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05-06-2012, 08:33 PM   #1
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Pentax MZ-S, LX, or Nikon F100: Which would you choose?

I am a Pentax lover and K-5 owner. I own a few lenses, but the only one I own that covers 35mm is the DFA 100mm WR Macro, which won't work (at least fully) on any of the cameras I am considering ---- No big deal. I love it on digital as a Macro and portrait lens.

I sold my film gear earlier this year to move (back) to digital with the K-5. I am itching to get back into it. Digital is nice, but staring at a computer screen all day is tiring enough. I want to smell fixer and feel the sliminess of Dektol again. And Rodinal. And fiber paper.

The only reason I threw the F100 in there is I owned one before buying the K-5, and I loved it. I toy with the idea of buying another one, but the one I had wasn't as reliable as I would like; the gears were stripping and the rewind fork scared me although it never broke. I added it to the mix purely for frame of reference and comparison. I also owned a Nikon FG, Minolta SRT, Pentax ME Super, and a few other SLRs and small rangefinders, so I am familiar with manual focus & exposure SLRs as well.

So, which of these cameras would you recommend? The MZ-S still commands a fairly high price, and it seems worth it; it's one of the few cameras that will work with my AF-540FGZ and Metz 50 AF-1 in wireless P-TTL mode. That's a huge deal to me. When I hit the lottery, I plan to pick up the FA Limited sisters to go with whatever camera I choose.

Questions on the MZ-S: how does it perform with manual focus? I have trouble using MF on my K-5. I can never nail focus, especially with a lens like the Vivitar 85mm 1.4. Also, will it work in wireless P-TTL the same as the K-5? Meaning I can have both flashes up on stands, wirelessly triggered and metered by the MZ-S. Finally, the film rebate imprinting has enchanted me. I am so enamored by the ability to imprint exposure information on wasted areas of film. Is it actually useful, or is it just a fluff feature?

I am looking at the LX because I love the look of it, and the mechanics of it. When I shot with my FG and Minolta SRT, I loved the full manual control it afforded. Obviously it will work admirably with a lens like the Vivitar 85 1.4, and any other manual lens I can throw at it. Will I at least get some automation with it and my flashes? I realize P-TTL wireless is impossible, but if I can at least get on-camera TTL I'd be happy.

I am mostly a fine-art portrait, architectural, and (sometimes) landscape/street photographer. I use slower films and controlled lighting. I rarely have my K-5 set higher than ISO 400 or f/5.6 on my Tamron 17-50.

05-06-2012, 08:44 PM   #2
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I have a MZ-S, actually 2 because one is currently in being fixed, and although I love them I have to admit it sucks for manual focus. There's no way I'd buy a MZ-S if I was planning to shoot with manual focus lenses. The stock focus screen is basically no help for judge focus, much like the K-5 screen.

The MZ-S truely shines with FA lenses IMHO.
05-06-2012, 08:53 PM   #3
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I forgot to comment on the film imprinting. The key problem with this feature is that it doesn't print the one bit of information I really would like to know, focal length!! I have trouble remembering which shot was taken with which lens.
05-06-2012, 09:02 PM   #4
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I was hoping I could get the best of both worlds; a P-TTL, AF and MF wunderkind with the MZ-S. The MZ-7, which I just got on KEH for like $30, is similar. MF is such a pain.

If I do end up going with the MZ-S, I'll probably invest in a new focusing screen for it. A split-image rangefinder would be necessary I think.

Have you, or anyone else used the MZ-S as a P-TTL wireless commander? I'd imaging it isn't as well developed as it is on the K-5, since this seems to be one of the first P-TTL cameras.

05-06-2012, 09:06 PM   #5
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Here's a lead on a focus screen for the MZ-S. Focusing Screen

As for pTTL, I've only ever used it for bounce flash (using a Metz 48) and it produced perfect exposures.

Also FYI as far as AF accuracy goes, IMHO it's better than my K-5 or K-x. Seems it hit focus every single time no matter the light conditions. What Pentax have done in the 10 years since in AF development is a mystery.
05-06-2012, 09:12 PM   #6
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It's interesting you bring up AF accuracy; I've noticed many shots I've taken with my Tamron 17-50 are just slightly out of focus, or focused on the wrong area, etc. I chalked it up to needing adjustment, and that's probably what's going on.

Then I read reviews on here of the MZ-S or PZ-1P, or one of the older AF SLRs, and the reviewers state these cameras focus more quickly and more accurately than a K-7 or K10D. It is a mystery. I guess they decided to focus more on AF point selection than AF accuracy or speed, at least until the K-5 appeared. We'll see how the next DSLR performs.

