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Pentax MZ-M / ZX-M

Reviews Views Date of last review
14 107,915 Tue June 22, 2021
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
86% of reviewers $54.25 7.25
Pentax MZ-M / ZX-M

The Pentax MZ-M was the sole manual focus camera in the MZ/ZX line. The camera was positioned as the successor to the K1000 which was discontinued the same year. It features a light construction, a mount made of plastic and a pentamirror viewfinder to make it cheaper.

Operationally it was based on the MZ-5N/ZX-5N with the classic control layout but important features were omitted such as auto-bracketing and TTL flash control.

Year introduced
Meter range
1 - 21 EV
Meter pattern
m c
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
TTL flash
P-TTL flash
Sync speed
Flash exposure comp
Autofocus sensitivity
Not applicable
Power zoom
0.77x, 92%
Viewfinder type
Diopter correction
Exchangeable screen
Depth of field preview
Image size
24 x 36 mm
Panorama format
2 x CR2
Battery grip/pack
Grip FG, 4x AA
Size (W x H x D)
135 x 90.5 x 55 mm
320 g
Price History:

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Sort Reviews by: Date | Author | Rating | Recommendation | Likes (Descending) Showing Reviews 1-14 of 14

Registered: September, 2009
Location: Dayton, OH
Posts: 403
Review Date: June 22, 2021 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: Cheap, meter is similar to modern bodies
Cons: Plastic drive gears are prone to failure, dim view finder, eats batteries

I bought my first ZX-M shorty after the model was released, using money that I had earned mowing lawns, and I rarely left the house without that camera when I was in high school.

The first ZX-M was looking pretty rough when I made the move to digital and dropped it off at a thrift store.

I honestly never thought I’d shoot film again, but life got pretty boring during the pandemic and I decided to give film another chance. It took multiple tries to find a working one, but it was like reconnecting with an old friend when I did.

  • It sounds like it’s dying when it rewinds the film. I’ve now owned two NIB examples and they were both like this.
  • It eats batteries.
  • The viewfinder is rather dim when compared to other bodies
  • Not known for reliability…..

  • They’re cheap. Way cheaper than a K1000.
  • The frame rate is more than fast enough for 24 exposure rolls
  • I can manually set the iso for pushing/pulling
  • Micro prism and split ring for focusing
  • The controls are intuitive and the viewfinder readout is similar to that of my KP. FWIW: The “bar graph” meter and focusing screen are what really motivated me to get another.

  • It’s very light and barely noticeable if I wear it on my belt.

I’ll admit that there are much better film bodies, but this one gets the job done just fine.

Registered: May, 2016
Posts: 3,719
Review Date: June 25, 2018 Recommended | Price: $35.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: lightweight, ok features
Cons: only center weighted metering, motor drive instead of manual lever

Nothing exciting, nothing bad either, it's a fine camera that gets the job done for cheap.
It's light weight, has a good exposure comp dial (half stop increments, one extra stop either way compared to older mf cameras). But it also has a center-only meter and I would have preferred a manual lever instead of the motorized advance. The viewfinder is fine, despite being only mirror and not prism, and the settings and meter are easy to read. I never used it with lenses larger than a smaller prime, it's probably not a great idea to attach it to a heavier lens and support it only from the camera.
Veteran Member

Registered: October, 2012
Location: Colorado
Posts: 1,437
Review Date: May 8, 2017 Not Recommended | Price: $14.00 | Rating: 1 

Pros: Literally none
Cons: Poorly made, unreliable, prone to sudden failure, feels flimsy, plastic lens mount and everything else

Pentax billed this as a replacement to the K1000, but it doesn't come close to filling its shoes. I've tried to find one of these that works and have purchased a half-dozen of these. I'm zero for six. I do not recommend this camera, period end of story. Spend a few dollars more and pick up a K or M body. You'll be much happier with your selection.
New Member

Registered: November, 2013
Posts: 14
Review Date: March 18, 2014 Recommended | Price: $35.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: pure manual motor film SLR
Cons: nothing

in my Pentax collection a jewel. You must understand the concept of this film SLR

If AF and flash is not wished - for astrophotos or landscapes - this is a very usefull film SLR.

very bright clear viewfinder.

For my A-lenses my favorite.

It has much more features than the famous Super A.

