5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Pentax MX and SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 – by Andrea Armando

May 29, 2019

Every once in a while, we find a special camera that makes us happy just by holding it in our hands. For me, the Pentax MX is one of those cameras.

I may be biased since this camera was a gift from my dad. Having shot film for more than 30 years, he only uses digital now, and does not miss the “old” ways at all. So, when I told him I had been bit by the film bug, he was only too happy to give me the camera and a SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 lens.

I immediately fell in love. This camera has been around forever in my family and it was easy for me to create a bond. Believe it or not, the same camera I am shooting today was used to take this picture 35 years ago, and that little guy is me! Try to beat THAT, every camera I’ve ever owned!

The Pentax MX is a fully mechanical SLR introduced by Asahi Pentax in 1976. When I picked it up, it had been sitting in a drawer for more than 10 years. I had it CLA’d and replaced the light seals and then it was as good as new. Operating the camera is easy if you are familiar with film SLRs. Everything is well designed and placed exactly where you expect it to be. The best part of the camera is the viewfinder. It’s huge, bright and provides a unique shooting experience.

The SMC 50mm f/1.7 lens descends directly from the legendary Takumar lenses, so the image quality is exactly as you’d expect – awesome. Color rendition is gorgeous, with good saturation and contrast. Pentax glass is famous for the colors it can produce, and for good reasons.

Turin, Piedmont – Italy

Lillaz, Aosta Valley – Italy

Valleile, Aosta Valley – Italy

Loie’s Lake, Aosta Valley – Italy

Lillaz Waterfalls, Aosta Valley – Italy

In conclusion, do I recommend this camera? Absolutely yes. Is this the best film camera I’ve ever used? I have to be honest and say that this title still goes to the Leica M6 (mainly because I find rangefinder cameras easier to focus). That being said, the SLR design also has its advantages, such as higher reliability (i.e., not having to constantly worry about your rangefinder going out of whack).

When you factor in the low price on the used market, a Pentax MX make for a great option to pick up and go have some fun!

Thanks for reading, and please visit my online portfolio (https://brickwallphoto.squarespace.com) and Flickr page (AndreArma).

– Andrea

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  • Reply
    Barry Reid
    May 29, 2019 at 10:49 am

    The MX is a wonderful camera, I had one when I was a student in the early 90s and recently bought one again, for nostalgia.

    The finder is great because it was the ‘pro’ model in the M series. Not only that, but with a DOF preview, interchangeable screens and a choice of not just a winder but also a motor drive and bulk film back the only real downsides are the relatively slow maximum shutter speed and flash sync. That said, I love the sound of the cloth shutter!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    My all-time favourite SLR (and I also have an LX), and one of the best bang-for-buck primes around!

  • Reply
    Christopher Emerick
    May 29, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    I recently acquired a mint condition k1000 with the smc-m 50 f/2 for 20$! This thing is like new and had been sitting in a garage for 20 when I bought it. Needless to say it’s an excellent little back to basics camera. A nice getaway from my D700 and Nikon F801s/8008s film camera.

  • Reply
    Roger B.
    May 29, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    The MX is indeed a gem, but if you have big hands (as I do) you might prefer the KX. Same incredibly bright and near-life-size viewfinder, same horizontal travel cloth focal plane shutter, but in a body with the size and heft of, say, a Nikkormat.

  • Reply
    Shane M.
    May 29, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    I’m still using the MX my grandfather bought me in 1980 when I was 11. I recently picked up another (all black) as a backup. Great camera and has never let me down.

  • Reply
    Ashley Carr
    May 29, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    I’m a big Pentax fan. I started with my Dads Pentax ME Super that he gave me when I started Art school in 1989.

    Since then I’ve had another 2 x ME Supers, 3 x MX’s, a Super Program A, a KX and a LX. Why so many?? Because they keep failing over and over again. Now I used them hard, I shoot about 8 rolls of 35mm per week and the old Pentax’s just can’t keep up with or without service.

    I love Pentax glass, I’ve used and enjoyed the rare 28mm shift as well as the classics and out of all the 35mm SLR systems I’ve used I prefer the Pentax glass.

    For my SLR needs now I shoot a Nikon F2 and F3 and I only went to Nikon as their bodies are much better built than the Pentax ones.

    I still keep my Pentax love alive by regularly shooting my Pentax 67 and I’m always on the look out for the Pentax 43mm lens they made in Leica M mount to get some of that SMC love on my M2.

