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Sunday, 17 December 2023


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Good retro design is really hard - it has to make you think you are in a time capsule when you’re actually just using modern gear…. The original Miata / Mx-5 was itself a take on the original Lotus Elan - which was not so easy to drive (at least safely and certainly not comfortably), I can assure you!

I shot Pentax cameras for years concurrently with Nikons because ergonomically they were a good match since both the aperture and focusing rings turned the same direction with both systems, which was a good thing in the manual everything days. You didn't want to rack your lens to infinity in a hurry only to realize that the lens turned a different direction and your instinct was wrong that day.

I had the MX and LX in K-mount, both excellent with the tiny core primes that made up the standard general photography kit.

That said, I'm really surprised that executives and bean counters signed off of a company directing what must be limited resources to designing and going into production for a product that can't give a return that justifies the effort. Anyone that wants a film camera can get models that we'd drool over a few years ago for not a lot of money. Film is prohibitively difficult in both economics and logistics unless you live in certain urban centers, and a newbie is unlikely to set up a darkroom as an experiment.

I wish the company well, but I'm not sure what we'll see.

I got a 30-minute lesson in how to shoot an SLR in the mid-'70s on, what else, a Spotmatic. I used that camera for several years as part of my job to photodocument our field project.

Simple to use and made it easy for me to learn to love SLRs.

Aw Mike. That realism over optimism tone really bummed me out.

I think they'll get it just right. It can't be worse than nothing, can it?

I recently passed my D7100 onto a young photographer who couldn't afford a real camera and have pondered getting a K5 or a K3 to fill the APS-C hole left by that.

But the reality is I can't think of anything that a Pentax could do that my Leica, Nikons & Rolleicord can't do better.

I'm glad the came out with the affordable K3IIIMonochrome & I look forward to whatever their film camera is but for me, I'll grab my Nikon F4 & a 50/1.4 instead - that for me is the finest film SLR ever made.

Pentax is perfectly placed to do something weird like make a new film camera. All the K-mount lenses could fit. How could Canon or Nikon make a film body these days? Would they design a camera to fit the new mirrorless lenses, or the most recent D-SLR lenses, which in Canon's case would not be the old FD mount. In Nikon's case, a camera could be built to use F-mount lenses. But why would they build a body that uses out-of-manufacture lenses, it would gain them no lens sales. Pentax has no such constraints.

Will a new film body have a mirror? How could it not? So the new Canikon mirrorless lenses wouldn't be suitable anyway without adapters. They could presumably build rangefinder bodies that might be designed to use mirrorless lenses (just guessing here), but I can't see them doing that.

Whatever Pentax builds, assuming it actually gets built, will be Leica's only competition in film cameras, and indicators are that Leica film bodies still sell well.

It's a crazy mixed up world. Fuji still makes a ton of money selling instant cameras, and I don't see how a new film body is so unusual compared to that. We have a camera store here in town whose main purpose is to sell film and every time I've been there, it's full of people 1/3 my age. Something is afoot.

People often mention how expensive film and film processing is. Compared to what? Cars cost $50,000 now. The last time I bought a film camera, I was spending about $10,000 on cars.

I can't explain any of this. But maybe going against the grain is something only small companies like Pentax can do. I'm waiting for Canikony to announce B&W digital bodies. Many a new Chinese camera manufacturer will emerge. There's no reason to think that the future will be like the past. It never has been before.

I have used Pentax SLR for years, still have them an MX and an ME super.

My vote would be for an MX with a brighter viewfinder, mirror lock up and a modular easily replaceable light meter. In other words completely mechanical that works without batteries.
Make it with better materials and manufacturing techniques. And… just to be fancy make a titanium version. It would be timeless…

I used a K-1000 right through photography school. While others sat in the student lounge and bragged about their new fancy auto focus Nikons, I was working away in the darkroom or was out shooting. I had two of them loaded each with B&W and color. We shot slide film, so you got good at exposing correctly. It was a fantastic camera for learning photography. I never had a problem with either of those cameras. My step-father has just given me his old Spotmatic. Looking forward to running some film through it.

Sorry to say but I don't think Pentax will release another film camera. Their overlords have no passion for spending money on trying to rekindle an old love affair.


I just hope they use brass gears in the wind mechanism like in the Spotomatic and the K2, not those hideous steel gears in the K1000.

Sort of off topic. My favorite film camera, among many 35mm SLRs, was a Pentax 645. The negatives were a dream to print. If I could have one film camera again the Pentax 645 would be it.

Didn't Pentax say that their first film camera reissue was going to be a rather simple affair to work out the kinks, before bringing out their more refined ultimate warrior?

