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Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N

Reviews Views Date of last review
25 75,338 Mon January 10, 2022
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
68% of reviewers $162.89 7.09
Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N

Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N
Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N

The Pentax MZ-5N/ZX-5N SLR introduced in 1997 replaced the MX-5/ZX-5 from the year before. This new model kept the classic control layout with a shutter speed dial, an exposure compensation dial, levers for metering pattern and drive modes. The aperture was set with the aperture ring on the lens. A couple of important features were added, namely auto-bracketing, exposure lock and depth of field preview.

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 memory lock
Shutter speeds (auto)
30 - 1/2000s
Shutter speeds (manual)
2 - 1/2000s
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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Senior Member

Registered: October, 2018
Location: Paris
Posts: 128
Review Date: January 10, 2022 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: Evererything you need and more
Cons: Hard to find in good working conditions

This should be a 10/10 review.

Because this compact cameras gives you every control that you need including DoF and it has the classic controls for speed on the camera and aperture in the lens. In speed priority mode you may be able to use modern lenses without aperture ring.

But this camera is also very frustrating. I had to buy 3 before finding one in good working conditions. And after a couple of years it gives me headaches for focus... the autofocus may be ok, but this is blurry on screen. If i focus manualy, the values on the lense seems suprising.

I am on a long holiday trip, no way to know the good way to focus in these conditions in places where there is no lab to control the results, i am probably just wasting films... as I said before, it is very frustrating..
New Member

Registered: July, 2012
Location: Perth, Australia
Posts: 23
Review Date: March 2, 2021 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: Yes | Price: $10.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Small, light, exposure compensation, shutter speed dial, viewfinder
Cons: Plastic

Looking to go back to film as a side salad.

Wanted a traditional layout shutter dial but all of the modes and some kind of viewfinder readout.

Swapped the mz-5n body and 28-80 f4 for a 50mm f1.7 lens.

Lightweight and small makes an easy carry companion

Metering is rock solid.

Viewfinder is a bit dim but readout is sufficient

Ergonomics are typical for the era but perfectly fine.

Really enjoying this body.

Cheap alternative to LX or MZS if you don't have or want to spend the money.

So good, if I don't get one of the above, I'll get another mz-5n

Value for money and modern enough to tick all the boxes
New Member

Registered: September, 2020
Location: Derbyshire
Posts: 3

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: October 24, 2020 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: Yes | Price: $250.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Infallible meter, great user interface, portable, fun, quick in use
Cons: Too much plastic; doubts about accurate focussing at distance

I had one of these from 1997 to 2009.

It was one of the first autofocus film SLRs in the UK to get over 90% in reviews. Nikon's F80 soon knocked it off its post when it was released afterwards a few years later.

My experience is mostly positive. My MZ5n never let me down once mechanically and it was my go to camera for holidays. Mine was still working when I reluctantly sold it because of the 2008 financial crash.

I will go as far as saying that I believe that the MZ5n was one of THE finest enthusiast film SLRs of all time that Pentax has ever produced. Its only limitation in my view was the modern materials used to make it with. As a concept - it was and could be the perfect film SLR.

The Good Points:

The 6 segment (I think it was) meter was in my experience infallible. It never gave me a duff exposure once - and I was using E6! Okay, I had to use the exposure compensation dial in snowy or misty conditions and in other well-known situations but that aside, using THAT meter was a pleasure, No wonder they used that meter spec in the 645 and 67II Pentax cameras. Here in the UK, the prowess of the meter was noted in reviews too.

I have an E6 shot at night of a tree with one of its bows pointing towards the moon. The tree is very well exposed and the moon-sky is too - all by using the MZ5n's metering and onboard flash.

I mean, what is photography other than capturing light as accurately as possible? All the magic starts from there. You did not have to worry about metering with the MZ5n. It had it covered. And how!

The next good point was the layout/user interface. It was so easy to use and even my sausage like fingers could make adjustments on the top plate during shooting. The viewfinder was fine and gave you comprehensive info on exposure status. You could have it around your neck all day and not feel it was there. I could still manually focus very well on my excellent Pentax 70-210mm f4 zoom for 4 example.

The third good point (and being a Pentax we should not be surprised): backwards capability. I could use early K and M lenses using centre weighted or spot metering easily with great results but had to externally check the aperture (no big deal). Pentax 'A' lenses could be set to 'A' in programme mode and you'd know the aperture in use.

I have loads of superbly exposed slides using the MZ5n. What can I say?

The Downsides:

Well, it was made of 'plastic' (poly-carbonate?) - even my version had developed a small stress fracture on the pop up flash by the time I sold it.

