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07-13-2008, 07:37 PM   #1
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MZ-7 mini review / first thoughts

I wanted to share my first impressions of the Pentax MZ-7 / ZX-7.

I have been considering a modern Pentax SLR for a while. What I would love is the MZ-S. But I'm not a pro earning any money from photography, and can't justify the high cost of that lovely camera. The MZ-7 is available now for peanuts, and delivers most of the functionality I want in a modern AF camera. Having had a chance to play with it, I can say that the MZ-7 is like the film equivalent of my *ist DL digital SLR.


By davidwscott at 2008-07-13

When considering the MZ-7, there wasn't a lot of information about it. I think most MZ-7s were purchased and forgotten by their owners as the tide of digital cameras washed in. As a result there are a lot of like-new MZ-7s out there waiting to be put into service.


By davidwscott at 2008-07-13

Here are the salient features which I like:
  • Quality of construction - feels better/more substantial than the bottom of the line MZ-M
  • Full manual control, including on-body control of FAJ lenses
  • Availability of a few auto-modes, easily available from a single dial
  • Exposure lock
  • Exposure compensation
  • TTL flash control
  • Readily available/inexpensive batteries
  • Low-light focus assist (strobing the flash)

The MZ-7 matches the style of the rest of the MZ line, and is a plastic-fantastic camera. The build quality seems improved however. Compared to the MZ-M, the plastic looks and feels better. The grip is also looks and feels better with a full molded rubber grip for the right hand. The fit of the parts seems tighter, and loading film in the camera inspires confidence. The film takeup assembly and pressure plate are well built, and the rear door seems to have less flex than in the MZ-M.

One of the primary reasons to want the MZ-7 is to take advantage of the Pentax 18-35 FAJ. To achieve the same field of view with the APS-C sized *ist DL, I would need a 12mm lens. Far cheaper to put the FAJ onto a fullframe film body, than to buy an expensive exotic superwide lens! The MZ-7 offers on-body control of aperture, which means the FAJ lenses are a great option with no compromises.


By davidwscott at 2008-07-13

My first modern SLR was a Nikon F80. While I abandoned the Nikon for a number of reasons (scratching film, expensive lenses, and an interface that I found counterintuitive) there were some things I loved about that camera. One of them was slow-speed sync for night shooting. Veteran shooters would call it dragging the shutter. While it is easy to manually drag a shutter, having a "night portrait" mode makes it a no-brainer. I often use my cameras in social settings, and having some flexible automatic modes like "night portrait" can make for hassle-free shooting. The Nikon also offered low-light AF assist, with a seperate light. The MZ-7 strobes the flash to provide focus assist. Both work well in close quarters, and I'm glad to have the feature.

You can easily spend as much on flashes as on your camera. The MZ-7 offers TTL flash, which means that much cheaper flash options are available. I like true TTL flash. Not only is P-TTL expensive, but it's also not my favourite technology. I have actually considered adding an *ist D or DS to be able to use TTL flash with my DSLR.

Power sources for the MZ-7 are either two CR-2 lithium batteries (conveniently available at the Dollar Store for a dollar) or the ubiquitous Pentax FG battery grip loaded with AA batteries. Compared to other camera makes/models, the FG battery grip is the world's biggest bargain. They are regularly available used for under $20. The battery grip gives long-lasting power, provides a nice balance to heavier lenses, and gives the MZ-7 a bit more serious look. Powering from the CR-2 batteries is conveniently light weight and compact. With a lighter lens (like a 28-90 or a prime) the CR-2 batteries make for a very portable and low-profile camera. I like having the option.

Here are a couple shots of the MZ-7 fully kitted out with TTL flash, battery grip and Sigma 24-135 2.8-4.5 lens.


By davidwscott at 2008-07-13


By davidwscott at 2008-07-13

General performance of the camera is good.

The viewfinder is bright and informative, featuring the sensible Pentax vertical bar graph showing over/under exposure in half stop increments.

Autofocus is quick and sure. Like other Pentax cameras, AF will usually do a "double check." That's a good thing -- my F80 was less accurate on focus because it didn't double check.

Controls are laid out slightly differently than my *ist DL, but everything important is easily accessible, including exposure lock and exposure compensation buttons.

The motor drive is fast -- I don't shoot anything that needs more than 2 or 3 frames per second.

I don't have any sample pictures yet -- my first two rolls are going in for processing/scanning tomorrow. I will add some results then.

The bottom line? The MZ-7 is a highly recommended camera, and a great modern 35mm Pentax.

07-14-2008, 04:24 PM   #2
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Very cool. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I have been looking at the same camera on eekbay for some time now, but have not been able to get myself to get one..And now I have my heart set on an LX but we will see.
07-15-2008, 05:54 PM   #3
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Nice review - thanks for sharing.

I bought an MZ-7 brand new a number of years ago, but never really liked it all that much. Once I got into DSLR I put it aside and eventually sold it for a song. I'm sure it was me and not the camera that was at fault. Recently, I've kind of regretted my decision to sell it, but have purchased instead an MZ-5N to replace it. I have 3 or 4 frames left on my first roll through the new camera and am kind of nervous as to what the pictures will look like. I am far more frugal and caring with the number of shots taken with film than I am with digital.

Keep film alive - buy an old Pentax!
07-16-2008, 06:09 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by J.Scott Quote
Nice review - thanks for sharing.

