battery pack, was capturing the acoustic ambience. A small folding table held the recorder, while, several feet away, a mannequin head atop a crudely-made wooden stand held the microphone six feet above the ground, far enough to avoid the noise of the camera.

In no particular hurry, my back to the lake, I prepared to mount a Pentax MX 35mm film camera on a well-worn, but still-rock-solid, Tiltall tripod. My plan was to photograph the patterns of light that gave that particular night's sky a melancholy beauty.

Suddenly, silence erupted. As if an invisible finger had flipped a switch, every insect, every frog, every creature of the night stopped. Startled, I turned toward the lake, with a sense of dread, and froze.

I strained to hear. Anything.

The silence was so complete that I began to question whether I had gone deaf. As I continued to concentrate, I was relieved to hear, to just barely hear, the electric hum of the recorder's motor.

I relaxed.

The moment I began to turn back toward the tripod the night was pierced by two, glowing, red spots above the middle of the lake.

Two glowing red eyes.

Two close, glowing red eyes.

Two close, glowing red eyes that were moving toward me. Rapidly.

Instinct shouted down reason. I threw the camera into the car. My next memory is of the car leaving a trail of dust, the lake far behind.

I stopped. The recorder, the microphone and the tripod were back at the lake. I'd abandoned them all without a second thought. So now the choice. Return for my equipment or continue my flight? Was it worth the risk? By now, they're gone anyway, right? Or smashed and worthless, right? No point in it, right?

Drat.

Okay, I just can't throw away expensive equipment. And I had to know what really happened.

So, I went to a friend's house nearby and related the events of the lake. He agreed, with some cajoling, to return with me to retrieve my equipment. His face bore eloquent rebukes for my overactive imagination. Glowing red eyes indeed.

The presence of my equipment still intact brought relief and astonishment to me and another of "those looks" from my friend. Three hours had elapsed, yet everything was as I left it. The lake was as noisy as ever. It was the most normal scene you could imagine. Yet, the normality was almost unnerving.

I packed the microphone away, then folded the tripod into its case. Lastly, I picked up the recorder by its handle and switched off its power. The motor sighed and fell quiet. The level meter flicked briefly as the audio amplifier let out a parting thump. Oddly, it didn't feel right. Something was amiss. Setting the recorder down on the back seat of the car, I saw that the tape was missing. That was on its own, because, other than the missing tape, nothing seemed to have been disturbed. Yet the tape recorder was considerably lighter than it should've been.

I turned the recorder over, and remove the bottom to access the battery compartment. There was no battery. There was no battery yet the recorder had been running when I picked it up and switched it off. How? After replacing the bottom cover, I turn the recorder right side up and switched it on. But it didn't turn on. How could it, it didn't have a battery? But it had been working when I first picked it up.

Somehow, I didn't want to know. I just wanted out of there. As quickly as I could leave. I dropped my friend off at his house, and bid him goodbye, profusely thanking him for his assistance.

Over the next several days, I pondered the strange events at that lake. I never again visited the lake. I still have the recorder, and it has never worked without a battery since that strange night on the lake with two glowing red eyes.

And so, dear reader, concludes my tale of high strangeness. Ponder this Halloween those inexplicable occurrences, those things that can't happen yet do. Ponder what lies beyond the unexplained.

But relax. In the end, it's all just a ghost story.

Isn't it?

The Small Business Owner Then & Now

I was speaking to one of my friends who also owns a small company and we began talking about how life as a business owner has changed over the decades. I began my first rather feeble entry into the world of running my own business in 1976. No, I wasn't any good at it, as I was still in high school. But hey, you have to start somewhere.

Consider: the Top Ten Small business challenges in 1976 versus 2016.

1976:
  1. The national economy.
  2. Your competitors.
  3. Market perception of your product.
  4. Word-of-mouth publicity.
  5. Trade unions.
  6. Taxes, fees, and permits.
  7. Government regulation.
  8. The world economy.
  9. Supply chain issues.
  10. Employee absenteeism.

2016:
  1. Predatory activists.
  2. Government regulation.
  3. Taxes, fees, and permits.
  4. The world economy.
  5. The national economy.
  6. Hostility and adverse publicity generated on social media.
  7. Market perception of your product.
  8. Your competitors.
  9. Supply chain issues.
  10. Trade unions.

It's a very different world today.

