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Pentax MZ-S

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14 77,419 Tue February 2, 2016
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
93% of reviewers $514.64 9.31
Pentax MZ-S

Pentax MZ-S
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Pentax MZ-S
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Pentax MZ-S
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Pentax MZ-S
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Pentax MZ-S
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Description:
The Pentax MZ-S was introduced in 2001 as Pentax’ top-of-the-line SLR with a study body of magnesium alloy. It reintroduced analog dials and had a slanted top panel as a distinguishing feature. It had high speed flash synchronization up to 1/6000 sec with the internal flash as well as with the AF360FGZ wireless TTL flash unit. The MZ-S also featured imprint of exposure information on the edge of the film.

Program modes: Normal, Action, Depth of field and MTF (Modulation Transfer Function). In the MTF program the camera sets the aperture to the value where the lens performs the best under the given light (only works with F and newer lenses which has the required information encoded in them).

Extra flash functions with an external flash: Wireless, High-Speed, Contrast control.

Read all the details about lens compatibility here!

MZ-S
Year introduced
2001
Mount
KAF2
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
Yes
Shutter speeds (auto)
30 - 1/6000s
Shutter speeds (manual)
1 - 1/6000s
Shutter speeds (mechanical)
None
Self timer
Yes
Mirror lock-up
Yes
Auto bracketing
Yes
Multiple exposures
Yes
Winder
Built-in 2.5 fps
Built-in flash
Yes, GN 12
TTL flash
Yes
P-TTL flash
Yes
Sync speed
1/180s
Flash exposure comp
No
Autofocus
Yes (6 points)
Autofocus sensitivity
-1 - 18 EV
Power zoom
Yes, limited
Viewfinder
0.75x, 92%
Viewfinder type
Pentaprism
Diopter correction
Yes
Exchangeable screen
Yes
Depth of field preview
Yes
Image size
24 x 36 mm
Panorama format
No
Battery
2 x CR2
Battery grip/pack
Grip BG-10, AA batteries
Size (W x H x D)
136.5 x 95 x 64 mm
Weight
520 g
Price History:



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Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2012
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 1,257

2 users found this helpful
Review Date: February 2, 2016 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: $123.41 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: KAF2 mount, size, weight, interface, high-speed flash sync, feels like a DSLR
Cons: Plastic film door, plastic battery door, rubber grip contact covers degrade, rare grid focusing screen, too light for long or heavy lenses, mirror motor has a plastic gear that can strip

So the MZ-S competed against the Maxxum 7, EOS 3, and F100 when it was released. Of the four, the MZ-S would be my third choice taken independently of other factors, behind the Maxxum 7 and F100. The MZ-S has a lot of good characteristics but it must have sacrificed some things, too.

The MZ-S had, I've read, the same shutter as the F100 and EOS 3 but did not have the same maximum shutter speed. I'm not certain why that would be or whether the shutter story is correct. The MZ-S also has some places where it's flimsy -- the battery door, film back and film back hinge, and of course the mirror motor which has a plastic drive gear that suffers the MZ series stripped gear problem. Otherwise, the camera has robust build quality that's not given away by its very light overall weight.

One thing that the MZ-S can't do, which surprised me, is meter M42 lenses with the M42 to K adapter. I found that the metering with M42 lenses installed was about six stops off -- six stops over.

But the camera is light, the tilted top is great for using the camera easily, the interface is superb, and overall the experience using the MZ-S is wonderful. And it take great photos. Here are some samples.















   
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2008
Location: Singapore
Posts: 928
Review Date: April 14, 2015 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: $367.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Light, small and unique
Cons: None

I bought this camera new (Titanium Silver version) in 2008, when I saw it sitting on the display shelf of a local camera shop that I frequent.

When I asked the initial price of the camera, I was quoted S1,174.00 for it. Then the shop assistant said that if I wanted it, he could get the owner to quote and as I am a regular customer of the shop, the owner quoted me a price $367.00, which was a bargain to me.

I liked the way it handled and the only lenses that I used it with was the FA 43 and FA 77 Limited as mine were silver in colour. I bought the grip separately through another friend when he bought together with the body.

