Pentax Lx: Pentax’s best 35mm film camera and possibly one of the best 35mm cameras ever made.
My main film camera is now the Pentax LX :) This little blog is about my experience and findings with this little gem of a camera rather than a fully blown technical review, but I hope it gives others a little insight into the mighty Pentax LX. My previous camera was the Nikon F100 and I initially bought that camera so I could use my existing Nikon lenses. Two things made me sell the F100. First of all, due to the nature of film, you could never check to see if the autofocus was correct until development. Secondly, when shooting film, I’d always shoot for personal reasons and I just didn’t need the speed of autofocus. My first ever camera was a Pentax ME Super and after buying my fiancee one I decided I’d love something a little lighter and more enjoyable to use, but not quite the same. Enter the Pentax LX
I’d never heard of the Pentax LX before so when I found it had interchangeable viewfinders, I was intrigued. The more I found out about the LX, the more I wanted one. A few amazing things I discovered about this camera:
Interchangeable viewfinders: Yes please! Ive always wanted a waist level medium format style camera. The Pentax LX has an optional one and this would make up for that in a much more compact form! I also have the standard FA-1 eye level viewfinder which is incredible! If you’ve ever picked up a Nikon D800 then looked through most old manual SLR viewfinders (like the ME super) then you will know how tiny they look. The FA-1 viewfinder is like looking through a modern full frame DSLR. It’s huge and makes manual focusing so much easier. I have in my LX, a Beattie bright focusing screen which also helps too, but it wouldn’t be this way if the Pentax LX didn’t also allow you to change focusing screens easily.
Amazing metering system: This beautiful camera meters off the reflections from the first curtain or the film itself. Meaning changeable exposure times! Take a photo in cloud filled skies only for the sun to pop through midway a long exposure. No problem! In auto mode it takes it into account the change in light and can change the shutter speed mid-exposure. This kind of technology results in amazingly accurate exposures and I’ve been more than happy with the results so far. I think I read somewhere it can meter down to -6.5 EV, which means this is one sensitive system.
Looks: Classic black, old school but not too vintage. Just right. Yes sometimes owning cameras is like owning a car, you want something that looks awesome. There are a few more versions such as the Titanium Millennium edition which look even more awesome but unless anyone wants to donate/lend one for a review then you will just have to look at classic original for now.
A few points to note if your considering buying this gem. First of all, it is manual. No autofocus here, just good old back to basics, slow you down, make you think about the shot, photography. Thats what I was after, and thats what I got. It does however have metering in manual mode to guide you and an automatic AV mode so you can just get on with shooting.
Secondly, it is hard to find a good working example.
Pentax LX Sticky Mirror Syndrome
There is a famous sticky mirror syndrome that is widely reported across the internet. It can be hard to pinpoint whether your camera is doing this because it has degraded light seals or because it has degraded mirror dampeners. Then there’s also the lesser reported problem of intermittent electrical problems which can cause the mirror to lock. I did actually come across this problem and thought it may be the sticky mirror problem but the more I looked into it, the more it felt like an electrical fault.
I read the manual and it noted when battery is low the mirror locks up without taking a photo so you don’t ruin an exposure. I replaced the batteries with several different types and the same problem occurred. It would happen once in a roll, then perhaps a few times, then nothing for 4 rolls. I could only guess that the internal electrical contacts weren’t working 100 percent and after shooting my 8th roll it was happening far less often. When taking the camera on holiday, I shot 6 rolls and didn’t encounter the problem once.
So did I say this is Pentax’s best camera? Well after waking the thing up, it’s managed to dust off its own electrical cobwebs and is sweet as a nut. So yes it is….when it works!
Most of the photos you see below were all taken on various film stocks using the Pentax – M 50mm 1.7 lens, a classic “kit” lens which is a solid dependable performer with SMC coating and the Pentax – M 24mm 2.8 wide angle lens which I find superb for Landscapes on Film. Film stocks used were:
Kodak Portra 400, which I find amazing for just about anything and often find I prefer it for landscapes.
Kodak Ektar 100: Amazingly clean, but not so versatile, work wonders for saturated colors, but for portraits its better used in soft even lighting as it brings out reds in skins tones far too easily.
Fuji Velvia 50: E-6 film. Ive only ever tried this once and got some really clean photos with excellent contrast.