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Asahi Pentax 'AP' (Tower 26)

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3 22,763 Thu July 31, 2014
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $192.00 8.33
Asahi Pentax 'AP' (Tower 26)

Asahi Pentax 'AP' (Tower 26)
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Asahi Pentax 'AP' (Tower 26)
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Description:
The Asahi Optical Company released the 'Asahi Pentax' (AP) in 1957 as the replacement for their Asahiflex line of cameras. While not the first Pentaprism camera to be produced, the AP is considered by many to be the start of the modern 35mm SLR format still used today. The camera incorporated a number of features which were not typically found during this era. This was the first camera to combine eye level through the lens focusing, an instant return mirror and a right hand film advance/shutter cocking wind lever. The camera was so successful that the company eventually changed its name from Asahi Optical to Pentax.


Asahi Pentax
Also marketed as
Tower 26
Year introduced
1957
Year discontinued
1958
Mount
M42
Automatic aperture stop down
No
Metering
No light meter
Exposure modes
Manual, B
Shutter speeds (auto)
Not applicable
Shutter speeds (manual)
B, 1 - 1/500s, X
Shutter speeds (mechanical)
B, 1 - 1/500s, X
Self timer
No
Mirror lock-up
No
Auto bracketing
Not applicable
Multiple exposures
Yes
Winder
No
Flash hot shoe
No
Built-in flash
No
TTL/P-TTL flash
No
Flash sync speed
FP and X terminals - 1/50s
Flash exposure comp
Not applicable
Viewfinder type
Pentaprism
Diopter correction
No
Exchangeable screen
No
Depth of field preview
None at the time of production. Available through switch on later lenses
Image size
24 x 36 mm
Battery
None
Size (W x H x D)
145 x 92 x 50mm
Weight
570g
Comment
The first Pentax SLR with pentaprism viewfinder. The camera had no engraved model designation but was later referred to as 'AP'.
The camera had two shutter speed dials. The one on the top plate sets the fast speeds: 1/500, 1/200, 1/100, and 1/50s, the one on the front the slow speeds (controlled by a timer): 1/25, 1/10, 1/5, 1/2, and 1s.
Price History:



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Pentaxian

Registered: October, 2012
Location: Colorado
Posts: 1,410
Review Date: July 31, 2014 I can recommend the Asahi Pentax 'AP' (Tower 26): Yes | Price: $304.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Light, quiet shutter, great ergonomics, Fresnel viewfinder, bright screen, easy to focus
Cons: Weird spinning shutter speed selector

Two notes: my purchase price includes the amount I paid to have it overhauled. I bought it as non-functioning and the camera itself was a VERY reasonable price. Overhauling it was spendy because it needed new shutter curtains. So the purchase price is a bit higher than the typical going rate in early 2014.

When I finally landed one of these, I began to plan this review. How would I rate it? Would I compare it to contemporary cameras? Certainly it can't hold a candle to modern cameras, right?

I was simply stunned when I used this camera. I did not expect to like it as much as I did. In fact, I like using it as much as I like my K1000, or my K2, or my K-3, or my K-7, or Nikon F3, Canon F-1, Olympus OM-2N, and so on. This camera holds its own against many later cameras.

So, why? What makes this camera so great? Well, the viewfinder is very large and completely unobstructed. The Fresnel rings make focusing VERY easy a objects have a nice line (in the Fresnel glass) to cling to when snapping into focus. The large microprism circle in the middle helps with fine focusing, too. And, yeah, alone that's all great but the camera also has the quietest shutter of any Pentax I've used except the K-3. None of that loud K and M series clack -- even the Spotmatics and S/H series cameras sound like thunderclaps next to the AP.

And along with that lack of sound, there's an almost entire lack of camera shake. This camera feels like a leaf shutter camera it has so little shutter shake. And that stands to reason as, in 1957, most consumer-grade cameras had leaf shutters and this had to compete against those near-silent, shakeless view- and rangefinder cameras.

