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02-20-2019, 06:31 PM   #1
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What autofocus film camera to get?

Been getting into film lately, and while I'm enjoying using a spotmatic I would like a camera that can also use my modern lenses that don't have an aperture ring. It's really hard for me to tell which ones are good though as a few seem to have very little control options like the PZ-10. I'd prefer something without a crippled mount.

02-20-2019, 06:52 PM   #2
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You should probably stick to the PZ-1p, PZ-1 or MZ-S for build quality and modern features. I shoot all of my new lenses on a PZ-1p. They work well.
02-20-2019, 07:03 PM   #3
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Of the Pentax AF bodies that I have, both the PZ-1P and the ZX-L can use modern AF lenses that don't have an aperture ring in all exposure modes, so I would recommend them. The PZ-1P is an older body and heavier, but has great great specs (shutter to 1/8000 s, etc.), great ergonomics and is a pleasure to use. Is is not that expensive on the used market and is not prone to a lot of problems (other than the pop up flash spring failing, and the base plate cracking, so try to watch out for that in purchasing). The ZX-L is newer, also has good specs (and can do either TTL or P-TTL flash) and small and light. However, the ZX (MZ) line has a known issue with the mirror motor gear splitting after a number of years, and it is not an easy fix. Mine is still working though, so far. The ZX-5n and the MZ-S can use modern lenses without aperture rings as well, but only in P and Tv mode. In Av or Manual mode you'll be shooting wide open. Incidentally, the more modern AF lenses that do have aperture rings can be used with both AF and MF Pentax bodies. I often use my SMC Pentax-F 35-70mm F3.5-4.5 with Macro on my Super Program, manually focusing it, because it is such a nice compact lens and has "A" mode on the aperture so I can use it in all exposure modes on the Super Program (P, Av, Tv, M).

---------- Post added 02-20-2019 at 08:11 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by ZombieArmy Quote
Been getting into film lately, and while I'm enjoying using a spotmatic I would like a camera that can also use my modern lenses that don't have an aperture ring. It's really hard for me to tell which ones are good though as a few seem to have very little control options like the PZ-10. I'd prefer something without a crippled mount.
Hey ZombieArmy, there is a Pentax Forum Marketplace ad right now for a ZXL with grip and a matching silver 28-80 lens for like US$45 which is a good price. Why not try it? It's great to have that grip, I have one and it feels great on the camera. It give you the option of using 4 AA cells instead of the CR2 li-ion batteries. It adds a little weight but not much and the camera is very light to begin with.
02-20-2019, 07:29 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by ZombieArmy Quote
Been getting into film lately, and while I'm enjoying using a spotmatic I would like a camera that can also use my modern lenses that don't have an aperture ring. It's really hard for me to tell which ones are good though as a few seem to have very little control options like the PZ-10. I'd prefer something without a crippled mount.
I think only the *ist has a crippled mount, in addition to some of the budget models that came just before it.

That said, the PZ-1 family and a handful of MZ/ZX bodies are the only ones that provide aperture control using e-dials as well as the aperture ring, which means you can use modern DA/D FA lenses without any issues (albeit in manual focus mode for those that are KAF3 or newer).

The full compatibility table for all film models is found here:
The Pentax Camera Lens Compatibility Chart


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02-20-2019, 10:44 PM   #5
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How deeply invested in Pentax AF glass are you? The very best AF film body ever, is not a Pentax.
02-20-2019, 11:32 PM   #6
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While the SF1 (SFX) and SF1N do not provide rear dials for aperture control, the extensive 'P' modes have worked well enough for me to achieve good results with non-aperture ring lenses such as the DA40.

I also find the auto-focus highly accurate and the viewfinder to be big and bright. They can be had for very little money and are a nice alternative to the PZ line in my opinion. It was a flagship model, and Pentax's first proper AF camera, The 'N' version would be like the 'mkII' follow-up models we see today, in this case it had shutter speeds to 1/4000s and much zippier auto-focusing.
02-20-2019, 11:44 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by ZombieArmy Quote
Been getting into film lately, and while I'm enjoying using a spotmatic I would like a camera that can also use my modern lenses that don't have an aperture ring. It's really hard for me to tell which ones are good though as a few seem to have very little control options like the PZ-10. I'd prefer something without a crippled mount.
The MZ-S is going to give you a shooting experience relatively similar to a Pentax dSLR, although they aren't cheap.
02-21-2019, 12:20 AM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by nickthetasmaniac Quote
The MZ-S is going to give you a shooting experience relatively similar to a Pentax dSLR, although they aren't cheap.
PZ-1P is actually closest to a Pentax DSLR. The MZ-S was designed to use the aperture ring on the lens, if I am not mistaken, while the Z-1p had dual control dials.