I bought an MZ-7 brand new a number of years ago, but never really liked it all that much. Once I got into DSLR I put it aside and eventually sold it for a song. I'm sure it was me and not the camera that was at fault. Recently, I've kind of regretted my decision to sell it, but have purchased instead an MZ-5N to replace it. I have 3 or 4 frames left on my first roll through the new camera and am kind of nervous as to what the pictures will look like. I am far more frugal and caring with the number of shots taken with film than I am with digital.

Keep film alive - buy an old Pentax!
Good luck with the MZ-5N! I seriously considered it as well -- being the perfect match for the MZ-M, and being unique as one of the only completely modern SLRs to use the fully traditional interface (aperture ring/shutter speed knob.) Unfortunately, that meant having no on-body aperture control, which is needed for the FAJ lenses.

07-16-2008, 07:12 AM   #5
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I have a ZX-30 and initial thought is that it is quite similar in construction and features. I want your battery grip, though. I can't seem to find any locally, and a CR-2 battery costs $10 here !
07-16-2008, 08:51 PM   #6
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Here are the shots I promised. Nothing very exciting, but you can see the field of view from the dirt-cheap 18-35. A number of these shots were VERY challenging for the 6-segment matrix meter, with strong backlighting etc. For the shots of the bee, the AF was quick and tried it's best but the bee was quicker than me, my little Sigma 70-210 and the MZ-7.


By davidwscott at 2008-07-16


By davidwscott at 2008-07-16


By davidwscott at 2008-07-16


By davidwscott at 2008-07-16


By DavidWScott at 2008-07-16


By davidwscott at 2008-07-16
07-16-2008, 09:22 PM   #7
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The images are great! What film did u use?
07-16-2008, 09:28 PM   #8
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I've got the ZX-L (MZ-6), which is almost identical in both appearance and features (the only differences I can find are P-TTL support and a 1/125 flash sync in favor of the ZX-L). I whole heartedly agree with your review- they're great little cameras. The ZX/MZ-30/50/60 often seem to give the ZX/MZ series a 'black eye' but some of the ZX/MZ cameras are great troupers- case in point, the MZ-7.

I highly recommend the battery grip for any of the MZ/ZX cameras. It really improves the handling of the camera, and battery life is excellent. KEH has them here for blasted dirt cheap (I paid 25 for mine!), or B&H has them here. Most highly recommended.

How is that lens? I've been trying to convince myself I should save for a larger format rather than sinking money into my 35mm system, but dang that is super-wide for cheap!

07-17-2008, 05:00 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by ftpaddict Quote
I have a ZX-30 and initial thought is that it is quite similar in construction and features. I want your battery grip, though. I can't seem to find any locally, and a CR-2 battery costs $10 here !
Keep an eye on Ebay for a battery holder. I recently bought a new one from 'Henry's Cameras' for $17. Definitely worth the effort and expense.
07-17-2008, 09:13 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by jgredline Quote
The images are great! What film did u use?
Thanks

The boat, bee and flowers were 200 ASA Black's (Fuji Superia rebranded and sold with processing included), and the Toronto city hall pictures were Black's 800.
07-17-2008, 09:26 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by clawhammer Quote
How is that lens? I've been trying to convince myself I should save for a larger format rather than sinking money into my 35mm system, but dang that is super-wide for cheap!
I think it's a great lens. I don't test these things with charts, but it's nice and sharp corner to corner (better than my Pentax 28-90.) Colour rendering is on the cool side, but that's easy to change with a filter or post-processing. It is very light weight and easy to carry. Focus is extremely fast with a short focus throw. Worst part of the lens -- it's slow (4.0-5.6). But I use it for two things -- outdoor daylight landscapes (where you stop down anyway) or for interiors where I usually bounce flash off the ceiling.

Because it was the kit lens for the *ist D, it comes up for very reasonable prices. I'm amazed that Pentax released such a great full-frame wide angle for so little money, but I guess their back was to the wall when the *ist D needed an 18mm for the APS-C crop. Of course, the first Pentax DSLR (MZ-D) was full frame, so they originally wouldn't have needed an 18mm kit lens. Once they switched gears to APS-C, they must have reused a fullframe design to get a kit lens out quickly. I'd love to hear the inside story on Pentax around the MZ-D and *ist D projects....
07-17-2008, 09:29 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by J.Scott Quote
Keep an eye on Ebay for a battery holder. I recently bought a new one from 'Henry's Cameras' for $17. Definitely worth the effort and expense.

You can also buy used stuff directly from Henry's. That's where my grip came from. They usually have one or two listed for $15. (Just not today...)

Henry's Camera Canada Photo - Video - Digital Cameras
07-17-2008, 09:36 AM   #13
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Just out of curiosity, this is the picture which inspired me to really get a 35mm full frame body to exploit the 18-35. (I was using the 18-35 on my *ist DL.)

I know this picture is taken at 16, but it's close and shot on 35mm.

My first paragliding flight: Photo by Photographer Daniel Bayer - photo.net
07-17-2008, 01:13 PM   #14
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Great thread

I also have the MZ7, and an MZ5 the MZ5 seems more "professional", but i kept my MZ7 because of the advantage to use FAJ lenses with full control.

Thanks for the review.
07-17-2008, 01:51 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by barbosas Quote
Great thread
Yes, I for really appreciate it when members take their own time to present really good threads, posts, answers etc....
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