I love this camera but alas, the mirror motor failed in 2012 and I am now looking for a replacement camera. I also own the K3 Silver and would love to shoot film again.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: May, 2009
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 612

4 users found this helpful
Review Date: March 17, 2013 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: No | Price: None indicated | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: Small, Lightweight, Simple, Data Imprinting, Handles Very Well, P-TTL Support
Cons: Aperture Ring Dependence, CR2 cells, Rare and Expensive, Accessories Rare

This is the last great Pentax 35mm SLR. It is small and handles very well, but is very different from other cameras. I personally love the way it handles. Turn the aperture ring and you're in Aperture Priority. Turn the control dial and you're in shutter priority (with the Aperture Ring in the A setting). With both turned, you're in metered manual mode. Very quick and effortless to do anything you want. No removing the camera from your eye to switch from Aperture Priority to full manual. Very easy to turn on bracketing, change metering or drive modes, and adjust the AF point in use. In this way it is very similar to another Pentax great, the Z-1p

In practice, I have found the AF speed to be reminiscent of the K20D. It is not as fast or as confident as the K-5 using my FA 50mm 1.4.

I love the data imprinting feature on the film rebate. I can see the aperture, metering mode, exposure compensation, etc., right under "Kodak Portra 400" or whatever under a loupe. Very useful and very welcome. This is the main reason I use this camera 95% of the time to be honest. No more do I need to record this information separately from the negative sleeve. The camera also has other very thoughtful features, like an illuminated lens mount index.

The camera is very lightweight and small. I find it handles best with prime lenses and lightweight consumer-level zooms (ex: FA 28-80). Fast Zooms like the Tamron 28-75 make the camera a bit too front-heavy, which makes it difficult to hold steady. I find the same problem with smaller DSLRs like the K-5. The BG-10 battery grip would no doubt help, but those are even rarer than the camera bodies. This camera pairs perfectly with small primes (and being Pentaxians we have no shortage of those!).

The Pentax Functions allow you to change the density of data imprinting, rewind the film in a leader-out fashion, turn off the illuminated lens mount index, etc. I find them very useful, but changing them in the field requires you keep a copy of the manual (or the small laminated Pentax Functions reference card) in your camera bag. There are simple graphics that help you figure out what PF-2 does, but they're not that helpful until they're very familiar.

The MZ-S meters perfectly with my small M-series primes as it uses an un-crippled K-AF2 mount. You are limited to center-weighted metering and you get no Aperture readout in the viewfinder, which is a bummer. The power zoom contacts are only for power zoom, no SDM support unfortunately (not a big shocker; SDM was not to be invented for another 5 or so years).

Film winding and rewinding, although quieter than the shrill noise of the LX Winder, is certainly noticeable. The shutter does not have the metallic clang of the LX or MX, but still feels and sounds very good.

The viewfinder is very good. Pentax has always been good about giving us great viewfinders, and I think the one in the MZ-S is on par with ones in the MX, LX, and Z-1p. That is to say, using manual focus lenses is not a big deal and it's easy to see your subject.

The biggest problems with this camera as I see it:

1. Rarity and expense: MZ-S's frequently command prices north of $400. In 2013, this is very expensive for a 35mm SLR. I find it hard to justify the camera given the other downsides. Cameras like the F100 and Z-1p go for a fraction of that in similar condition.

2. CR2 cells. These are smaller and more expensive than CR123. Even buying through Amazon, you're paying $3 a cell for CR2's. The camera uses them heavily. Pentax estimates you'll get 18 24-exposure rolls with flash 50% of the time. Again, the BG-10 will help here (it uses common AA cells), but as it stands you should find a good supply of quality CR2's before considering this camera. I have a stock of 3 sets constantly on backup in my camera bag. Luckily CR2's are lithium and have a long shelf life.

3. Accessories rare: I've touched on the BG-10 being impossible to find. It's also very hard to find the remotes, like the TS-110 or CS-130. When they do appear, they also command exorbitant prices. The MZ-S uses the same remote connection as the 645N, which although older is a similar vintage. To use a wireless controller like the F, you must have the BG-10 first.

4. Aperture ring dependence and no SDM: This will be more important when Pentax introduces a full-frame DSLR. Pentax will introduce new full-frame lenses, which no doubt will lack an aperture ring and will require SDM in the body. This means those lenses will be manual focus only and will only work in Tv mode. As such, they will be of limited use on this camera. I love using lens aperture rings, but technology has rendered them obsolete (for good or bad). This camera is not as future proof as the Z-1p or F100. Film will be available for a long time to come, but you can only choose from perhaps 6 new lenses that are fully compatible with this camera today. Of course, lenses are plentiful used for the most part.

