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Sunday, 05 September 2010


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Best seems mind of subjective to me. The linked lens is not going to be much use in a lot of applications, best though it may be.

For Pentax related lenses, this is one site that has it all, Bojidar's Dimitrov: http://www.bdimitrov.de/kmp/lenses/primes/normal/index.html

Mike, what is you view on the Pentax Limited series (old and new)?

Hey Mike,

With regards to the "Pentax for a year" alternative to the Leica for a year suggestion, I may be able to offer some small insight: I took a photography class as an undergraduate (about 1998 or so) to fill an elective slot. The only camera I had to use was an AE-1 with a 50 mm 1.8, and the class required us to use black and white film (I personally used Tmax 100). Ok, so fine, it isn't exactly the same, but at least it is the same game.

I learned more about exposure, composition, and just plain getting your body into the right position to take a good shot than I ever would have with a fully automatic camera. Many of the other students in the class had more modern, auto focus, auto exposure cameras, and a couple were quite ready to switch the camera into full auto mode and just take snapshots. To this day I wonder what they were doing in that class, but I digress. . . I kept using that AE-1 for about another two years before I finally "upgraded" to a camera with auto focus (an N80 that I still use occasionally)

I currently shoot primarily with a D80 (yes, warts and all--I sort of got used to them with time). I unashamedly use auto focus and auto-exposure (though you are always taking your chances with the D80 metering), however, because I "learned to drive" with that AE-1, I have never forgotten that I am in charge of what the camera does, not the computer inside of it! Yes, I know the AE-1 is not a Pentax or a Leica, but I still learned a lot from those years which it was my only camera. My analogy is that it was like learning to drive using a stick shift--if you start off there, you can make the transition to an automatic quite easily!

Anyway, here's +1 for using a manual camera and a normal prime for a while.

How about an Olympus OM-4T and Zuiko 50mm F2 Macro as a setup? I have a roll of slides coming in this week to see how this setup performs.
I need to quit feeling like I don't know what to wear as I head out of the door. Too many cameras and not enough pictures lately for me...

Mike, I'm not all that familiar with the MX, my only exposure to Pentax gear of that era is the K1000 and the LX.

Would you expand a bit as to why that is the camera of choice? Just curious.

Again, I'm gonna give my Pentax LX with A-50/1.2 a try... will be placing an order for tri-x film today

Want to lose seriously little? Keep an eye on your local online classifieds.

Found myself a tasty little Centon K100 (chinese knockoff of the Pentax K1000) with 50/1.7 and a funky 70-210 push/pull manual focus zoom, working battteries and a leatherette bag for the zoom for the whopping sum of $20.- For everything. That's less than 8 cans of Guinness in my area ;)

Have run a couple of rolls through it and it's the real deal. Now all I need is a decent negative scanner and will be set to go.

What's funny is I was using it at theme park with my daughter and some asian dude was looking at it with this look of total disgust on his face. Not sure what the story of that was but in hindsight I should have asked. Maybe he's one of those Leica snobs I keep reading about ;)

I think it was Art Wolfe who said the best lens is the one you have with you....

"How about an Olympus OM-4T and Zuiko 50mm F2 Macro as a setup?"

A splendid pair, but far from cheap.


It's not really "better" than the K1000 or LX. Just a little different. Small, manual, with a very good viewfinder. There's really nothing magic about any particular choice. The point is how much work you do and what lessons you learn....


Sounds great, Sam. Have fun....


Okay, I'll admit it. I have been shooting the K-1000 with the 50mm f2 loaded with T-Max 400 lately. The ME-Super has Fujifilm 200 in it. The ME-Super viewfinder is soooo nice compared to my Olympus E-500. Makes me think the K-7 could be interesting if the control dial on top of the Oly keeps acting up!

I have my Dad's MX (he is 100% digital now) and I have to say it is a gem. He put together a nice little kit. It includes the 50mm f/2, along with some other lenses, my favorites being the 40mm pancake and 85mm f/2.0. I have no idea how the 50 f/2 stacks up against the 1.4 or 1.7, because it does not get used much, because the 40 is so cool.

