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06-10-2013, 03:05 PM   #1
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Super Program - viable and tough alternative?

Hey all,

So I'm a documentary photographer who shoots film. I am involved with weddings but have my own personal street photography style project going. While my main camera kit consists of Nikon 35mm cameras and a Pentax 645, I have been using my DA*55 F1.4 with a borrowed PZ1p and I absolutely love the results! That being said, I am considering complimenting my Nikon setup with a Pentax 35mm camera.

The downfall of the PZ1p, to me, is the extreme volume of the motor wind, the 2CR5 batteries (difficult to get where I am at.... especially in a pinch!) and having to manual focus to the green confirmation dot... which is difficult to accurately and quickly focus with and sometimes is a bit erratic.

All that being said, I'm thinking of picking up a Pentax Super Program now. It works with the DA*55 F1.4 (Tv or Program...I'll be using Tv) and I like how it resembles the Pentax 645 that I also use quite frequently. Not to mention that massive massive view finder.

Is the Pentax Super Program the kind of camera that should last me reliably atleast a few wedding seasons or can be easily repaired? I understand these are old cameras (30 something years old or so) so I plan to get one in the best of condition.

06-10-2013, 03:25 PM   #2
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One of the nice things about cameras of that age is they are almost entirely mechanical and can thus be rebuilt/repaired almost indefinitely. If you do get one consider getting it CLA'd before using it (unless that has been done). They will clean and adjust everything and usually replace light seals and mirror bumpers and so on, things that tend to deteriorate over time. After CLA no reason it should not last 20 years if cared for.
06-10-2013, 05:18 PM   #3
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I have a Super Program that I bought new and it's still going strong. It's my favorite of the M series. It would be an excellent choice. Just check it out thoroughly.
06-10-2013, 06:17 PM   #4
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The Super Programs will work great for you
It is a nice little camera, well balanced, made of metal (mostly) with some plastic parts.
The only thing I never liked was the back-lit LCD display, in low light is unreadable.

I would also think of a P30 as backup for it.... with all its limitations is tough as nails


Last edited by titrisol; 06-11-2013 at 09:30 AM.
06-10-2013, 09:21 PM   #5
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I own the Super Program and it is a nice, full-featured, light, and very compact camera with a great viewfinder. It is also has build and technology typical of the time it was made. That being that the shutter and exposure system are fully electronic making the camera battery dependent and sort of a hit-or-miss proposition for repair. Construction is a mix of metal and plastic parts. Some users on this site say that the Super Programs has metal outer construction. Mine doesn't.

I like mine. It handles nicely and is a nice place to mount compact M or A series glass. Battery life is good. All they have to do is run the meter and hold the shutter open. Overall, I would say that it is a pretty robust camera. One of these days I am going to get a TTL flash just so I can try that feature too.

Here is a link to some photos of mine showing it with the power winder and with a few other cameras to give a notion of size:

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=28796087@N02&q=super%20program

Noise is not too big an issue. The shutter sound is distinct, but not particularly loud. Program and Av modes are the easiest to use. Tv requires use to the up-down push buttons and they are sort of cumbersome at best.

Edit: I just pulled mine out of the cold closet and need to retract a bit of my statement in regards to the use of metal in the Super Program. The bottom plate is definitely stamped metal, as is the film door. The top cover looks and feels to be plastic. Ditto for all the controls, save the shutter release.


Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 06-10-2013 at 10:06 PM.
06-11-2013, 11:56 AM   #6
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I sold my Super Program a bit over a year ago. If I could still get Kodak Ektrachrome all over town, I doubt I would have moved to a digital camera. I sold most of my A-series lenses, but still have and won't give up either my KA-50/1.7 or my KA-28/2.8.

As stated program and aperture are the fastest/easiest modes to use. Shutter priority takes a bit more time as you cycle up and down the available shutter values. Exposure compensation via the ring around the film rewind crank is easy to apply with your eye to the viewfinder. I rarely had trouble with the in-viewfinder LCD display - but be sure to place your left hand under the lens even when doing manual aperture changes rather than over the lens. The little white plastic spot on the pentaprism is where the light enters the camera for the LCD display. The center weighted metering is accurate, but you do need to pay attention to all your scene elements and know when to apply your own judgement - and remember, I shot mostly reversal film with low tolerance for under/over exposure.

