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Pentax P3 / P30

Reviews Views Date of last review
9 67,329 Wed June 24, 2015
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $39.00 8.14
Pentax P3 / P30

Pentax P3 / P30
Pentax P3 / P30
Pentax P3 / P30

The Pentax P3/P30 was the first of four P-series cameras. It has lower specifications than the Pentax Super Program/Super A that was released two years earlier. It only has Program and Manual exposure modes, and the ISO can only be set by the DX coding on the film canister, but it is the first Pentax with an exposure lock which makes up somewhat for the lack of exposure compensation.

Year introduced
Meter range
1 - 18 EV
Meter pattern
Manual ISO range
DX ISO range
25 - 1600
Exposure modes
P, M, X, B
Exposure compensation
Exposure memory lock
Shutter speeds (auto)
1 - 1/1000s
Shutter speeds (manual)
1 - 1/1000s, B
Shutter speeds (mechanical)
Self timer
Mirror lock-up
Auto bracketing
Multiple exposures
Built-in flash
TTL flash
P-TTL flash
Sync speed
Flash exposure comp
Autofocus sensitivity
Not applicable
Power zoom
0.82x, 92%
Viewfinder type
Diopter correction
Exchangeable screen
Depth of field preview
Image size
24 x 36 mm
Panorama format
2 x S76
Battery grip/pack
Size (W x H x D)
137 x 87.5 x 50.5 mm
510 g
Price History:

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Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: March, 2015
Posts: 6,259

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: June 24, 2015 I can recommend the Pentax P3 / P30: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Compact, light, simple to use.
Cons: Grip feels awkward at first if you're used to DSLRs.

Edits made Oct 20 2015

This camera is all the beginner needs to get a basic grounding in film photography. It is capable of fully manual operation and has the standard 1 through 1/1000th of a second shutter speeds of the older film bodies, plus the opportunity to convert to fully automatic metering by switching to the A setting on appropriately equipped Pentax mounts if one so desires or one needs to concentrate on focus and composition for fast-moving or fleetingly visible subjects.

The split-prism viewfinder makes use of manual-focus lenses a breeze compared with digital SLRs (as factory fitted). Here's hoping Ricoh have made retrofit of such a screen to the full-frame DSLR easy.

The viewfinder displays both actual shutter speed (constant) and desired shutter speed (blinking); just turn the aperture or shutter speed dial until they match. It will warn you with orange numbers when your shutter speed puts you at risk of camera shake with a standard prime (below 1/60s).

There is an exposure lock button on the left hand side, and a self-timer is also fitted.

ISO is set by DX coding on the film cannister, and unfortunately no override is possible. If DX coding fails or is absent, the camera defaults to 100 ISO, so pick and sort your cannisters carefully if you reload them from bulk film.

Depth of preview is available on compatible lenses (I have tried it with DA lenses and it does not seem to work with them).

There is a setting for 1/100s flash sync and a hot shoe.

The grip takes some getting used to if one has grown up accustomed to the prominent right-hand grip on the more power-hungry film SLRs and most digitals. Users of compact point-and-shoot cameras may actually find it a step up, whereas micro 4/3 shooters who step down to film on this camera will probably feel most at home.

I have established by experiment that the camera appears to successfully default to program mode when DA-class lenses are fitted. Vignetting is a problem with some lenses and the effect is variable and unpredictable - a Sigma 18-50mm kit lens I tried stopped vignetting (in the viewfinder) above 24mm, whereas the Pentax DA 18-250 f3.5-6.3 stayed vignetted right throughout the focal range but the 40mm DA Limited Pancake showed no evidence through the viewfinder of any such. This is something of a pity, as the 18-250's MF ring is nicely damped and manual focus is in itself not a problem with the split prism to help, nor does its hood make the vignetting visibly worse.

In Program mode, the shutter speed chosen (though not the aperture) is displayed in the viewfinder to give the user warning of potential camera-shake issues.

It seems to have been designed as a compromise between those brought up on manual who wanted to stay that way and those who were considering a cross-over from point-and-shoot but weren't ready to handle both manual focus AND manual exposure all at once. It could almost be considered a K-1000 with training wheels - the price paid for this, however, is a shutter which, although it appears to be mechanically cocked, will not fire unless the camera has battery power. If the electronics die, everything else does too. That being said, the fact that the camera in question is still functioning well in 2015 is something of a testament to its inherent reliability. My *ist-DL did not last nearly as long!

