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Pentax MZ-3

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7 54,660 Thu October 10, 2019
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $138.80 8.83
Pentax MZ-3

Pentax MZ-3
Pentax MZ-3

The Pentax MZ-3 is an upgraded version of the MZ-5N/ZX-5N SLR and was available only in select markets. It has a top shutter speed of 1/4000 s where the MZ-5N/ZX-5N tops out at 1/2000 s. Other than that, the cameras are identical.

The control layout is classic with a shutter speed dial, an exposure compensation dial, levers for metering pattern and drive modes. The aperture is set with the aperture ring on the lens.

Extra flash functions with an external flash: Contrast control.

Year introduced
Meter range
0 - 21 EV
Meter pattern
m c s
ISO range
6 - 6400
DX ISO range
25 - 5000
Exposure modes
P, Av, Tv, M, B
Exposure compensation
+/-3 EV
Exposure lock
Shutter speeds (auto)
30 - 1/4000s
Shutter speeds (manual)
1 - 1/4000s
Shutter speeds (mechanical)
Self timer
Mirror lock-up
Auto bracketing
Multiple exposures
Built-in 2 fps
Built-in flash
Yes, GN 11
TTL flash
P-TTL flash
Sync speed
Flash exposure comp
Yes (3 points)
Autofocus sensitivity
-1 - 18 EV
Power zoom
Yes, limited
0.8x, 92%
Viewfinder type
Diopter correction
Exchangeable screen
Depth of field preview
Image size
24 x 36 mm
Panorama format
Yes, 13 x 36 mm
2 x CR2
Battery grip/pack
Grip FG, 4x AA
Size (W x H x D)
135 x 90 x 61.5 mm
410 g
Price History:

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Forum Member

Registered: September, 2019
Posts: 69
Review Date: October 10, 2019 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-3: Yes | Price: $50.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Light weight, shutter speed, dial knobs, DOF preview, pop-up flash
Cons: Manual focus, viewfinder, cr2 batteries

i was searching for an AF film camera and in a photo gear market i found this mz3 in silver with a F35-70 f4-5.6.

Comparing with a P30t is very light and the grip, even if small, is very comfortable and the general ergonomics is good. AF works good but has some problems in low light ('s a 1997 camera ). I love the knobs for shutter speed and exposure compensation and that you have to use lens aperture ring.
Pop-up flash is useful, so you can leave your flash at home for a general use. Sadly i have not the FG grip and i have to use CR2 batteries.

I recommend to use F and FA lenses because using MF is a bit difficult.

Registered: August, 2007
Location: Toronto
Posts: 768

4 users found this helpful
Review Date: May 25, 2018 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-3: Yes | Price: $60.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Pentax's top film SLR with a traditional interface
Cons: The risk of a split gear hangs over the head of this camera

After many years of looking and wondering about the MZ-3, I finally purchased one this spring. I've shot a great number of Pentax cameras, so can offer some perspective. The bottom line, for me, is that the MZ-3 is the best Pentax film SLR.

Considering the camera on it's own merits, the drawbacks are few but important:
  • eventually the dreaded plastic mirror gear will split
  • the body is made out of plastic, with no metal surfaces
  • smallish viewfinder compared to earlier cameras like the MX

On the positive side:
  • traditional controls with dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation
  • quick and reliable AF
  • accurate exposure metering
  • good 1/4000 top shutter speed helps use faster apertures in daylight
  • flexible battery usage, with the cheap FG grip allowing AA batteries

The traditional design of the MZ-3 (and the MZ-5 it was derived from) must have seemed like a complete throwback when the camera was introduced in 1997. After all, Pentax had pioneered the dual-control wheel paradigm with the P-Z1p (at a time when Nikon's F90 only had one control wheel.) The MZ-S was also a clean-sheet design, with an innovative top deck, and oversized control wheels. The MZ-3 made the statement that traditionalists still had a home with Pentax. Aperture rings on your lenses? Required. Dedicated knob for shutter speed? Of course! No mode-switching? Definitely, just move your aperture ring or shutter speed off "A" and you're naturally in "AV", "TV" or "M" mode without even thinking about what mode you are in. But now, seven years after Fuji re-embraced traditional controls with the X100, the design of the MZ-3 seems prescient. Fuji's SLR-style cameras (X-T1, X-T2) actually seem like thoughtful tributes to the MZ-3.

