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03-02-2014, 09:07 AM   #1
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Was Pentax THE camera in the 1970s?

I got into Pentax because my dad shot it way back when, so because of Pentax's bravo legacy support, I was able to inherit his collection of lenses. He said that he chose Pentax back then because a friend said that Pentax glass was by far the best. I've heard a couple other things that may or may not be true:
- That Pentax used to manufacturer glass for Canon and Nikon
- There was some small camera Pentax made that "everyone learned on" (can't remember the model!)

So my question is for those who were around then: was Pentax THE camera in the 1970s? Or at the very least, was it a Canon/Nikon equivalent of today?

03-02-2014, 09:37 AM   #2
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I wasn't around back then (well I was but I wasn't taking any pictures yet) I think the market was shared among the manufacturer a bit more evenly. Around where I grew up, everyone was shooting Pentax because the only camera store in the area was only selling Pentax. Any course you would take, the teacher was using a Pentax...
If I am looking a people around me that were "working" back in those days the brands they use vary a lot. My parents shoot Pentax, my aunt shoots Minolta, ex mother in law shoots Olympus, my friend who owns the only studio where I grew up swears by Nikon. They all shot at a professional level during the 70s-80s and those who still shoot remained loyal to their brands.
I don't know when or why the market shifted so much towards Canikon but from my experience and to my knowledge more brands were more widely used back then.

Now in the area where I live, they give photography lessons twice a year to 20 students per course, using Rebel t3i ... so every year, Futureshop sells roughly 40 rebels to those students. One even ***upgraded*** her Nikon D600 to a rebel t4i just a few months ago... teacher is using Canon, gotta get a Canon...

There is one thing though, every pro photographer I know don't think much of Pentax bodies but they do praise the Pentax glass (well, the FA mostly)

I'm guessing that marketing and distribution was a big reason, now if I want to buy a Pentax camera, I need to drive 4 hours to get to a store who sells them or I need to get them online... If I want a Canikon ... there are 5 stores within a mile selling them.
03-02-2014, 09:54 AM   #3
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Pentax was very late into the AF game - despite being first with the ME-F. So everyone jumped to the cameras with the better AF. Ricoh seems to have noticed this, as evidenced by the K-3.

The reason pros use Canon or Nikon is quite simple. They provide pro level support. Pentax used to in the days of the LX. I remember an ad campaign with a photographer who used to jump on his horse with an LX on each hip and take rodeo pictures from inside the ring - the LX was dust proof.

Fast turn around time for repairs and lack of loaner equipment for premium (paid) support is just unavailable for Pentax. Perhaps Ricoh, once they have rationalized the line up and upgraded things, will start coming on at that level. Stranger things have happened.
03-02-2014, 09:57 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
I got into Pentax because my dad shot it way back when, so because of Pentax's bravo legacy support, I was able to inherit his collection of lenses. He said that he chose Pentax back then because a friend said that Pentax glass was by far the best. I've heard a couple other things that may or may not be true:
- That Pentax used to manufacturer glass for Canon and Nikon
- There was some small camera Pentax made that "everyone learned on" (can't remember the model!)

So my question is for those who were around then: was Pentax THE camera in the 1970s? Or at the very least, was it a Canon/Nikon equivalent of today?
Pentax was a bigger company in the seventies, but not as big as Cannon or Nikon. I was given a K1000 in 1980. That was often considered one of the best student cameras; it was inexpensive, all manual, rugged, basic camera. Pentax did have a history of innovation (first Japanese-made SLR, first through-the-lens metering) and highly regarded optics. Wikipedia has a good history of Pentax Pentax - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia . Cannon and Nikon were the dominant brands, though, they shared the market with many more competitors. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentax_cameras


Last edited by sundr; 03-02-2014 at 10:25 AM.
03-02-2014, 10:03 AM   #5
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There were a lot of camera companies in the 70's; Nikon and Canon were the big players.....as soon as I could afford one, I went to Nikon. When someone stole my Nikon equipment, I bought Canon. Pentax had a solid reputation in the 70's and Minolta, Konica, Olympus, etc also provided good completion. It was a good point above that Nikon and Canon had the pro's locked up. Look at all the pictures from the Vietnam war era: every photographer was using Nikons. I got into Pentax in the 80s.
03-02-2014, 10:06 AM   #6
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I bought into SLRs in the mid-70s, first with Praktica's screw-mount SuperTL. Thru-Lens metering, oh my - but gosh could I afford a $100 camera? I did a lot of bonus family chores that year!