With exterior TTL flash excellent photos

using it with AA-battery grip

mine's has no diopter correction as indicated above
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2011
Location: Vancouver, WA
Posts: 817

2 users found this helpful
Review Date: April 19, 2013 Recommended | Price: $199.99 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Inexpensive on the used market, very lightweight
Cons: Begs to have the AA Battery Pack FG installed

I bought my ZX-M new and the $200 I paid seems crazy when you can buy this camera for $40 today. I got the ZX-M to replace my ME Super (which at the time I thought had died). I wanted a basic camera and the ZX-M is certainly that. It is indeed a plastic camera all over but doesn't feel cheap. The only place it feels and sounds plastic is the film door. But let me say this, even though it feels (and is) plastic it still feels like a solid camera. My ZX-M sat in the closet for may years when I took a long break from photography so it's in excellent condition. The plastic lens mount has held up great despite almost always having metal mount lenses attached.

I broke out my ZX-M late in 2012 to get back into film (doing B&W and developing it myself). I picked up a very nice AA Battery Pack FG from Amazon for around $20 and the increased height the grip adds to the overall body is a godsend for people with large hands. The battery pack allows the use of 4 AA batteries and will save you money over the more expensive battery the ZX-M was designed to use. Again, the grip makes the camera much easier to handle and adds very little weight.

On the topic of weight, this is a very light camera. When I first got it I would always use older manual lenses that were heavy, so I was still toting a (sort of) heavy rig. Last year I bought the Pentax DA 50mm f/1.8 DA L & 35mm f/2.4 AL lenses (to use on my K-x) that have plastic mounts. These are two great lenses and when either of them is mated to the ZX-M it makes the lightest camera/lens combo you'll get your hands on. It's unbelievable how light the combo is. Even when my K-x kit lens is mounted it's light load.

If you're interested in picking up this (or any other) camera on the used market I would recommend finding the Manual (in PDF form) online and checking out the features of the camera.

The controls on top of the camera are easy to use thanks to the rubber grip on each dial, the power switch and shutter button are where they should be for ease of use, the depth of field preview button is a great feature, and in my opinion the ZX-M is a good looking camera. I've never dropped my ZX-M so I can't attest for how really solid it is, but it feels like a well built camera even after all these years. Nowadays the ZX-M is the perfect B&W film camera. It's cheap to buy, the battery pack will pay for itself (and makes the camera easier to hold), takes great pictures, may make you a better photographer as you have to work a little more and if you ever happen to break the camera you can replace it for next to nothing.
Veteran Member

Registered: February, 2007
Location: Phoenix
Posts: 1,056
Review Date: January 12, 2013 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: Simplicity of design
Cons: Durability

This is a very good, basic SLR that fits the niche it was created for: students new to photography. No, the viewfinder is not the best. Yes, the plastic lens mount is questionable. But it has simple to use control dials, you control aperture on the lens itself, and it forces you to do a lot of the work (but has P mode if you really need it). The biggest durability issue I have had is the markings on the shutter speed dial rubbing off. A little sharpie fixed that, though.

Now I'm just waiting for the digital version.
Senior Member

Registered: September, 2012
Posts: 107
Review Date: September 15, 2012 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Light yet solid feel
Cons: Plastic build, non-reliable focus system

This camera was my first SLR, I bought it new about 10 years ago. I bought a fully manual camera with the sole purpose to force myself all the aspects of SLR photography without relying on any electronic aids, and it did the trick. This camera is easy to use and will force you to become a better photographer, otherwise you won't get good pictures with it - period. The build looks cheap and plastic-y, but is fairly solid nonetheless. I would suggest this camera only for people that really want to learn all the basic aspects of SLR photography without the use of electronics, and who want to learn to shoot film, otherwise this is probably not the camera for you.
New Member

Registered: December, 2011
Location: Yogyakarta
Posts: 2
Review Date: May 28, 2012 Recommended | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: lightweight, easy to use, bright vf
Cons: small viewfinder, not well-sealed

its really good deal for a beginner, have all the basic features plus ev compensation, this one little camera really makes you a "photographer" that at least know all the basic principles.

Its a joy to carry this around because of the weight

However the viewfinder is really small though on the other side its really bright

This is a student camera after all.
New Member

Registered: June, 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 5
Review Date: June 24, 2011 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: size, weight, features, ergonomics
Cons: battery consumption, viewfinder

I spent my life as a teacher (not of photography) and this would be my first choice for students if I taght photography. All manual everything is available along with three autoexposure modes to use as training wheels. All the manual shutter speeds and f-stops are right in your face and you just grab the dial and turn it to what you want. Other cameras this small often have cryptic controls (Super Program) or are hard to hold onto (Nikon FG). The manual meter in the viewfinder is so much better than the many cameras that claim a manual mode but make it really hard to use. I am not sure why this camera is rated below much less capable or more unintuitive models. It includes many of the features that are missing and so draw complaints in the reviews of those other cameras. Vital for students IMO are manual ISO, DOF preview, and well-implemented manual exposure control.