Outside of the rarity, expense, and lack of available accessories, the MZ-S is a fantastic and competent camera. I have owned mine for less than a month, and have shot a few rolls of Tri-X and Portra 400. I have come to appreciate Pentax's design choices. The camera really makes sense.

In short, this camera is really the last great 35mm SLR from Pentax, but I hesitate to recommend it. The drawbacks are significant. I do recommend it to people who are aware of it's limitations and abilities (and are devoted Pentaxians), but I cannot do so whole-heartedly. If the camera breaks, you'll pay a large sum of money to find another. If you want a grip for it, too bad. If you want a remote, too bad. Film is expensive enough, now you have to pay $3 each for batteries.

Although this is a very good 35mm SLR, I find other cameras like the Z-1p or (gasp) the Nikon F100 are overall better choices. Had the MZ-S stayed in production longer or been more popular, accessories would be more available and the price would be lower. As it is today, the MZ-S is a collector's camera and not a daily 35mm SLR in my opinion.

Overall, this camera receives a very heavily debated "not recommended" in 2013. However, it also receives a score of 7; despite the serious misgivings that make me not recommend it, I love the MZ-S.
   
New Member

Registered: December, 2011
Posts: 22
Review Date: February 25, 2012 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: $310.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Compact and great contruction
Cons: might be to small for heavy lenses

I am so pleased that I bought this one.

It is a great match with my leica lenses.(leitax conversion) and I can not wait to get hold of one of the limited lenses.

I was an the fence between a Dynax 9 and the Mz-s. (Mainly because of the ability to use a full frame dslr. In the end I just picked the camera that was the best suited for street photography. I wish that Pentax had better support for full frame lenses. There are currently only 3 limited lenses (FA) in production.

Great camera can only say buy it now....
   
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: August, 2011
Location: Langwarrin Australia
Posts: 339

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: November 27, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: $197.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: ergonomics,intuitive to use
Cons: none

A photographers camera that is a pleasure to use and the way it fits and feels in your hand can't be described it must be experienced. Of all the film cameras I have used this one puts the biggest smile on my face.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2010
Location: Johannesburg
Posts: 159

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: November 25, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: $300.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Look and feel, operation, ease of use
Cons: Focusing with kit lenses, Looking up the PF table

I managed to find a second-hand MZ-S earler this year after reading many positive reviews of it. I can agree with all the praise over build quality and handling and intuitive operation. The list of features is hard to match!

I have only had correctly exposed shots so far, the information imprinting on the film border is useful. It is a beautiful camera to use. If I ever find a BG-10 grip, it will be complete.

I do have a two gripes. The first is that mine only focuses spot on first time with "good" lenses (Limited/* etc). I often put the focus on manual when using one of the kit FA zooms. Dont bother with the focus point selection, rather go manual. The second is having to dig out the table of PF settings when making changes there.

Two major complaints often raised when comparing the MZ-S to the PZ-1 are the flash exposure compensation and the 6000th vs 8000th maximum shutter speed. Unless you have bright lighting and a very fast (f1.2) lens, you will never be able to use 8000th exposure time. Flash exposure compensation you can usually do by changing flash settings. Not an issue for me.

Overall, the MZ-S is definitely a keeper.
   
Forum Member

Registered: June, 2011
Location: Victoria B.C.
Posts: 59

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: October 2, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: $1,399.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: almost everything
Cons: plastic film backing, and CR2 batteries are expensive

I bought this camera in new 2005 from a local camera dealer. I fell in love with it right away because of the sleek design and the superb ergonomic design as well. Out of every film camera I have ever used this one is the absolute best. everything is right where you want it to be (shutter ring etc.) the Pentax Functions are wonderful especially the use of MRC frame advance, as well as Data imprinting. The AF is super, it is maybe even better than my K-5's. it is very easy to switch from MF to AF with the sliding switch, which is easier to use than the rotating one on the K-5 body. The camera is also very quiet to operate so it is a good one to use if you are trying to not attract attention ie quiet moments at weddings etc. My wife loves to use the camera as well fully automatic so it is a camera that anyone can just pick up and use. the back-light LCD is really useful, especially because it is tilted slightly so that you can see it without looking down upon it. over the years I have taken about I am guessing about 1000 rolls of film, enough to fill a large book shelf of negatives. and the camera still performs wonderfully, there is nothing different about it from the day I bought it, it is super reliable, other cameras I have had have all had shutter issues after about 300 or 400 rolls of film and have all needed repair. but this Camera beats them all!
I absolutely Love this camera, the only reason I bought a digital was because of the film costs nowadays.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: July, 2008
Location: Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Posts: 3,801
Review Date: July 23, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Size, ergonomics, handling, functions
Cons: See below

OK, I am going to be the first to rate this less than a 10

The MZ-S is a start-from-scratch design according to the backstory behind its development. The camera came out when the best features of camera automation through microchip controls met the old world of film. Yet the MZ-S strove to stay true to its analog heritage and Pentax released a class act design.