For what it is, this camera is 10/10 and I would recommend it to anyone wishing to dabble in (or get back into) film at the most basic level.
Junior Member

Registered: November, 2014
Posts: 33
Review Date: January 7, 2015 I can recommend the Pentax P3 / P30: Yes | Price: $15.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: size, simplicity, quality
Cons: non

For what it is it has to be 9/10. And it's a great little camera, the best to start with.

I know it lacks many functions that were mentioned before, but I understand what this camera was meant to be. When I felt the need for more I bought myself the SFXn, but I was still using my P30. I love its sturdiness, simplicity and dof preview.
Senior Member

Registered: June, 2011
Location: Si Gn city, Việt Nam
Posts: 185
Review Date: September 16, 2012 I can recommend the Pentax P3 / P30: Yes | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: lightweight, robust, FF
Cons: no so far

Very good, lightweight camera, can work with most of my lenses. It is simple, it just works as long as you don't expect any automatic features It's very cheap full-frame and you don't have to wait for Pentax/Ricoh.

Some pictures taken by this camera, using Fuji Superia-Xtra iso 400 film (Sunset, Cathdrale Notre-Dame de Sagon)

Inactive Account

Registered: January, 2012
Location: Klaipeda
Posts: 3
Review Date: April 19, 2012 I can recommend the Pentax P3 / P30: Yes | Price: $20.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: DOF preview, small size, Exposure memory lock
Cons: none

It was my second film camera. Due to its small size and small grip it feels good in hand. I do not miss ISO selection as all my films are with DX coding. It took me a while to get used to LED metering as it isn't needle metering like on my KM camera.
Forum Member

Registered: April, 2009
Location: Sterling, VA
Posts: 70
Review Date: June 27, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax P3 / P30: Yes | Price: $10.00 | Rating: 4 

Pros: Easy to use
Cons: Few really good features

This is an okay camera. Has few really nice redeeming qualities, but if all yiou want is a good backup to a high end Pentax this camera will do. Lack of useful exposure modes doesn't help either (along with no depth of field preview, DX code override, etc). Basically this is a big point and shoot that can allow change of lenses.
New Member

Registered: January, 2011
Location: Yorkshire
Posts: 13
Review Date: January 25, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax P3 / P30: Yes | Price: $110.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Light and easy to use
Cons: none really

Pros Light and easy to use
Cons none really
Rating 8
Price (U.S. Dollars) 110 with lenses not sure in $
Years Owned 20

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
It is a little bigger than the ME super i own but still feels nice in the hands. Performance wise it does everything you need if ou want to be more hands on than just point and click.

Camera Review
I used to have a Minolts xg2 before selling it to pay the bond down on a flat along with all the other equipment I had at the time. But When I saw the Pentax P30 at a car boot sale I decided to take the risk and buy it for 110 which included a 50mm f2 lens and a vivitar 70-200mm A zoom and dedicated flash. AFter that I bought a wide angle lens and took up photography again. Going out quite often just on my own. An excuse to get away from the wife and kids. Thw P30 did everything i wanted and I usually used it in manual mode rather than aperature priority. I took it with me everytime we went off for the day or on summer holidays and even took the wedding photos at a friends wedding. They were delighted with them even though it cant be called a professional camera. But the photos were still good enough. I did stop using it for quite a while when i got too busy with work but have found time again and have even bought another camera. A pentax P30n. I havent used it much yet but hope it will be as good as the P30 I still have. I've also invested in a few new lenses so looking forward to the better weather to get out.
Senior Member

Registered: January, 2011
Location: Detroit suburbs
Posts: 257
Review Date: January 23, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax P3 / P30: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Simple to operate
Cons: None that I remember

Pros Simple to operate
Cons None that I remember
Rating 8
Price (U.S. Dollars) Gift
Years Owned 1989-1992

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Great Value, easy to use, simple metering display through the viewfinder.

Camera Review
This was the very first Pentax that I owned myself. I was able to take very good pictures with this camera without a lot of oversight from my Dad.

I wish that my current K-x had the easy to use metering that this camera has. I preferred it to the meter on my Dad's K1000.