02-21-2019, 01:12 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
That said, the PZ-1 family and a handful of MZ/ZX bodies are the only ones that provide aperture control using e-dials as well as the aperture ring, which means you can use modern DA/D FA lenses without any issues (albeit in manual focus mode for those that are KAF3 or newer).

The *ist also has aperture control through the e-dial. The later silver plastic camera that have that capability, have an "Av" button (or "+/- Av"?) that when you hold it, the e-dial will control the aperture instead of the shutter speed. As pointed out above, the MZ/ZX cameras that have that capability seem usually to be the "budget" ones, and the *ist, which I think is a nicer camera.
02-21-2019, 07:27 AM   #10
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+1 for the pz1(p). It's a very nice camera with an awesome sounding shutter I was initially concerned because it's using an uncommon battery type, but it seems to last a long time.

I also have a zx-l, aka zx6, and it's nice but not on the same level. However, as with all zx cameras, it's hit or miss if it will fail because of the mirror gear. The first zx6 I bought arrived broken, the mirror would get stuck ever three or four shots, and I got it refunded.

Last edited by aaacb; 02-21-2019 at 08:08 AM.
02-21-2019, 08:38 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ctrout Quote
How deeply invested in Pentax AF glass are you? The very best AF film body ever, is not a Pentax.
I'd have to agree. It would seem in the AF 35mm era, Pentax's best designers were working in the point-and-shoot department, and turning out clever, well-regarded, and likely decently profitable Espios and such.

As for the SF series, PZ series, MZ series, and the starkist series, it never seemed like Pentax had the best people on the job at that time. Certainly not in the same league as the MX, LX, or even Super Program jewels of the previous era.

So why does anyone want an AF Pentax instead of a lovely manual model? Obviously sports and wildlife are better served with a digital body these days. So I can only assume that AF is helpful when failing eyesight makes manual focus iffy, but you still want to shoot film? In that case, I guess buying a couple of PZ-1p's or MZ-S's makes sense, so long as you have the quality Pentax glass to put on them. If you're starting from scratch buying AF glass, it's not too hard to be tempted by a Canon EOS-3, or EOS 1v, or a Nikon F100 or F5 and get their glass.
02-21-2019, 09:33 AM - 1 Like   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by leekil Quote
The *ist also has aperture control through the e-dial. The later silver plastic camera that have that capability, have an "Av" button (or "+/- Av"?) that when you hold it, the e-dial will control the aperture instead of the shutter speed. As pointed out above, the MZ/ZX cameras that have that capability seem usually to be the "budget" ones, and the *ist, which I think is a nicer camera.
But it's crippled, so you can't (properly) use the aperture ring on manual lenses.

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02-21-2019, 09:41 AM   #13
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I have an MZ-3 which I really like. It's not the most robust, but it is light. Viewfinder is good but not remarkable. Pairs great with the FA limited primes, and while they are 'rare' they are not too expensive if you find one (I got mine at KEH in EX+ condition for around $60).

I wanted an MZ-S, but the differences in performance considering the differences in price didn't appeal to me. If a good one pops but I would grab it though, as I wouldn't mind something that feels a little more robust (and I'd love to have a 135 film camera with a vertical grip!)
02-21-2019, 10:38 AM - 1 Like   #14
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The Z-1 is easily the best, the MZ-S is far too expensive for what it is, the SFX(n) was a very solid camera often underrated.

QuoteOriginally posted by jspillane Quote
I wanted an MZ-S, but the differences in performance considering the differences in price didn't appeal to me. If a good one pops but I would grab it though, as I wouldn't mind something that feels a little more robust (and I'd love to have a 135 film camera with a vertical grip!)
Super-A, Program-A or P50 with a Motordrive-A gives you a vertical grip (with vertical & horizontal shutter releases). Heavy (8x AA batteries) but very satisfying. The Super-A offers Tv allowing aperture control of lenses without aperture rings.
02-21-2019, 02:44 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mountain Vision Quote
PZ-1P is actually closest to a Pentax DSLR. The MZ-S was designed to use the aperture ring on the lens, if I am not mistaken, while the Z-1p had dual control dials.
That may be so, but I still think the MZ-S UI and ergonomics are closer to today's Pentax dSLR's than the PZ1p.

---------- Post added 02-22-2019 at 08:46 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Ontarian50 Quote
So why does anyone want an AF Pentax instead of a lovely manual model?
From the OP, my understanding is that they have modern Pentax glass that they would like to use on film.

But generally I agree, if I want fast my digital stuff is going to be streets ahead of even the best AF film body. Manual/mechanical is my standard criteria for film gear
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