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Pentax SV (H3v)

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8 35,071 Fri March 2, 2018
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100% of reviewers $82.43 9.00
Pentax SV (H3v)

Pentax SV (H3v)
Pentax SV (H3v)
Pentax SV (H3v)

The SV was released in 1962, primarily as an upgrade from the H1/S1 to H3/S3 camera lines. A budget model of the SV, the S1a, was also released in 1962, although it lacked the timer found on the SV, was 'marketed' as being limited to 1/500s (but can be set to 1/1000s). The SV came equipped with a Super Takumar 55/1.8 lens while the S1a came with a slower 55/2 lens.

Asahi Pentax SV
Also marketed as
Honeywell Pentax H3v
Year introduced
Year discontinued
Automatic aperture stop down
No light meter
Exposure modes
Manual, B
Shutter speeds (auto)
Not applicable
Shutter speeds (manual)
T, B, 1 - 1/1000s, X
Shutter speeds (mechanical)
T, B, 1 - 1/1000s, X
Self timer
Yes, 5 - 10s
Mirror lock-up
Auto bracketing
Not applicable
Multiple exposures
Ratchet type rapid wind lever
Flash hot shoe
Built-in flash
TTL/P-TTL flash
Flash sync speed
FP and X terminals - 1/50s
Flash exposure comp
Not applicable
Viewfinder type
Pentaprism finder with Fresnel lens + microprism
Diopter correction
Exchangeable screen
Depth of field preview
Through switch on lens where available
Image size
24 x 36 mm
Size (W x H x D)
140 x 92 x 50mm
The SV came in an early and a late type. The latter has an orange 'R' on the rewind knob which tells that the camera can use the 50mm f/1.4 lens (which protudes farther into the camera than all other 50mm lenses)
Price History:

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New Member

Registered: April, 2015
Posts: 3

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: March 2, 2018 I can recommend the Pentax SV (H3v): Yes | Price: $120.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: All manual
Cons: None

The price includes a full service by Eric. (Maybe relevant if you are reading this review with an eye to buying one).

I've owned and used S1a's and SV's since 1970. During a long professional career in photography, Nikon and Hasselblad were my working tools. Nikon was chosen for one reason, the choice of fast wide lenses and the robustness of the camera. For personal work, Pentax screw thread is chosen. I no longer use the Nikons. You can carry an F2 or F5 round your neck all day if you wish. I'd prefer the SV or S1a any time.

The reader will not find comparisons in this review. It is wise to choose a camera which fits in with one's personal parameters. I read much inaccurate information on the net about cameras and lenses. The fact is if you use a Hasselblad 80mm Planar and you're out of focus, the lens produces an unsharp image. So this brings me to the first observation.

The SV has a good focusing screen although there is a need to concentrate on the image. Rock the focus ring in and out of focus. Learn to focus on different areas of the screen. The SV and S1a allow you to do this better than many cameras. I do not know the reason why this the case. However, for compositional purpose's: arranging the composition and then focusing on the area you need optimum focus, is far superior to focusing on the area and then recomposing. The SV screen is fantastic for this method of compostion.

These cameras are beautifully made and once serviced are gems. I have had one SV in monthly use for 30 years and it has never let me down. (although it is on its way to Eric later in the year). As a 'daily use' camera, the SV is a brilliant choice and there should be no reliability concerns. Provided the camera is used. An old eBay purchase, which hasn't been used for thirty years, is not working for that reason NOT because the camera is inherently unreliable. Store your serviced camera in a sealed box with a big silica gel bag and 'exercise it once a month, and it will last a lifetime.

No meter? By a Spotmatic if you want to use Takumars M42's in a metered camera. I am not interested in metered cameras. I have three Gossen meters and I use incident meter readings for 90% of my work. I also use my lenses between wide open and f4.0 if at all possible. (dependant on light). The Gossen give shutter or aperture priority at the movement of the selector switch. And is super accurate and versatile. Good photographers understand light and composition, not facts and figures.