That MX is everything that most digital SLRs are not. It is so small and portable, and simple.

Maybe I'm really slumming, but I just started a Leica-less year today. I chose a rangefinder originally based on the Leica, the Russian Zorki 4. In my experience it takes beautiful photos. The lens, a Jupiter 8, is a copy of the Zeiss Sonnar 50/2.

I'm sure there are Leica purists out there choking at the mere thought of a Russian imitation, but it's a great little camera that can be had for less than $50 in most cases.

The viewfinder is bright, the lens is pretty, and I've got a brick of film waiting to be shot.

I wonder how well would this lens on
a D3x ($12,000) do against a PhaseOne
P65+ back with best body/lens ($50,000+)
or even a Leica S2 ($30,000).

Can't agree more about the Pentax MX (I recall that, very cheekily, Pentax marketed it as an 'affordable Leica' because of its build, brilliant viewfinder and overall bijou'ness). My preference for it above the Olympus OM1 (which I also considered closely back in the early 80s), was influenced only by the latter having no aperture window in the viewfinder. Both great cameras, though.

As for the Coastal Optics lens, I'd hope that no-one would consider soiling its perfection by doing anything as sordid as, ugh, taking photographs with it.

+1 nod towards the LX over the MX. I loved the 45-degree finder, and that camera was built like a tank. I'm sure that the LX could survive anything thrown at it for 365 days straight, and still come through smelling of Dektol...

I spent a couple years shooting nothing but a Canonette QL17 - the poor man's Leica. I think my photography really went to anohter level, though, when I switched to digital and was able to begin experimenting with different techniques without having to worry about film and developing costs, plus the instant feedback of seeing my shots right after I took them. Still, I sometimes miss lining up images on that yellow focusing patch, and don't find that my digital camera offers nearly the same type of tactile pleasure as the old rangefinder.

I have that very camera and lens. That lens is what convinced me to stay with Pentax when I went digital. Is it okay to admit that I've developed a fetish for the thing? I recently picked up a 1.7 to keep it company.

My first SLR was a Pentax S1a. This was given to me by my father. The first camera than I bought, with my own hard earned cash, was a Pentax MX. I still miss that camera which I sold in part exchange for a Contax 167MT. At the time, I mistakenly believed that I needed more automation. My experience with this camera is, I think, the reason that I have a hard time with autofocus and zoom lenses. For me, its modern incarnation is my Leica M8.


Local Craigslist is a great place to pick up vintage Pentax gear. Also, PentaxForums.com has a very nice marketplace for all things Pentax.

"The viewfinder is bright, the lens is pretty, and I've got a brick of film waiting to be shot."

What could be better!


Ok, you've covered the best. Now how about the smallest?


"Is it okay to admit that I've developed a fetish for the thing?"

It's okay around here.


The MX with the 50 mm 1.7 was my first SLR camera+lens. It was a great machine, and so compact! Why can't we get a digital camera just like it? Full frame, manual focus, great lens...and easy to carry all day.

Thanks for the post.

I am curious how the extended spectral response of this lens would affect the digital imaging sensors used in non-scientific cameras (which is to say I know some DSLRs and digital MF backs are modified to operate in infra- or ultra- ranges of light for scientific applications). I suspect it may not be a good option for a camera not equipped to deal with the extended light range. This is just a guess on my part. Too bad that Ctein is away (I'm assuming he's at WonderCon). This seems like it's right up his alley.


Try a pentax... a Pentax DSLR witha 40 mm pancake.
A joy

Pentax is really cool. Personally, ever since I obtained SMCP A 50/1.2, I find it difficult to dismount it from the camera in favor of another lens. I used to have ME Super but unfortunately at the time I did not have the proper lens to mount on it. Although I do have all three FA limited lenses, A 50/1.2 is much more dear to me, being the lens I think of by default when I think of getting ready for a shoot.

Love my old MX. Bought it as my first 'serious' camera. It kinda is the poor man's leica! One advantage it has over rangefinders is that with practice you can focus anywhere on the screen meaning that you can frame and focus in the same move rather than 2 distinct moves....