My memory could well be contaminated a bit by time but my recollection is that Nikon and Pentax were the bigger names, with Canon coming on fast with the AE-1 and Oly with the OM-1. Minolta's SR-T series interested me a bit as did Konica's TC(?) but Pentax was my happy choice. I checked into Topcon (Unirex?), Mamiya-Sekor and others, but Pentax came out on top and my screw-mount days were over. Never say never though..

The timing of each company's jump into AF (and later into big-sensor digital) definitely reshuffled the deck.
03-02-2014, 10:17 AM - 1 Like   #7
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If you purchased a camera in 1970, chances were very high you'd still be shooting it in 1980. A far cry from a camera purchased in 2010.
03-02-2014, 10:17 AM   #8
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The camera ďeverybody learned onĒ in the 70s was the K1000, and for many of us (me included) it still defines photographic perfection. I got my first K1000 for Christmas in 1980 when I was 16, half as a gift from my parents and half paid for with my earnings from a summer job, and Iím still using that exact camera body today. As far as my own memories go, my perceptions of the different camera brands in those days were:

Nikon: The professionalís camera, with the best range of lenses and the most flexible system, but also way out of my price range.

Pentax: Second best to Nikon, with great lenses at much better prices, and a system that offered a clear upgrade path from the K1000 all the way up to awesome LX.

Olympus: Cool and ďartyĒ, but overpriced for the actual quality.

Canon: Over-automated crap for people who couldnít be bothered to learn how to use a camera properly (some things never change).

Fuji, Minolta, Yashica, etc: Strictly for amateurs.

Iím sure others will have different memories and will disagree, but thatís that way I recall thinking about the different brands in those days. And truly happy memories they are.

03-02-2014, 10:27 AM   #9
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When Pentax developed the Super-Multi-Coating process, everyone else was well behind. You can still find independent tests from that era showing Pentax lenses winning, sometimes by a huge margin. Other lens makers quickly invented new labels for their lenses to sound very much like Super-Multi-Coated. Some apparently licensed the Pentax technology, and some developed their own.
03-02-2014, 10:47 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
- That Pentax used to manufacturer glass for Canon and Nikon
- There was some small camera Pentax made that "everyone learned on" (can't remember the model!)
That's a bit of a blur.

- Nikon made lenses for Canon at one point, and Asahi (Pentax) made lenses for Minolta and Ricoh. Asahi may have made a lens or two for the others, but Nikon was always their own primary glass supplier. (Nikon = Nippon Kogaku = Japan Optical company).

- The K1000 was the student camera in the late 70's and 80's. Up to a few years ago, Canikon shooters would see my Pentax and say, "I learned on a Pentax K1000". However, I don't think the K1000 was ever considered "small". In the early 80's, the ME/ME Super was a very popular consumer camera that was small and light. My first SLR was an ME Super. There was also the very small MX "flagship" which was popular with photographers, but the K1000 and ME Super were much more common.
03-02-2014, 10:49 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by mdodrill Quote
every photographer was using Nikons. I got into Pentax in the 80s.
Huh. The way I remember it they were shooting Spotmatics. Vietnam was the 60's, wasn't it?
03-02-2014, 10:55 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
I got into Pentax because my dad shot it way back when, so because of Pentax's bravo legacy support, I was able to inherit his collection of lenses. He said that he chose Pentax back then because a friend said that Pentax glass was by far the best. I've heard a couple other things that may or may not be true:
- That Pentax used to manufacturer glass for Canon and Nikon
- There was some small camera Pentax made that "everyone learned on" (can't remember the model!)

