Forgot Password
Pentax Camera Forums Home
Log in or register to remove ads.

Pentax Camera Reviews » Pentax Film Cameras » Pentax M42 Screwmount Film SLRs
Pentax ES II Review RSS Feed

Pentax ES II

Reviews Views Date of last review
7 69,453 Mon September 14, 2020
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $49.65 8.29
Pentax ES II

Pentax ES II
Pentax ES II
Pentax ES II
Pentax ES II

Two years after the release of the ES, Asahi Optical released the ES II. The main improvements over the ES was in the circuits which were reduced in size to allow the addition of a self timer. It also reduced the power requirements. The battery type and location was also changed. The overall size and appearance was similar to the ES. It was sold international as the Asahi Pentax ES II and in the U.S. as the Honeywell Pentax ES II. Even though the Electro Spotmatic, ES and ES II had electronically controlled shutters, they were still made of fabric. It wouldn’t be until the K2 until and electronically controlled metal shutter would be implemented.

Asahi Pentax ESII
Also marketed as
Honeywell Pentax ES II
Year introduced
Year discontinued
Automatic aperture stop down
Open aperture, centerweight
Meter range
EV 1 to 18
ISO range
20 to 3200
DX ISO range
No DX coding
Exposure modes
Av, Manual, B
Exposure compensation
1/2x, 2x and 4x
Exposure memory lock
Shutter speeds (auto)
8s - 1/1000s (stepless)
Shutter speeds (manual)
B, 1/60 (X), 1/125, 1/150, 1/500, 1/1000s
Shutter speeds (mechanical)
B, 1/60 (X), 1/125, 1/150, 1/500, 1/1000s
Self timer
Yes, 5 to 11 sec
Mirror lock-up
Auto bracketing
Multiple exposures
Ratchet type rapid wind lever. 10° pre-advance and 160° advance angle
Flash hot shoe
Built-in flash
TTL/P-TTL flash
Flash sync speed
FP and X terminals - 1/60s
Flash exposure comp
Not applicable
0.89x (with 50mm lens), 93% coverage
Viewfinder type
Pentaprism finder with Fresnel lens + microprism
Diopter correction
Exchangeable screen
Depth of field preview
Image size
24 x 36 mm
Four 1.5V silver oxide batteries (e.g. Eveready S76E or Mallory MS 76H)
Battery grip/pack
No, motor drive version available
Size (W x H x D)
143 x 98 x 93mm (with lens)

Built-in viewfinder blind. The shutter can be locked open (T exposure) with the shutter button lock.
Price History:

Add Review of Pentax ES II
Sort Reviews by: Date | Author | Rating | Recommendation | Likes (Descending) Showing Reviews 1-7 of 7
Junior Member

Registered: July, 2020
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 33
Review Date: September 14, 2020 Recommended | Price: $35.99 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Built to last, excellent meter
Cons: Few manual speeds, battery life is shorter

I have the typical black version of this camera with the 55mm 1.8 SMC-Takumar, I got it from an estate auction where the previous owner had neither shot with it or bothered to keep it clean for what I imagine has been decades. The mirror was stuck up, the prism had corrosion, and the little switch which activates the meter in automatic when you depress the shutter button partially was broken. After a lot of scrubbing, scavenging, and head scratching it managed to be a fully functional camera once the culprits were replaced (I have heard that the mirror sticking is a very common issue however). Running film through it proved that the meter and shutter mechanism is still as accurate as can be!
The message to get from my story? This camera is incredibly robust and very, very reliably accurate. The improvements on circuitry from the Electrospotmatic and ES do a lot to make sure things are still working and working right 45+ years on down the line.
A lot of newer cameras are as accurate or more, but this allows the use of some truly fantastic M42 lenses with all the native tricks. It is extremely satisfying to use as well, the shutter feels solid when it fires and makes a much more satisfying sound than the mechanical spotmatics, a trivial but experience enhancing feature. For being a slightly less tricked out camera than the K2, I find the placement of the ISO and exposure comp to be in the ideal location (same as the lx, IMO) on the ESii.
Mirror Up can be had by gently flicking the shutter button, it will stall the shutter cycle at the mirror being up- push the shutter button again to fire; this is the same as on the rest of the Spotty series. The viewfinder blind is also a truly useful feature for pictures using the timer or a distant cable release, its not often used but believe me when I say it is necessary. The shutter speeds are indicated as going from 1/1000s- 8s, but I have had exposures at night go on for 30 min+, usually with usable results. Additionally, the fact the camera uses cheap and common silver oxide button cells makes up for the speed at which the camera burns through these batteries.
To summarize:
Pros: excellent build quality and reliability, uses M42 lenses the way God intended, very accurate stepless shutter, fantastic placement of controls
Cons: only 5 manual speeds (+B) w/o a meter, basically a step below the K2 and much heavier, very few in working condition these days.
At the end of the day, it's not an expensive camera to play with.
New Member

Registered: September, 2010
Location: Melbourne
Posts: 2
Review Date: June 21, 2017 Recommended | Price: $90.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: A marvellous piece of 1970's engineering. Solid and feels quality.
Cons: Pioneering electronics not lasting +45 years?