I still regret putting this in my checked bag and having the airline gorilla's ruin it. (There was a crack in the plastic around where the film door closes that would make the back fly open unexpectedly)
Veteran Member

Registered: March, 2009
Location: Maine, USA
Posts: 424
Review Date: May 25, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax P3 / P30: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 

Pros: It's like a modern K1000
Cons: None !!!

Pros It's like a modern K1000
Cons None !!!
Rating 10
Price 20 USD
Years Owned 0.25

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
See review

Camera Review
It has many names :

Pentax P3n
Pentax P30n
Pentax P30t

Hello from Maine

Sometimes I find a camera that really clicks with me - the first Pentax camera I liked a lot was "K1000 SE" with it's split prism and subtle "needle metering" - I loved it.

With the popularity of the K1000 I sold it on eBay for crazy bucks and tried the P3 from 1985, it's super nice! I like it better than the K1000 SE.

And it was only like $20 USD !!!

The meter is nice and modern, silicon photocell equivalent (apparently) like our modern dSLR's. It really made great exposures for me even in high contrast situations.

Like these two pics of a white lighthouse and granite stones. The exposure meter wasn't fooled by that. It was so bright I was shooting f/16 at 1/500 (ISO 400 film).

It can shoot in "auto mode" when using an "auto aperture lens"

It can shoot in "aperture priority mode" with any lens

It can shoot in "metered manual mode" with any lens (like the K1000)

That's plenty of control if you want it, or auto mode if you don't.

And being a Pentax it can use a huge array of K-mount lenses and M42 lenses - attached in the first pic, and also used to take the two sample photos, is an M42 lens - Russian pancake lens Industar 55-2.

On the P3 camera M42 lenses are shot in "aperture priority mode" or "metered manual mode". M42 lenses don't have auto aperture on a P3 so you have to open the aperture to focus, then close it down to desired number to meter and shoot. It's kind of slow going but I like the M42 lenses on such a cool camera body.

The body itself is sleek and light weight, it looks plastic-y but it feel robust. It's much nicer than the K1000 body.

Like the K1000 SE it has a wonderful split prism focus screen that makes manual focus easy and enjoyable. The shutter speeds are displayed in the viewfinder on the left so you know what the camera is doing.

The film is manual wind and manual rewind, I like that. No noisy motors draining the batteries.

It's plentiful and unknown, meaning they are cheap to buy on eBay.

So if you are in the mood to try a nice modern manual camera, check out a P3n (or any of it's other names) I bet you'll like using it and I bet you're film will be well exposed

Here are some relevant links :

Matt's Classic Cameras: Pentax P30t

Pentax P3/P30 Reviews

have fun!
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: January, 2008
Location: Henry, TN
Posts: 2,959
Review Date: June 4, 2009 I can recommend the Pentax P3 / P30: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 


For all practical uses this is a P3n without the selectable Manual mode. Otherwise, everything said about the P3n is applicable. Actually not a bad P&S body. You can sometimes pick one of these up with an interesting non-AF lens for less than $45 US. (Well, maybe not so often today.)

I've had three of 'em and have given them to people that wanted to carry something other than a plain-vanilla P&S camera (after swapping out some more interesting lenses for generic 50/2.0's, of course).

Simplicity is the key word here. The ancestor of the plastic , non-AF body cameras. I suspect Pentax marketing learned a lot from this series. A more exciting word than 'plastic' might have made a big difference as the lighter weight body was certainly appreciated.

If I was given a choice between an M-, P- or Spotmatic film body as a travelin' camera today, I'd choose a P-body. Only 5% larger but 15% lighter than the M-'s and no contest with the Spotmatic/K1000's, to me they were more comfortable to hold and carry. I used various used P-bodies (mostly P3n's) from 1993 to 2004 with no mechanical failures or faults - a good system camera that was overtaken by the new AF (M-body) market. I did a LOT of shop/lab work with P3-series bodies and never had a failure of this design.

If you want to collect Pentax bodies, the P3-series deserves a place on the shelf. It never got acclaim in the press but it served well in the trenches until it was overcome by the AF bodies and their necessary marketing.


Some criticize the P-bodies -- but there was never an image I needed I couldn't take with a P-bodies, and that included accident investigation scenes and close-ups.
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