Pentax MX with M series 33mm f/2 lens

5 Frames with a Pentax MX and AristaEDU

I got a 35mm f/2 lens off Ebay for my long-dormant Pentax MX last week, and decided to take it out for a bit of a leg-stretch. The test was crucial not only because the lens was new to me, but also because I had to clean up gunk from the aperture ring to get it to move smoothly, and wanted to make sure I didn’t make too much of a mess of things.

Wide open: there’s softness in those corners, but who’s to say whether it’s camera movement, mis-focusing or the lens itself?

Having bought a brick of AristaEDU 400 (Freestyle’s repackage of Fomapan 400) recently, I decided not to extend my financial woes and just go with that for my testing. It’s a decent film, but in 35mm prone to more halation in the highlights than a really top notch film would have. And while I love nice solid Tri-X or HP5+ grain, Foma’s is a bit on the rough side. I love it to bits in medium in large format where the grain issue doesn’t play as much of a role, but on 35mm it seems slightly sub-optimal.

But enough whining about economy film. I developed it in what I had on hand, i.e. Adox Rodinal, 1:25 at 22C – it’s what came out of the tap in my basement during the recent heat wave. I had no real desire to play around with ice or sticking it into the refrigerator, so I adjusted the time given by Massive Dev Chart by about 10% and just flew with it. The longer I do this, the more I realize all of the super-sensitive development information is really not.

The whole roll was shot on a single day, mostly on my lunchtime constitutional around River West and Wolf Point in downtown Chicago. I finished it on the train on my way home.

I guess the main takeaways are that I did well buying the lens. The sticky aperture is sticky no more and everything seems great. Some reviews say the M series 35mm f/2 isn’s so sharp, but I can’t really say I have anything to complain about. Wide open you see some softness in the corners, but I don’t know any wide lens that doesn’t have that. Correct me if I’m wrong, Leica and Zeiss fanboyz. Anyway, the lens is tack-sharp where it counts, the contrast looks good, and exposure was right on the money – what else can you ask for?

I’m also pretty happy with the MX. I bought it some time ago out of slightly skewed nostalgia: I used a K1000 early on in college, but having read reviews that compared the MX favorably to the “baseline” Pentax, I went with that instead. In the end I decided to keep it over the Olympus OM-1N I bought around the same time. While a magnificent piece of work, the Oly just didn’t fit my hand as well as the MX did, and I couldn’t get used to the meter switch you had to remember to turn off every time you put the camera away.

In contrast, the MX just slips into my hand like it was made for it, and all you have to do to turn the meter off is to pop the film advance back against the body. Quite a nice little camera, even with the compact but slightly weighty 35mm f/2. All in all, it seems to have everything you’d want, and nothing you wouldn’t – a real keeper.

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11 thoughts on “5 Frames with a Pentax MX and AristaEDU”

  1. Hello Simon
    Thanks for your contribution – I’m paying attention to Pentax and Foma, I’ve been taking photos with Pentax MX (and many others) for years and in 35mm exclusively with Fomapan.
    I also have the MX in silver and black – with the 50 1.4 lens they are my favorites, although there are often others.
    Cool city views
    Greetings, Andy from Switzerland

    1. Thanks, Andy. I’ve been enjoying the camera quite a bit. My 35mm f/2 seems really nice in scanning, though I’ll really see what it’s worth once I start making larger prints in the darkroom I hope to have set up in a few weeks.
      I’ve been using Foma films for years, and still miss the T800. Really wish they had kept making that one.

  2. James Langmesser


    Great photos. Same camera, but I bought it new with the 40mm pancake lens. Wonderful combination. Without reading the captions I knew the photos were from Chicago. My MX did its adventuring though, in the South Loop, around the library and the El.


  3. Hi Simon,
    Damn fine pictures! Your photojourno background shines through, I guess. Keep them coming, please. I have no experience on Pentax stuff, but have heard/read good things about them. Enjoy your MX and 35mm.

  4. Used Spotmatics semi-professionally (my main job was writing and reporting) from the mid-60s into the early ’80s. Was never disappointed by the quality of the lenses and never had an equipment failure. Simple, rugged, and high quality equipment.

    1. Had a Spotmatic, briefly, some time ago. Didn’t have any problems that I’d remember, but I can’t say I saw anything particularly great in it. The MX is small and light in comparison, but still packed with features, and the glass seems really nice. The whole system is really growing in me.

  5. Lovely photos- they speak volumes of someone with half an eye going for a walk with their camera! I’ve learned to love Fomapan 100 but not the 400 flavour but I do approve of the Pentax MX which is a glorious camera.

  6. I agree with the others, great photos! I was a Pentax user for a long time and still occasionally use one, good cameras ergonomically and good enough lenses (the 120mm is great!).
    I do disagree with your comment above though – 100asa film is fine for low light, I use it regularly for night shots, but it depends what sort of subject matter and image you are looking for. For commercial work you are probably right. LF photography in the early 1900s used slow ortho film, and by slow I mean it makes 50asa sound incredibly fast.

    1. Thanks, Geoff!
      About ISO 100 film, I shoot handheld and don’t use flash, so that makes slower films less useful for low light situations. I agree that much great photography has been done in like light with far slower films and plates (in particular I’m a huge admirer of Jacob Riis’ work), but they just don’t suit my needs.

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