Focussing: whilst my version focussed its FA and Ltd lenses accurately at near and mid distance, I had mixed results at infinity with say, 43-50mm lenses. I had an FA 50mm 1.4 and was very disappointed with the results, so I got an A 50mm1.4 instead and it did much better when set manually. But I also noticed that the formidable FA35mm f2 could also suffer the same problem.

I concluded that the focussing (was it SAFOX IV or something?) was lacking calibration at infinity - it was not the lens' fault. I should have had it checked by Pentax more than anything else.

On my MZ5n, my superb FA 20-35mm zoom lived on it and I shot mostly at f8-11. I also used my FA 28mm the same way so the shooting at infinity problem was only something I ran into occasionally. I realised that something was wrong when my FA 50mm 1.4 behaved perfectly on an MX at distance. The FA 50mm is a great lens but the camera's infinity focussing made it seem it was not.

So there you go. I'm not here to argue with others about the MZ5n. My experience with mine was wonderful. I can only hope that what Pentax learnt from making the MZ5n went into its digital line up.

For me though, the MZ5n is one of Pentax's finest enthusiast cameras and I miss it a lot.

I would have gone onto the MZ-3 as well if I'd had the chance and even an MZ-S eventually. I had every reason to feel like that based on my own intimate use of this great little camera - the MZ5n.
Forum Member

Registered: November, 2007
Location: Gwynedd, Wales
Posts: 67
Review Date: March 31, 2018 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: No | Price: $20.00 | Rating: 5 

Pros: Intuitive to use, uncrippled KAF2 with metal mount, DOF preview.

This is an interesting camera, an attempt I guess nto make someting with the controls of the pre-autofocus era.

Unfortunatly, the major problem is that they break. The popup flash fails, and more importantly the pinion gear on the motor fails. OK, you can now pick up another one very cheaply (if you can find one that still works) but it is totally against the ethos of the MX and older cameras the control layout is trying to remind us of.

To be fair, I had an MX for a while and although that's a highly regarded camera I didn't really like it. I guess I'm happy with push buttons etc. And of course not everyone is.

Unfortunately, although the camera is intuitive to use and supports pretty much every Pentax film era lens and some of the newer digital lenses, the heavier lenses are very unbalanced.

It would be a good camera if not for the cheap materials.

II actually prefer the cheaper MX-30 and 50, because the main thing I use these cameras for is to have something that is not going to break my heart if they are destroyed (parties, bike tours etc.) I'm not going to take my MEF or Z-1p into that sort of environment.

If you are a digital camera user and looking for something to get the feel of film cameras, I'd avoid the MZ/ZX series altogether. .
New Member

Registered: December, 2016
Location: North Germany
Posts: 1
Review Date: February 1, 2017 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: No | Price: None indicated | Rating: 4 

Pros: light, good IQ, traditional use
Cons: short life time

I owned this camera in those years close before the digital era. Its exposures were pretty good: nice colors, sharp... but: suddenly its shutter stuck and so the camera never did work again. Today you can get this camera and its sisters MZ-3, MZ-7 etc. for a couple of Euro or Dollars on Ebay, mostly with the same defect: a stuck shutter.
So keep off even though it still works because it includes a ticking self destruction.
New Member

Registered: October, 2016
Location: Porthtowan
Posts: 17

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: October 23, 2016 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: No | Price: $900.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Near-perfect traditional handling, very good exposure measurement and display
Cons: Poor build quality, slow motor,

I took many good shots with this camera, the hit to miss ratio was the best of any model I've ever owned. The viewfinder was very good, especially with regard to the focus confirmation and exposure readout. However, its build quality was pretty lightweight for the price. Like many I found that the flash spring gave up the ghost. Talking of the flash, it had a tendency to overexpose. The film advance rate was pretty slow. The "panorama" mode was a useless gimmick, no doubt prompted by the advent of APS.

The appearance and ergonomics of this camera were inspired by the old MX - unfortunately the build quality was inspired by an accountant.
Veteran Member

Registered: July, 2014
Location: Nagoya
Posts: 577
Review Date: March 23, 2016 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: No | Price: $80.00 | Rating: 5 

Pros: Light, traditional dials
Cons: Interlock on dials, feels flimsy, sounds nasty

This camera has a certain charm to it, but for me it just doesn't feel quite right. The idea is a nice one - modern AF SLR with a nod to SLRs of yore in the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials. These dials would be fantastically convenient if it weren't for the buttons that you have to press to get them out of their automatic positions, which make them just as inconvenient, if not more so, than having to push buttons to change settings on other automatic SLRs. Apart from that, the camera itself feels unpleasantly plasticky (which is fine on my MZ-10, which cost a quarter of the price), and the shutter and winder make a really horrible noise reminiscent of nasty 90s P&S compacts. Add to that this camera's reputation for breaking down and it's really not worth the price premium that it commands over the other MZ/ZX models, especially given that its USP - the dials - really isn't all that it's cracked up to be. I have a similar-age Nikon F80 that I paid a lot less for and it is superior in every single way, as much as it pains me to say it.