Would love this level of build and functionality in a digital slr.

The MX is all about tactile pleasure and feedback. I love it. The one I have is at home, now I'm visiting a friend in Finland and just bought the Novoflex adapter to mount K lenses on my GF1. I brought with me the 50/1.7 foreseeing this option and the results are beautiful. Having a 100/1.7 equivalent in that size on a well built camera and adapter combo, with a working aperture ring is surprisingly reminiscent of the MX experience. The automation works flawlessly in Av, you set the aperture and shoot. The focusing is just manual, but the magnification works perfectly if you need fine focus. I think an MX and a good Micro 4/3 camera with a good adapter is a great beautiful combo to have film and digital covered. The Novoflex lens adapter even has an exra aperture ring for digital pentax lenses that don't have one. I'm eager to try de 15/4 Limited I have at home on the GF1.

In the mid-1970s sold my Nikon F with the standard prism so I could buy my Leica CL. A couple of years later, I wanted to buy another SLR, so I started looking around. The only acceptable choices in terms of ergonomics were the Pentax MX and the Olympus OM-1 or OM-2. While I was trying to make my mind up (and save the money I needed to buy one!), a used Leicaflex with the 50mm Summicron came into my local camera shop. They kept it under the counter for me until I came in, then handed it to me, along with a roll of Plus-X. I shot the roll up outside the shop, developed and printed a couple of shots that night, and the next day I made a $5 down payment on the Leicaflex. Took me 4 months to pay it off, but Oh, what a joy that camera was. I couldn't stop looking through its magnificent finder nor stop shooting picture with it. Yeah, it's a lot bigger than the Pentax or Olympus, but everything just falls to hand so incredibly naturally on those cameras, which is exactly what drew me to the little Pentax. Sometimes it's not the size, but the placement of the controls and the view through the finder that makes a camera stay in your hands all the time!

Dear Scott,

But your criticism is true of every single lens. In fact, there is no lens made that is suitable for most applications. There is not even a hypothetical, ideal lens that would be.

Therefore, that's a useless criterion, as all lenses fail to meet it.

pax / Ctein

Mike, I want to ask what is behind the leica or pentax for a year exercise? If we get the essence of your suggestion, everyone can replace your suggestions with whatever they have and still stay true to your intent.

1. Shooting with one and only one focal length (normal prime)
2. Shooting manual, no Av, Tv, or P.
3. Shooting B&W.
4. Shooting film
5. Shooting through a real viewfinder instead of a LCD.

Have I captured your original intent right? BTW I Honestly don't get the lure of film, but I'm brought up in the digital age anyway.

I bought a Nikon FM over the less expensive Pentax MX in 1978. The two cameras were identical in the layout of controls and manner of operation but the MX was smaller and easier to hold and had the cutest 3-color LED exposure indicator.

I had buyer's remorse for the next few years-additional Pentax lenses were less expensive too than their Nikon AI equivalents. It's hard to remember the time when Nikon equipment cost significantly more than other brands, simply because it was Nikon. Or did build quality have something to do with it? Mike?

Just wanted to say I came across this blog lately and just before I did I bought myself an M3 with a summicron DR, about to receive them. The reason why I bought that kit? Because I wanted to learn about photography 'the hard way', Exposure, aperture, shutter speed, film, focal length, some darkroom experience, etc etc. I have a DSLR, it's ok, but I got bored with it somehow and wanted to learn more. Now I come across this blog and this 'Leica year' suggestion... and I'm definitely going to do it. And that, despite the fact that I qualify as 'old' (the experiment was suggested for young people).

Now of course some people are going to say 'you didn't have to buy a Leica for that! You're either an elitist or very vain or both!'. Maybe. But can't I be a vain elitist serious about my photography and my learning process? Half kidding, but you got my gist. I found the Leica perfect for learning because of its all manual aspect and yes, I admit, for its legendary status. I do want to know what it is to shoot with a Leica for real. I also know that I'll be able to sale the gear, if I want to (I won't), for more or less the same price - probably more considering the good deals I made. So I fail to see any reason I shouldn't have, I really do. Unless I didn't have the more or less thousand bucks to start. But I do. And if I didn't, I would have found a way.

