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07-25-2010, 08:49 PM   #1
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35mm SLR suggestion for user with poor eyesight?

My wife hasn't used her beloved K1000 in years now. She has all but given up photography due to her vision.
She has no problem with the viewfinder but can no longer see the numbers on the shutter speed dial and aperture ring.
Using reading glasses to shoot is a PITA she won't put up with, and the concept of counting clicks simply escapes her.

A while back she tried a Pentax ZX-7 camera but the controls were just too unfamiliar for her.
She fared no better with a couple of digitals; with their model-specific multifunction controls and tiny markings.

As a last ditch effort to rekindle her interest I'd like to find a film SLR that's easy to load,
with program autoexposure she can set and forget. AF would be nice but is not mandatory.
We'd consider other brands but would prefer a Pentax body, since we already have lenses to fit.

So, any suggestions?


07-25-2010, 08:55 PM   #2
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I have no experience with the ZX bodies to compare, but I still absolutely love my PZ-1. It loads easy (just run the end of the film to the red dot and close the back), the AF performs well for its age, you can set it in HyperProgram with the lens aperture set to A, and either shoot the program recommendation or instantaneously switch between Av and Tv just by changing the shutter speed or aperture via wheels on the body. The aperture and shutter speed in use are displayed digitally on the right side of the viewfinder, and it has built in diopter adjustment. They can be had in the $100-200 range pretty easily. Good luck.

07-25-2010, 09:25 PM   #3
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The ZX-5 might be pretty nice: I presume the finder is the same as on the 7, maybe a little better, but I don't actually know, ...the controls are nice and analog, though, and fairly clearly-labeled. (Big numbers, anyway: white on black would be better for visibility in dim light, I think, but it's not too bad.)

As a bonus, the OME-53 magnifier actually works pretty darn well on them too, (but I get less finder vignetting from these sorts of things than most in general. Still, surprisingly good.)

I actually got this body for when my eyesight isn't 100 percent: the AF serves well enough, and there's some more-sophisticated metering for fire-and-forget.
07-25-2010, 09:55 PM   #4
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P3n, P3t, P5, Program A

IIRC, she uses a diopter for the viewfinder (the one I traded you for), so any model body that has shutter speed display with Av mode in the viewfinder would probably work well for her. I am thinking ME Super to add to the list.


07-25-2010, 10:12 PM   #5
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I would also suggest the MZ or ZX -3, -5, or -5n as auto focus bodies with controls that are very similar to a manual camera. The control dials on the top handle shutter speed and exposure compensation and are roughly the same as the dials on my film KX but with the colours reversed (black on silver instead of white on black). The exposure comp dial locks at neutral and has to be unlocked to move it again so that you can find an exposure comp of 0 with your eyes closed.

On the K1000, have you considered marking 1/60 on the dial and the indicator line for the dial with large coloured dots? I shot mine without my glasses for years, and as long as you can see to keep the needle centred the only critical setting is whether you are at or below 1/60 for flash use.

If you also marked f/8 on the lenses used on the K1000 with a dot then that would give a starting point of 1/60 and f/8 that is easy to find. Adjusting shutter and aperture up or down from those base settings using the meter will give decent results and make it easy to reset the camera to a neutral setting. For most work as long as the shot is metered correctly the exact shutter and aperture settings don't matter all that much.
07-25-2010, 11:01 PM   #6
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Heresy - Use a Canon F1New with a speed finder

If this is heresy, forgive me.

The Canon F1 New (3rd version) use a special add on prism called a "speed finder". It replaces the pentaprism. With the NEW F1 the shutter speed and the aperture are visible in the viewfinder. The speed finder is much easier to see through than the normal eye piece and pentaprism. And I have found that the F1 New has the the best normal view finder of ALL the SLRs I have ever used including my FIVE Pentax SLRs.

I have very strong glasses, over -10 diopters. Also they have relatively strong bifocal adds. I can see the speed & app values and the entire image with my eye on the speed finder and several inches away. The first two versions of the F1 do not show an absolute ap value.

The speedfinder has a normal viewing position and a low angle position.

look here

No flames please. Canon just happens to be much better in this regard. The main goal is to keep her active in photography. If you are in L.A. I'll show you mine.
07-26-2010, 08:06 AM   #7
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Thanks for all your thoughtful suggestions. Keep 'em coming!

Stacey tried a ZX5n I once had, and rejected it. She said she couldn't see the markings any better.
I suspect that there was just "too much going on" on that top deck for a K1000 veteran.

I have a dead MZ3. Even if Eric can revive it I don't expect she will find it any more usable than the ZX5n.

I have P3n and P30T bodies. She can't see the markings on the shutter speed dial nor the ON/OFF push and slide switch.
I suppose I could super glue the dial in "A" and power switch "ON".

The idea of modifying the dials on her K1000 is interesting.
As mentioned though the idea of "counting clicks" doesn't really make sense to her.
However I could try marking them temporarily, making it permanent if it works for her.