    • Reply
      May 30, 2019 at 1:14 am

      Huh. I’ve been using Pentax 35mm bodies for about 10 years (2x LX, 3x MX and a SP-F) and I’ve never had a serviced body fail. I struggle with the idea that they just can’t keep up with ‘heavy usage’ of a roll a day…

  • Reply
    May 29, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    I got a Ricoh K10x from my father and the same Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7, so I can vouch for it. It’s one of the stars on my Pentax K-3 DSLR! It’s got great microcontrast, colors and a simple but still beautiful hexagonal bokeh. Blurred backgrounds when shooting with appropriate focal distances or apertures is really smooth (not as delicious as the Pentax-M 1.2 though, but that lens is out of this world!) and once you hit f/2 the lens starts to be tack sharp. Shooting with old SLRs is fun, unfortunately my father’s MX didn’t survive a big wave (you should be careful on the pier when the sea is angry!) and so I only managed to taste the Ricoh (and one Konica he didn’t want to lend me, grrr). Oh, well… 🙂 I switched from Canon to Pentax mostly due to the lenses!

  • Reply
    Michael McDermott
    May 29, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    I learned to shoot on a Minolta SRT-101 and am consequently a big Minolta user and collector. After that you will see Nikon and Yashica SLRs as the next most numerous cameras. Does anybody shoot Yashica at all? I do have several Spotmatics, the ME Super, K1000 (which I think is no big deal), the MX and all the Super-Taks and SMC lenses I need. Given that I can say the MX is, as you noted, a very nice handling camera. Now the prices can go sky high as everyone tries to chase down an MX.

  • Reply
    David Allen
    May 29, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    I’m a Pentax for life kind of person. The MX is such a great little machine. The SMC 1.7 is a great lens. I use it all the time om my digital KP. Lovely review; really nice to hear about its journey through the family 🙂

  • Reply
    May 29, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    Love that you have a photo of you as a baby taken by the camera you now use!
    I recently picked up an MX and love it. The Pentax 28 SMC 2.8 makes a perfect tiny pairing to your 50 1.7.
    Also I highly recommend a grip by this company (no affiliation):
    super nice, super light weight and makes the camera even nicer to use.
    Here on my MX:
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/129R4u

    • Reply
      May 30, 2019 at 7:18 pm

      Thank you Huss! It also looks great in black!

  • Reply
    JR Smith
    May 29, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    I echo what others have said here…the MX is a great little SLR!

  • Reply
    Des McSweeney
    May 29, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    I could have been your dad ;-). Inasmuch as my MX came out of my first monthly salary (admittedly after a five year ‘gap year’) in 1979. With motor drive (ideas above my station) and eventually three lenses I thought it was just the bee’s knees and it took some of the best pics I have ever taken. I will have to go and dig in the archive (loft) but I am pretty sure I have a similarish photo of my boy, now 31 so just behind you. I gave him the camera as you do – but I just might have to and ask for it back 😉

    • Reply
      May 30, 2019 at 7:18 pm

      What a coincidence! Let’s hope my dad doesn’t read and get any ideas 🙂

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    May 29, 2019 at 11:58 pm

    My first camera (ca. 1970) was a Honeywell Pentax H1a. Anyone ever hear of it? I got it with a Takumar 50mm F/2. I was in love. I’ve always compared Pentax cameras to those great sports cars from the 60’s. The H1a was a bug-eyed Sprite. An artist’s camera.
    Damn, if I had 20/20 foresite, I’d have kept the Pentax. My style is centered around a single 35mm camera/single lens/small camera bag. Could’da save lots of $$$$.
    Keep shooting!

    • Reply
      Michael McDermott
      May 30, 2019 at 6:50 am

      Pentax H1a? Yes, I have heard of it and have one in working condition after a tune up by Eric H.

  • Reply
    Tom DiCorcia
    May 30, 2019 at 6:54 am

    Ditto here. I bought my MX in 1979 when I went to Japan after college. I first bought it with a mid-range zoom, which I hated and traded for three primes — a 50mm f1.4, a 24mm f2.8 (love this lens!), and a 120mm f2.8.

  • Reply
    Ken Tuomi
    May 30, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Great compositions. The exposures really exhibit a 3D effect, especially the large stone in the view of the valley and the falls (I felt vertigo looking at it). Really inspires me to get the K1000 out again. Thanks for the post.

    • Reply
      May 30, 2019 at 7:15 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Ken! Glad you liked it

  • Reply
    May 30, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    Have had an MX for over 35 years. Have the 1.7 lens on it and use it mainly for B & W exposures. Bulletproof! And
    takes great exposures time after time. Love it still.

  • Reply
    June 1, 2019 at 4:24 am

    I had an MX for several years. Nice camera, with an excellent bright viewfinder. I equipped it with the checked (grid) finder to help me keep the horizon level. The MX screens must be quite hard to find now, but it’s worth grabbing any that come up for sale. Have you noticed how inferior most recent DSLR finders are compared to these mid-1980s cameras? My Nikon F3 had a similarly bright and crisp finder. In a dumb move, I sold the MX. Why do I do dumb things?

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