Thanks Mike for the push. It's a fantastic blog - I've been reading the articles, old and new, for a week almost non-stop now. Good to see well-written articles that deal with interesting issues. Rare.

I have owned an MX since the mid 1980's and use it regularly. For the most part I shoot color with a DSLR and the black and white with the MX. As to the lens, don't forget the 35mm SMC M f2. It is a gem and is part of my very traditional three lens kit: the 35mm, a 50mm f2, and a 135mm f3.5. All are solidly-built Pentax M lenses but the 35mm is rarely off the camera.

The only thing that I do not like about the MX is that, at least on my camera, the shutter is quite noisy.

Regarding the MX, I couldn't agree more. Very small, simple as can be, viewfinder is fantastic (I own an alpha 900, and even that is not as good), and it is totally inexpensive. The black version is, IMHO, as good looking as the lacquered M4.

Re. LX vs. MX I have to say that the LX is very good but not quite as reliable, and requires more maintenance, at least in my experience.

That MX with the M50mm f/1.4 looks almost as good as a K-7 with a FA77 mounted. Must be something to do with body and lens size and the actual aperture of the lens. It shouts to me at least, "pick me up now and lets take pictures...." 35 years on and not much has changed!

I had the exact combo (MX + 50/1.4) for a couple of years and couldn't agree more. I had been thinking of buying another MX of late but, that's probably out the window for nw thanks to the TOP effect on ebay prices...

My preference is not to recommend a particular camera like the MX but rather the era in which the MX was produced. There's an excellent thread currently at photo.net's Classic Manual Cameras Forum on "Best SLR Camera models circa 1975" in which a number of excellent choices are cited. (The MX was introduced in 1976.) The camera I carry is the slightly earlier Pentax KX, which--for me--has a more comfortable viewfinder, softer mirror slap, MLU, and an exquisite shutter release.

However, what is really in my mind today is an interview with Robert Adams I just stumbled across in the MAY/JUNE 1995 "Darkroom & Creative Techniques." Adams describes how he shot all the photos for his book "Listening to the River" with a Nikon F3 and a 28mm lens. So there it is, Mike: a manual focus camera (albeit with aperture priority AE capability) and a single lens...in the hands of a master. For "Listening to the River" Adams produced than 500 photos, of which 170 were included in the book.

"However, what is really in my mind today is an interview with Robert Adams I just stumbled across in the MAY/JUNE 1995 "Darkroom & Creative Techniques." Adams describes how he shot all the photos for his book 'Listening to the River' with a Nikon F3 and a 28mm lens. So there it is, Mike: a manual focus camera (albeit with aperture priority AE capability) and a single lens...in the hands of a master."

Just out of curiosity, who was the editor of that magazine at the time?


I think both were excellent cameras of the era.


Thanks Patrice! Glad we came into your life at the right time. It's always nice when that happens.


Shouldn't the Leica-for-a-year camera also be meterless?
I would think part of the exercise should be learning Sunny 16 (and the variations for low light etc.) so that the photographer knows exposure by instinct.

"The only thing that I do not like about the MX is that, at least on my camera, the shutter is quite noisy."

The Achilles' heel of many a Pentax, including the great LX. But it was somewhat a weakness of the times. Have you ever heard a Nikon EL go off? My god, it's like a miniature pistol shot!

It's the context in which the Leica was known to be extremely quiet, a reputation it continues to hold today even though it's not particularly quiet any more, relatively...certainly not compared to some of the silent digicams.


Glad I'm finally ahead of the curve! Love mine, it feels just right with the winder attached.

Wish I hadn't dropped it and broken the winder battery cover off, but a little duct tape works.

I found the LX to be a clunker and I had two of them. Both had the fake leather peel off the door, it was hard to hold, platsic shutter speed dial (yuck!) and those vertical hanging straps, which for a newspapter guy, were horrendous.