I use it with the BG10 grip and this adds a whole new level of functionality to the camera.

The most important thing about the MZ-S is its size. This is a small SLR for being so full featured. The ergonomics excel and the weight is best in class for a film camera of the last generation. The elegant slope of the interface panel works beautifully; I hope to see it in designs of the future. Aesthetically it certainly reduces the bulky/brick effect on gets when one see a Canon or Nikon of the same vintage. The Pentax looks more like a racecar. This is the first camera where to utilize the top LCD one really only has to briefly glance down to see.

The one negative is the required use the lens aperture ring for Av shooting control. Reliance on the lens aperture ring wears down the lens system more than the camera. The non-Limited FA's did not have the best aperture design for grip and perhaps durability. The FA 50/1.4, for example, has an aperture ring slightly too narrow and close to the body for easy turning, and is plasticky clicky in motion. This is an area where the ubiquity of the e-dial is clearly superior as it creates a smaller motion with less effect on the camera, and also allows for the full use the A settings on modern lenses, in particular using the semi-autmoted modes. And, while the dial around the top LCD is clever, it is slightly too large and stiff. If the MZ-S had incorporated 2 dedicated e-dials as well as the option of aperture control through the lens, then the perfect SLR camera of all time would have been made.

Other than that comment this is the best film camera I have ever used. It is a true photographer's camera.
   
Pentaxian

Registered: February, 2011
Location: Hoek van Holland
Posts: 1,249
Review Date: June 5, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: av-manual mode is too easy to use
Cons: ?

It is my favorite AF camera. The ergonomics are just fantastic, going from Av to manual to Tv back to Av is the best ever seen on a camera.
The metering is superb, even though many reveiwes said that it is only 6 segemnt, it never let me down. And don't forget, you can program it to take use the AF point when metering.
   
Senior Member

Registered: December, 2006
Location: Lincoln, UK
Posts: 229
Review Date: June 5, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: $300.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: The best of the AF SLRs
Cons: Difficlt to find!

Not much to add to the other reviews. To my mind it is the best of the AF SLRs though if you prefer a more "traditinal" onr the MZ3 may suit better.

Well built rugged and handles almost as well as the LX!
   
Veteran Member

Registered: March, 2009
Location: Ohio, USA/ India
Posts: 474
Review Date: May 14, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: $500.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Design, Ergonomics, Ease of use, Build,
Cons: Nothing

Everything they say about this camera is true. It is simply a joy to behold. I am not kidding when I say that my hands were trembling with excitement when I first saw this camera in it's box! I took it out and it felt terrific! How compact, rugged and thoughtfully built! The slanted LCD and the EV compensation dials look so stylish. OK. I know I am gushing like a fanboy about its appearance. What about performance? I was simply blown away by the AF speed and accuracy with metering. Every single shot I have taken with this camera has been superb. There is absolutely nothing negative to say about this camera. I almost came up with a serious issue, but then a workaround helped: I was unhappy when I mounted one of my favorite lenses (STakumar 85 1.9) and found no focus confirmation. I shorted out the contacts with aluminium foil (only then does the camera recognize that a lens is mounted) and I was ready to shoot! The MZ S is compatible with modern flashes. I use the Metz 48 on both my K20D and this one. The midroll change is a nice feature if you are an organized person. I now have some partially exposed rolls along with brand new rolls all indistinguishable from each other with the leader out! It is going to be fun sorting them out! If you are considering this camera and have the money just go for it. You will not regret it.

PS: The price I paid include the grip (both camera and grip brand new)
   
Senior Member

Registered: February, 2010
Location: Colorado
Posts: 103

2 users found this helpful
Review Date: April 4, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: $450.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Size, ergonomics, handling, data-edge printing
Cons: focus point setting

Pros Size, ergonomics, handling, data-edge printing
Cons focus point setting
Rating 10
Price (U.S. Dollars) $450
Years Owned 1

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Last of the best full-featured, automatic film cameras. Competes with Nikon F6 in features. Beats the F6 on size and weight. Desirable on used market. Occasional availability locally or on auction sites, but seldom inexpensive.