However you look at it and I do very frequently by going to exhibitions, making my own prints, etc., nothing beats black and white film to make a black and white image, whether it be on-screen, in a book or a print. Many of the digital black and white efforts just look wrong: or is it just me?

But would I buy a new Pentax film camera? Unsure, but perhaps let's reserve judgement until it appears.

Pentax 67 with a 105mm f/2.4 lens. Doesn't give you more resolution than let's say an average Micro Four Thirds, but because of the format and the quality of that lens it has some magic smaller sizes can't reach.

FWIW, I am profoundly disturbed by the position of the strap lugs on that LX.

I agree on that MX5 screen. When I first saw it I couldn't believe what they'd done. They're just moving further and further away from the original.

Ouch, grouchy today aren't we?

You're probably right to some degree. I haven't read anything about the project, but certainly hope they make a film camera with a pentaprism. There is something so very satisfying about the soft ker-chunk of a well-damped mirror after you press the shutter.

I rather hope for the opposite: that Pentax will start from scratch and build a capable, affordable, efficient film camera that makes sense for today, using the most sensible materials and design approaches available now. That ethos, if you ask me, is what made the early Pentaxes (and most later Pentaxes, too) great, not any particular set of features or specific details.

What I suspect is more likely is either a stripped-down K1 or a new bare-bones medium format body with a 35mm adapter. Either would be just fine--exciting, even.

What would really blow my mind is a film camera with IBIS. C'mon, Pentax, blow my mind!

I take what Pentax says with a large grain of salt. When I still published my own photography blog, I spoke with the then-head of sales for Pentax USA at PhotoPlus Expo in NYC. He said Pentax was going to introduce a fixed-lens medium-format digital camera in the next year. I kept asking him about it, but never heard back from him again. That camera got me exited, but it never emerged in the market. Apart from my missed scoop, I would truly have been exited by a camera like that.

Gotta disagree, Mike.
I *loved* the Pentax MZ-S. To me it was the most ergonomically perfect 35 mm SLR ever made. With the sinuous, H.R. Giger-like battery grip, it fit my hand like a glove. The tilted top panel made it easy to see the settings at a glance. The viewfinder was quite good. And I still think it had the best metering system ever invented. Set the aperture, spot-meter the appropriate point, and exposure was foolproof.
Okay, its autofocus was just okay even for its day, and seriously dodgy by more demanding standards. But I still miss the system.

[I'm not saying a lot of people didn't love it--there were other people like you. But it didn't last too long (five years, although the onslaught of digital at the time definitely confounds any understanding of the causes) and it didn't sell well, at least according to scuttlebutt at the time.

It was to Pentax sort of like the R8 was to Leica...a lot of care and effort was put into it, and some people became converts and loved it, but basically it was a what you might call a mild flop. Personally I thought it was a rather oddball and un-Pentax-like design (maybe not so if you were a fan of the BBP cameras), but mine is just one opinion. You can lay all of this at the feet of digital if you want to; that could well have been the case.

Maybe Ned could weigh in here, although I don't think he was with Pentax at the time. --Mike]

You are a curmudgeon Mike.

[You mean I've finally made it? I used to call myself a CIT, a curmudgeon-in-training. :-) --Mike]

Mike, are you OK?
You ask a question in the header, and then spend the rest of the post slamming a brand you most likely had positive results with enough to make a living.

It’s 2023, almost 2024 dude! The design shortcomings of 45 year old cameras are logically irrelevant to what younger designers are working on today. Every camera from every brand misses the mark to some extent, this isn’t science. So what standard are you holding Pentax up to?

Methinks you are still working through some lousy business issues you had with either Hoya or Ricoh years ago.

You should have tried to answer the question you baited us readers with.

[I am OK, where the present subject is concerned anyway, and no, there is nothing at all to your last speculation! Didn't even enter my mind. It's not actually a negative post. I'm just explaining why most veteran enthusiasts will be disappointed with whatever they come up with. Hopefully they're targeting young people who are gung-ho about film photography as something that is new to them, although I think a mechanical, retro camera will appeal to that market more than anything else would. --Mike]

The more I think about it, the more I loving the idea of a medium format film camera with IBIS, but it would end up very pricey, and the market would be tiny.

On the other hand, I'm sure Pentax could produce a serious-camera version of a Holga/Diana-like 35/120 camera in their sleep, perhaps with a lens mount, and those young people in Robert Roaldi's local camera shop would eat it up.

I don't know. Lol.

I surely would not want to shoot film. My daughter (currently 33 years-old) went through a brief fling with film with my old Nikon FG, which you can buy online for pennies anymore.