So, if the desire is to learn about composition and exposure and you like the way M42 Takumars resolve the image. The SV is just about perfect. It is a 'photographers' camera and once you learn to focus and understand the way the lens 'resolves' the image in its unique way, you are onto a winner.

This type of camera will never be commercially made again. They are beautiful gems of precision engineering. And at 120 dollars each (purchase price and serviced) they are a steal. A 35mm 3.5 - 50mm 2.0 and a 105mm will complement an SV and the cost for this set up is 400 max? I use 35mm 2.0 - 50mm 1.4 - 85mm 1.9 and a serviced SV the set up is 650? You can take stunning images for very little.

Recommend a SV? Not a second thought: Simple, reliable and brilliant.

See You Soon
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2010
Location: California
Posts: 2,130
Review Date: December 30, 2017 I can recommend the Pentax SV (H3v): Yes | Price: $135.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Completely Mechanical, no battery, no light meter
Cons: Nothing reallyy

This is a very nice camera to use, just relay on your Sunny 16 to set the exposure or get a separate meter. I do not like the one designed for the camera, which seats on top of it. I will post more about this camera later. I just developed my first roll and I am OK, but I used a film that I do not like. I will shoot another roll and post more comments. In the meantime, here are couple of shots from my first film: Lady Gray Lomography, developed in HC110.

Pentax SV by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Devastation after the Santa Ana Winds by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Valencia Orange by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Oranges Anyone? by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Pentax SV by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Under-exposure by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Lomography Selfie by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

-------------------------------------UPDATE: JANUARY 1, 2018----------------------------------------------------------

I am upgrading my evaluation of this camera after shooting my second roll. Here I have a comparison between the Pentax SV (Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros) with the SMC Takumar 55/1.8. and the Leica M3 (Tmax 400) with the Carl Zeiss C Sonnar 50/1.5 ZM, just to compare it with my standard for SLR (the M3) with one of the best lenses (Zeiss Sonnar):

Leica M3 by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Dana Point, California by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr


Leica M3 by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Dana Point, California by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr


Leica M3 by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Sea Explorer by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr


Leica M3 by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Custom House by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr


Leica M3 by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

PILGRIM, Dana Point, California by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr


Leica M3 by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Shores, Dana Point, California by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

More coming!!
Senior Member

Registered: August, 2016
Posts: 278
Review Date: September 27, 2017 I can recommend the Pentax SV (H3v): Yes | Price: $96.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Perfect size, heft, build quality, self-timer
Cons: None (in context)

I always include the cost of any repairs/CLA when I post the price. I paid $11 shipped for the camera and then $85 to Eric for CLA, seals, and bumper.

Now that it looks perfect and functions perfectly I can confidently declare that the SV is the perfect 10 M42 Pentax. Some would give it a ding for not having an internal meter but for me, a big part of why I purchased a camera of this vintage wat so get back to the roots of photography and to slow myself down a bit as I make each photo. Using a handheld meter or the cool, retro, Pentax clip-on meter is a part of the allure of using this camera as far as I'm concerned.

Now for the reasons that I give this camera a 10. First, the only cameras that I have to compare it to that are from the same era are the AP, the K, and the S1a. I rated the K a 10 because of its magical build quality and added cool factor of the slow speed dial on the front of the camera. Since the SV falls just short of the same magical mechanical feel and is missing the cool front dial, it needed to shine in some other area. It does. It has an added 1/1000 sec shutter speed and a self timer. I consider both of these features valuable for my shooting style and for a camera of this era, I would insist that these be included. I graded the K on a slight curve here because it is in a different class in my mind than the SV.