I bought my MX in 1984 and used it until I got a Pentax K10D in 2007. My last 5 years with the MX, though, I shot colour negative film, had this commercially processed, then scanned it and made prints with an inkjet printer.

I started with a Pentax KX (full-size body) and when the MX came out, I just had to have one, so I bought a black body and a 40mm f2.8 panckae lens. I followed that up with a 100mm f2.8 and a 28mm f2.8. The film advance started acting up after 11 years of use and I missed a crucial Xmas shot with it and was chastised enough that I had to replace it with a Nikon FM2n.
The MX with the 40mm pancake was a great combination. For many reasons,I like digital imaging better, but...I really miss the MX;-(

At least the Coastal Optics lens is priced like a Leica. And if I owned one, I'd finally be able to shoot stuff lit with those black lights I kept from the 60's.

I'm reticent to give up my secret spot for for buying vintage (and sometimes current) camera gear on the cheap, but if you want a manual camera and you live in the US you'd be hard pressed to top shopgoodwill.com. You can nab a Pentax MX or K1000 with a 50mm lens any day of the week for under $30 let alone under $200.

¿200 bucks? Blimey! I just bought three old Nikkors (a 24, 35 and 105 of the cm version) for 120 $ off Ebay and then a Nikkormat body for around 40. Lenses were ok, tough not collector-pristine, and body was fine except for the meter, erratic.

I "upgraded" to an MX from my first camera, a Yashica TL Electro X. Chose it over the Nikon precisely because it had leds, I found it difficult to see the needle in the dark. I still use it, tough I developed a Pentax fetish -that underdog feeling- and bought the MeSuper, Lx, SFx, the lot.

Only surprise came as I went digital: My first SLR was a K100D Super, wich I loved a lot. Then I upgraded to a K20D, but I do not like it as much. Still can't understand why. I might downgrade to a K-x.

Now that I come to think about it I probably could have bought a Leica and a lens with all the money invested in "inferior" stuff...

My first camera purchased mail-order from New York in 1976. I still have it and wish someone would make a full-frame digital version soon!

I did a Pentax MX 'year' (with the f/1.7 & Tri-X) for *several* years in the late 70's/early 1980's because it was my first SLR and I had no money except for film & dev. I had no problem with that, I thought it was perfect. My friends were using the new Canons with aperture priority and thought I was mad. Funnily enough I'm still taking photos on manual cameras including a loved M6 & various Rolleis because now I have (or had) more money. Unfortunately the MX got stolen in 1983. Now I'm lusting after another. They seem a lot less than $200 here in the UK. Ironically, now I can't afford one though! Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

"Just out of curiosity, who was the editor of that magazine at the time?"

I'm going to assume this is a serious question. The editor for the MAY/JUNE 1995 "Darkroom & Creative Camera Techniques" was Michael C. Johnston.

Wouldn't it be a nice idea if they fitted modern camera's with a Mike Johnston mode?

From the manual of the Canon 600D:
The Mike Johnston mode turns of the auto focus, puts the light meter on center weighted and manual selection of shutterspeed and f/number, an ISO of 250 and emulation of tri-x. The Mike Johnston mode unblocks after 365 days. Warning: in Mike Johnston mode the camera freezes with zoom lenses!

"I'm going to assume this is a serious question. The editor for the MAY/JUNE 1995 "Darkroom & Creative Camera Techniques" was Michael C. Johnston."

It was a trick question. [g]

But my point was, these things do tend to get circular after a while....

Mike (Michael C.)

This is a bit off the topic of this thread but a comment about the quality of the review of the best lens. I can’t really agree with your assessment when the review leads off with a glaring factual error. The lens is not patented. The document sited is a US Patent “Application,” not a granted patent. I checked and the application has not even been examined yet. This is a common mistake made by those not familiar with patent law. None the less it is a fine looking lens.

I had a Pentax MX, a totally unreliable camera, probably one of the first off the production line. It went back to the distributor several times. The only reliable part of it was that it was unreliable. Eventually sold it and bought a Nikon FM.
The Nikon was a joy to use compared to the Pentax.
Now, I DO wish I still had my Pentax ES, that was the first good camera I owned.

