If you walk into any modern camera shop these days, chances are you are going to be looking at various cameras from Nikon, Canon and Sony. The places with a good choice might stock some Fuji cameras too, maybe even the odd Olympus. They’re the brands people know today when it comes to digital photography.
The really great shops will stock Pentax too, but they’re few and far between (unfortunately). The brand is not well known today.
So, if you’re looking at film cameras today there is a fair chance you might skim over the Pentax cameras. That’s natural – you are going to lean towards the brands you know, like Nikon and Canon.
Back in the 60s and 70s, Pentax were the kings of the 35mm world. Canon were focusing largely on rangefinder cameras during the 60s for instance. Nikon made a lot of good 35mm cameras too of course, but not as many as Pentax, and they didn’t always sell as well as the popular Pentax models.
Unfortunately for Pentax they never translated that success into the digital photography world in the 90s. Some even say they never really got to grips with autofocus film cameras as they became popular in the late 80s.
Whatever the case there’s no denying they don’t have the market presence in digital photography that Canon and Nikon have today.
But, you can use that to your advantage. Here’s why we love Pentax as a brand, and 4 reasons why we think you should give their cameras a go.
Reason #1 - They’re a Bargain….
As we’ve hinted at above, Pentax made a huge number of different cameras, and generally speaking they sold in huge numbers.
Because of this, and because they were built superbly well, there are lots of Pentax cameras around today in good working order. That helps to keep the price down to affordable levels – the laws of supply and demand at work!
The price is also artificially low – and great value for money – because a lot of people getting into film now might already have got themselves a preferred brand, like Nikon or Canon, through their digital shooting. This tends to push up the prices of Canon and Nikon cameras, which there are already less of anyway.
You might be thinking “well, they’re probably cheap for a reason” but you’d be wrong. Manual focus 35mm SLRs are all about design and durability – the image quality comes from the lens, not the camera, so it’s all about getting a well-built camera that just feels right to you.
If you’re wanting to get into film but are finding yourself put off by the price, give Pentax a go.
If we could recommend just one camera as being the best example of a Pentax bargain, we’d have to go with the Pentax MV or MV1.
Reason Two - Pentax Made History…
If you’ve read our miniblog “The History Makers” you’ll have noticed just how many of the cameras were Pentax.
Whilst we do love the brand, that’s not bias on our part; it’s just that when it comes to manual focus 35mm SLR cameras, Pentax were always at the cutting edge of technology through the 60s and 70s.
So, if you start off your film shooting career with a Pentax Spotmatic, you’ve got the first ever “through the lens” metering SLR camera. If you prefer the simple aperture priority only style of shooting, then the Pentax ME was a world’s first too. The Ashai Pentax, the Pentax ES (one of our all-time faves) and the Pentax ME-F were all world firsts as well.
If you’re the sort who likes your camera to have a story, Pentax is a great brand to go for; they’ve got a rich history beyond compare, and a dedicated band of followers (the self-dubbed “Pentaxians”) who appreciate and love the brand.
Reason Three - Great Choice of Lenses at Great Prices…..
Back in the very early days of SLR cameras, the vast majority of companies used the same lens mount i.e. the bit where the lens ‘mounted’ on to the camera. Unsurprisingly therefore this mount soon became known as the “universal” mount, and after that the M42 mount.
As time went on, a lot of the big companies realised they could make more money by fitting their cameras with their own mounts, so you could only use their lenses on the cameras. Pentax were one of the brands to stick with the M42 mount though – at least until 1973 when they switched to the Pentax K mount.
Given Pentax were a huge brand in the 60s and 70s, lots of third party companies kept making M42 lenses, and after that K mount lenses. Carl Zeiss in particular made virtually all of their lenses in the 60s in M42 mount, as did other great brands from the time, like Vivitar and Pentacon, as well as Pentax of course. The Pentax K mount lenses are simply unrivalled in their build quality and are an utter joy to hold and use.
So, if you’ve got a Pentax camera that means you have access to lenses from, quite literally, hundreds of different brands. So lots of choice. And because there’s lot of choice, they’re really cheap too, so are great value for money.
Oh, and on top of that you’ve got access to all the Zeiss lenses and Pentax ones too, if you want something top of the range, but which still doesn’t break the bank.
So any Pentax camera leaves you in a win-win-win position; a great choice of lenses, at bargain prices, including some of the finest glass ever made from Pentax and Carl Zeiss.
You can pick up any of the standard Pentax 28mm, 50mm or 135mm lenses for between £30-£50 depending on their condition. Your Canon or Nikon equivalents will cost double that and plenty of those lenses will be inferior to the Pentax equivalents too.
So, put all that together, and you can get a stonking camera, with a great lens, for a bargain price. Plus you get to be that little bit different, which is never a bad thing we think!
So, join the Pentax Club - You won’t regret it - SHOP