History Makers: Pentax ME – A helping hand…..1976

With cameras getting smaller, lighter and generally more affordable, they were becoming more common in households throughout the world. Aperture Priority (or “Av”) options were become widely available and by the mid-70s there were far more cameras offering this as an option than there were manual only cameras.

Pentax decided to take things a step further. In 1976 they realised the Pentax ME, which was the world’s first Aperture Priority only camera. You didn’t even have to set the camera Av mode, because there simply wasn’t a manual mode and Av was the mode!

Obviously for the enthusiast this wasn’t going to be attractive, but for the beginner photographer it was fantastic. Just pick it up, set your aperture, and away you go. You all but guaranteed yourself a well exposed shot without having to touch any buttons on the camera.

This stripped back design meant the camera could be more affordable too, at around half the price of a lot of other cameras from Pentax and other brands at the time.

It was another example of cameras shrinking down to more manageable proportions as well – this was even smaller than the Olympus OM1.

Within a year or so cameras from the other major brands were available on the market with Av only mode, but Pentax showed yet again that it was ahead of the curve by being first to market.

The ME was hugely popular and went on to be the basis of the design for the subsequent (and even more fantastic!) ME Super, as well as other even cheaper and more basic Pentax models, like the MV and MG.