It's reputed that Pentax meant the MZ-3 to be the perfect match to the then-new FA Limited lenses. The MZ-3 is a perfect match for these lenses in the obvious ways -- small and light, with an emphasis on quality and a traditional photographic experience. The FA 43 and the FA 77 both fit this camera like a glove, providing the absolute best experience you can have shooting 35mm, outside of a Leica, and results to match.

But the MZ-3 is like the FA Limited lenses in other ways too. Both are unabashedly for "camera lovers." Together they offer all of the performance demanded by an aficionado - not necessarily a professional. Neither are weather sealed. The lenses are not f/1.4 monsters, and the camera doesn't give 1/250 flash sync or a 10-frame per second motor drive. This camera and lens combo are capable of the absolute best in image quality, but won't win any "top spec" comparisons.

This approach is compatible with Pentax in general. Spec-wise, only the PZ-1p and the MZ-S sit above the MZ-3. Having shot all three cameras, I safely say the one I enjoy most is the MZ-3. The PZ-1p looks like a prop from an 80's-era Alien movie, and weighs twice as much as the MZ-3. The MZ-S is a wonderful camera, but handles best without the rare and expensive battery grip - meaning you choose between AA's or a camera that is right-sized. The MZ-3 gives up one stop of shutter speed (to the PZ-1p; or half a stop to the MZ-S.) The flash sync speed is comparably outclassed by the PZ-1p and MZ-S -- but if controlling daylight fill flash is important, you should be choosing a leaf shutter anyway.

I can compare the MZ-3 to Nikon contemporaries - but there is no direct analog. The only camera to offer a comparable traditional control layout was the Nikon F4 - a camera that is a decade older and weighs 3.5 times what the MZ-3 weighs. Top end Nikon build quality clearly outpaces the MZ-3, but at the cost of weight and size. The F100 is a completely different beast -- completing the evolution of the dual-control wheel paradigm pioneered by the PZ-1p, in a heavier, rounded and rubberized SLR that looks essentially the same as full-frame Nikon cameras today. Only the Pentax MZ-S gets close to this build quality, but with an eye to light weight and hand-holdability.

The build quality of the MZ-3 is closer to Nikon's "enthusaist" cameras, the F80 and the F75. The contrast is interesting, and telling. In a camera of similar size and weight, Nikon offered the F75 with "idiot mode" programs and marketing that targeted the "mom-tographer." The MZ-3 clearly targets the dedicated photographer, who desires direct controls and no hand holding.

One final note - I strongly recommend using any of the MZ cameras with the FG battery pack. This grip is compatible with all of the MZ cameras (except the MZ-S) and only adds a small bit of height to the bottom of the camera, and a little bit of weight. The ability to use AA batteries removes one of the costs for using these cameras, as CR2 batteries become increasingly rare and expensive. The handling improvement is tangible, placing the camera lower in my palm and lowering the centre of gravity, both of which make hand-holding easier and steadier. I'm not a fan of bigger dedicate battery grips, finding them to add to much weight and bulk -- but the FG is the exception. It's also readily available on the used market for a low price.

Flash usage is straight forward. Stick with contemporary flashes from Pentax (like the AF 280T or AF 500FTZ) or the first generation digital flashes (AF 360FGZ or AF 540FGZ) and you get full TTL Auto flash goodness. But the traditional control setup of the MZ-3 also makes it very easy to use classic Auto/Thyristor flashes like the Vivitar 285HV or the Metz 45 potato-masher flashes.

In conclusion, this camera is highly recommended. The design is a perennial classic, never looking dated or "too futuristic." The feature set provides everything that a demanding photographer requires, and nothing more. Fingers crossed that my mirror drive gear doesn't split -- or has been replaced already.