Never Truly Obsolete

I was thinking the other day about all the obsolete technology that we still use, even if it's a niche market. For many people, newer isn't always better. There's a few that I was thinking about:
Manual mechanical typewriter: From their beginnings in the late Eighteenth Century to their near extinction in the 1990s, the typewriter is undergoing a revival mainly among hipsters and old fossils like myself, these cumbersome devices have one huge advantage. They force you to refine your writing because they lack the ability to efficiently edit documents or easily correct errors. Some say this makes you into a better writer because the process forces you to write well the first time around.

Analog disc recording: since 1888, when it was invented by Emile Berliner, analog disc recordings in one format or another have been in continuous production. Sales of the modern analog vinyl LP disc record have been soaring in recent years. The sound and the experience of the analog disc ensures its continuing popularity for the foreseeable future.

Magnetic analog audio recorders: beginning with Vlademar Poulsen's Telegraphone wire recorder of 1898, magnetic analog audio recorders became the standard audio recording technology for recording studios and Minnie amateurs in the late 1940s. Digital audio gradually replaced magnetic analog recorders in recording studios during the late 1980s and in home audio systems in the late 1990s. Nevertheless, magnetic analog audio recorders have made a large comeback in recent years, especially reel-to-reel and cassette formats. Hipsters, audiophiles, musicians and professional audio engineers every discovered the appealing sound of magnetic analog audio recorders.

Dynamic microphones: 1923 brought the Marconi-Sykes Magnetophone, the first practical dynamic microphone, to professional audio. Despite becoming technologically obsolescent by the 1970s, dynamic microphones are still commonplace. Their reliability and reasonable fidelity has made the dynamic microphone an indispensable part of every PA system and recording system. They'll be with us for the foreseeable future.

Moving coil cone loudspeakers: Edward W. Kellog and Chester Rice developed the modern moving coil cone loudspeaker in 1924, changing audio forever. Their design was straightforward, reliable, easily manufactured yet capable of high fidelity. Since then, many newer, higher technology loudspeaker designs have been invented, some of which should have obsoleted all previous technologies. Yet, none have achieved the ongoing commercial success of the traditional moving coil cone loudspeaker. It is hard to imagine anything else playing our music at any time in the foreseeable future.

Revolvers: whether you see handguns as the embodiment of senseless violence or a necessary self-defense weapon, it's hard to deny the continuing popularity of the revolver. First introduced in 1814 by Elisha Collier but popularized in 1836 by Samuel Colt, the revolver remains one of the most common weapon technologies. Despite ongoing advances in firearm technology, the revolver's simplicity, low cost, unmatchable reliability, and relatively simple training requirements guarantee that it will remain a commonplace firearm until mankind becomes enlightened enough to no need weapons no longer.

Oil lanterns: No one knows when and where the first oil lamp lit up the night for ancient mankind. The oldest known oil lamp was found in a cave near Lascaux, France that was inhabited 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. It still works. Today, oil lamps should be museum relics but they're still lighting campsites, remote locations and our homes during natural disasters and electrical power outages. No modern or future technology can ever outdo the oil lamp. Long after the incandescent light bulb has faded into history, long after some future technology has replaced LEDs, the oil lamp will endure, its warm glow piercing the night.

Horses: humans have been riding animals for transportation since before recorded history. Modern motor vehicles still haven't replaced the joy and romance of riding a horse. One hidden advantage of a horse: you don't have to trade it in for a new model every few years.

Vacuum tube amplifiers: Once the mainstream amplifier technology beginning in 1907, the advent of affordable transistor circuitry during the late 1960s spelled the end of vacuum tube amplifiers. Well, not so fast. More than a century later, the unique sound of the glowing amplifiers still delights musicians and audiophiles alike.

Film cameras: The versatility and instant photography afforded by digital cameras arguably should have entirely swept away film photography into museums. Since its cumbersome beginning in the 1820s, film photography has suffered from one serious drawback: the film has to be chemically processed before the photograph can be viewed. By then, if the photograph isn't good, it's too late to do anything about it. Regardless, photographic film has an aesthetic quality that ensures a loyal, utterly-devoted following. Film's chemical process itself is a fascinating and satisfying pursuit for millions.

Gliders and Hot Air Balloons: powered aircraft rendered unpowered gliders and balloons obsolete, right? For military, commercial and general aviation, yes. Practicality isn't everything, though. The exhilaration of unpowered flight will keep it alive for as long as mankind craves a good adrenalin rush.

We'll Fix It In The Mix!

We’ll fix it in the mix, right? That’s the dreaded sentence no engineer wants to hear.

Every time you hear those words leave a band’s lips, what you want to say is something like, “No. We can’t. Your playing is rubbish, and you couldn’t carry a tune in a forklift. After you’ve learned how to play your music, call me.”