I am reviewing this ESII based on the 3 years that I owned it and enjoyed using it. Sadly, it suddenly developed a few faults which either cannot be fixed or are too expensive based on advice from a US repairer and an Australian repairer. The end result is that the batteries continually drain and the mirror safety lockup (when no lens attached and in Automatic mode) no longer functions. So now it is still a usable mechanical shutter, meter-less body with a nice feel and bright spit image focus screen.

When it was operating normally, the aperture priority Automatic mode worked perfectly giving accurate exposures with black and white and colour print film once I had determined that the ASA needed to be set 2 stops faster than actual. The exposure compensation -1stop to +2 stops is useful for most situations. There is no exposure lock via a button or with half press of shutter release. The continuously variable shutter speed from 8 seconds to 1/1000 operated well. Use the super-multi-coated or SMC lenses (and some late model Super Takumars) for open aperture automatic metering. For older lenses without the aperture coupling, use the stop down metering switch.

It is an impressively well made camera. The early electronics with 3 or 4 IC chips have done exceptionally well lasting about 45 years and it has served well past what would have been expected.

It was always comforting to know that there is the mechanical shutter as a fall back and it is still a nice camera to use for normal daytime, hand held photography with just the mechanical shutter and a hand held meter.

Would I buy another one? Yes I would. I would take the punt that I may get another few years out of one of these. Would try an ES body next time. I give it a 9/10 because it is a well made and innovative camera and also a piece of 35mm camera history. If it had exposure lock, it would be perfect.
Veteran Member

Registered: October, 2012
Location: Colorado
Posts: 1,437
Review Date: April 14, 2015 Recommended | Price: $25.55 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Handles well, accurate meter, reliable electronics, great in low-light, stepless shutter
Cons: Wonky battery cover

I'm still getting to know my ESII, but I do miss the manual shutter speeds slower than 1/60th. Bulb is useful for many situations, but not all. The camera can only fire less than 1/60th in automatic mode, which is a bit of a draw-back. I'll update this as I get to use it and know it better.
Site Supporter

Registered: August, 2012
Location: Queensland
Posts: 4,188
Review Date: March 18, 2013 Recommended | Price: $85.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Solid like it's early Spotmatic brothers. 8 second speed. View finder blind
Cons: No exposure lock/ No light meter on manual

I won't repeat the excellent points Nestor made, but simply add another perspective. Since I prefer manual cameras, I did hesitate buying a Spotmatic later than the F model. However, this one came up with a good SMC Tacumar 55/1.8 for $85 so figuring the lens at $50, the camera was not a large investment. If you love Spotmatics, you should likely love this one, the last of the line.
Mine has only recently arrived, and is in very good nick, with only surface marks to indicate age. The viewfinder was clear as well. I spent some time cleaning out the old light seals and mirror bumper, replacing them with strips of adhesive felt cut from a sheet. The camera is now loaded with Kodak 400 for it's first run.
About the camera itself, one can say it feels rock solid. The four 1.5 volt batteries fit in a row under the lens mount under a long cover. As mentioned, the manual speeds are limited to 1/60 125,250,500,1000 and if you use them, the light meter is disabled. You will have to use sunny 16 or another light meter.
When Automatic is selected, one just needs to select an appropriate aperture for the Camera to be able to select a speed for it. No exposure lock, can be a problem if shooting into back-light for example, but one can use the exposure compensation from 1/2 to +4 as an option.
There is a button to test the battery, on top, which drives the needle to centre if OK. This camera does open metering, so lenses should stay in "auto" (and be unable to select manual by design) as with the F model. You get your reading pushing the release button halfway. I found it hard to focus on the speed reading in the view finder, with glasses, so now have learned to judge the position of the needle.
Five pictures have already been taken on my first test roll, and the results should confirm whether the light meter is over exposing or not. If I have more information, I will add it later. Edit later: Exposures came out well although they may be just a little bit on the over side. Here is an untouched example with Kodak 400 with the above lens.
Junior Member

Registered: May, 2010
Location: Bekasi
Posts: 32

2 users found this helpful
Review Date: May 4, 2012 Recommended | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Solid, feels right,
Cons: Dim finder

Well, finally get a deal for this classic for IDR385,000 (~USD40).
Mine is mint, but overexposes for 2 stop. May be CLA should be in order.
The technological peak of Pentax's screwmount masterpieces, oddly less popular than either SPs or Fs.
Build quality is no less solid than other spotties, electricity is not as fragile as earlier ES or Electro Spotmatic.
Did I say this camera is solid? It is, and also heavy but smooth, and holds well in your hand.
One of screwmount bodies must-have
Veteran Member

Registered: October, 2006
Location: NJ USA
Posts: 13,072

5 users found this helpful
Review Date: December 7, 2010 Recommended | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Good exposure automation
Cons: Less handy with non SMC lenses, takes 4 batteries

Pros Good exposure automation
Cons Less handy with non SMC lenses, takes 4 batteries
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) 40
Years Owned 2

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
A bit of history - the second generation of the first electronically controlled auto exposure SLR. High quality construction with tryly nifty touches. Does the job well.

