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Pentax ES

Reviews Views Date of last review
6 45,956 Sat August 1, 2020
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
83% of reviewers $129.25 7.50
Pentax ES

Pentax ES
Pentax ES

The Pentax ES was the world's first 35mm SLR with a fully electronic shutter system. When set on automatic, the ES has a stepless shutter. The Pentax memory device computes and delivers an infinite number of exposures between 8 and 1/1000 second - automatically. If 1/555 second will give you the right exposure, that is what will be programmed.

The Pentax ES utilizes the last generation screw-mount Super-Multi-Coated Takumar and SMC lenses. In addition to the legendary flare control and color fidelity that has made these lenses so popular, the S-M-C/ SMC lenses are designed to allow open aperture metering on the ES, ES II and Spotmatic F. The viewfinder remains bright under all conditions, making focusing easy. In the event that earlier lenses without the open-aperture metering coupling, the ES provides stop-down metering with the familiar switch near the lens mount. In any case, the meter is activated by partially depressing the shutter release button. These features make the ES less than one-quarter inch taller and only six ounces heavier than the Spotmatic F.

The standard color for the ES was black, which was a departure for previous Pentax M42 bodies where black was a special order. With both the ES and ES II, chrome was the special order version. The ES name on the face of the body replaced Electro Spotmatic on the earlier model released only in Japan and had improved circuitry. The size of the circuits did not allow room for a self timer in the ES.

Price when New
7186 - camera with 50mm f/1.4 $360
7187 - camera with 55mm f/1.8 $320
7188 - camera body only $290

Asahi Pentax ES
Also marketed as
Honeywell Pentax ES
Year introduced
Year discontinued
Automatic aperture stop down
Open aperture, centerweight
Meter range
EV 1 to 18
ISO range
20 to 1600
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
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
6V, Eveready #544
Battery grip/pack
Size (W x H x D)
143 x 98 x 50mm (without lens)

Price History:

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Sort Reviews by: Date | Author | Rating | Recommendation | Likes (Descending) Showing Reviews 1-6 of 6
New Member

Registered: July, 2020
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 12
Review Date: August 1, 2020 I can recommend the Pentax ES: Yes | Price: $43.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Relatively accurate meter, not stop down metering
Cons: Heavy, only 5 manual speeds, awful to fix

I bought this camera as a body only from a “this is a camera, no more no less” type of auction on eBay. It required some work to bring it back to full condition, but after re-adjusting the wiring under the bottom cover and oiling the mirror return cam, it was better. The circuitry in this camera is all hand soldered, so it has a propensity for coming loose, for an entirely electrical camera that is not ideal. It is a joy to use, just as satisfying as any other spotmatic and the open-iris metering makes it simpler for sure. The battery doesn’t seem to last more than a few months under regular use.
Of course unless your after aperture priority only, this body is a heavy duty paperweight with only 5 fast shutter speeds. Truly what must have been a great new technology at the time of release, I find to translate to needing a seperate body for aperture priority versus manual camera operations now. Of course if you don’t mind letting the camera do the work it’s a fantastic workhorse. A neat camera that is unfortunately complex to ensure that it works.
Forum Member

Registered: December, 2012
Location: Warsaw
Posts: 83
Review Date: December 5, 2015 I can recommend the Pentax ES: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Easy to use automatic exposure. Milestone CLASSIC by PENTAX. Still working great.
Cons: Nothing significant

It is so much fun to take over 40 years old S-M-C Takumar glass and shoot in aperture priority auto with bright viewfinder all the time!
This revolutionary classic camera still gives excellent results.

It has no self-timer and will meter only in auto-mode. If you choose the shutter speed on the dial yourself - the light meter will be shut off. May be considered as an inconvenience, but for me it is a part of the unique character of this masterpiece camera.

I got a black copy in very good condition.

Registered: October, 2012
Location: Colorado
Posts: 1,433
Review Date: October 26, 2015 I can recommend the Pentax ES: No | Price: $14.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Ergonomics, meter quality
Cons: Limited manual shutter speed selection, weight

The ES replaced the Electro Spotmatic, which was a Japan-only body. The ES has improved electronics which were mass-produced and are more reliable 40 years after release. The camera has the same body as the Electro, and for me that's a good thing. I'm rating this a six in keeping with my Electro review stating that the lack of manual shutter speeds slower than 1/60th is worth -4 points because it cripples creative ability. Other than that, the camera is very nice and enjoyable to use. It's heavy, and the compact body size it feels heavier around the neck than other similarly-sized cameras. As another potential detraction to these bodies, the prices on them have absolutely tanked in the last few years.
New Member

Registered: July, 2011
Location: St Louis, MO
Posts: 1

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: July 16, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax ES: Yes | Price: $360.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Esay to use, automatic shutter, easy to focus, still works after 35+ years
Cons: heavy but solid, odd battery size

I have had this camera for many years and used it for all sorts of pictures. I have wide angle and zoom telephoto lenses for it as well as 50mm prime lens. Mine is black body model. As I migrated to digital photography and film processing is less available, I use it less, but it is still a reliable alternative when needed.
Site Supporter

Registered: June, 2008
Location: Florida Hill Country
Posts: 17,298

2 users found this helpful
Review Date: May 16, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax ES: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: revolutionary
Cons: spare parts hard to find

This is the successor to the commercially marketed Electro-Spotmatic which had flakey one of a kind circuit boards in them. The ES had a "standard" board that can be repaired or replaced. Eric Hendrickson can fix the ES and ESII but not the Electro-Spotmatic. This camera features open aperture capability with the appropriate lenses. It also features a stepless electronic shutter, though a cloth one. It contains elements of the Metalica II prototype unveiled by Asahi at the 1966 Photokina.

Registered: April, 2010
Location: Hertfordshire
Posts: 3,184
Review Date: October 12, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax ES: Yes | Price: $100.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Nice solid camera to use and surprisingly accurate auto-exposure mode
Cons: No metering in manual mode

Pros Nice solid camera to use and surprisingly accurate auto-exposure mode
Cons No metering in manual mode
Rating 8
Price (U.S. Dollars) c. $100
Years Owned 2

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Good value second hand, Av and manual exposure modes, exposure compensation dial. Quite large compared to the more common M series cameras but still not that big.

Camera Review
I tell myself that I ought not to like this camera. It has no metering in manual mode, and no self timer. Compared to my M series cameras it is heavy and large and the viewfinder is darker than the later models (although good compared to many of its contemporaries). But I love it and when I want to use a M42 camera this is the one I go for nine times out of ten. It has a good solid feel in the hand, the auto exposure is surprisingly accurate (I have no qualms about using slide film in it) and it does have an exposure compensation dial to allow you to adjust the exposure when needed. I rather like its looks too. Provided you can make sure the electronics are working OK, I would recommend this camera to anyone wanting to try M42 lenses on a contemporary body with just a touch of modern convenience.
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