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The Pentax MX

The Pentax MX.

Photo by J.Lee Pierce

The Pentax MX was a professional grade SLR (single-lens reflex) camera that was manufactured from the mid 1970’s to the mid `80’s.  It was often praised for it’s highly accurate light meter, but also suffered criticism for its ergonomic design.  The MX was regularly used as a starting camera for those who wanted to get into photography and learn the art, and often times, is still used as such today.


This particular camera was purchased off a friend who found it at an estate sale.  My main reason for purchasing this camera from him was to experiment with film photography again.  I hadn’t fired off a roll of film since I was a teenager, so wanted to take step back and do this at least one last time, before it’s no longer possible to do so.


This peculiar camera though, needed some light maintenance.  Yes, that is also a pun, because I needed to replace the light seals on the opening hatch in the back.  The seals had basically melted away.  As you can see in the photo below, there is just a small amount of foam left over from the seals.  Surprisingly, there wasn’t any residue left behind.

Before the seals were added.

After the seals were added.








It can be incredibly hard to find a place that can service a camera this old.  Unfortunately, nobody makes parts for cameras from this era.  This worried me a little when I found out that on top of there being no light seals, the light meter was no longer working.  I also had no idea about the conditions in which the camera was stored.  Temperature can do tricky things to a camera that sits idle for several years.  One of my biggest concerns pertaining to that, was lubrication.  After playing with the shutter button for a bit, I came to the conclusion that camera would not need to be lubricated.


After replacing the light seals, I decided to try some troubleshooting on the light meter.  A camera this old has very few electronic parts.  The vast majority of it is mechanical and will continue to function without batteries.  The batteries are only used to send power to the light meter, or send a signal across a wire to an off camera flash.  Luckily, there is a store in my town that specializes in batteries.  The manufacturer recommended batteries are no longer available today.  After acquiring a set of batteries that would be applicable, it was just a simple task of getting the light meter to work.  Below is a snip of the light meter from a PDF manual that I found online.

When activating the light meter, assure that the green light is in the middle to produce accurate light levels in your photos.


The light meter was actually a simple fix.  I troubleshoot electronic devices for a living, and found out that the battery cap can actually be screwed in too tight.  Once I had the cap in the sweet spot, the light meter worked without fail.


With the repairs complete, the only task left ahead was to take it out and fire of a test roll.  The camera came with a few rolls of film that I could use.  All of them were Kodak color film at 400 ISO.  Naturally, I knew I would get some grain because I shoot all of my photos as close to 100 ISO as possible, but because of this, I could traverse town and gather lots of photos in variable light levels.  Below are a few photos from the initial test roll.  I didn’t take notes on the settings for the photographs, but most of them were around 60 or 125 for the shutter speed, and the aperture size varied between each picture taken.







I did very little touching up after scanning the photos.  I wanted to keep the natural grain from the film, because I enjoyed that appearance.  The only touching up I did was removal of some artifacts that rested between the photo and the glass of the scanner.


The initial test of this camera was very satisfying, and fun.  It was such a joy to drop off a roll of film and return after an hour of shopping to pick it up.  That is something I have not done in a long time, and plan on doing again.  Now that I know this camera works, I plan to put it through its paces.  The goal is to come up with a theme for a series that I can accomplish with this camera.  I want to thank you for reading this.  If you have any ideas I can use for a photo series to shoot with this camera, please leave a comment below.  You don’t need to have an account to leave a comment.  Heck, just leave a comment if you have any questions, or criticisms.


To see additional photos that I have taken with this camera, visit Fun with the Pentax MX.



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