Pentax SF1n, Pentax-A 35-135mm and Kodak Vision 3 250D – My Personal Recipe for Photographic Nirvana

By Alex Gridenko

Whether you suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) or enjoy it, be aware that reading 35mmc.com will most certainly fuel it! So far, I have bought two cameras based on reviews here: Canon Sure Shot Classic 120 and Pentax SF1n (SFXn). I have already posted my mini review of the Canon, now it’s the Pentax’s turn.

Believe it or not, I bought this camera exclusively for its design. Many reviewers say it’s ugly, in my opinion it isn’t true. The Pentax SF1n among cameras is like Pontiac Aztek among cars – a bold fashion statement and a slap in the face to public taste!

The camera looks more complex and advanced than it actually is. In fact, it’s very basic like a big point & shoot. This camera is as simple (and loud!) as the Mosin-Nagant rifle. The ergonomics may look strange at the first glance, but after getting used to, become very straightforward. The autofocus isn’t very fast but accurate. Manual focus is very easy due to focus confirmation, split screen and two clever little arrows that show which way to rotate the focusing ring. The centre-weighted metering is surprisingly accurate. The camera has some annoying drawbacks: it’s loud, it uses expensive batteries, and the only way to set aperture is the aperture ring of the lens. The camera works with aperture ringless lenses too, but in this case, the exact F value cannot be set. It can only be controlled indirectly through two special exposure modes: Action (fast shutter speed and large aperture) and Depth (small aperture).

I used several lenses with the SF1n, both auto and manual, and all the pictures were perfectly focused. Speaking of lenses, I especially like to use the old Pentax-A 35-135mm F3.5-4.5 on this camera. It’s a manual focus lens from the previous generation, but it looks like this lens and the SF1n were made for each other. I was reluctant to buy this lens because of haze, but the $20 price was too good to pass, and I am glad I bought it! Despite the haze, or maybe due to it, the rendering is special: very detailed but slightly soft and dreamy with nice colours and low contrast. This kit inclines me to pensive, leisurely, contemplative photography. It’s a pleasure to walk with it far from crowds, on a lakeshore or cemetery alleys, slowly turning the focusing ring and watching beautiful images coming into focus in a big, bright viewfinder…

However, not until I added the third component – the film – did I achieve my personal photographic nirvana. My film of choice is Kodak Vision 3 250D. With this kit and film, I can shoot about anything and admire how well everything turns out: warm vintage colours, soft but detailed image, smooth tonal transitions, wide dynamic range, fine grain pleasing to my eye… Of course, this cinema film requires proper processing and scanning – a flatbed scanner or a digital camera cannot give it justice. My lab uses a Noritsu HS1800, and their 30-megapixel scans are fantastic!

Here are a few randomly selected examples:

Thee branches hanging above a creek Lake view with a distant sailboat A lake view through dark silhouetted trees Yellow Caution ribbon upside down and a yellow leaf Red tulips and blue background A plant with red leaves and bokeh Monument at a cemetery with blooming forsythias in the background

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About The Author

By Alex Gridenko
Semi-retired graphic designer in Toronto, Canada shooting mix of digital and film, cheap lens aficionado.
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Comments

Scott Gitlin on Pentax SF1n, Pentax-A 35-135mm and Kodak Vision 3 250D – My Personal Recipe for Photographic Nirvana

Comment posted: 01/12/2023

Beautiful pictures and they certainly support your positive review.
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Matthias Steck on Pentax SF1n, Pentax-A 35-135mm and Kodak Vision 3 250D – My Personal Recipe for Photographic Nirvana

Comment posted: 24/11/2023

The Pentax SF1n reminds me of the super-ugly and total weird to use Minolta AF-Bodies of the era. But it seems to have some advantages over those, like compatibility with older MF-Lenses and a good viewfinder. Kodak Vision 3 250D is great, but try out 50D, that's really spectacular, even it's slow. Regards Matthias
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Alex Gridenko replied:

Comment posted: 24/11/2023

I've tried 50D, it's awesome!

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Roman on Pentax SF1n, Pentax-A 35-135mm and Kodak Vision 3 250D – My Personal Recipe for Photographic Nirvana

Comment posted: 23/11/2023

Great results with cheap and underrated gear. I'm a Pentax fan too...
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Donal Leader on Pentax SF1n, Pentax-A 35-135mm and Kodak Vision 3 250D – My Personal Recipe for Photographic Nirvana

Comment posted: 23/11/2023

This appears to be a very good Pentax offering and will attract the attention of Pentaxians. However, I've never been impressed by the automatic cameras from Pentax in the early 1990s. Very much of their time. Lot of plastic. And slow. Not as good as their Canon counterparts, in my opinion. I love the earlier manual Pentax cameras with Pentax MX as my all-time favourite.
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Alex Gridenko replied:

Comment posted: 23/11/2023

I know :) This camera has neither the glamour of the old manual Pentaxes nor the sophistication of more modern Canikon SLRs. It looks meh on paper or screen. You have to use it to feel how good it is. Surprisingly good! It has high fun factor and the best manual focus aids. Hamish Gill comes to the same conclusion in his review. This camera is well worth trying considering how cheap it is. I got mine for $45 CAD. (The awesome embroidered strap cost me almost as much, but I HAD to buy it!)

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