Camera Review
Handling, size, usage, are all wonderful. I love the quiet little hiss made by the shutter and motor when you trigger the shot. Data imprinting on the roll edge is very nice.

MZ-S makes it very logical and easy to change exposure mode: Tv by moving dial; Av by moving lens aperture ring; Manual by moving both. Hit Green button to reset back to automatic exposure mode. So the MZ-S has a very similar design philosophy to the 645N, even if the buttons look different. You can also see this same design philosophy carried through to the modern Pentax DSLRs like the K-5.

PF Menu [F12]: One useful feature is the ability to "Mid Roll Change" before the end of the roll. You have to set it up in Pentax Function menu setting [F12]:[3] "Leaves out the film leader and enables MRC frame advance". Write down the frame number on your film canister. When you reload: With the back open, press the "green button" (exposure mode) while turning the dial to set the frame number.

PF Menu [F2]: Auto exposure mode can be set to prefer Speed Priority, Aperture Priority or MTF Priority. In other words, hitting the "Green Button" resets exposure to auto, but you can choose whether the automatic exposure prefers Faster Shutter speeds, Wider Apertures for depth-of-field, or Best Lens Resolution.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: December, 2006
Location: Ontario
Posts: 750

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: August 30, 2009 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 

 
Pros:
Cons:

I sold mine finally last year in order to get the 16-50 lens as I hadn't run film through it since I went digital.

Having said that, when I switched from LF to 35mm, I was leaning towards an EOS 7E. Tried one out but it just didn't feel right in my hands. Nor did several other cameras in both Canon's and Nikon's stables at the time. I then picked up an MZ-S out of curiosity and was sold on the ergonomics. Because I wasn't shooting anything but landscapes at the time and was going to 35mm so I could take photos with my (then) young daughter, ergonomics won the day.

I think my only complaints about the camera were where the AF points were (that top point made little sense to me and didn't get used at all), and selecting the AF points by pressing up on the switch on the front of the body being a pain in the rump. Aside from those to gripes, this was a beautiful camera to work with and also to look at.

While I don't regret parting ways with my MZ-S, every once in a while I do miss that camera. It wasn't a speed demon, but everything about it (especially with an FA ltd lens) screamed class.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2008
Location: Bedfordshire, UK
Posts: 51

2 users found this helpful
Review Date: July 12, 2009 I can recommend the Pentax MZ-S: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Everything
Cons: Some restriction on using lenses without aperture ring

I bought an MZ-S + BG-10 grip cca. a year ago for about 200 GBP (and a second body for 165 GBP some weeks ago). I can say it's worth the money I paid. Small, versatile and (contraty it is packed with features) very easy to learn how to use... as usual with Pentax. Even if you just put a lens on it and switch it on you are ready to shoot.

AF does hunt in low light situations, but you cannot see properly anyway what you shoot at so it does not really matter. Not to mention that I personally rarely use AF in low light and if I use I use a flash as well.

The only big drawback might be that you cannot use FAJ type (aperture ring-less) lenses on MZ-S in every exposition modes. Not that FAJ Pentax lenses were the league of lenses for this camera, but my Sigma EX DG 24-60mm is, and is a bit of disappointment that I can only use it in P and Tv modes. But I have learnt to live with the fact. And yes: the plastic film door is a shame for a camera like this. Damn price cutting policy.

What compensates its minor weaknesses well is the fact, that you can use the Pentax MX's custom focusing screen (split image/microprism collar) with the MZ-S after a small size adjustment. In a couple of minutes you can turn your MZ-S into a manualfocus top spec camera. I compared my two MZ-S bodies (one with the MX screen and one with its original AF screen) if there is a difference in measuring the light but I found no significant change. In fact they showed the same values with identical lenses fitted and apertures set. Kudos Pentax!

Update (29 June 2011): I have since shot several loads of film with my MX-screen-equipped MZ-S with great results. No need to use exposure compensation at all with the "old" screen. Perfect metering without compensation in every metering mode (matrix, centered, spot).

Update (09/06/2012) : Here is how I converted the MX screen to fit into my MZ-S:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/do-yourself/188917-diy-mz-s-split-image-m...ng-screen.html
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