In short, every aspect of this camera exudes great engineering, well crafted user interface an experience, and quality craftsmanship.

So why a nine and not a ten for my overall rating? The camera's not perfect. The shutter speed selector turns when the camera fires -- like my Repronar does. On the Repronar that's no issue because I'm not holding it. On the AP, that is an issue if your finger is touching the shutter speed dial. This can cause the shutter to move more slowly or jam. So that's not great. Also, the slow shutter speed dial on the front is odd. And it trumps the fast dial. So if you shoot a frame at 1/2 of a second and then want to shoot one at 1/200th, but forget to set the slow dial to 1/25th, the camera will take a 1/2-second exposure.

Also, mine has no accessory grooves on the eyepiece, so I can't put an accessory shoe on it. This turned out to be a huge inconvenience, actually. I have seen photos of these with eyepieces that have accessory grooves, so I don't know if mine happens to be very old or if the grooved eyepieces were a retrofit (or if my eyepiece is a retrofit.)

Here's the long-and-short of this: if you are able to get your hands on one of these, grab it. Get it fixed ASAP if it needs repairs. Use it. This is such a fun camera to use that you will find yourself wondering what happened to the later Pentaxes that they simply don't have that something indefinable that the AP has in spades.

I love my Pentaxes and I love using every Pentax I've tried (except the SF and M series bodies.) This could very easily be my favorite in a few rolls of film. It's fun, easy, and stunningly pretty.













Here are some of the photos I took with the AP in its first few test rolls:








   
New Member

Registered: March, 2010
Location: west berks, GB.
Posts: 3

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: June 21, 2012 I can recommend the Asahi Pentax 'AP' (Tower 26): Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: The first Pentax. Design classic. still working fine after 55years.
Cons: none

I have rated this as a 10 as it is just a great looking camera, fits the hand perfectly and I love it! It also showed the world that SLR cameras could be sexy!

Only recently acquired this camera but all still working after 55 years. Sure there is no meter, preset lens only (no auto stop down lens coupling on this one) but what do you expect at this age. Considering the competition at the time, this was streets ahead in terms of refinement of design.

I know the Asahiflex came before but this camera really set the scene for the Pentax SLR development for years after so it deserves a straight 10!

Edit.
Shutter curtains can still be repaired in UK, if anyone is interested.
   
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2007
Location: Sparwood, BC, Canada
Posts: 10,829

3 users found this helpful
Review Date: May 6, 2011 I can recommend the Asahi Pentax 'AP' (Tower 26): Yes | Price: $80.00 | Rating: 6 

 
Pros: All mechanical - hardly anything to break.
Cons: All mechanical. Shutter curtains no longer available when they wear through.

Pros All mechanical - hardly anything to break.
Cons All mechanical. Shutter curtains no longer available when they wear through.
Rating 6
Price (U.S. Dollars) I think I paid around Cdn$80, but really have no idea any more.
Years Owned I no longer own it, but bought it in 1961 and used it through 1976
I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
The value of this camera to me was huge. I bought it used in 1961 for less than $100 in a pawn shop in Vancouver, BC. It taught me the basics of exposure, how to use light, how to meter with an external meter. Compared to modern cameras, it was a great big heavy tank. The durability of the camera was amazing - it was the main camera I used right up until 1976 when I replaced it with a KX because the shutters were worn out.

Camera Review
My first SLR, and I loved it. I almost bought one that came up for sale in Calgary for C$295 last year (2009) complete with the 55/2.2 preset lens. I did not buy it because it would have just been a trophy to sit on a shelf and collect dust, despite the love I had for this camera. In 1957, and even in 1961, this was a rather advanced camera. Instant return mirror, pentaprism, the whole ball of wax. I have boxes and boxes of slides and negatives of images taken with this camera. Note the durability of the camera. 19 years and counting from new when I replaced it. Even then I tried to find someone to replace the shutters and could not.
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