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01-04-2008, 04:26 PM   #1
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Which one would you recommend? (SH Pentax)

I'm on the market for a good Pentax second hand model, to upgrade from my current screwmount Praktica.

Because I live in the former Eastern bloc, second hand Pentax cameras are few and far between. I have been able to track down a couple of models that have what I need, and a price within my budget.

The MZ-5n (ZX-5n in the US)
and the Program Plus

I'm mainly interested in AE. Lack of AF is no issue for me. That being said, which one do you think would be worth it?


(note - the MZ-5n comes with a battery grip Fg)

Both are body only.

01-04-2008, 04:42 PM   #2
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MZ-5n bodies are nice cameras. They have auto winder, built in flash, auto focus. They are relatively compact as well. The lens mount is not crippled either.
01-04-2008, 05:04 PM   #3
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I have the program plus and like it fine. More manual than the 5n, you wind it yourself etc, and most people probably would pick the 5n over the program plus. (I have the zx-10 which is a down rated 5n: it's very light weight and small, I like it too. But the metering of the program plus is better)
01-04-2008, 05:23 PM   #4
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I was wondering if any of you gents had any knowledge about the build quality, as this is a big issue for me. I know the MZ is made of plastic. Is the Program Plus metallic?

01-04-2008, 05:41 PM   #5
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Program Plus has a nice old fashioned metal feel and heft, and a metal skin:

(that's mine)

I enjoy using it, 80's styling and all. I was very impressed with the viewfinder. Unlike the K100D, it meters accurately with all sorts of lenses, including the Lensbaby and a pinhole. And unlike the ZX10, it meters with the pinhole... and the shutter goes to a slower than documented speed.

If the zx10 is similar to the 5n (I think it is) then you'll need a special remote release cable, while the PP takes a traditional mechanical one.

The zx has some good points: auto focus, pop up flash, it's very comfortable and easy to carry, the batteries last, and the 5n is better than the 10.

I bought the zx some years ago when I wanted auto focus and Olympus was abandoning us SLR users, and have been happy with it. It seems well enough built, I haven't had any problems. The plastic isn't as tactile as with the K100D, but the camera is smaller and MUCH lighter.

I bought the PP last year because I wanted the A 28mm lens attached to it but took an immediate liking to it and have used it a lot ever since. (I remember thinking: I should have bought this instead of the OM2s I did, in the mid 80s. I really like the camera!)

if you'd want a more traditional SLR then PP is great, if you want something that's more akin to the modern dSLR bodies, then the 5n is great.
01-04-2008, 05:43 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by ftpaddict Quote
I was wondering if any of you gents had any knowledge about the build quality, as this is a big issue for me. I know the MZ is made of plastic. Is the Program Plus metallic?
I have the 5N and the Super Program (Super A). The Program Plus is a watered down version of the Super Program.

So, yes, the 5N is more "plasticy" than the Super Program, which has the heft and feel of it's mother, the Pentax ME. Unfortunately, the Program Plus didn't inherit the big and bright viewfinder of the ME. It has a smaller view finder like the 5N. So it doesn't have much going for it over the 5N in practical use.

I like the control layout of the 5N better, but the view finder information is hard to see in bright light.

If I had to chose, I'd pick the 5N due to the control layout and the autofocus.
01-04-2008, 05:54 PM   #7
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One other thing you mentioned you are mostly looking for AE. The ProgramPlus may not have AE capabilities. The 5n does. The 5n also has a panoramic feature for what it's worth.

I agree with Ole. I bought a 5n for my sister. Another great feature is the built in film winder.

Last edited by Rico; 01-04-2008 at 06:00 PM.
01-05-2008, 03:17 AM   #8
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@Nesster - That's a lovely camera you have. I'm jealous.
@Ole and Rico - Thank you for the info. It was really helpful.

By now, I would have definitely gone for the 5N, but I just remembered that the Program Plus comes with a Pentax-A 50mm f/2 with UV filter and a winder.

The 5N comes with a battery grip, but no lens.

01-05-2008, 04:59 AM   #9
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Are you going to be using your screw mount lenses on the new camera? Or do you have some others?

Pgm plus has auto exposure, and will work with screw mounts in the Mike Cash mode: leave it in auto, but stop down by hand before taking the picture, the camera will set shutter speed. Manually setting shutter speed is a bit of a pain on the Pgm Plus - it is done with two push buttons on the top deck and speed only visible in the view finder. There is a proper split prism finder for the manual focusing.