For a modern(ish) Pentax SLR, the MZ-10, which also has an uncrippled mount, is a much better value and simpler choice, and so is the slightly older but more sturdy (and still very inexpensive) Z-50 or Z-20.
New Member

Registered: August, 2015
Posts: 1
Review Date: August 9, 2015 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: Yes | Price: $90.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Light but solid. Real pentaprism. Classic dials. Perfect size.
Cons: Slightly noiser wind-on than I would have hoped for.

My previous Pentax film SLR's were a Z-1p and a Z-50p. I sold the semi-pro Z-1p when I got fed up with the weight of it and started using cheap light DSLR's. Last year the Z-50p died on me so I bought a "used" MZ-5n. I was astonished at it's near mint condition and am totally delighted with it. My partner and I share the camera so having the dioptre adjustment is very useful. The images you get when using decent prime lenses and fujichrome slide film are very sharp with of course the fantastic colours fujichrome is famous for. I sometimes have the slides scanned but even high resolution scans viewed on an Apple monitor look feeble compared to projections of a "real raw" slide image. Anyway I tend to take lots of nature/landscape shots with film and use the DSLR for our kids and fast-action shots so I don't feel the need to choose between the 2 formats. Quite a few people have commented on the delicate flash-hinge thingy but I'm not concerned about that as I use this outside 99% of the time so it only gets a tiny bit of fill-in flash use.
I've seen plenty of these cameras for sale on ebay with various faults so my copy may not last as long as I hope but I'm careful with cameras and even if I only get a 100 or so rolls of film through this before it dies I will have had my money's worth. A lovely portable and enjoyable camera to take with you anywhere either on it's own or as a back-up to a DSLR for any once-in-a-lifetime-trips or event. I would have preferred an all-black version but haven't seen one advertised so I may splash out on a black MZ-3 if I can find a good one at a decent price....that way the wife and I will not have to fight over our MZ-5n anymore.....if you need a solid but light film camera with a great viewfinder and all the controls you're ever likely to need then seek one of these things out and use it. Film is not dead it's as good as ever and it's a lot less hassle than a DSLR with a thousand things to fiddle with/go wrong with...not to mention the tedium and time wasted having to mess with the inferior colour of digital images on a computer with ever-increasingly confusing software.
Forum Member

Registered: February, 2013
Location: Somewhere around Seattle
Posts: 53

3 users found this helpful
Review Date: February 8, 2015 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: Yes | Price: $50.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Size, weight, versatility
Cons: Makes me want a 645n

I am so glad I bought this ZX5n to replace my SF1n that suddenly stopped rewinding film. Otherwise I'd still be mashing all the SF1n buttons with both hands and wouldn't know that there really is an easier, softer way to put images on film.

The ZX5n got its design cues, size and weight from the MX, has the same controls and SAFOX IV electronics as the 645n, has full lens compatibility including FAJ/DA (sans SDM/DC) lenses, and it's quiet on top of it all. From fully automatic to fully manual, it does everything I need a film camera to do. The pentaprism viewfinder and metal lens mount put it ahead of most all the other cameras in the MZ/ZX class.

It's easy to use because every mode and function is just one or two control changes away and every lens I mount works without a fuss. Shooting an M lens in AV mode on the ZX5n is so liberating compared to fighting the hard to turn shutter speed dial while studying the LEDs on my MX. That said, A, F, and FA lenses become another camera control dial that just happen to pass light thru. Auto-focusing is fast and accurate beyond my needs. None of my pictures so far have missed focus or exposure. The TTL flash is simple, versatile, and real-world useful.

I am amazed how effortlessly it can shoot through a roll of film and how smooth the shooting experience is. Can hardly feel the mirror slap or hear the film wind, it just makes a short quiet "clkzrr" then it's ready for the next shot. I am free to concentrate on the things that really matter: composition, depth of field, motion, and breaking the rule of thirds or not. This is the first camera I have owned that "gets out of the way" of my picture taking without feeling like a point and shoot. Yet it is that, too, when I want it to be, like for quick shots around family and friends.