A quick question, and I assume the answer is yes. Does the MZ-S allow me to override DX reading? For example, if I want to shoot Tri-X at 1600 can I change the ISO from 400 to 1600? By the same token, I bulk-load film into normal cartridges without DX encoding. Can I set the ISO myself?
05-06-2012, 09:19 PM   #7
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I wouldn't say faster AF, but slightly more accurate. AF point selection is horrible though, even worse than on K-5.

Yes, you can set ISO manually and override the DX ISO. I've never used a non-DX coded film but I'd imagine it would be no problem to set the ISO for this also.
05-07-2012, 12:54 AM   #8
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I have the MZ-S, and I basicly use it with MF lenses (the 50 1.4, 20 4.0 and 135 2.5). And it might be that I am used to it, but I have no problems focussing.
And I also have to agree, the focus speed is faster with the MZ-S than with my K-7.
The only real niggle with the MZ-S is when using AF lenses. IF you want to select an AF point, it is a pain in the ass. Apaprt from that, it is my fav camera.

05-07-2012, 10:20 AM   #9
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I've had all three of those cameras. They are all great, for different reasons. Based on what you have described, I think the MZ-S is a good choice for you. Especially if you are adding some FA Limiteds -- they go PERFECTLY with the MZ-S.

Modern flash automation is one of the benefits of the MZ-S. The AF-360FG was originally introduced with the MZ-S, not as a "digital" flash.

The MZ-S is the only camera that I regret selling (and I have had and sold many cameras over the years.) I was concerned about the getting batteries over the years, and wanted to use more manual focus lenses. So I got rid of the MZ-S and went for the LX. But to be honest, I never had any problems focussing the MZ-S manually. Especially when paired with my favourite zooms, the A 35-105 f/3.5 and the A 70-210 f/4, the MZ-S focussing screen was perfect. I understand that "AF" optimized focussing screens don't work as well at large apertures (i.e. they are brighter but don't show small differences in focus that become critical at large apertures.) But with these slightly slower zooms, I never had a shot out-of-focus on my MZ-S. The MZ-S is a lovely companion to the K-5. Similar fit and finish. They are obviously members of the same family. The quirky control scheme I actually liked -- there's nothing like grabbing the aperture ring on a lens, instead of fiddling with a thumbwheel or dial.

The F100 is an awesome camera. It had the best feel in the hand that I have ever experienced, and has a great finder and good performance. But a camera is only as good as it's lenses and those good Nikon AF lenses aren't cheap. In the end I couldn't justify having an F100 + 35-70 2.8 + 80-200 2.8 at the same time as a full Pentax setup. So I got rid of it, and kept one F75 with one lens for playing in the cheap end of the Nikon pool.

The LX is my newest addition. I got the camera really cheap, but my total expenditure is the highest of these three cameras, because I had to add a finder and get the camera serviced by Eric. You MUST budget a CLA with Eric if you want an LX. And if flash is important to you, the LX is very weak there. I think the LX is probably the world's best low-light/available light 35mm camera. But for flash use, either the F100 or MZ-S is a much better choice. Or an MX with an auto-thyristor flash like an old Metz CT4.
05-07-2012, 01:49 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by brofkand Quote
If I do end up going with the MZ-S, I'll probably invest in a new focusing screen for it. A split-image rangefinder would be necessary I think..
Never had any problems manual focusing the MZ-S. In fact, I have never noticed that it is any worse than any other camera.....
05-07-2012, 02:45 PM   #11
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I have owned them all and I ended up selling the MZ-S and F100 but your own preferences may certainly differ.

First, to get this out of the way, I love my LX and would not sell it unless I had no choice in the matter. It is the most capable 35mm I have ever owned and as long as I can see to focus it I'll continue to use it. The fact that it is a beautiful design to look at certainly does not hurt matters.

In your case, if you liked the Nikon, you may find the PZ-1p to be more to your llking as it has a larger body style than the MZ-S. I prefer using medium to long telephotos and the PZ-1p balances perfectly with the FA 100 Macro, the FA 135mm 2.8 and the FA* 200mm 2.8.

The MZ-S is certainly a wonderful little camera and is indeed a perfect match with the Pentax Limited lenses. However, it is not quite as balanced with the longer telephotos. I am sure that lots of people use telephoto glass just fine with the MZ-S but, IMO, if you stick to 77mm or less you will be very happy. The balance at that point is almost perfect.
05-07-2012, 05:01 PM   #12
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You'll have a tough time mounting your Pentax lenses on the F100.
OTOH the AF performance of the LX is terrible...

Chris
05-07-2012, 06:52 PM   #13
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MZ-S ... pairing it any FA* :| .. but my comment lil biased over the fact i already have a LX
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