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04-10-2012, 05:18 PM   #1
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Sharpness as a function of accurate exposure and the LX

Hi all, I've got a spotmatic II but decided it was time to get a nicer body for a bunch of old takumars I've purchased. My choices are narrowed down to the LX, PZ-1p and MZ-S. While I use a tripod for some of the shooting I do, what's also very important to me is how easily I can hand hold slower shutter speeds on a particular body as I don't always have a tripod with me. Leaving aside the huge differences in features of these cameras I spent a few hours on flickr just looking at photos from each of these bodies and was surprised to see that the LX and MZ-S shots "look" better (I know that's subjective) overall, and the LX shots seem to lead the pack. I deliberately chose to look at shots that didn't seem to be taken on a tripod (street shots etc). I was very surprised that very few of the shots from the PZ-1p looked very good. I'm wondering how much of the "looking better" aspect of these photos is based on contrast and proper exposure rather than on pure sharpness and lack of camera shake. From using photoshop it's apparent that photos with good contrast and tonal range look much better than absolutely the sharpest photos so I'm wondering if that old meter in the LX really contributes here. I have two LX's here that I bought from an online vendor and both have mirror issues and are going back. I was ready to give up on the LX and just get a PZ1-p or MZ-s but when looking thru photos on flickr, the LX photos seem "better" more consistently. I did see a few posts with people stating that they can hand hold the mz-s to a slower shutter speed than any other camera they have used and this is the kind of information I'm seeking. From the feel of the LX the shutter is VERY loud and it seems to me that it would have shake..but the photos on flickr mostly look very very good compared to the other two.. Any thoughts appreciated...!

04-10-2012, 08:19 PM   #2
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The LX certainly has the most accurate lightmeter of any camera I have used but it does have a loud shutter. I don't feel much in the way of vibration though. I use my MX if I need to be more subtle as its shutter is quite quiet. I haven't got either the MZ-S or the PZ1p so cannot really compare them.

Not all that helpful really.

BTW, the LX is worth getting fixed, its a super camera.

K.
04-10-2012, 08:46 PM   #3
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Thanks for the info on the shutter..

QuoteOriginally posted by womble Quote
The LX certainly has the most accurate lightmeter of any camera I have used but it does have a loud shutter. I don't feel much in the way of vibration though. I use my MX if I need to be more subtle as its shutter is quite quiet. I haven't got either the MZ-S or the PZ1p so cannot really compare them.

Not all that helpful really.

BTW, the LX is worth getting fixed, its a super camera.

K.
My concerns are that it seems pretty loud, but maybe that doesn't have much effect on shake. I just developed a test roll, will take a look tonight..
04-10-2012, 09:11 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dennis200 Quote
Hi all, I've got a spotmatic II but decided it was time to get a nicer body for a bunch of old takumars I've purchased. My choices are narrowed down to the LX, PZ-1p and MZ-S. While I use a tripod for some of the shooting I do, what's also very important to me is how easily I can hand hold slower shutter speeds on a particular body as I don't always have a tripod with me. Leaving aside the huge differences in features of these cameras I spent a few hours on flickr just looking at photos from each of these bodies and was surprised to see that the LX and MZ-S shots "look" better (I know that's subjective) overall, and the LX shots seem to lead the pack. I deliberately chose to look at shots that didn't seem to be taken on a tripod (street shots etc). I was very surprised that very few of the shots from the PZ-1p looked very good. I'm wondering how much of the "looking better" aspect of these photos is based on contrast and proper exposure rather than on pure sharpness and lack of camera shake. From using photoshop it's apparent that photos with good contrast and tonal range look much better than absolutely the sharpest photos so I'm wondering if that old meter in the LX really contributes here. I have two LX's here that I bought from an online vendor and both have mirror issues and are going back. I was ready to give up on the LX and just get a PZ1-p or MZ-s but when looking thru photos on flickr, the LX photos seem "better" more consistently. I did see a few posts with people stating that they can hand hold the mz-s to a slower shutter speed than any other camera they have used and this is the kind of information I'm seeking. From the feel of the LX the shutter is VERY loud and it seems to me that it would have shake..but the photos on flickr mostly look very very good compared to the other two.. Any thoughts appreciated...!
I'm inclined to think that the overall better quality of shots made with the LX that you have perceived may be due to operator skills as much as camera qualities. I'd say the LX tends to attract more sophisticated users.

A second factor is ergonomics. When variables such as shutter release location, shuttter release smoothness, weight, size, etc. are combined there are noticeable differences between cameras when hand-held. How a given camera will suit an individual photographer depends on the pnotographer's physique and working habits. No one camera is best for everyone.

How you do your hand-holding has quite an effect on results.

Personally, I like to have a bit of extra mass when working hand-held. Power winders on classic cameras are useful for this. Winder/drive equipped bodies I have used and liked include the LX, the Ricoh XR1-s, and Nikon F3HP.
The MX and ME Super aren't bad.

In my experience the LX's shutter noise seems to be damped when it is used with a winder. It's very smooth.