On the negative side I too find it hard to focus, but then at my age everything but an Exakta is hard to focus. I suspect youngsters would have no trouble with it and I'd use an autofocus model for seniors. In addition to not lasting very long the batteries seem to die in the camera even when it is turned off and unused so I take them out. Cost is not that big a deal if you buy them in lots on eBay. You can't expect long battery life at this weight with a motor advancing the film. I got the AA adapter but it made the camera heavy and clumsy.

An excellent lens for this is the equally light Sigma 28-80 macro that gets down to 1:2.

I bought this back when it was a current model so I paid a lot more than the other reviewers though I do not remember how much. It has held up well in light use as a backup for a ZX-5n.
Veteran Member

Registered: September, 2006
Location: Ames, Iowa
Posts: 774

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: December 12, 2010 Not Recommended | Price: $20.00 | Rating: 3 

Pros: Intuitive controls
Cons: Small viewfinder; noise; unreliability

Pros Intuitive controls
Cons Small viewfinder; noise; unreliability
Rating 3
Price (U.S. Dollars) $20
Years Owned 2 years

I can recommend this camera: No

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Small, light manual focus SLR

Camera Review
Others have pointed out what the ZX-M can be good for. I find this camera frustrating to use, and cannot be so charitable in reviewing it. I do like the way the controls are laid out, but that's where the positives end.

Pentax didn't really design the ZX-M as a manual focus camera. At heart it is an autofocus camera with some stuff left out. Nowhere is this more evident than in the viewfinder, which is simply too small to use effectively for critical focus. A poor viewfinder isn't just one item in a features checklist. For a manual focus film camera, it should be considered a disqualifier.

Also it shares with the rest of the ZX/MZ series a simple engineering flaw: a plastic gear on the mirror motor gets brittle with age and then cracks, rendering the camera useless. The repair is expensive, not because of the part, but because of labor; so the body generally proceeds to a landfill (possibly after changing hands once or twice via ebay with the caveat "as-is, shutter tends to stick").

Although the ZX-M was positioned as a replacement for the K1000 "student" camera, it is not a robust design, nor a good learning tool. The K1000 itself and its ilk (KM, MX, Olympus OM-1, Chinon CM-4, various Ricoh and Sears equivalents) are still plentiful, easy to find in good shape, and better for learning the basics of photography.
Junior Member

Registered: October, 2010
Location: Virginia
Posts: 40

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: November 19, 2010 Recommended | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: light weight, intuitive design
Cons: small viewfinder

Pros light weight, intuitive design
Cons small viewfinder
Rating 8
Price (U.S. Dollars) 40.00
Years Owned one

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Great value, all the basics, easy to use (love the auto-load), compact and lightweight.

Camera Review
It's a really nice camera, a pleasure to use with a lens such as the basic SMC Pentax-A f2/50mm, and you can also use older manual lenses such as the Takumars (with an M42 adapter). With the Pentax-A lenses, you can set the camera in program mode, let it set aperture and shutter speed, and learn in that way, or use aperture, shutter priority, or manual simply by a twist of a dial. With Pentax-M or M42 lenses, you can shoot in aperture priority or full manual mode, the latter assisted by Pentax's exposure graph in the viewfinder.

I have several other Pentax film cameras--SF1n, P3n, and Spotmatic II. While I like the relative heft of these other cameras, I find myself gravitating more toward the compact and light ZX-M. One feature I really like is the off-on switch. On the P3n it's somewhat awkwardly placed to the left of the viewfinder, but with the ZX-M it's right there encircling the shutter release, same as with digital SLRs, with the shutter speed dial next to it, easy to access. Exposure compensation can be set from a dial to the left of the viewfinder, as can ISO speed and drive mode (single shot, consecutive, or self-timed). It also has depth of field preview.