Reckon the Ricoh KR10 that I started with back in 1981, just won't qualify here, let alone compete in the fond memory stakes of the audience. It was probably a poor mans Pentax in those days, with it's K bayonet mount, and some 'heaven forbid' plastic bits. I was always skint back then, and the cheapest glass to get you going, was Ricoh's 50mm f/2.8 lens.

After buying the camera, the main items of shopping interest over the next few years, were a few lenses, and film that would give decent results. There was never any hankering to change the camera, it worked just fine. And it still does, though hasn't seen much use of late. My digital era commenced in 2005 with a Panasonic prosumer, and then in 2008, the Nikon DSLR's and lenses started...

If I do use the Ricoh again, it will only be with B&W film. The only colour film that gave results I liked was Kodachrome. Colour negative film always seemed to disappoint... see appropriately timed topic "B&W vs. Color, not Film vs. Digital". I have no plans to go down the darkroom route.

A local shop has a Pentax 50mm f/1.7 for £59, or there's the same lens with an ME Super attached for the same price! Trying to resist. I do not need it in the least, but didn't do enough B&W work in my early days. Hmm... might be fun? Is this the TOP effect taking hold?


Nikon released a series of lower end lenses called the E series with a bit lesser build quality to compete with more price conscious consumers.

I remember coming across the latest released Pentax Spotmatic II with 50mm 1.4 at a friends place in London in 1972. Looking into that magically coloured wide glass lens was like looking into the eye of God...and I wanted one. I spent 3 months working at horrible jobs to raise the fare home to Oz and stop off at Singapore (the cheap alternative then) to score one. I still have it; tho I replaced it with a Spotmatic F when the light meter wasnt able to be repaired. (Damn thing only lasted 35 years!!!) Soon after I went digital. I still use all my old lenses on the current gear.
You guys are making me feel I ought to get 'em out and use up some of that film I've got stashed away. Sheesh - as if I didnt have enough problems! Dennis F.

Alas, I do not have a Pentax MX. I only have these:


Got that OM-1, though.


One thought on the one true camera -
Instead of the D7000orwhateverthehellitscalled i'd been saving for, I realized after pulling wet negs from the JOBO that what would make me happier was a decent scanner. Granted, I'm still too much in love with toys to be a monogamist - but hell, I take pictures for ME not anyone else - but being able to get quicker feedback on what my Leica/Nikon/Linhof make would be a huge draw in sooting more. Darkroom work is great, but being able to make 'work prints' digitally so i can focus on just one print for an evening in the darkroom should make for a good print every so often rather than a bunch of ...something just to use the chemistry.

Really, the Coastal?

Funny that Lloyd and Bjorn both missed the hotspot issue that made news when people actually "bought" the lens. I'm not saying reviewers are infallible, but these two "giants" of reviewing failed to note that the lens was garbage at IR at close focus distances (what it was actually designed for) due to a glaring (literally) optical flaw.

As to the review, well, a lot of people bought that optic to use for IR and non-vis macro, and those people got burned, bad (I know a few of them).

To my eyes, the amount of money wasted because of that "glowing" review makes it the "worst" lens review of all time.

Didn't agree with your first post on this subject, Mike, and still don't agree. One of the great virtues of digital is, that it makes it cheap and easy to take a lot of pictures. And taking a lot of pictures, to my mind, is exactly what you need to do to improve your photography.
Not just mindless snapping of course. But there is nothing wrong in letting technology take care of all the rest, while you concentrate on - lets say - composition. When you think you have got a feeling for that, then go on experimenting with lighting - and so on.....
BTW I own a Pentax 50/1.4. Not the M-version, though, but the A-version. I realize that is probably much to high-tech for some ;-) It works well on my Pentax DSLR's. But it has an issue with flares and general lack of contrast. I guess its the lack of back-coating, that makes it less than perfect for digital - unfortunately.