So there you have it. If you are wanting a camera that has no dependence on, nor provision for batteries, the SV is perfect in every way. It fits the hand perfectly with its very nice size. It's just heavy enough while not overweight to let you know that it is very solidly built and can sustain heavy use. It has every feature that might come in handy for the person shopping for this vintage of equipment; DOF preview (on the lens), self timer, wide shutter speed range including 1/1000 (the highest available at the time). There's really no more to ask for. Ok, MAYBE MLU but I don't think that any camera had it when this one was made. I'll still give the SV a perfect 10!
Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2012
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 1,326

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: February 3, 2014 I can recommend the Pentax SV (H3v): Yes | Price: $10.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Simple, quick to learn, no battery, light, good lens selection, even old ones still work well, unblocked and open viewfinder
Cons: People think you're a hipster for using such an old camera

The H3V is mechanically simple, easy to learn, and user friendly. My only complaint is that the shutter speed identification dial has slightly confusing markings, so it took me a few rolls to learn not to overexpose my images by two stops. Specifically, I thought the shutter cocked indicator dot also represented the selected shutter speed. Thee's a black line on the shutter speed dial and THAT indicates the shutter speed.

I like using my H3V. I miss a light meter when I use it, but the Sunny 16 Rule takes care of many situations.

Being all mechanical, this camera is GREAT for overnight and long-exposure photography. Unlike cameras with electronic shutters, the shutter will stay open as long as you have the cable release or shutter button locked down. Also, it's very reliable and well built. Taken care of, an H3V will last your lifetime as well as your kids'.

Here are some videos I made about the H3V that should help you use yours or learn more about the model.

Here are some photos I've taken with my H3V.

Registered: August, 2012
Location: Queensland
Posts: 3,320
Review Date: November 27, 2012 I can recommend the Pentax SV (H3v): Yes | Price: $71.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Delightful tangible quality
Cons: None, unless you miss a built in light meter and hot shoe

The reason I added this camera to my collection was due to reading about a "travelling SV". I was struck by the praise given, and admiration of the qualities of this model. I had subconsciously dismissed the models prior to the Spotmatics as lacking in desirability and sophistication. After all, no light meter let alone a hot shoe and open metering.
When a SV came up on eBay, I bought it and have been delighted with it. I couldn't get over what good condition it was in, and I wonder if models of this era were bought by people who cared more about their possessions given the scarcities they remembered from the war.
Think of the SV (and S1A) as a slightly smaller and more jewel-like Spotmatic. The winding feels so smooth, the shutter clicks so delicately, one is reluctant to put it down. I ran a 36 film through it, and every one came out just using the 'sunny 16' rule.
The third picture is of the S1A but other than the self timer ring missing from under the rewind knob, it is identical in function and appearance to the SV. (The official top speed of the S1A is limited to 1/500 but the 1/1000 speed still supposedly exists. Note the light meter that clips on and connects through to the speed dial. It is battery operated, and this particular one is still accurate.

The image without the lens is also the SV, and the top photo was taken by it with a 135mm f3.5 lens
There is an interesting feature on the speed dial - a "T" mark. If you select it you will find that the mirror locks up and the shutter opens, but unlike Bulb, will remain open until you rotate the speed dial to B. I tried this on three different models I have, and am amazed this feature disappeared with the spotmatics. It makes a 30 minute time exposure easy work. This feature is also on the S1A

Registered: April, 2009
Location: Waldorf, MD
Posts: 1,859

6 users found this helpful
Review Date: October 28, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax SV (H3v): Yes | Price: $110.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sturdy, lightweight, fully mechanical, beautiful, amazing view through the finder, takes standard film.
Cons: No meter, no accessory shoe, slow flash sync, early models won't accept Takumar 50mm F/1.4

No camera is perfect, but if there were a perfect all-mechanical 35mm SLR, the Pentax SV is very near to it.

In our modern world of electronics and digital everything, automatic cameras and computers trying to out-think you, sometimes you just want a device that does whatever you tell it, even if what you tell it is wrong. The Asahi Pentax SV is such a device. Like an early Leica, it is devoid of electronics, completely and totally dependent on a competent operator to function adequately.

The appeal of the SV is not just as a picture capturing device, but in its user the fun of using it, of holding it and working its controls, as much as it is in the beautiful images it's capable of.


