Pentax MX 35mm SLR Film Camera

Pentax MX 35mm SLR Film Camera

Introduction and Overview

The Pentax MX 35mm SLR film camera, which even smaller than the Olympus OM-1, was launched by Pentax in 1976 as one of the smallest and lightest professional-level SLR cameras. The camera has DoF preview, self-timer, a complete line of accessories including a motor drive, data backs, interchangeable focusing screens, and a 250-frame high-capacity magazine back.

Pentax MX, Top right view
The camera remained today as one of Pentax's simplest, most robust, most beautiful, and most popular cameras. No match for today's advanced auto everything photographic gizmos, the MX is a manual focus, manual exposure, and fully manual flash camera. It is fully mechanical, uses batteries only for its light meter, and has one of the biggest and brightest viewfinders of its day.

The viewfinder offers an optical readout of the selected lens aperture and shutter speed as well as five LEDs that indicate exposure values at 1 EV or more under, 1/2 EV under, recommended, 1/2 EV over, 1 EV or more over. The camera is extremely well built, simple, compact, sturdy, reliable, and still do work flawlessly even after 30 years of production.

Pentax MX, The Smallest

The MX uses K-mount bayonet lenses, or 'PK mount', which is used by all Pentax 35mm cameras since 1975, and digital SLRs as well as the MILC Pentax K-01. Many K-mount lenses and K-mount cameras are also available from other manufacturers.

Pentax MX Video Manual 1 of 2

Pentax MX 35mm SLR Film Camera

The Pentax MX is a manual exposure 35mm SLR film camera fitted with horizontal-run, rubberized silk focal-plane shutter capable of speeds from 1 to 1 /1000 sec. plus B. Flash synchronization is 1/60 second. Film ISO speed rating is from 32 to 1600.

Pentax MX, SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.4

Metering is TTL (Through-the-Lens) open-aperture center-weighted, the viewfinder is standard split-image microprism focusing screen (interchangeable with 8 other screen types) with 95% of picture area coverage, viewfinder readout shows f/stop, shutter speed, and tri-colored exposure value LEDs.

The camera is also fitted with a lockable shutter release button, 4-12 second delay self-timer, DoF (Depth of Field) preview, and accepts Winder MX for up to 2 frames-per-second shots. Camera body weight is 495 grams.


Basic Camera Features

The Pentax MX is available in both chrome and black.

Pentax MX, Front
Aside from the proportionally oversized lens mount housing which occupies the major part of the front of the camera, the front is occupied by the X-sync and FP-sync terminals which are located on the lower part of the right panel, a small aperture readout window located centrally on the pentaprism, the combination self-timer/DoF lever on the upper left, and the lens release button located below it on the lower part of the lens mount housing.
Pentax MX, Top
The top plate has the film rewind crank/film back pull up lever on the left, a cold shoe mounted on the pentaprism, and on the right, the shutter speed dial integrated with a button press film ISO selector dial, shutter release button with release lock, film advance crank, and frame counter window.
Pentax MX, Back
The back of the camera is plain except for the viewfinder eyepiece, and the interchangeable hinge-type film back that comes fitted with a film tab holder.
Pentax MX, Bottom
On the bottom plate are the winder guide pin slot, the battery chamber cover, tripod socket, film rewind release, and winder terminal contacts.

Pentax MX, Film box

The film box is a standard 35mm SLR film camera configuration with the film chamber, shutter curtain frame, film forward sprocket, and the magic-needle quick/sure take-up spool.

Film loading is the standard 2-blank shot, after the film back is closed, to move the first part of the unexposed film to frame 1.


Viewfinder Readout

Pentax MX, Viewfinder readout
The viewfinder readout is a simple display of the 95% screen coverage with a small aperture readout window on top of the frame, a shutter speed dial midway on the left of the screen, and a vertical line of 5 exposure indicator LEDs in red, orange and green. Metering is TTL center-weighted averaged.


Dual Control Exposure System

Pentax MX, Mechanical controls
With both aperture and shutter speed setting displayed within the viewfinder, you can use the Pentax MX to shoot both in aperture-priority or shutter-speed priority modes. You do this by adjusting either the shutter speed dial or the aperture ring.

When shooting in aperture-priority, set the aperture to the desired opening, then adjust the shutter speed dial until the recommended exposure is indicated by the middle green LED.

In shutter-speed priority, set the shutter to the speed you want to shoot at, then adjust the aperture ring accordingly until the green LED lights up.


Self-Timer

Pentax MX, Self-timer, Lens release button
The self-timer is activated by turning the self-timer lever counterclockwise to approximate the time you want the delay to last, which is between 4 to 12 seconds. The timer is actuated by pressing the small button which is exposed when you turn the lever to set the delay.

DoF (Depth of Field) Preview

DoF preview is activated when you push the self-timer lever inward towards the lens mount housing. The lever does not lock and it will spring back when you release the pressure on the lever.


Double Exposure

Double exposure on the MX is done the old-school way. First take up any film slack by using the film rewind crank, then press the rewind release button while using the film advance crank to cock the shutter. If done properly, there will be little or no movement of the already exposed film frame and you will get a good double exposure shot.


Battery

The camera requires a pair of SR44 or LR44 button cells to power the metering system. These batteries should last quite some time, but it is best if you replace it once a year for the SR44s or once every six months for the LR44s.


Using The Camera

At a body weight of 495 grams and 235 grams more with the SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.4 attached, or with the slightly less heavy SMC Pentax 100mm f/2.8 which weighs in at 225 grams, I don't think you can ask much more about having the perfect camera and lens that you might want to go out shooting with.

Pentax MX, SMC Pentax 100mm f/2.8

You might, however, still opt for the pancake SMC Pentax 40mm f/2.8, which makes the camera a lot less bulky, with the lens only weighing 110 grams.

These SMC Pentax lenses are stellar on the own account, with the 50mm 1.4 having an average user rating of 9.27, the 100mm f/2.8 at 9.24, and the 40mm f/2.8 at 7.84 on the Pentax Lens Reviews. You may find that owning these lenses are also a great asset as the SMC Pentax lenses are interchangeable with all Pentax SLR and DSLR bodies, the epitome of a brand with lenses that will fit all bodies.

A slight adverse is, of course, the camera's slow sync speed, and the total absence of any flash automation, but for students of photography or even advanced enthusiasts, these are the things that you may find standing in the way of your full creative potential. There you go.

Personally, this is one camera and a trio of lenses which I will keep in my collection indefinitely, and I would recommend you too, to do the same.



Resource Links:
Pentax MX Video Manual 2 of 2
Shooting Film with the Pentax MX | RehaAlev

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