5n - Ok, I'm extrapolating from the 10 - does not have a focus aid in the viewfinder, as it's auto focus. You set shutter speed etc with a rocker switch - pull or push with your trigger finger - that's around the shutter button. The settings are visible on the top deck as well as in the view finder. Based on comments above, I think maybe the 10 has a smaller view finder than the 5n, as my 10's vf is notably smaller than my Pgm Plus'.

As far as I know, both cameras are compatible in at least some mode with all pentax lenses. I have used the screw mount with the Pgm Plus, but would not hesitate to use one on the 10 either. I have also used the DA 43 and 70 Limiteds and the 16-45 on both bodies, with good results.

Like I first said, the 5n is a reputational camera: it is one of the best specified Pentaxes and the top dog of its time. And it is fairly recent, AF and so on... most people would choose it. I admit to poring over eBay listings for one...

I'm not very typical, I like the watered down bodies: the Spottie I bought is a SP1000 rather than a 'real' one, for example, and the dSLR I bought is the K100D instead of the K10D... I find often the simplicity of the step-down bodies makes for a better camera for me, and cheaper to boot. In that light, the Pgm Plus starts to have some benefit... and if you don't plan to get on the auto focus bandwagon soon, the Pgm Plus is optimized for manual focus.

Just the other day someone posted pics taken with their A-50/2, it's a good lens. And a winder! I'd love to try one... ok more ebay watching coming up...
01-05-2008, 05:23 AM   #10
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My goodness! I've done it so much they've named it after me. Now I know how Onan must have felt.
01-05-2008, 09:17 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
Are you going to be using your screw mount lenses on the new camera? Or do you have some others?
It would be a shame not to, as they have never let me down in the past. Of course I would buy an adapter, and AF lenses will follow surely, as my sister wants to buy either a K10D, or the 200D when it's launched. I would very much love to have an FA 100mm Macro.

The 5N does indeed have no focusing aid, but I've not had any trouble focusing manually with DSLRs in the past. I take it there's not much of a difference between the 5N and a 350D, viewfinder-wise [I don't own (and would never want to) a 350D or any other digital SLR, if anyone was wondering]


So I guess it comes down to whether or not I want autofocus, since both are rather evenly matched. I know for a fact that the Program Plus has been well taken care of. I can't vouch for the state the 5N is, though.
01-05-2008, 10:25 AM   #12
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That is a nice looking camera Nesster.

ftpaddict if you can find one another alternative for you could be the ME Super. The ME Super has the same basic layout as the Program Plus with the push buttons to change the shutter speeds but one thing the ME Super really excels at is the viewfinder. The viewfinder is really stellar. For manual focus it is perfect. It also has a max 1/2000 shutter speed. The 5n also has a max shutter speed of 1/2000.
01-05-2008, 11:01 AM   #13
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Anyone who has read my past postings already knows what I am about to put down in print here, In fact, I really should have saved it to a file because I have put it down so many times.

I would recommend a PZ-1 or PZ-1p as the best film body to purchase.

Why?

lets see, TTL Flash, autofocus that actually works well, 1/8000 shutter with 1/250 sync, full compatibility with K mount and crippled K mount lenses, nice view finder, custom functions, remote operation, built in winder at about 3 frames per second,......the list goes on and on.

Aside from all this, its controls are virtually identical to the *istD and K10D, and makes a great transition to digital or back up to digital because aside from the image circle of digital only lenses, anything you get for a DSLR will work on it.
01-05-2008, 11:06 AM   #14
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Thanks, Rico, I'll take that into consideration. A nice and big viewfinder sounds very good.

I've also found a P30 body for sale, for what it's worth..

Last edited by ftpaddict; 01-05-2008 at 03:06 PM. Reason: ducking fypos
01-05-2008, 01:55 PM   #15
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ME Super

QuoteOriginally posted by ftpaddict Quote
Thanks, Rico, I'll take that into consideration. A nice and big viewfinder sound very good.
Yes, the viewfinder on the ME Super is amazing indeed. If you are OK with only M and Av mode (AV with with +/-2 stops compensation) ME Super would be the best deal: you can easily get one in excellent condition for under $100. The camera is amazingly small and the build quality is so fine that once you hold one you won't let it go! (Get a silver one, not black: black feels cheaper.)
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