New Member

Registered: May, 2014
Posts: 5
Review Date: October 26, 2016 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-3: Yes | Price: $200.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Nice design, lightweight, 1/4000s, A mode
Cons: Slow AF but it's acceptable

I've got a Silver MZ-3 for 2 years from Japan, and it's one of my favorite film camera.

I've retired for 3 months and not had time to shoot anymore. Anyone want to get this tiny gem in silver color and the FA 43mm 1.9 Silver combined? Contact me at I can ship to anywhere in the world.
Senior Member

Registered: April, 2009
Location: Arlington, MA
Posts: 155

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: January 4, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-3: Yes | Price: $184.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Ergonomics, light weight, 1/4000
Cons: Viewfinder magnification, manual focus, durability

Pros Ergonomics, light weight, 1/4000
Cons Viewfinder magnification, manual focus, durability
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) 184
Years Owned 0.5

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
A really ergonomic camera, all controls fall easily to hand, the traditional user interface is much nicer than buttons or menus. Non-crippled KAF2 mount. Autofocus is solid, 1/4000 top shutter speed is worth the trouble of finding this rather rare camera. Exposures have been accurate, as has autofocus.

Camera Review
I bought an ZX-7 for my daughter because it has push-button multiple-exposure. I expected it to be plastic junk, but was very pleasantly surprised. Since I'd bought a few Pentax-FA lenses for our *ist DS2 (50/1.4, 35/2.0, and 28/2.8 Soft), I figured it would make sense to have a matching film camera. So I decided to hunt down an MZ-3 to get the 1/4000 top shutter speed.

The controls are all incredibly natural to use. I think the viewfinder display is great, compared to the miserable LCD in the Super Program. The display is very readable, bright, and high in contrast, and packs in a lot of information in that's very well presented.

Built-in diopter adjustment is handy, works well.

The exposure compensation is easy to use. Auto-bracketing is a nice feature, I've used it several times when testing film speeds.

No settings are wasted on different modes, you just move the aperture or shutter speed off A, and you get the appropriate type of priority. Very natural.

While the autofocus isn't very sophisticated, it's faster than the *ist DS2. I've found it to be accurate.

The viewfinder magnification is reasonable, although pretty small compared to my MX. But the shutter speed dial is very easy to turn, where the MX has a annoying over-detented shutter speed dial, blocked by the wind lever.

The non-crippled KAF2 mount lets you use any Pentax K-mount lens with full metering. Now, it's not a great camera for manual focus lenses. I've swapped in the focusing screen from an ZX-M to get a split-image screen, which helps somewhat, but comes at the cost of losing accurate spot-metering. Of course, focus confirm can also be a useful crutch.

Of course, it is a "plastic wonder." Probably a disposable camera if something goes wrong.

I also swapped in the back door from the ZX-M, to eliminate the bulk of the stupid Quartz Date back. I'd already removed the battery from the back to prevent any risk of it ruining my pictures.

The price of the CR2 batteries is annoying, although not bad if bought from B&H or Adorama. The AA grip solves the cost problem, but at a serious penalty from the weight of four AA batteries. I prefer using it "flyweight" with CR2s.

Of course, the camera is totally battery dependent. That could be a stopper for many folks. The strap has pockets to store spare batteries.

The weak part on the flash is an annoyance. The replacement part is readily available.

The "Achilles Heel" is the gear on the mirror motor that shrinks and breaks. If you have the orignal plastic gear, don't go on an important shoot with this camera without a backup. The gear on mine split, so I did the "replace the gear only" trick that's posted somewhere on the forums here. It was a painful couple of hours' work. Not for the mechanically timid, that's for sure. The new gear is brass, so I'll never have to do that again in this camera.

If you don't want to pay for the 1/4000 shutter speed, the ZX-5n/MZ-5n is otherwise exactly the same camera, and sells for incredibly low prices. The ZX-5n is extraordinary value.
Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2007
Location: Irvine, CA
Posts: 485
Review Date: December 15, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-3: Yes | Price: $200.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Beautiful, Incredible IQ, Awesome Viewfinder, Lightweight & Compact
Cons: No In-Body Aperture Control, Impossible to Find

Pros Beautiful, Incredible IQ, Awesome Viewfinder, Lightweight & Compact
Cons No In-Body Aperture Control, Impossible to Find
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) $200
Years Owned 2

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
This is a rare camera that I've never again seen for sale since I picked it up on the forums a couple years back from a forum superstar. With the ability shoot 1/4000th, it's slim profile, and lightweight, it's my go-to film camera, and I've taken it just about everywhere.

