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Top 10 Pentax Film Cameras of 2020

Introduction

The Asahi Optical Company was around for awhile before the production of the first Pentax cameras. The company had humble beginnings producing eyeglass lenses in 1919 in the Toshima suburb of Tokyo. From there, they grew to be one of the pioneers of early SLRs and Japanese camera design in general. 

The name Pentax didn’t actually enter the equation until 1957, when Asahi bought the name from Zeiss Ikon. The first Asahi Pentax would be as influential on camera design as the Nikon F, which came out two years later. 

Cameras like the Spotmatic and K1000 would only further cement Pentax’s legacy as an iconic camera brand. But which is the best Pentax camera? Which camera defines the company’s success? In this list, we’ll attempt to uncover just that.

Remember that this list is driven by Google search analytics, so these are the opinions of the community at large rather than Kamerastore.com. If a camera didn’t make the list, tell your friends about it and get them searching!

No. 10 – Pentax K2

  • The Pentax K2 is an interchangeable lens, manual focus, auto-exposure 35mm SLR using Pentax’s K bayonet lens mount.
  • The camera requires 2x LR44 batteries for all functions, including center-weighted metering, aperture-priority auto exposure, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000th.
  • Introduced in 1975 as the flagship model of the new K mount, the K2 featured aperture-priority auto exposure and a joint mechanical/electronic shutter. Speeds above 1/125th are mechanical, with lower speeds being electronic.
  • The K2 was the highest-end initial result of the collaboration between Pentax and Zeiss Ikon to develop a new lens mount. While Zeiss Ikon was unable to continue camera production, Pentax turned this research into the K mount.
  • The K2 and other K series bodies were quickly overshadowed by the smaller M series bodies following the release of the Olympus OM-1. This camera moved the amateur market towards compact cameras, and Pentax’s K series were as big and heavy as the Spotmatics that preceded them.

No. 9 – Pentax Spotmatic

  • The Pentax Spotmatic is an interchangeable lens, manual focus, manual exposure 35mm SLR using the M42 threaded lens mount.
  • The camera requires no batteries to function, firing mechanically. The light meter may require a S400PX battery, or similar 1.3-1.5v button cell, to function properly.
  • The Spotmatic series was introduced in 1964, and was one of the first camera series to offer TTL metering. Later models have open-aperture metering as well.
  • In 1971, the Pentax Spotmatic ES was the first camera to have aperture priority auto exposure, although this model wasn’t sold outside of Japan.
  • The Spotmatic helped popularize the M42 screw mount, which became the closest thing the photographic industry has seen to a universal mount. Many other manufacturers used M42, and in some circles the mount is known as Pentax Screw Mount.
  • Spotmatics were sold in some form until 1976, following the release of the K mount.

No. 8 – Pentax 67II

  • The Pentax 67II is an interchangeable lens, manual focus, auto exposure 120 SLR using Pentax’s 6×7 bayonet lens mount.
  • The camera requires 2x CR123 batteries for all functions, including flexible, advanced light metering, aperture priority auto exposure, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000th.
  • Introduced in 1999 as the final member of Pentax’s 6×7 120 SLRs, the 67II takes the formula of the previous iterations and adds advanced electronics, particularly to the prism. The 67II’s AE prism features 6-segment, multi-pattern evaluative metering as well as a built in spot meter.
  • The Pentax 67II was discontinued in 2009, ending the 40 year long lineage started by the Pentax 6×7.

No. 7 – Pentax Espio Mini / UC-1

  • The Pentax Espio Mini is a fixed lens, auto focus, auto exposure 35mm compact camera with a triplet-style 32mm f3.5 lens.
  • This Pentax camera requires a CR123 battery for all functions, including autofocus, automated advance/rewind, flash control, programmed auto exposure, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/400th.
  • Introduced in 1994, the UC-1 can be seen as Pentax’s response to cameras like the Yashica T, Olympus Mju, and Contax T. A premium point & shoot with a sharp prime lens, even with a clamshell design to protect the lens and save battery power.
  • The Espio Mini, especially in its silver or champagne colors, has a tendency to show wear throughout its body.

No. 6 – Pentax K1000

  • The Pentax K1000 is an interchangeable lens, manual focus, manual exposure 35mm SLR using Pentax’s K bayonet lens mount.
  • The camera requires no batteries to function, firing mechanically on all speeds. 2x LR44 batteries are required for light metering.
  • Introduced in 1976 following the success of the original K mount bodies, The K1000 was intended as the simplest, cheapest option. It removed features like a self-timer and depth of field preview while retaining the simple operation and match-needle functionality of the other K bodies.
  • The K1000 is renowned for its simplicity, reliability, and longevity. Despite changing production facilities multiple times, the K1000 stayed in production until 1997, well after it had been made obsolete by more advanced cameras.
  • Some K1000s have problems with desilvering in their prisms, which may require replacement.