In short, a well-designed camera, fun to use.
New Member

Registered: October, 2010
Location: California
Posts: 8

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: October 18, 2010 Recommended | Price: $50.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Small and light!!!
Cons: small viewfinder

Pros Small and light!!!
Cons small viewfinder
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) ~$50
Years Owned 1

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Cheap, Manual Focus, Small and Light

Camera Review
Pentax's last manual focus body...A great body for travelling light. Ultra simple in its design. It works!!! I still wish the viewfinder was slightly bigger. I might try an eyepiece magnifier on it at some point.
Junior Member

Registered: May, 2010
Location: Philadelphia
Posts: 33

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: June 20, 2010 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 

Pros: Cheap, light, easy to use
Cons: Not well sealed, expensive batteries

Pros Cheap, light, easy to use
Cons Not well sealed, expensive batteries
Rating 7
Price $30
Years Owned 1

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
An inexpensive, compact, lightweight manual focus camera.

Camera Review
The ZX-M is light -- not surprising since it's all plastic down to the lens mount. When you set the camera down, the weight of even a small prime lens will cause it to pitch forward.

This is a virtue when you're carrying it around all day, though. I keep it in my bag with a 28 or 35mm lens for street photography. It's unobtrusive and fairly quiet (at least on city streets).

Will this camera last? Frankly I don't care. With near-mint replacements to be had so cheaply I'd consider them practically disposable. Having said that I've had my ZX-M rattling around in my bag for close to a year and it doesn't seem to be showing any signs of wear.

Controls are basic and logically placed. It's easy to use the camera without looking at the controls. DX override is the one thing I needed to read the manual to learn how to do.

The finder is bright and easy to focus. It displays shutter speed and aperture (with A lenses), and a +/- 3 stop meter, which seems like an unusually wide range.

Tv, Av and full program autoexposure are available with +/- 3 stop exposure bias. On the few times I've used any autoexposure mode negatives appeared a bit overexposed. I almost always use a handheld meter and manual exposure so this is not a concern for me.

Top shutter speed of 1/2000 is nice.

It uses expensive lithium batteries, but they seem to last a long time. My current set has over 50 rolls on it.

I got the battery grip adapter for it ($5 on eBay!) which makes it easier to hold and uses AA batteries. But I've since taken it off - I prefer light weight to everything.

The bad parts:

I don't like that automatically starts rewinding at the end of a roll, which is not so quiet. I wish it would just stop taking pictures and wait for me to press a button to rewind.

It's not particularly well-sealed; somehow several specs of dust have managed to work their way on to the top of the focusing screen.

Negative spacing is irregular - spacing can vary by a mm or so. Not sure if this is a trait of the model or my particular camera.

I hate, hate, hate the beeping self timer. Isn't a blinking light enough?

Bottom line: A light, unobtrusive manual focus camera with very few bad habits. Probably not for everyone, though.
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: January, 2008
Location: Paris, TN
Posts: 3,346

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: April 8, 2010 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 


OK, somebody has to say it. Let's consider this body as a niche item. Aside from its very low used cost it has one application in which it excels.

If you're the type that (a) shoots film, (b) cuts the handles off your tooth brush to save weight on the trail, and (c) thinks the classic K1000 or Spotmatic has all the exposure control anyone needs . . . you may find this body just what you want.

Not AF, of course. No need to even think of hauling around heavy AF glass. But it will handle all the older K-mount lenses with full authority for their type. It does have a polycarbonate body and mount but neither you or I will ever wear it out.

So what's the pro's? 320 grams! with DOF button, +/-3 EV compensation, selectable ISO, exposure memory lock and NO INTERNAL FLASH bulge to hide the aperture ring using the older lenses. (You want flash? - carry a light 200-series strobe.)

I've carried this with an SMC_A 35-70/f4 (which weighs more than the body at 330g) or -A 50/F1.7 plus #1+#2 extension rings and been very pleased with the versatility, compact size and light weight.

I'll say one other thing too: I've never had a poly-carbonate body accumulate the dings and dints of the classic metal body cameras -- to me, that's a big plus for a field camera body.

Don't compare it to an LX, it'll feel like a toy. Do judge it on its merits for a particular use when simplicity and light weight are important to you. My other favorite light weight bodies are the P-series for the same reason - light and durable in field use -- but the P-'s don't allow manual ISO entry if that's important to you because you push film speed.

You won't realize just what a PITA that flash bulge is until you use a body without it.

If you only use film for nostalgia's sake you may not mind the weight of the K1000, etc for an afternoon stroll. But if you travel with film, consider this body (but pass on the standard issue SMC-A 35-80/4-5.6 kit lens).

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