Instead, you lie to the band because you need to pay off your bills. Smiling, with a dismissive wave of your hand, you reply, “Sure. Come back later and I’ll blow your mind. You guys are awesome, just needs a few tweaks. You could have nailed it, I know you could have.”

Like I said, you lie to the band. “One Recording Engineer, Extra Crispy,” thinks the Devil as you swirl the drain ready to go to hell.

You’ve then doomed yourself to toiling for hours with your Digital Audio Workstation, cutting the tracks into confetti (with 1/96,000-second precision or better), shoving notes here and there to correct timing errors, compressing, EQing, vainly invoking pitch shifters to crawl somewhere within sight of proper pitch, then burying the mess with piles of reverb.

What you’ve achieved for your trouble is still bad music. It’s just less bad music that you get to charge for. You know you’ll never get your money back if you spec the album and try to earn off the royalties, so you give the band a fat bill, lots of flattery, then promptly sell them CDs, download cards, tee shirts, caps, and other “merch” to sell to their fans at gigs. Hopefully their fans are either stoned or drunk — but not so much that they can’t find their wallets. Otherwise, the band will never unload their junk. But once the band is out the door, it’s their problem and you can relax.

Until the next band walks in.

But wait! What about recordings made in the 1970s? You wouldn’t have had a digital workstation in the 1970s. You had a great, ugly tape recorder, a razor blade, and a spool of splicing tape. And arthritic fingers. And a bottle of aspirin.

What?

That’s all?

That’s not going to work! You’ve got to be kidding me!

How did those recording engineers fix it in the mix?

Well, you wouldn’t. You still went through the charade with the band, but instead you genuinely fixed the music. I hear you yelling, “How? Enough prattle, tell us how!”

You hired studio musicians to re-record the tracks. Okay, sure, you had to pay union scale, sometimes double scale, but it was worth it. Studio musicians could knock out in hours what the band couldn’t do in weeks. Flawlessly.

You then had an album you could sell. You often had a good shot at a Grammy nomination.

And the band never knew.

You let them think they’re virtuosos and that you’re the Da Vinci of audio. You smile all the way to the bank, they smile all the way to their next gig.

That’s the way it was.

Now you know one secret to why “vintage vinyl” albums sound so good, while very few albums today do.

And you also know why I shut down my main studio. My studio musicians all retired, and I’ve never found replacements.

Yet.

Listen to The Music

Hit the PAUSE button of your life.
Take a moment. Think of someone, think of a great moment in your life.
Then, with that as the backdrop of your mind, put on an album and enjoy some music.
I mean, truly enjoy some music.
Don't just fill the background with tinny sound, but find the best-sounding audio setup you can find.
Put on your favorite album (or two), sit down, and enjoy it. Let the music wash over you and fill your soul.
Learn the lyrics to the best song. Find a cool riff or a unique cord progression and learn it. Listen to the album again,and find things you didn't know was there: some instrument doing little something in the background that - now that you know it's there - add that special something to the song. Or listen to how the vocals bounce off the echo to provide a counter-point. Second guess the mix -- what could they have done better?
Then forget all that, and just listen to the music. Become the music. Cry when the music stops because you feel the loss!
Music is a unique art. Photographs and paintings hang on the wall, static, to be contemplated, admired or ignored. Sculptures sit on their pedestals, silent, expressing meaning but finding none.
But not music.
Oh no.
Music is made wholly from its very sounds. Whether live or recorded, it’s an artistic mayfly: as fleeting as the strum of a string or the hit of a stick on a drum. Music springs to life, expresses its art, then passes away. Music is for only as long as you listen to it. Music’s beauty flourishes only with the intensity of your listening. Music revels only if you participate, whether as audience or musician, with your rapt attention. Music has meaning only if you let it inside your soul, and respond.
Music droning on in the background, largely ignored, both wastes the music and diminishes the listener. It’s a moment lost.
Listen to the music. Really listen to the music.

Beware counterfeiit K1000 SE cameras!

Some sellers exaggerate a camera's value.

Recently, there have been a rash of camera listings along the lines of, "First Edition Pentax K1000 SE 35mm Camera ... This camera body is an early variant of the K1000 SE.  It has a split image focus screen which is really a pleasure to use compared to the standard focusing screen.  The camera also has the rare diamond grip covering." 

Exciting, yes? 

Well, don't get too excited.

It's deceptive.

While the camera may be an early-production model, Pentax never used a diamond pattern leather covering. Nor did they ever use colored leather, lizard or alligator patterns, or things like paisley.  In their K and M series models, Pentax used only their standard black cowhide-grain-look leather or, in SE variants made before 1980, a distinctive brown cowhide-look leather. 

