This Pentax MG was a lockdown purchase. I loaded it with Ilford FP4+ but was only halfway through the film when travel restrictions were (temporarily) lifted and we left for France. So the camera was untested. I also packed a roll of Kodak T-Max 100, and took a chance. I was lucky, the camera and photos turned out fine.
We travelled to Provence, in southern France, a captivating region that yearns to be shot in colour. I have been to Provence a few times but using black and white film made me look at it in different way. I also had my DSLR and a couple of rolls of colour film so I could still make the most of the colours, the clear blue sky, the window boxes and brightly painted shutters in honey-coloured walls. But the textures and patterns are also appealing, and so is the contrast of sun and shade. Many villages in Provence have huge plane trees that provide relief from the heat, and ancient narrow streets where you can hide from the sun. All this meant there was plenty to photograph without being distracted by the colours.
I bought a Pentax MG because I was looking for a Pentax ME! Most of my film photography has been with a Minolta X300, which I have written about here before but when I bought a DSLR I chose Pentax. I had also acquired a couple of old manual focus lenses, so I wanted to try a film-era Pentax and was drawn to the small M-series cameras from the 1970s and early 1980s, about the same age as my Minolta. A working ME turned out to be a bit too expensive, and the ME Super even more so. I didn’t need a new camera, I just wanted to have a go with one of these little Pentaxes, so when an MG turned up for a good price, I went for it.
The Pentax MG was released in 1981. Like the ME it is an aperture priority only camera with no full manual mode. The shutter speed is shown in the viewfinder. It is a cheaper version of the ME so the build quality, although good, is not as good as the ME and the viewfinder is smaller. The body is 1 mm wider and 2.5 mm taller than the ME, so hardly noticeable. The only way to take control of the exposure is by adjusting the ASA dial underneath the rewind crank, using it as an exposure compensation dial, or you can set the shutter mode dial to 100X and use the ‘sunny 16’ rule. This 1/100s setting is mechanical so will still work without batteries. The only other settings on the mode dial are B, for long exposures, and Auto. There isn’t even an exposure lock.
It’s also worth noting that there is no on/off switch or shutter lock. The meter will turn off automatically after a few seconds but if you’ve wound the film on, and therefore cocked the shutter, you can inadvertently take a photo with a careless press of the shutter button, or if, as I did, you knock the self-timer lever as you reach for the camera. Helpfully, there is a ‘shutter-cocked’ indicator so at least you can tell if the film is wound on. I have a habit of winding the film on after taking a photo, ready for the next shot but with the Pentax MG it is safer to wind on only when you are ready to take a picture. Too often, when I did remember to not wind on, I promptly forgot and the shutter wouldn’t work when I lined up and carefully focussed the next shot! So there are some annoyances but it is a lovely small SLR to carry around. It easily slips in a bag or larger coat pocket and I think it looks good, and the shutter has a satisfying clunk. I enjoyed using it, which is surely the most important thing.
As for the photos, I am very pleased with them. Exposures were generally good on Auto setting, despite the high contrast of bright sun and shade. I think these black and white shots evoke the spirit of Provence, for me anyway.
Thanks for reading.
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