I had a PZ1P. I found it too complex to operate easily and sold it.

My first SLR was a Canon AE1. Back then my dream camera would have been a Canon F1 with Speedfinder.

As you can see this is a frustrating situation. In essence what I am looking for is the SLR equivalent of a Point & Shoot.
I understand there are some very simple Minolta Maxxum and Canon EOS film bodies but I don't know one model from another.

Preferring of course to stay with Pentax I was looking at an MZ10 (ZX10).
It looks like one of the simpler models in the line, with clean top deck and large, fairly simple controls.
Has anyone used one of these?


Last edited by ChrisPlatt; 07-26-2010 at 09:37 AM.
07-26-2010, 09:05 AM   #8
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The ZX-10 definitely fits the SLR p&s bill - and is very cute and light weight to boot. Essentially, you can set it to green program and it takes care of everything. There's an on-off switch, but everything else is dial or rocker.

On a more traditional look/feel the Program Plus or Super Program look and feel like real cameras, they also will do the program thing, though manual focus.

07-26-2010, 10:40 AM   #9
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If the ZX-5n and 7 are out, I don't see any of that series being any better except maybe the MZ-S but as you know it has a heft price sticker. Perhaps try the ME Super as you suggested because things are big inside the viewfinder. Another suggestion I would make is possibley a K2 as odd as it sounds. If the ISO ring location is a problem, the KX would be the next option but the K2 has that amazing shutter. The MX is another option.

Edit: Remember the K2 has the Automatic stepless shutter that is dependent on the aperture ring setting whereas the KX doesn't. I think it would fill closer to the K1000 to her. The MX is all manual as well but has that big 'ol viewfinder and interesting layout and more compact.

Disregard my earlier post the PZ-1p because I see you have already evaluated it. Maybe give the zx10 a look for a af option.

Last edited by Blue; 07-26-2010 at 10:53 AM.
07-26-2010, 10:56 AM   #10
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I thought an ME might work since it has a single large mode switch only.
But then she'd still have to count clicks on the aperture ring...


Last edited by ChrisPlatt; 07-29-2010 at 06:22 AM.
07-26-2010, 11:16 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote
I thought an ME might work since it has a single large mode switch only.
But then she'd still have to count clicks on the aperture ring...

Plus the ME Super has that tiny what button. The MX shows the aperture top center as does the KX but they are both manual. so that rules them out. The K2 doesn't matter per se when set on Automatic since it adjusts the stepless shutter accordingly.

Edit: The SuperProgram switches may be an issue along with that top LCD. The other consideration may be the P3n or *ist.
07-26-2010, 05:59 PM   #12
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I should think in the Pentax lineup the LX with its extensive set of viewfinders might be a good bet.

Pentax LX - Full Info on Its Interchangeable Viewfinders

The "magic needles" film loading system, the same as on the MX, is about as simple a system as I have ever seen. The LX camera could be set on auto as with the K2 which elimates dealing with exposure issues. Hopefully, one of the viewfinders in the above link above should be suitable for the vision issues you describe. The waist-level magni-finder in particular seems to offer a broad range of diopter settings.

Tom G

Last edited by 8540tomg; 07-26-2010 at 07:58 PM. Reason: typo
07-26-2010, 09:13 PM   #13
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Chris: Happy Happy Snoopy Dance that she is ready to try again!

I would have said the K2 if Blue hadn't beaten me to it. K1000 on steroids. Set the aperture; let the camera do the rest.

Part of the secret, one of the "coping mechanisms of deteriorating vision - is to accept that certain categories of shooting will be impossible - action, fast-changing light - whatever - and to attempt only the possible. There's some kind of Zen thing going on to enjoy what you can enjoy and ignore the rest. Or something.

Let me know if she wants the Tammy's back (I hope she does).
07-27-2010, 12:49 AM   #14
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I might suggest that if the problem is that your wife needs bigger numbers, then you might want to consider medium format, probably something in a 6x4.5 format. I like the old metal body era Mamiya gear, but I'm sure that there are many good options out there. If you don't mind spending the money, the Pentax 6x7 is a lot like a giant LX, which in turn is similar to a k1000. The only big issue with MF is loading the film, which can be a bit tricky. That's why I like the Mamiya gear - you can pre-load a few inserts atthe beginning of the day, and then pop them in and out really easy when it is time to reload. As I understand it the Pentax 645 has a similar system.
07-27-2010, 07:15 AM   #15
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Steve, I tried to get my wife to use a 6x7. I didn't know whether she was going to laugh, kick my a$$, or laugh at me and then kick my a$$. I ended up with nice 6X7 kit. It took her over 2 years to get over it. I don't know why it shocked her that way because she thought my grandpa Mamiya C3 was cool. I ended up sending her K1000 that she bought new in 1984 to Eric for a CLA and screen replacement.

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