If there is anything I really, really, really miss about my Super Program, it is the stopdown preview lever to the right of the mirror box. In Av mode, I could keep one finger on the shutter release, another finger resting on the lever, and my left hand moved quickly between focus and aperture ring.

The Super Program isn't silent, but I never found the sound excessive. If the foam mirror damper around the ground glass has degraded, you might wish to have it replaced. After a couple years I also had the ME II winder. There were times I still manually advanced the film / cocked the shutter to avoid that noise. It wasn't necessary to remove or turn off the winder to use the built-in controls.
06-16-2013, 02:26 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the feedback. I had a chance to take one for a test drive in a store. This thing with the DA*55 f1.4 is a sooo awesome! Quick operation and focusing is pretty quick. Portable and really nice camera overall. It's almost like a Pentax Version of the Nikon F3 in a way.
Question though. Whenever I change lenses I noticed the shutter speed reset to 1000 on the top LCD. I have to fire about two frames before it goes back to the other usable shutter speeds. Is this normal?
06-16-2013, 04:37 PM   #8
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Yes, it does that so the you don't get 8 second exposures the first few shots if you have the lens cap on... It's in the manual ( I don't have the link handy but it is available in PDF).

06-16-2013, 04:54 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by dugrant153 Quote
Thanks for all the feedback. I had a chance to take one for a test drive in a store. This thing with the DA*55 f1.4 is a sooo awesome! Quick operation and focusing is pretty quick. Portable and really nice camera overall. It's almost like a Pentax Version of the Nikon F3 in a way.
Question though. Whenever I change lenses I noticed the shutter speed reset to 1000 on the top LCD. I have to fire about two frames before it goes back to the other usable shutter speeds. Is this normal?
As Jamey777 says, this is normal - when changing film - but not when changing lenses. The purpose when changing film is to move the film exposed to daylight on to the take up spool before allowing you to take your first real photograph.

So If you haven't actually loaded any film yet.... the camera senses this. You can see the film motion sensor on the back below the shutter cocking lever.

And if you have loaded film, I recommend turning the camera off when changing lenses. So a DA*55 f1.4 will work as a full-frame lens? Obviously you have to shoot in either Program or shutter priority mode with a DA lens as there is no aperture ring.
06-16-2013, 05:16 PM   #10
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Changing lenses should not result in the shutter defaulting to 1/1000s, regardless of whether the camera is off or on. This should only happen when the back has been opened to change film.

Steve
06-16-2013, 08:18 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Changing lenses should not result in the shutter defaulting to 1/1000s, regardless of whether the camera is off or on. This should only happen when the back has been opened to change film.

Steve
Thanks Steve. I tested a different copy and it was fine in this regard. The other one must've had some problems. However this same copy ended up breaking on me just as I put a test roll through it. I shot 24 frames at random shutter speeds and proceeded to rewind the roll. Popped open the back once I was done, closed the back and found that the lever for some reason was no longer catching anything. The little button on the bottom of the camera to initiate film rewind was stuck in the release position...and the guy at the store and I couldn't figure out a way to fix. Nonetheless, I ended up passing on this camera.

This has me really thinking twice about the longevity of these cameras. While others may have different experiences, my experience thus far has been that these cameras may have been pretty tough in their day but are now at crucial breakdown age to the point where I wouldn't want to use it as a main camera and will be looking for something newer.
06-17-2013, 01:07 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by dugrant153 Quote
The little button on the bottom of the camera to initiate film rewind was stuck in the release position...
Bummer. Usually moving the toothed axle a bit and/or winding on with the back open will pop the button back down. Sorry this did not work out.


Steve
06-17-2013, 04:10 PM   #13
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The little button pressed, that is a 5 minute fix, opening the bottom....
just have to turn the "wheel" in the bottom
06-18-2013, 08:37 AM   #14
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The question is... is it a recurring problem? The sign of something broken?


QuoteQuote:
The little button pressed, that is a 5 minute fix, opening the bottom....
just have to turn the "wheel" in the bottom
Any way to do it without opening the bottom of the camera?
06-18-2013, 10:31 AM   #15
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They're good cameras, but if you're going to be counting on it for a wedding, take the advice about a backup: (a similar body will do or that p30's a nice choice,) they're small and light, but they're getting a bit older and all, and electronic-dependent.
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