However, I would expect both the MZ-S and PZ-1 with built-in motors and more advanced ergonomics to hand-hold better than the LX. I don't know these particular bodies, but I have used Nikon F90 etc and Canon EOS bodies quite a bit. They are similar in ergonomics to the AF Pentaxes and hand-hold well.

I do find the idea using Takumars on a K-mount body for hand-held slow shutter speed work a bit peculiar. The whole point of working hand-held is speed and flexibility. You lose a lot if you're wrestling with stopping down old lenses in the midst of trying to work quickly. It might be more realistic to pick up a couple of reasonably fast K-mount lenses to go with the newer bodies.

And then there are M Leicas...

John

04-11-2012, 04:15 AM   #5
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Well, I have the PZ1-p and the MZ-S and I don't notice any difference in the "quality" of my pictures by using one or another. I must say matrix metering on both these cameras is indeed excelent and I find that most of the times that I have a complicated lightning situation and choose to use spot metering and/or exposure lock and/or manual mode, the exposure value isn't that much different than what I would get by using just simple matrix/aperture priority.

So, like John, I'm inclined to say that MZ-S/LX atracts a "different user". Just think that LX/MZ-S are a lot more expensive than PZ1-p, so the probability that someone with money to buy one of these cameras and also have top of the line (and expensive) lens to go with them is a lot higher then someone that buys a less expensive camera like the PZ1-p. Also, better (and again, more expensive) scaning gear. And as we all know, in terms of pure technical image quality (sharpness/resolution), if correct exposure is given, it's the lens that counts.
04-11-2012, 11:44 AM   #6
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I tend to agree with the theory about the LX and MZ-S potentially being wielded by more experienced photographers.

I think that "typical" lens selection may also come into play.I would guess that most of the time, these cameras are used with lenses contemporary with themselves. That will have a direct impact on the look of the sample photos you are browsing.

I have owned a PZ1p, an MZ-S, and have an LX being serviced by Eric. The PZ1p has taken one of my favourite series of photos -- the results of which I have blown up to 16x20 and hang on my walls. But that was using a modern Sigma 15-30 EX DG lens (one of my favourites.) I also had a set of matching Pentax PowerZoom lenses (the first generation FA 28-80 and the FA 70-200) which were the contemporary lenses for the PZ1p. Unfortunately they were also lacklustre lenses, with slow apertures to boot. I sold them alongside the PZ1p, which makes a nice period collectors kit, but these lenses could lead you to underestimate the PZ1p. I think the PZ1p had stellar metering and the best shutter Pentax ever put into a camera. The results speak for themselves -- with a good lens.

The MZ-S is a rare connoisseurs camera. The few times I have seen one in the wild, it has always been wearing Pentax Limited lenses. I used mine with the FA77 Limited probably 80% of the time. Online you often see the MZ-S paired with nicer grades of zoom like an FA*. Again, I think the "ecosystem" around the MZ-S means that you see photographs taken with better glass than was often used with the PZ1p.

Why did I settle on the LX? Mostly because love the results from Pentax M and A lenses, along with Super Takumar and SMC Takumar lenses. While the MZ-S does quite well in manual focus, it is an autofocus camera. There is no split focus screen. In my case I don't expect the LX to make the photos any better, but I expect it to work well with the lenses I choose to use.
04-11-2012, 11:54 AM   #7
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One further comment to help you decide between these formiddable cameras. Here are the best/worst points of each:

CAMERA---------BEST---------------------------------------------------------WORST
PZ1p--------------Shutter syncs to 1/250th----------------------------------Ugliest camera design ever
MZ-S--------------Best ergonomics on any camera I've handled--------Worst shutter sound ever, like a small girl sneezing "chick-WHEEZzzzz"
LX-----------------Renowned for long exposure metering-----------------Most expensive to buy and own -- like a sports car -- needs expensive service
04-11-2012, 12:33 PM   #8
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FWIW, here are a few pics taken with the PZ-1p. I recently picked one up and am overall pretty happy with it. It certainly is an ugly beast, and the build quality could be better (but isn't horrible). However, it's the best Pentax film body I've personally encountered ergonomically speaking. I also recently picked up an MZ-S, and I just sent it back. I want a camera that gets out of my way, where adjustment is easy, and the MZ-S was about as far from that as could be for my own shooting style. Many obviously disagree, but that's my two cents. Having said all that, I still like the LX so much better than both other bodies. It's missing that auto-focus thingy, but other than that it's sooo nice.













04-11-2012, 12:34 PM   #9
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There is something to ergonomics and camera weight in being able to hold things steady. For manual focusing, the ability for the screen to pop things into focus unambiguously (this is different than size or brightness) would tend to contribute to focusing accuracy. Auto focus has its known variables... In program cameras, or automated exposure modes in general, when we get lazy and depend on these, the shutter speed chosen will affect sharpness.

But the biggest difference I would say has to do with the lens - an old 'standard zoom' isn't typically as good as a good prime.

But really, it seems to come down to what seems to work for a given person - for me, for example, the KX just seems to produce more good pics than the other Pentax cameras. It may be the focusing screen, or something else.