So my question is for those who were around then: was Pentax THE camera in the 1970s? Or at the very least, was it a Canon/Nikon equivalent of today?
In 1970 I was a student at Ohio State in Industrial Design and everybody in Art, Design and Photography was getting 35mm cameras. Of course back then when we took photography classes we had to learn on two and a quarter Yashicaflex cameras and 4X5 cameras but WE all bought into 35mm cameras for portability, a variety of lenses and cheap film. The most desirable 35mm was the Nikon F by far but it was also a good bit more expensive, bigger and heavier. What I bought and seemed to be the second most popular camera was the Pentax Spotmatic. The Spotmatic was in the second tier of high end cameras that included Minolta, Canon and Olympus. I saw slightly more Pentax's than the others but only slightly more and I saw more Minolta and Olympus cameras than Canon. I probably saw as many Nikkormats as I saw Canons. Of course this was my experience in one part of the country but it was at a school with 50,000 students and a lot of cameras.
03-02-2014, 10:59 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
was Pentax THE camera in the 1970s? Or at the very least, was it a Canon/Nikon equivalent of today?
By the time the 70s happened Pentax was already behind Nikon, Canon, Minolta, and even Miranda. My grandfather had a retail camera business that was a front-end to his very successful national photo processing operation, and I remember those days. The Pentax heyday was really in the early-to-late 60s when the Spotmatic ruled (see also Ringo). They failed the professional market on a pure technical level by lagging behind those other makers. You couldn't get a motor drive for a Spotmatic, which was a differentiator in the pro market. Other brands also offered full-aperture TTL, and Pentax was relatively late to the game with changing their screw-mount to a bayonet type in 1975 (!) that others had implemented a several years earlier. That helped foment the market perception that Pentax was more of an amateur brand. Similar to more recent times, Pentax pricing was lower than other brands, and fed into the perception that it was a "poor man's XYZ." This also helped foster a bottom-feeding cluster of customers.

By the time the later 70s hit, Canon and Nikon had both excellent equipment and massive advertising budgets. Olympus got very popular too, as did Minolta, Yashica, and Konica. There were so many brands, and like today, Pentax just didn't advertise enough.

The K-1000 was the standard student camera for, well, decades. Its production run was from 1977-1988. While it got a Pentax-branded product into many people's hands, it simultaneously burnished a perception that Pentax was something you grew out of.

M
03-02-2014, 12:21 PM   #14
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Back in the 70s things didn't seem so polarised. Today Canon and Nikon dominate the market. In the 70s I recall Nikon didn't seem to have much of a foothold in entry level SLRs until the advent of the dinky Nikon EM, I went with the Fujica system and got results that often beat results I saw from shooters with Canons, Olympuses and other big boys.
Certainly in the UK there were a 'Big Five' of manufacturers - Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Minolta and if I recall correctly Pentax. But down at entry level the Soviet bloc dominated with Prackticas and Zeniths selling at about half the price of the popular Japanese offerings from the likes of Ricoh and Cosina.
But there was a lot of different manufacturers back then (at least at the start of the 70s) anyone remember Petri, Miranda, Mamiya, Rollei, Voigtlander and my personal favourite Topcon?

---------- Post added 03-02-14 at 07:49 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by sundr Quote
Pentax was a bigger company in the seventies, but not as big as Cannon or Nikon. I was given a K1000 in 1980. That was often considered one of the best student cameras; it was inexpensive, all manual, rugged, basic camera. Pentax did have a history of innovation (first Japanese-made SLR, first through-the-lens metering) and highly regarded optics. Wikipedia has a good history of Pentax Pentax - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia . Cannon and Nikon were the dominant brands, though, they shared the market with many more competitors. See also Pentax cameras - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I'm pretty sure Topcon produced the first 35mm SLR with TTL metering Topcon RE Super: The First 35mm SLR With TTL Metering | Shutterbug
03-02-2014, 01:34 PM   #15
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From Canon AE-1 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia "The AE-1 is a historically significant SLR, both because it was the first microprocessor-equipped SLR and because of its sales. Backed by a major advertising campaign, the AE-1 sold over one million units,[1] which made it an unprecedented success in the SLR market."
Seriously, if you were old enough to read Popular Mechanics, Electronics, et al, the AE-1 changed the market for SLRs forever. The K-1000 didn't need batteries so it could be used in the Arctic (or anyplace cold enough to make it feel like you were in the Arctic), its simplicity and lower cost made it popular in schools, and it came out at the same time as the AE-1, but it never set the camera market on fire in the same way. I actually learned to take pictures with my parents' Braun rangefinder camera that used flash bulbs, but that was purchased in the late fifties, and was a bit of an anachronism by the seventies.
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