Camera Review
I first picked up this camera just because it was beautiful. I had been testing the waters of Film Photography after I got a bit tired of shooting with my K10D, and was really enjoying myself, but couldn't stand the light leaks I experienced from a K1000 and an ME Super.

Instead of getting another cheapo without autofocus, I opted to go big and purchased the MZ-3 from another forum member, and I'm damn glad I did! This camera has gone through environments it probably should not have been exposed to, including two trips to Death Valley (and treks through sandstorms on the Mesquite Sand Dunes), as well as reaching the tip-top of Mt. Whitney (highest mountain the lower 48).

I've dragged it from temps reaching the 100s, to temps in the low 20s, and never had a single problem. Autofocus is fast, crisp, and accurate (I would say more accurate, and far faster than my K10D). The viewfinder is bright as can be (and beautiful), and the camera itself is an ease and pleasure to work with, though I do miss in-body aperture control (not that badly though- I sold an excellent condition PZ-1p after passing only two rolls of film through it because I liked the MZ-3 so much more!).

The FA 28-70 f/4 produces incredible images with this body, and I use that lens just about exclusively with it. However, I have also shot excellent photos with an M 28 f/3.5, an A 50 f/1.7, an M 135 f/3.5, and an M 200 f/4. This is a workhorse camera capable of shooting incredible images, if you have the patience to set your apertures via lens rings.

Note: Shooting in "A" mode, the camera will autoselect aperture for you, but I prefer to have control over that.

If I were to upgrade camera bodies, the only change I would even remotely consider would be a movement to the legendary MZ-S, but at $400+ per body, the MZ-3 offers enough functionality and such incredible performance that I'm not planning on purchasing another body any time soon.

If you have the opportunity to buy one, don't pass it up.
Site Supporter

Registered: June, 2008
Location: Florida Hill Country
Posts: 17,295
Review Date: May 8, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-3: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Light, ttl flash, 1/4000 shutter speed
Cons: limited availability

Pros Light, ttl flash, 1/4000 shutter speed
Cons limited availability, no in body A control
Rating 9.5
Price $106
Years Owned 1.5
I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Its a relatively compact AF camera with a top shutter speed of 1/4000. In addition, to that it supports ttl flash. I also like the classic style dials on the camera. It will take the MZ-S to beat this camera or the PZ-1zp which is huge compared to this one.

Camera Review
I have the black and silver edition with data back. The metering seems to quite good on this camera. It is somewhat compact which may make it slightly small for some people's hands. However, I find it just right with the optional grip. It pairs well with my FA 50mm f1.4. I held out for this camera rather than getting a capable but slower ZX5n although I was tempted by the PZ-1p. The MZ-s was too pricey for me.

With optional grip & FA 50mm lens:

Without grip:

From the back with grip in place:

Veteran Member

Registered: March, 2007
Location: Ankara, Turkey
Posts: 399
Review Date: May 8, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-3: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 

Pros: Light, capable, has 1/4000!!!
Cons: None

Pros Light, capable, has 1/4000!!!
Cons None
Rating 9
Price 100
Years Owned 3

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
This is probably a camera with a limited number of copies around. It is very light for a camera that can shoot at 1/4000. It does need batteries to function. The original kit contained FA 28-70mm f/4 zoom lens, which is also light (and a very good performer as well).

Camera Review
I have the version with a silvery-look top. Those looking for a film SLR to shoot 135 film should be very happy with this one. It lacks the user programmable features. Other than that, it is a strong, light, dependable performer. This should probably be used with FA series zooms as earlier types (like the "A" series) will make the camera front-heavy.
Nowadays I rarely use this beautiful camera because when I use film, I prefer medium format. However, I can take the MZ-3 for a hike or a long walk any time...
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