In this hybrid workflow era, there are other variables in the digital domain: how the scan is done, what sort of algorithms are used by the scanner software / post processing... In this context original exposure can be swamped, but on the other hand when everything is 'right' the better original exposure makes a big difference. In this situation, the 'let the camera do the thinking' approach we all rely on when we can will bring out differences in camera metering and exposure systems. (E.g. personally I don't have good luck with the matrix metering on a ZX-L, though otherwise I like the camera.) But the 'advanced user' who might fork over big bucks for a top of the line camera might also do his/her own thinking a bit more often - and decide what to meter and how.
04-11-2012, 03:51 PM   #10
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Yeah a camera is less important than the lens, film and person taking the picture. You can get the same great shot from a K1000 that you can get with an LX, it will just be harder and require more skill in some cases.

Phil.
04-11-2012, 10:38 PM   #11
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thanks for the responses...

Glad to see this thread has grown! Lots of good points made by everyone. For a bit about my background (for film) I shoot with a Pentax 67 outfit (4 lenses), a Pentacon Six outfit (3 lenses), a Mamiya C330 (2 lenses) a Fuji GW690, Nikon FA, F100, F5, F4, FM2 and FE, a few spotmatics and sp II's. I have a moderately good selection of good glass in all lines, all primes, well except for one 35-70 2.8 Nikon. I scan the 35mm stuff on a Dimage Scan Dual IV, so it's pretty easy for me to see on flickr what is scanned on a flat bed vs. a film scanner..so I try to rule that out when doing generalized photo comparisons. Also, I don't use autofocus at all and prefer older lenses and am especially fond of the look of my old SMC Takumars. I also shoot most of the time on tripod, although my goal for a 35mm pentax is a small rig that i can use for snaps around town hand held.

As I get older my criteria in equipment has shifted. I'm not a run and gunner (can't be with medium format) so I tend to take my time. The two parts of a camera that I REALLY value are the tactile response of the shutter release, and the focusing screen clarity and brightness. Next to that, the ability to do longish exposures without resorting to bulb is fairly important. Some of the shooting I do is down in the 2-6 second range.

Since I'm trying to settle on a good Pentax film body I ordered an LX from one of the big online retailers, it was defective (sticky shutter), ordered a 2nd one from them, also defective, although not as bad as the first, and they have a third one on the way to me now. I happened to buy a PZ1-p in excellent shape from someone tonight.

My initial thoughts are that I could fall in love with an LX if I felt I could rely on it to work properly. The camera really has a great "feel" to it and the viewfinder is very very good. FWIW, the Nikon FA viewfinder is maybe just a tad better or a tad worse, not totally sure yet...they are that close. All the autofocus cameras (PZ-1p, F100, F5) have pretty crappy screens to manual focus with. The F4 is sort of in the middle for an autofocus camera..decent focusing screen, not as good as the FA, but not terrible. The F4 is just too darn heavy though! When I look to 35mm I'm looking for light weight. If I'm going to carry a lot of weight I'll just carry some of the medium format gear..

The PZ-1P is a really nice camera to hold. What I hate is that the shutter release has zero tactile response (just like the F5, F100 and F4). I do like its super fast mirror blackout. It feels like a performance camera, but what's turning me off to it is I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be using my old takumars on it..it's too difficult to focus. I thought that I could manually focus them with audible beep when in focus, but unless I'm doing something wrong, it doesn't work that way. So, if I were an autofocus guy with lots of autofocus lenses the PZ-1P would be an awesome buy...but it's looking like I'm going to have to pony up the $$ for an LX to be happy..

Last edited by Dennis200; 04-11-2012 at 10:42 PM. Reason: formattng
04-12-2012, 07:04 AM   #12
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Dennis200, by now all of the LX's you will find will need a clean, lube, adjust. It's not a small job either, from what I understand there is sticky foam in the mirror armature. Send those LX's to Eric for a CLA while you can!

(I just got my LX back from him, working like a clock!)
04-12-2012, 07:04 AM   #13
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My advice would be to factor a full CLA from Eric in with your purchase price. Once an LX comes back from Eric it'll be working wonderfully and will do so for many years to come. The main problem with LXs now is that they are anything up to 30+ years old and many are due some TLC.

I had my LX serviced by Robin (the UK version of Eric) and it has never let me down since.

K.
04-12-2012, 07:05 AM   #14
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Filmamigo and I were typing the same advice at the same time!
04-12-2012, 07:16 AM   #15
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The "sticky shutter" on the LX is not mirror foam, but mirror rest and linkage, as the delay is for the mirror to start to rise, not sticking to the foam at the top. Yes, nearly all LX have developed this, but after Eric fixes them they will be fine for many years.
The LX shutter is louder because it uses titanium shutter curtains and uses more tension for faster curtain travel. The Canon F1 was likewise ouder than the FT for the same reason.
The MX used a pneumatic damper to slow the mirror as it reached the up position instead of just letting it slam into the foam. It has lower vibration affecting shots than most SLRs. It does "clank" when the mirror returns, but that is after the exposure.
I don't recall if Pentax kept the pneumatic damper in the LX or dropped it. If so, that can also cause a sticky mirror syndrome. Leica used such a damper in their reflexes, and I have an R6 being repaired now just because of a sticky damper.
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