The Asahi Pentax SV is a beautiful piece of machinery. Like any all-mechanical brass-and-chrome camera, it's a shining, beautiful piece of engineering from the top of the prism to the baseplate. It has a wonderful look, timeless and beautiful, neither too delicate nor too brutish to be considered ugly by anybody. Both black and silver versions are gorgeous. As beautiful as the camera is to look at, it is even better to look through, as the finder is utterly gorgeous, and looking at things through this camera is often better than looking at them with just your eyes.


The horizontal travelling, focal plane shutter sounds crisp and exact, and holds very accurate speeds all the way up to 1/1000s. The mirror slap is positive, the shutter release feel perfect, and the film wind-up feel is heavenly. If you love mechanical things, the SV will not disappoint.

Its lack of an in-built light meter, which some may consider a drawback (because, for the most part, it is) has two very happy side-effects: First, the viewfinder is completely uncluttered, and second, the camera is a little smaller and lighter for the lack of electronics.


Like any mechanical 35mm SLR, the SV's operation is simple, but not easy. A seperate lightmeter or the photographer's well-trained eye will have to meter the light in the scene and determine the best exposure. With that done, they have to then select the correct shutter speed and aperture setting for the situation and apply the settings to the camera. If you are good at guessing or you have predictable light, this is not an issue. In rapidly changing light conditions, however, it makes the camera very slow to operate, as one has to stop and meter constantly.

That said, the controls are very simple. A shutter speed dial and an aperture ring, and that's it. Oh, a shutter button, too. The shutter speed dial is positive and smooth, and contains both a B mode and a T mode, something I wish more modern cameras had. The T mode is especially useful for long exposures, as you don't have to hold the cable release or shutter's one click to open, one to close.

All m42 cameras have an aperture preview function of sorts due to the nature of the lenses, so the lack of one on the camera body is easily forgivable. What may not be as forgivable are the lack of a mirror lockup or a multi-exposure control, but such is the case with most 35mm slrs, so the lack of truly advanced controls is not a big deal. The camera DOES have a self-timer, in the crown around the rewind lever, which also doubles as a film reminder dial. As the camera has no meter, the ISO wheel doesn't actually affect operation at all.

If you wish to use a flash, you need one that mounts to the tripod socket, or the Pentax shoe accessory that clips to the viewfinder. Unfortunately, using an eyecup or a right-angle finder and shoe-mount flash at the same time is not possible. The 1/50s sync speed is adequate for most purposes.


The SV is an M42 screwmount camera, and accepts, literally, ANY m42 screwmount lens from any manufacturer, with some exceptions. The only exception i have specific knowledge about is actually a Takumar lens, from Pentax: Early versions of the SV, with a Green R on the rewind crank, don't have enough clearance between the mirror and the rear element of the Takumar 50mm F/1.4 to use it. The mirror crashes into the lens, with disastrous results. However, the later version, with Red R on the rewind crank, works fine with the Takumar as the design was modified slightly to accept the deeper lens.

There may be other lenses with similar issues...I'd reccomend measuring carefully before inserting any lenses and pressing the go button if you're unsure.


When handled properly, the Asahi Pentax SV is capable of truly stunning results, but as with any 35mm all-manual SLR, it is UTTERLY dependent on its operator for proper exposure and focus, and dependent on whatever lenses you screw into it for the look and feel of its final images. With so many lenses available this camera can use, that has a huge impact on the camera's potential range of results. With a good lens and a competent photographer, though, expect excellence.


The SV is a wonderful all-mechanical SLR, and an example in good condition will not just take great photos for years to come, but it will provide the user with a tangible link to the past, and a wonderful, hand-holdable example of superlative build quality and engineering masterwork.

If you don't need Digital, or any automatic features, and won't use flash often, the SV will not disappoint you. If you need a mechanical, meterless 35mm SLR for a zenlike focus on the photograph itself, or to train your eye for light or for composition, there exists no better tool.
Site Supporter

Registered: June, 2008
Location: Florida Hill Country
Posts: 17,221
Review Date: May 16, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax SV (H3v): Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: small, well made
Cons: external meter

These are great little cameras. They are compact and well made. The come in 2 major flavors often referred to an early and late. The late version had a deeper mirror cage to account for the rear element of the Super Tak 50mm/1.4 lens. The early version's mirror slaps it.
Giveaway winner!