If my 5n breaks I'll gladly fix or replace it because there isn't a better option available. The PZ1 and MZ-S are the only significant upgrades to this at the cost of greater weight, bigger size, increased complexity, and higher price but still have the same image quality. For all that, I'd switch to a 645n knowing now that it operates exactly like my MZ5n and that I'd gain the substantial benefit of the improved IQ of 120 film.
New Member

Registered: November, 2013
Posts: 9
Review Date: December 30, 2014 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: Yes | Price: $25.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: diopter correction, excellent pictures
Cons: spring of flash, too much plastic

this is a "light version" of sfx, but with indication of aperture in viewfinder and spot-metering.

plastic construction, but very fine pictures with it.

very usefull with AA-battery-grip.Have experience with some items of this line. a metal body would be better.
New Member

Registered: February, 2011
Location: Seattle
Posts: 6

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: March 2, 2013 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: Yes | Price: $300.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Classic retro-design, easy and quick to use
Cons: faulty spring on pop up flash

I have owned two of these well specced bodies for ten years or so and was generally happy with them. As always, the minority who get problems are the most vocal and generally you don't hear so much from the people who were simply satisfied.

The camera layout is straightforward and there is little need of an instruction book or manual with all the controls easy to find. Unlike some reviewers I found the construction to be fairly solid; certainly more solid and a bit heavier than than some budget Canon and Nikon bodies of the same period.

The two problems that occasionally turn up (mirror hinge and pop-up flash spring) can both be fixed cheaply if you are willing to have a go - there are instructions on the internet. One of my bodies developed the flash spring problem but this was after ten years of use.

For me this camera was a reliable, delightful to use, semi-pro design. I just wish Pentax could produce a DSLR with a similar layout!
Forum Member

Registered: September, 2009
Location: Kyoto
Posts: 72
Review Date: December 29, 2012 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: No | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: strong intermediate-grade featureset, reliable operation
Cons: plastic, flimsy, small viewfinder

I'm being over-negative in the rating. It's a perfectly fine intermediate-level Pentax autofocus film body, and far, far better than most of the rest of its stablemates. The finder is small, but clear and with a good, modern display to one side with plenty of info. The autofocus is low, basic, but accurate. There is a traditional shutter-speed dial, and quick access external controls for the meter coverage and EV compensation. There's even a top LCD, though it only displays shooting mode and film count.

The best thing this model has going for it, vs. the cheaper variants, is you can use it easily in full manual, and quickly move to S, A and P modes by turning either one or both shutter speed and aperture dials to "A". If the lens is Pentax A or FA, that is. Older lenses are still quite functional though.

The most annoying thing is probably the lack of an exposure lock, and of any control over the 3 autofocus points. Its not devastating, but coming off a modern dSLR, its frustrating. I use it in manual mode.

Thing is though, it's neither fish nor fowl: too new to be fun as a vintage camera, too old to be convenient, too simple and fragile to be a professional (or even enthusiast) tool, yet unnecessarily complicated for an beginner.

It's not the prettiest camera ever made, nor the nicest one to fit in your hand, or even especially easy to manipulate.

Also: the batteries are frickin' expensive!

I bought it to give my FA lenses a workout in full-frame every once in a while. For that purpose, it's great. As a film body, though, it's no ME Super, that's for sure!
Veteran Member

Registered: December, 2007
Location: Prague
Posts: 1,199
Review Date: June 8, 2012 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: Yes | Price: $80.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: very precise AF and metering
Cons: none

This camera is not the hottest in terms of specifications, but works well. I never had any problem with it's metering and the AF is precise enough for use with 85/1.4 wide open - even though it is not too fast.
I like the easy to use controls and light weight of it. The camera has proven to be very dyrable in abuse, but it is known that the plastic hinge in mirror box is a time bomb and it will sooner or later fail me.

Registered: July, 2007
Location: North West UK
Posts: 389
Review Date: August 25, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: Yes | Price: $400.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Traditional controls, good AF, quieter shutter than K series DSLR's
Cons: It HAS to have aperture ring lenses to control, number of AF points, it's plastic!

I have had this camera new for 12 years, and it still works great.
Unlike some reviews on here, all of the functions still work excellently, but thats maybe because I have only put around 100 rolls of films through it, so it is not heaviley used.
It only has 3 non-illuminated AF points, but considering its era, thats okay.

As for accuracy, yes its great and with good lenses and fine film perfect for the job.

If you find a good one, buy it, as it gives you the traditional control and makes you think more.
Review Date: June 28, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-5N / ZX-5N: No | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 3 

Pros: Packed with features, old school Pentax
Cons: Not sturdy, slow top shutter speed

On the one hand this camera is very good with lots of handy features. And, its traditional layout reminds me of older Pentaxes. Very light weight too. Unfortunately, the camera does not hold up well. I had had one for not even two years before it broke down. From what I have read on this forum and other photography sites this camera does not have a solid reputation for reliability. Mirror lock up seems to be a major issue. If it wasn't for mine breaking down I would have rated it a 7 or 8.
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