No. 5 – Pentax Auto 110

  • The Pentax Auto 110 is an interchangeable lens, manual focus, auto-exposure 110 SLR using a proprietary Pentax 110 lens mount.
  • The camera requires 2x LR44 batteries for all functions, including programmed auto exposure, flash control, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/750th.
  • Introduced in 1978, the Auto 110 is the only interchangeable lens SLR to use Kodak’s 110 film cartridges. Very few other manufacturers attempted to bring high quality products to the compact film market.
  • Pentax made six lenses for the system, and even revised the model in 1982 to include a self-timer and exposure compensation, among other things.
  • The Auto 110 and Auto 110 Super were sold until 1985.

No. 4 – Pentax P30 / P3

  • The Pentax P30 is an interchangeable lens, manual focus, auto-exposure 35mm SLR using Pentax’s K bayonet lens mount.
  • The camera requires 2x LR44 batteries for all functions, including programmed auto exposure, DX code reading, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000th.
  • Introduced in 1985, the P30 is a plasticky Pentax camera with auto exposure capability. Film ISO cannot be set on the body, only through DX coding.
  • The P30 was replaced by the P30n within a few years, with marginal quality of life improvements.
  • Both the P30 and P30n can be used as donor bodies for K1000 repairs, as the prisms in these newer models are much more resistant to desilvering than some older K1000 prisms.

No. 3 – Pentax ME

  • The Pentax ME is an interchangeable lens, manual focus, auto-exposure 35mm SLR using Pentax’s K bayonet lens mount.
  • The camera requires 2x LR44 batteries for all functions, including center-weighted metering, aperture-priority auto exposure, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000th.
  • Introduced in 1976 as the electronic companion to the mechanical MX, the ME was only able to fire in aperture-priority mode. It did, however, have access to bulb mode and a flash sync speed of 1/100th.
  • The ME and MX were clearly introduced as a response to the success of the Olympus OM series of SLRs. The OMs brought compact camera design to the mainstream and pressured other manufacturers to follow suit or fall behind.
  • The ME was sold until 1979, when it was replaced by the ME Super and MV.

No. 2 – Pentax ME Super

  • The Pentax ME Super is an interchangeable lens, manual focus, auto-exposure 35mm SLR using Pentax’s K bayonet lens mount.
  • The camera requires 2x LR44 batteries for all functions, including center-weighted metering, aperture-priority auto exposure, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000th.
  • Introduced in 1979 as the follow-up to the ME, the ME Super added manual exposure and made the shutter faster.
  • The ME Super and MV released simultaneously, and further expanded the M series of Pentax cameras. The MV became the entry-level, auto exposure only model, whereas the ME Super had the advanced amateur market in its sights. With a combination of manual exposure and simple aperture priority in a compact body, the ME Super attempted to compete with cameras like the Canon AE-1 and Olympus OM-2.
  • The ME was sold until 1984.

No. 1 – Pentax 67 / 6×7

  • The Pentax 6×7 is an interchangeable lens, manual focus, manual exposure 120 SLR using Pentax’s 6×7 bayonet lens mount.
  • The camera requires a 4LR44 battery for all functions, including center-weighted metering and an electronically-controlled maximum shutter speed of 1/1000th.
  • Introduced in 1969 as the premium SLR for 120 film, the 6×7 mimics cameras like the Pentacon Six to deliver a similar shooting experience to standard 35mm Pentax cameras.
  • The 6×7 and 67 are both electronically-controlled cameras, but neither feature light meters. Some metered prisms were available for the system.
  • The original 6×7 was sold until 1990, when it was replaced by the 67. The 67 was then replaced in 1999 by the 67II.

Conclusions

Pentax has produced SLRs of all shapes and sizes since being a pioneer of the industry in the 1950s. Even on this list, we have Pentax cameras from 110 to 35mm to 120 covered, with variation in size and function even within film formats. 

It’s clear that Pentax, much like their name originally being a portmanteau of “Pentaprism” and “Reflex”, is defined by their SLRs. The beastly 6×7 offerings may command a lot of attention, but Pentax has given us stalwart camera icons like the K1000, Spotmatic, and ME Super as well.

Even with search data, it’s hard to say which Pentax cameras are the best. Different models will work best for different people, but there are Pentax cameras out there for everyone.

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