Registered: December, 2007
Location: beantown
Posts: 942

2 users found this helpful
Review Date: December 6, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax SV (H3v): Yes | Price: $35.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Improved over S1 or S3
Cons: Early days of SLRs

Pros Improved over S1 or S3
Cons Early days of SLRs
Rating 8
Price (U.S. Dollars) 35.00
Years Owned 3

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Basically a solid mechanical camera. Of the SLR family I would say it is third generation of the SLR family just prior to the larger framed Spotties packing on-board metering. The SV still has the smaller compact body that is more from the era of Asahiflex and the other rangefinder sized bodies. It is a form that is comfortable to hold and the weight speaks more of the pure picture taking machine than scale tipping contests. With a decently bright pentaprism, the view of course is better when 1.8 or faster lenses are installed, it is simple, clean and dependable.

Camera Review
Now this camera is a fun one to write about. I will first point out that my two examples were acquired as "as-is" or "for repairs" bodies. They looked like new and sort of functioned, but age and climate had taken the "click" out of the cameras... it was more like a "zuff" as the shutter stops in mid cycle. Post CLA which I must say was a pleasure to do on such uncomplicated camera layouts. Be mindful that if you are looking to for one as a user, be aware of the shutter curtains. They get a little dried out and wrinkled. When tuned up the shutters fire reliably, but still get a little cranky in cold weather.

The SV and many of the series prior to the Spotmatics had smaller cowlings around the lens mount base. You then can really wrap your hand around it for a snug grip behind the lens. This is near the "sticks and cloth" days of SLRs and so you don't have built-in meters, ASA knobs or hot-shoes, but you do have the "X" and "FP" connections. So armed with Sunny 16 and a one of the superb Super-Takumars, you can do some serious picture taking.

The focus is aided by a microprism and is adequate for lenses until f4.5 and then it starts to get dark. The collar area around the microprism also starts to darken as well. However, you will be able to sort out the focus for most lenses. Viewing through, I've not noticed the difference from it and any other as far as focusing and some how the lack of numbers and needles and other bit that feels more like a being in the golden age of photography.

The film advance feels a little crude and my two examples seem to have some odd rubbing feel that did not go away with the cleaning and greasing. Otherwise, the advancing of the film was easy and allowed positive locking of the shutter.

The mirror is less dampened that later models and you can see the rapid few bounces before it settles down. It does not effect the picture and is minor enough that you would not care had it not been that I told you it was there... sorry. Another note, if you are looking to acquired an old SV, do check to see if the mirror foam is not sticky, decaying or missing, it is a common cause of jam issues.

The SV, in my opinion, has a wonderful old time click of the shutter. Some quick tests have shown that my SV's shutter has slowed a little with age, but it is consistent and I might bump up the shutter spring a notch if it does not throw off the span of the speeds. The pictures seemed exposed close to correct although I might not be so sure with slide films.

The SV has a self-timer located at the base of the rewind knob. To use is simply a turn to set and a small chrome button activates to give about 10 seconds, but you can of course turn it part way to get shorter speeds. The shorter 5 seconds is helpful for low speed shots, I would set the timer hang on and click.

A basic solid little SLR and when it is in well kept up, it will deliver as well as any other camera.

The un-official mirror lock-up:
I'm not sure if it can be done with others cameras of this era...
The best way I found to do this is to position the very tip of my finger at the edge of the release button and flick my finger off that edge. Just enough force to quickly make the button go down, but not hard or long enough to hit bottom and trigger the shutter. You will hear a soft click of the mirror going up and no slap of the shutter. If you look at the viewfinder, it is dark and the film advance is still locked meaning the shutter is still ready. Try it... with no film.
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