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My Love Affair with Pentax

01-16-2013 · By PF Staff in Influential Photo Gear

"You can take it if you want, I don't even use it anymore," was what my friend said one day when I spied his old Pentax DSLR collecting dust in his house. I had seen other people throughout my life use Pentax, but it was only then that I truly began my personal love affair with this venerable brand.

Over the course of the year, with the inheritance of my friend's old Pentax, I began to take pictures voraciously. Amazingly, to this day, I still don't possess a camera body of my own purchase, but my passion for photography grew and I started buying necessary peripherals to supplement the hand-me-down Pentax. In time, I bought an arsenal of memory cards, straps, eneloops, and other camera-related gadgets and gizmos, but I was still indecisive about which camera system to ultimately go with.

I live and work overseas in Shanghai, and only get to return home once a year during my annual leave. It wasn't until many months later while visiting my parents back in Toronto that I would cross paths with another Pentax again. I didn't know it at the time, but fate would have my infatuation with Pentax come full circle at my parent's home and turn it into a committed choice.

In his later years, my father is now a quiet man, content and at peace with his accomplishments and choices made. His tempered demeanor giving nothing away of his wild rock-and-roll days of riding motorcycles, having long hair, and playing electric guitar, (unbeknownst to my rebellious adolescent vows to never be like my "boring, fuddy-duddy" parents, I would end up doing all three of those things later on in my teenage years).

My father knew that I had become interested in photography during my time away, and one day proudly resurrected his old gear while I was visiting.

The old Pentax ME Super kit that he pulled out was in immaculate condition. Even the kit carrying case was unblemished and retained that indescribable, green velvety film smell that, to this day, I associate with photography. The manual itself, complete with cheesy illustrations and typewriter fonts, was lovingly preserved, and somehow reminded me of bell bottoms and old driving test exam booklets.

Along with a couple of M- primes and a Tamron tele, he showed me the ME Super. This was the camera I remembered from my childhood. As I held it in my hands, I recalled playing with the winding lever for hours as a kid. I never took any pictures because film was "expensive" to develop and we could only afford to take pictures that were sure to be keepers. How lucky we are these days with the advent of digital cameras, being able to take hundreds of photos in one session and never think twice!   The ME Super looked tiny in my hands. Funny, it seemed a lot more overwhelming when I was younger.

I casually asked my father when he bought the camera, to which he replied that it was sometime in Macau, before we had immigrated to Canada. I would have brushed off his response as a simple date in time, but I am older now, and appreciate much more the meaning behind words and things not spoken. I instantly understood that stage of his life and his motivations for purchasing a camera. I didn't press him further, but I understood: He had bought the camera when he found out he was going to be a father. I suddenly realized that the kit before me was older than I was. The mighty little Pentax ME Super was what my father had chosen to capture his hopes and dreams (and most likely, his fears) of starting a new family in a new land.

The fact that he had chosen Pentax and that I, through other means, had coincidentally come to use other Pentax gear was, for me, nothing short of providence. There comes a moment, early on, in every photographer's life to make a choice on what camera system to use. It isn't a choice to make lightly, since lenses from different brands cannot be interchanged. Sure, one can always use multiple brands, but that was never really financially realistic for me. At that stage of my photographic life I was still not committed to any brand and was keeping my options open. I had already spent countless nights on the internet, researching on various brands and which model would fit me perfectly. I borrowed and tried different types of camera brands from anyone I could. I had almost let myself believe that, if only I could find the right camera for me, my photography would blossom and my mastery of the craft would reveal itself.

Invariably, most new shooters would be tempted to choose between the "big two" brands. A tragedy that lulls the newbie from going against the mainstream grain and taking a shot at experimenting with a different brand.  "It's what the pros use," lulls them into a safe comfort: never daring to risk; never learning to dare the status quo.

But that's exactly what my dad did in his youth -- dare the status quo. He immigrated halfway around the world when almost all of his family chose to remain in Asia. He chose the hard path, and in his hand, throughout his life adventure, was the ME Super.

Back in my father's home, holding the very same Pentax ME Super, I knew in that moment, whatever technical criticisms one would have of Pentax cameras, it would be my choice as well, just as it was my father's before me. Such is what fate is, or love, perhaps? To choose something, knowing full well its disadvantages and despite the judgement of others, and still, irregardless, know in your heart that, "That's the one for me."

It's OK if Pentax isn't your choice of camera and you favor something else: everybody finds their own path when it comes to affairs of the heart. For me, I'm proud to carry my Pentax everywhere. I wouldn't have the passion to get out there and practice everyday if it was another brand.

I ended up taking the ME Super with me when I returned to work in Shanghai. For some reason, my father just knew that I would. And so, the little ME-Super-that-could journeyed back once again across the Pacific, back to (what is now) the same country as where it was purchased over 30 years ago, to once again serve another generation.