Any other kind of leather is an aftermarket modification, often made by camera stores -- or unscrupulous eBay sellers trying to sell a camera for more than it is worth. (You'll find that if you challenge these sellers on the veracity of their claims, they'll answer you by telling you that you're rude, they resent your message and they'll not answer you! Then they'll often nitpick your grammar or spelling and tell you to learn about cameras. A response from a seller like that is a sure sign of a scammer. Don't get angry with them, just laugh that you've smoked them out.)

But what about the split-image viewfinder? This was a factory option for the K1000, and some camera stores worked with camera repair shops to offer a similar non-OEM viewfinder screen replacement.

Some sellers do make the honest mistake of selling a K1000 with the optional split image viewfinder as a K1000 SE. Although rare and valuable in their own right, the option alone doesn't make it a K1000 SE -  a real K1000 SE has the "SE" engraved on its front. Pentax never used a sticker to designate the SE, by the way. That's a myth. Note that some unscrupulous sellers will claim the camera  did have the SE sticker, but it "fell off." Sorry, that's a sure sign the camera is a standard K1000 being misrepresented as a K1000 SE.

Only about 5% of the K1000s made had the split-image viewfinder screen option installed, most of which were sold in the Japanese market. It was an expensive option, and most buyers felt that it wasn't worth the money to buy it. For the same money, you could buy a higher-end model instead of a K1000. 

Now, nothing is wrong with a Pentax camera having diamond pattern leather. The problem is the false claim, or misleading implication, that the diamond pattern (or other color) is a Pentax factory production leather covering.

It's not. It's an aftermarket modification.

If you want to buy a Pentax K1000 (or other model) with such a leather covering, then buy it and enjoy -- they're beautiful. But don't pay too much for it, and understand it's not "rare," nor a "special edition," nor anything else of the sort. 

And drop the seller a line to let him know that the listing is misleading, or (at least) erroneous. 

Let's end the practice of taking an ordinary camera, modifying it, then selling it for more than it's worth because it's "rare." 


A special note about diamond leatherette coverings.

Note that Wikipedia and some online forums claim that Pentax did use a diamond pattern leatherette on "1st Edition" K1000 SEs. This is a minority opinion. The overwhelming evidence, along with the absence of any Pentax literature showing such a camera, is that Pentax did not use a diamond pattern leatherette. Some camera dealers at the time did, however, customize standard Pentax K1000s (lacking the engraved SE logo) with a diamond pattern leatherette along with the factory-optional split image focuser - which they then sold as a Pentax Special Edition. It's this past practice by camera dealers that has led to confusion over the issue of whether a diamond pattern leatherette was used on a so-called "1st Edition" K1000 SE. 

So, if an eBay seller offers a "1st Edition" Pentax K1000 SE with no SE engraved, a split-image focuser, and a diamond pattern leatherette covering it is NOT a genuine Pentax factory K1000 SE - it's an aftermarket modification made by a camera store.

You may also find the occasional Pentax K1000 SE that has the engraved SE logo and a diamond pattern leatherette. Is this a genuine K1000 SE? Maybe. It could be a camera that had the original leather replaced with the diamond pattern, usually to replace damaged original leather. It could be the original owner made the modification for personal tastes. Or, it could be an ordinary K1000 that has had its top cover replaced by one with the engraved SE logo and then covered with diamond pattern leatherette - which would make the camera a fake K1000 SE. There's no certain way to be sure in that case, so be on the safe side and assume the camera isn't a genuine K1000 SE.

Regardless, is a K1000 with diamond leatherette a collector's item worth higher costs? That is for you to decide.


What about stickers?

You'll often find Pentax K1000s with a sticker that says "SE" being sold as a K1000 SE, often with the claim that it's a rare "1st Edition" K1000 SE. At no time did Pentax ever add such a sticker to a K1000. Ever. This is a lie, promulgated by deceptive sellers, passed along by misinformed (but otherwise-honest) persons.

Admittedly, some eBay sellers mistakenly believe that they're selling a genuine K1000 SE with a sticker, but they're wrong nevertheless. 

Beware sellers claiming the camera is a K100 SE but "the sticker fell off." Yeah, right, that's a fake as it gets.  

Beware Fake Pentax K1000 SE cameras sold on eBay.

Some sellers exaggerate a camera's value.

Recently, there have been a rash of camera listings along the lines of, "First Edition Pentax K1000 SE 35mm Camera ... This camera body is an early variant of the K1000 SE.  It has a split image focus screen which is really a pleasure to use compared to the standard focusing screen.  The camera also has the rare diamond grip covering." 