Camera Review
The ES-II is an auto exposure camera - as such, it is fairly basic when it comes to bells and whistles that later on became big selling points: there's only a -1/2, +2, +4 EV compensation on the dial, no matrix metering, only Av prioritiy with SMC or compatible lenses, limited manual mode, no AE lock. But, for a camera of this era, who cares?!

The nice touches abound - the viewfinder meter indication is excellent, there are a limited set of fully mechanical shutter speeds available so you're not stuck with just one speed when out of batteries (unfortunately, it doesn't meter in manual), and that cool viewfinder blind.

Actually, more than once, I've put the camera to eye, and seen... nothing. Of course inevitably I'm thinking the mirror's jammed or something, until I sheepishly note the setting of the shutter speed dial The built in curtain is very handy for tripod work or long exposures, as the CdS sensors are built in on either side of the viewfinder. (This of course wasn't such a problem with the manually metered Spotties, as presumably your head was blocking the vf when you metered.)

The camera meters beautifully and predictably - there's a slight tendency to over exposure with e.g. flower shots - with SMC Takumars, and Adaptall-2's with the ES adapter, and Vivitar TX lenses with the ES adapter. With non-compatible lenses you have to use the meter switch to stop down, the camera will continue to set the appropriate shutter speed. As I mentioned, the metering is disabled when using the manual speeds (again, something I tend to forget in the field...) But as SMC's are so convenient with this camera, it gives you a great excuse to collect them!

With its vf curtain and ability to time very long exposures (I've gone to a minute or more in true darkness) the ES-II makes a good landscape camera.

It takes 4 1.5v batteries, and these do last a fairly long time - there doesn't seem to be a constant drain on the batteries. You turn on the meter by pushing the shutter button down slightly - unlike with the KX, say, where you have to have the wind lever sticking out, which is not so nice to a left eyed person such as myself. Another modern touch is the hot shoe.

I had to have my metering circuit fixed by Eric Hendrickson - he did a great job, and still has some spare circuit boards available. This is a good thing, as it definitely is worth keeping one of these bits of history alive.

All in all, I don't really see the advantages of a SP-F with its quirks over the ES-II in most situations; I prefer the full manual stop down Spotmatics when going manual and mechanical.

Owning an ES-II is really on a historical par with owning the original Spotmatic: both were cameras that set the direction of the entire industry. Other such cameras are fewer from Pentax: I think of the OM-1 and the early (shutter preferred) Konicas, for example. It is a solid, well behaved camera that is very enjoyable to use.

(And don't forget: great excuse to collect SMC Taks!)

Sample of ES-II low light performance: Elite Chrome 100, S-M-C Takumar 50/1.4
<a href="" title="early light by Nesster, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="322" alt="early light" /></a>
Veteran Member

Registered: March, 2007
Location: St Louis, Missouri U S A
Posts: 2,464

2 users found this helpful
Review Date: October 13, 2010 Recommended | Price: $31.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Aperture Priority, and it is a thing of beauty in black. Readily available batteries.
Cons: No metering in manual mode

Pros Aperture Priority, and it is a thing of beauty in black. Readily available batteries.
Cons No metering in manual mode
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) $31 including shipping.
Years Owned 2 months

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
It feels solid and very well built. Nothing cheap about it. I really like having aperture priority, and except for my S-M-C Tak 200 F4 , metering seems very good to me. The nifty viewfinder flap is a really cool feature.

Camera Review
I love this camera. It is a solid piece of equipment, easy to use, and good looking too !! The meter is pretty accurate with all of my SMC Taks except sometimes my S-M-C 200mm F4 overexposes. ( maybe it was me )
Add Review of Pentax ES II

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 06:18 PM. | See also:, part of our network of photo forums!
  • Red (Default)
  • Green
  • Gray
  • Dark
  • Dark Yellow
  • Dark Blue
  • Old Red
  • Old Green
  • Old Gray
  • Dial-Up Style
Hello! It's great to see you back on the forum! Have you considered joining the community?
Creating a FREE ACCOUNT takes under a minute, removes ads, and lets you post! [Dismiss]