My dad's ME Super is older than me, and sometimes it feels like I was entrusted with a family heirloom of sorts. But in my more contemplative moments, I think my father knew what he was doing when he nonchalantly showed me his old camera that day. He had put his faith in the ME Super when he bought it over thirty years ago to make sure the precious moments of his youth were recorded. Now, thirty years later, he put his faith once again into his trusty little friend. He wasn't entrusting me with the camera: he was entrusting his cherished Pentax to take care of his son.

I suppose that's what photography means for me, to be able to grab those irreplaceable memories from the ether before they get passed by the wayside in the railroad of time. I don't think I would have come to this path of choice, if my father didn't buy this very Pentax ME Super over thirty years ago.

- glenntam

PF Staff's avatar
About the author: Various writers regularly contribute articles to the Pentax Forums homepage blog. More recent articles are published under each author's forum username. We hope you enjoy our guides and news coverage!

Tags: pentax, camera, father, choice, life, photography, day, brands

More Posts in Influential Photo Gear | More Posts by PF Staff

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ChipB [Delete] Jan 18th, 2013 8:40PM

Very nice - and a very nice tribute to your father!

SyncGuy [Delete] Jan 18th, 2013 2:23AM

Shiet... I just teared for a moment...

Sorry about that.. Great write-up and a wonderful camera the ME is... :D
I've the Super A and it sure feels great in the hand even after all these years..

sugatabanerji [Delete] Jan 18th, 2013 12:39AM

Lovely write-up! A bit like my story with my father's MX, but I like your writing style very much.

benie [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 9:42AM

Your story made me think back to my personal history with photography. It started 31 years ago with the purchase of a 2nd hand Pentax MX and an M 50mm/1.7 lens. This set saw me through a 6 months backpacking trip to the Far East. Then came an ME Super with a few more Pentax (only Pentax!) A lenses, and when I stayed for two years in Japan, I treated myself to a Pentax LX with a really nice set of accessories and lenses for it. Even though I don't use the LX anymore it is still one of my prized possessions and still exudes an aura of impeccable quality. Then came the digital era and I started with a DL which was supplemented with a KR. Pentax cameras and lenses have given me countless hours of enjoyment, and even though I may gripe now and then at the brand for not offering a wider selection of equipment, I would never think of switching. It's weird how attached one get's to a camera, me included. I have never sold any of my Pentax stuff and don't think I ever will . I know that my sons will make good use of it in the future.

KB1SFVE3 [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 8:33AM

Great story! I'm sure many of us have similar memories. Mine cane in the form of a hand-me-down Asahi Pentax Spotmatic and 50mm 1:1.4 screw mount lens that my Dad had bought when he was in Vietnam. At the time, he was upgrading to an ES-II (along with a whole lot of still quite usable Pentax glass) which eventually also came to me when he died back in 1994. Since then, I've been absolutely loyal to Pentax with all manner of Pentax film and digital SLRs, tahe latter primarily because all that Takumar and Asahi glass still works on my DSLRs.

pericombobulation [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 7:46AM

Nice writeup. It's interesting to me how people tend to take their camera purchases very seriously, looking for a long term relationship. I know of no other piece of technology that holds the same personal, emotional lure as a good camera. It's probably because cameras capture memories. I certainly would not feel the same sense of attachment (or brand loyalty) to my BlueRay player, microwave, car, or even my iPhone. Despite all our griping about lens prices and the lack of a FF body, I think the truth is that Pentax has taken good care of us over the long decades.

robtcorl [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 7:40AM

Excellent well written story!

bcorson [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 7:21AM

Nice story and thanks for sharing. I recently bought a K-30 and when I went to the camera store and asked about the K-3o and said I was leaning very heavily towards buying one and was there to feel it in my hands and compare the feel and features to "the others". First thing he said to me was congratulations on not being swayed by all the advertising hype. I knew that there would not be the same lens support as the other guys especially third party gear but the K-30 is definitely the one for me. It has renewed my love of photography which was beginning to wane a bit.

GabrielFFontes [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 6:44AM

Thank you a lot for sharing this story. It really shows how much photography can mean in one's life.
Very well told too.
I guess most people won't read this one, because there aren't a lot of pictures in it, but, if you're reading the comments, read the article, you'll love it.

luker [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 6:37AM

A wonderful story, thank you for sharing.

tessfully [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 6:13AM

I thoroughly enjoyed your story actually brought a tear to my eye. I completely resonate with how you felt when you first saw, touched and smelled that old camera. My pop has his stored in velvet cases in a drawer in perfect condition. I know that when he bought the cameras and lenses it must have been a very serious passion as they didn't have much money and he would never spend on luxury stuff. You have certainly been gifted a priceless heirloom. Thank you for sharing!

hman [Delete] Jan 16th, 2013 5:44AM

How fortunate for you to find so much meaning and value for both the camera/brand AND your father's foresight and hopes. Thank you for sharing this story that goes way beyond photography!