Exciting, yes? 

Well, don't get too excited.

It's deceptive.

While the camera may be an early-production model, Pentax never used a diamond pattern leather covering. Nor did they ever use colored leather, lizard or alligator patterns, or things like paisley.  In their K and M series models, Pentax used only their standard black cowhide-grain-look leather or, in SE variants made before 1980, a distinctive brown cowhide-look leather. 

Any other kind of leather is an aftermarket modification, often made by camera stores -- or unscrupulous eBay sellers trying to sell a camera for more than it is worth. (You'll find that if you challenge these sellers on the veracity of their claims, they'll answer you by telling you that you're rude, they resent your message and they'll not answer you! Then they'll often nitpick your grammar or spelling and tell you to learn about cameras. A response from a seller like that is a sure sign of a scammer. Don't get angry with them, just laugh that you've smoked them out.)

But what about the split-image viewfinder? This was a factory option for the K1000, and some camera stores worked with camera repair shops to offer a similar non-OEM viewfinder screen replacement.

Some sellers do make the honest mistake of selling a K1000 with the optional split image viewfinder as a K1000 SE. Although rare and valuable in their own right, the option alone doesn't make it a K1000 SE -  a real K1000 SE has the "SE" engraved on its front. Pentax never used a sticker to designate the SE, by the way. That's a myth. Note that some unscrupulous sellers will claim the camera  did have the SE sticker, but it "fell off." Sorry, that's a sure sign the camera is a standard K1000 being misrepresented as a K1000 SE.

Only about 5% of the K1000s made had the split-image viewfinder screen option installed, most of which were sold in the Japanese market. It was an expensive option, and most buyers felt that it wasn't worth the money to buy it. For the same money, you could buy a higher-end model instead of a K1000. 

Now, nothing is wrong with a Pentax camera having diamond pattern leather. The problem is the false claim, or misleading implication, that the diamond pattern (or other color) is a Pentax factory production leather covering.

It's not. It's an aftermarket modification.

If you want to buy a Pentax K1000 (or other model) with such a leather covering, then buy it and enjoy -- they're beautiful. But don't pay too much for it, and understand it's not "rare," nor a "special edition," nor anything else of the sort. 

And drop the seller a line to let him know that the listing is misleading, or (at least) erroneous. 

Let's end the practice of taking an ordinary camera, modifying it, then selling it for more than it's worth because it's "rare." 


A special note about diamond leatherette coverings.

Note that Wikipedia and some online forums claim that Pentax did use a diamond pattern leatherette on "1st Edition" K1000 SEs. This is a minority opinion. The overwhelming evidence, along with the absence of any Pentax literature showing such a camera, is that Pentax did not use a diamond pattern leatherette. Some camera dealers at the time did, however, customize standard Pentax K1000s (lacking the engraved SE logo) with a diamond pattern leatherette along with the factory-optional split image focuser - which they then sold as a Pentax Special Edition. It's this past practice by camera dealers that has led to confusion over the issue of whether a diamond pattern leatherette was used on a so-called "1st Edition" K1000 SE. 

So, if an eBay seller offers a "1st Edition" Pentax K1000 SE with no SE engraved, a split-image focuser, and a diamond pattern leatherette covering it is NOT a genuine Pentax factory K1000 SE - it's an aftermarket modification made by a camera store.

You may also find the occasional Pentax K1000 SE that has the engraved SE logo and a diamond pattern leatherette. Is this a genuine K1000 SE? Maybe. It could be a camera that had the original leather replaced with the diamond pattern, usually to replace damaged original leather. It could be the original owner made the modification for personal tastes. Or, it could be an ordinary K1000 that has had its top cover replaced by one with the engraved SE logo and then covered with diamond pattern leatherette - which would make the camera a fake K1000 SE. There's no certain way to be sure in that case, so be on the safe side and assume the camera isn't a genuine K1000 SE.

Regardless, is a K1000 with diamond leatherette a collector's item worth higher costs? That is for you to decide.


What about stickers?

You'll often find Pentax K1000s with a sticker that says "SE" being sold as a K1000 SE, often with the claim that it's a rare "1st Edition" K1000 SE. At no time did Pentax ever add such a sticker to a K1000. Ever. This is a lie, promulgated by deceptive sellers, passed along by misinformed (but otherwise-honest) persons.

Admittedly, some eBay sellers mistakenly believe that they're selling a genuine K1000 SE with a sticker, but they're wrong nevertheless. 

Beware sellers claiming the camera is a K100 SE but "the sticker fell off." Yeah, right, that's a fake as it gets.