I think for most young people film is a fling, can't imagine them spending bucks on a new camera to be honest. I think many of the young folk have already moved on from film and are buying old and used digicams. As usual, I think it's just more fun to use a small camera more than anything else, and being inexpensive helps a lot.

But I'm getting more and more satisfied with my iPhone, the ultimate digicam. It's not exactly inexpensive, but then again it's more than a camera. It's a life support system, lol. Yet I can recall not having any kind of cellular device. Oh well.

I don't think Pentax will actually make a film camera, but then again they made the monochrome camera, so flip a coin.

It appears a PR person at Ricoh France has confirmed that they plan to release two(!) compact cameras in spring 2024.


So I won’t get that LX or MX I crave, at least not in 2024.

But a nice compact camera with warranty and a service network is not nothing.

I’ve spun the Olympus XA roulette far too often lately, the house always wins.

". . . cameramakers equate complexity, featuritis, and complication with desirability and consumer appeal."

Mike J. conflates simplicity, minimal features and lack of ability to take many kinds of photos with consumer appeal.

This consumer revels in those added capabilities.

For me, the MX-sized body was just a little too small. The older Spotmatics and SL seemed just the right size.

A nice built-in grip would be nice.

(I would have liked a decent grip on the SL I have, but I have the Honeywell flash mount with grip and it works just fine for the rare times I need it. There are probably various grip mounts for plain old cameras with tripod screw sockets.)

Pentax has decided the film camera will have a manual film advance. (Their video #2 was amusing in that the younger engineers thought they could get rid of a bunch of parts to the winder, and the retired engineers who had been called back to help the "newbies", basically told them they didn't know anything and explained why all those parts were necessary. The "newbies" then understood.)

I wish the first new film camera were going to have interchangeable lenses. In any case, if and when the ILC comes about, it'll be pretty expensive if they do it right.

The "half plastic" film advances aren't worth having. They're unpleasant to use compared to the metal gear advances of prior years. Of course, many of those who have only used digital cameras wouldn't know what a good film advance mechanism should feel like. The discussions regarding that choice would be interesting to hear!

The first compact camera could be mostly plastic, but the film SLR will definitely need something besides plastic to stand out. Using something besides plastic for some of the body covering will be more expensive. I'm sure not expecting it to be below $1,000!

If an SLR is built, I wouldn't put it past Pentax to offer a Limited 31, 49 or 77mm "special vintage" lens kit.

With the prices of mirrorless cameras, I wouldn't be surprised to find a ready market for the first compact model if Pentax can keep the price fairly reasonable.

The SLR is (probably) what most Pentax owners are waiting for. That could sell a bunch if they can keep that price around what the K1 II costs.

Enough speculation.

I'm interested in Ned's opinion of all of this!

"So the Pentax film project will have onboard chips and a variety of electronic complications, because that is what we do at the moment," Leica still makes relatively simple and non-gadgetized cameras, their M rangefinders. But on any Internet forum, including yours, a bunch of readers will squeal up about how for much less money, they can get many more features in their brand XYZ body. It looks to me like most modern consumers do want "features" and automation. However, it is significant that Leica sells all the bodies they can make and are often back-ordered. Someone likes simplicity and willing to pay for it.

I thought some of the teaser videos said they would release a point and shoot type of camera first before venturing into SLR territory. Maybe it would be a take on an early Ricoh GR film camera? Just a thought, sort of a marriage of the two companies.

To throw a sop to the digital age, they should make it an APS camera.

The negatives are stored in the cartridge, so easier to store and organize.

The magnetic strip on the back allows you to record "EXIF" data, the date and time the image was taken and all the exposure data.

You can swap cartridges mid-roll.

I test drove the latest iteration of the Miata when I was living near Binghamton in 2018. It was the last demo car at the local dealer, who had thrown in the towel on selling Mazdas (A pity).

Stick shift was great. Acceleration all that was needed. Handling was impeccable. Seat a smidge tight. Storage consisted of the glovebox (I mean, trunk). Low profile tires a bit too low profile for the real world. Ride was rough on those Upstate New York roads. Outward visibility was horrible. It was rather loud. It was invisibly, frightfully, low to the ground.

In other words: It was fantastic!! It was exactly what it needed to be. Had to pry myself away from the dealer by repeating: "It is not practical for an itinerant engineer. It is not practical for an itinerant engineer. It is not . . . . "

I could have easily lived without the info screen. But could have lived with it if I had too.

What a car!

This all makes me think (again) that I should have my Asahi Pentax H1a repaired to working order. I rescued it from a dumpster some years ago, but it seems to have been used very little, and is really too pretty (and feels too good in my hand) to just sit on the shelf. 55/1.8 Super-Multi-Coated lens too.

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