The Sears KS-500, A Fine Budget Camera

The first roll from a budget Sears 35mm.

This is a not so interesting camera, that may have a place in a lot of photographers’ collection.

I just put a roll through it to see how well it performed. Just like all cameras, this is just a box, that holds film. This review discusses what this camera is all about.

A little background.

The department store, Sears sold cameras made by other camera manufacturers and re-branded them. They sold them at their stores often branded as Tower Cameras and many of their 35mm SLR cameras were just branded as Sears and made by Ricoh. There were too many cameras models made, but see the Sears page at

Sears KS-500

This all black camera was made by Ricoh (KR-5/XR-500). The body is mostly plastic, but is fairly weighty in the hands. It’s considerably smaller and lighter than my Pentax Spotmatic F.

Shutter speeds from 1/8th, 1/15th, 1/30th, 1/60th, 1/125th, 1/250th, and 1/500th of a second plus bulb. Flash sync is 1/60th. There is a film speed dial on the top deck. This is an all-mechanical shutter, batteries are not required to use the camera. ASA (ISO) setting ranges from 12 to 3200. There is also markings for DIN 12° to 36°.

It has a match needle meter in the viewfinder. The meter is powered by two LR44 1.5 volt button type batteries. Really easy to find.

The film advance lever is light, and fast. The camera uses a diagonal split-prism instead of the horizontal split-prism which most people are accustomed to. It takes a bit to get used to, but I really like it.

This camera came with a non-functioning 135mm lens. The lens mount takes easy to find Pentax K mount lenses. I tested this camera with a Koboron 28mm f2.8 lens, made by the Kobori Manufacturing Company.


It’s a compact size, and the weight is pretty good if you are using a small prime lens. The leatherette covering is grippy and makes it easy to hold without a camera strap on it.

This camera is quite easy to shoot on the street. I took it out for a couple of photowalks and immediately felt comfortable using the camera.

The roll I shot came back from the lab and I was surprised to see that the frame spacing was extremely consistent. The meter seemed to be very accurate, especially for the way I meter a scene using a center-weighted meter.

The Bottom Line

This is a fine camera, but if you are looking a for a well-built workhorse mechanical 35mm, this is NOT your camera. This is your beater camera that you take to the pub or a party hanging out with friends. Keep a little flash in your pocket, and this is a great candid camera. A camera that you’re not afraid to break or lose when you go out and about. When researching these cameras, I saw them on eBay going for $75 – $150! That’s insane. This is not a collectors camera. If you spot one at a thrift store and you really want a camera you can beat around, don’t hesitate. However, don’t hesitate if it’s under $20 with a lens. Test the lens, the Riconar lenses aren’t known for their reliability.

I like this camera just fine, but I couldn’t recommend this camera to anybody, instead I would wholeheartedly recommend the Pentax K1000 or even the Pentax MX. These cameras tend to cost a lot more money, but are solidly built.

Sample pictures:

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