Ok, that does it. I'm going out and buy a battery for my dad's MX today. (Not that one is necessary. It was considered a plus back then that the camera would always work without one.) One of my 18-year old twin daughters came to me just the other day and asked if she could use one of my old film cameras. So I showed her the MX. Mind you they both have new K-x's which they love. I had a black "spy model" MX which I sold when I first succumbed to auto focus with an N-8008. Luckily my father bought one for himself when he first saw mine. I'll let her decide if she wants to shoot color or Tri-X.
Guess I'll have to take the 40/2.8 M pancake off of my K-7.

There is a lot to be said for both views: the shoot for a year on a non-automatic film camera, and the view presented by Lars above, on shooting a lot with a digital camera.

I shot with a canon FTb and one 50mm lens for many years before acquiring one more lens (21mm). Fast-forward many years after that... while then shooting with a canon A1 (automatic exposure) and several lenses I felt I learned more... fast-forward to the last 1.5 years: finally switching to a digital SLR (K20) has been very freeing: I shoot many fast pictures and almost many very slowly composed pictures. The instant feedback and the lack of cost have been wonderful.

So, I am a firm believer in both approaches.

Re "Leica Year" and the Pentax MX:

Of course, I would've preferred you recommended the OM-2, with a 50mm f/1.8--the camera I call the "rangefinder SLR" (small, light, quiet, killer bright viewfinder)...and, I understand, the inspiration for the Pentax MX....

(No, I'm not trying to start any flame wars... :-))

Paul, as I understand it, the OM-2 is an aperture-preferred automatic with a very effective manual control mode, in which the viewfinder meter display changes to mimic that in the (manual) OM-1. So manual control might not be compromised in the way it is with most auto exposure cameras.

However, I think the spirit of Mike's suggestion is that the MX is likely the most Leica M-like SLR. It's purely a manual camera, with no distractions. The controls are near-identical, the size is similar, the shutter is similar (horizontal-travel cloth shutter), and the viewfinder magnification and displays are first-rate. The spirit of the MX matches that of the Leica M.

In a translated interview that appeared in an Australian magazine around five years ago, the chief of Pentax design at the time said that when the OM-1 was released in 1973, they realised that Olympus had succeeded in improving upon the classic Pentax design. They then set out feverishly to produce a Pentax camera that improved upon the OM-1. (Their designs for the 1975 KX and KM cameras must have been finalised). He said that the team ate and slept in their office until their design for the MX was ready. So, the inspiration for the MX was the OM-1.

I did shoot for many years with film cameras, before I had access to digital. Remembering my early learning curve, I have to say that digital would have taught me a lot more a lot more quickly about what's actually important. I would have gotten past worrying about the mechanics of correct exposure much more quickly, and bypassed the physical difficulties of loading a roll of film into a developing tank.

There's a lot to be said for working with a camera long enough to get to know how to use it quickly (where the controls are, etc.) and what all its quirks are. However, that argues, to me, for doing the practice time with the camera you're going to use for real shooting, and against going to some special camera (other than the camera you're going to use later).

A few years ago I decided against buying an M7 when I realised I could achieve pretty much what I wanted with my existing MX and 43/1.9 or 50/1.4.

What makes this setup so brilliant is its diminutive size and simplicity. Just throw in some film (I used to like Fuji NPC160), don't forget to set the film speed and go.

The control interface is *so* intuitive and quick that you don't miss auto modes at all. With the snappy click of the Pentax-M aperture ring and the shutter dial easily to hand, you just pick one and turn the other until you have a nice little green dot - and bingo!

Hmm, think I might go buy me some film...

"So, the inspiration for the MX was the OM-1."

Having shot both, I prefer the older 'original' OM-1 to the MX, but only by a thin margin. The 1 is better damped and makes less noise, the olympus layout for aperture / speed ring is easier to use with a single hand, and the needle-match meter has an analogical virtue no LED can achieve. Overall, side to side, the OM-1 is smoother in operation.

This said, the MX is a solid performer and a very good choice too. Just feeling a tiny bit clunky when you are already spoiled by the 1 butter-smooth handling.

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