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05-23-2009, 03:00 PM   #1
Ole's Avatar

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Pentax MX

The Pentax MX was introduced in 1976 as a pro-caliber all-manual workhorse SLR camera. It was very compact but yet had one of the largest and brightest viewfinders of any SLR. A 250 images film back was available as well as a 5 fps motor drive and a 2 fps winder.

Year introduced
Meter range
1 - 19 EV
Meter pattern
ISO range
25 - 1600
DX ISO range
No DX coding
Exposure modes
M, B
Exposure compensation
Not applicable
Exposure lock
Not applicable
Shutter speeds (auto)
Not applicable
Shutter speeds (manual)
1 - 1/1000s, B
Shutter speeds (mechanical)
1 - 1/1000s, B
Self timer
Mirror lock-up
Auto bracketing
Not applicable
Multiple exposures
External winder 2 fps, motor drive 1-5 fps
Built-in flash
TTL flash
P-TTL flash
Sync speed
Flash exposure comp
Not applicable
Autofocus sensitivity
Not applicable
Power zoom
0.97x, 95%
Viewfinder type
Diopter correction
Exchangeable screen
Depth of field preview
Image size
24 x 36 mm
Panorama format
2 x S76
Battery grip/pack
Size (W x H x D)
136 x 82.5 x 49.5 mm
495 g
Special accessory: 250 exposure bulk film magazine back

Attached Images
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PENTAX K10D  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K20D  Photo   
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K200D  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K100D Super  Photo 

Last edited by Ole; 10-09-2010 at 09:08 PM.
05-24-2009, 06:58 PM - 2 Likes   #2
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I bought this camera new in 1982 and have never regretted it. It has been used in temperatures from –40 F to +90 F with no problems. The MX is very small and compact but might be too small for those with large hands. I purchased the MX winder and the result was a perfect fit. All dials and settings are logically laid out and easy to use. I personally like the LED display but not as much as I now wear glasses. The ability to see the F stop in the viewfinder is a nice touch. Depth of field preview and self-timer are well placed. I have several additional focusing screens that add to the camera’s versatility. I recently added the MX dial data back in an Ebay purchase. It permits encoding some information on the film but the years maxed out at 1992 (bummer). I can still add f-stop, shutter speed, month, day and some alpha characters. I have the right angle finder for this camera, which is handy for fine focusing with the Pentax auto bellows. I am something of a Pentax lens collector. I think Pentax manual lenses are easily on a par with their Nikon and Canon competitors. They are beautifully made and like little jewels in the hand. Over the years I have added about a dozen SMC Pentax lenses: 24mm K f/2.8, 28mm M f/2.8, 35 M f/2mm, 50mm M f/1.4, 50mm M f/4 macro, 100mm A f/2.8 macro, 150mm M f/3.5, 200mm K f/2.5, 300mm K f/4, M 400/5.6, a Pentax K 2x converter, and a 75-150mm M f/4 zoom. I purchased three of these in the last year of so on Ebay but prices are starting to climb. It is a fairly complete system, which allows me to take on any photographic challenge that comes my way. It would still be possible, but not cheap, to reproduce this system for Ebay sources.


The MX is a solid little brick of a camera. Batteries seem to last forever and rarely need replacement. A wide range of accessories are still available on Ebay but are becoming more expensive. It “feels” good in my hands which is a subjective but very important feature for me. If I were forced to use one word to describe this camera it would be reliable. It even works without batteries! The "magic needles" film take up spool makes film loading a snap. As noted above the Pentax lenses, still readily available, are first rate and capeable of delivering remakable images if both you and the lab do your job properly. There are many other manual focus lenses available from other makers as well.


After 20 some years of use the camera has its warts as well. The flash sync is a bit slow at 1/60th of a second. This wasn't bad in 1980 but looks very slow by today's standards. That being said it works quite well. The flash sytem as a whole requires a fair bit of manipulation and would likely turn off someone used to todays point and shoot systems. No TTL was available but it does have a primitive sort of auto flash exposure system but it can be a pain in the ass. The winder works but is a weak point of the system. The battery compartment door on most MX winders will be broken and you should be aware of this if buying a used one. Mine broke and I had to have it repaired. Battery removal is not for the faint hearted and requires more effort than it should. In addition the foam in these units turns to goo after 20 years or so and has to be replaced. This looks like a pretty thorough trashing of the winder but I wouldn't be without it. It feels so good in the hand and the MX seems incomplete without it to my mind.Some lament a lack of spot metering but I have never found it to be an issue. The MX has been out of production for some time parts are getting hard to find. Pentax no longer officially services this camera or its accessories.

Customer Service:

The MX and my K2, which is even older, have both been recently serviced in the last two years. A full clean, lube and adjustment cost about $150 Canadian. No parts needed to be replaced at that time but could be an issue in the future.

Last edited by 8540tomg; 06-12-2009 at 03:31 AM. Reason: typo
07-28-2009, 09:59 AM - 1 Like   #3
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I just bought a used one recently, and was very impressed by the finder. Big bright, 0.97x magnification really makes a difference.

One thing I don't like is the difficulty of manipulating the shutter speed dial . The detents are tight, and the large end on the wind lever and the raised shutter button collar both get in the way of my fingers. By comparison, the K1000 shutter speed dial is a cinch to spin.

The LEDs can be dim in bright light.

Looks very well built on the inside. There's a lot of light seals inside that need replacing as well!

Last edited by John Shriver; 08-10-2009 at 12:36 PM. Reason: More experience with camera.
09-08-2009, 08:45 PM   #4

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I recently bought an MX and mint M-50/f1.7 to replace my Spotmatic SP F which was dyeing a slow death... I've also used a MF Minolta SLR and several 35mm rangefinders but generally my film experience isn't great so keep that in mind

Anyway, the legendary MX:

Body: SMALL!!! Aesthetically quite similar to the Spotmatic and all other K and M series bodies, but very, very little. This may or may not be a good thing. It’s compact enough to be a ‘pocketable SLR’ (big pocket, small lens) but some people complain that it’s too small for large hands. I find that it feels more secure in the hand (compared to Spotmatic) due to the significantly lighter weight… Personal preference I suppose. An MX Winder will probably make it more comfortable if you do have problems. Build quality is outstanding.

Controls: This is a fully manual camera. Ie. it is fully operable without batteries (light meter obviously won’t work). But this also means it doesn’t have aperture or shutter priority. So if this is your thing best go for an ME Super or similar. Other than that it has all the bits you need, including some nice little details like the red dot showing when film has been advanced and the combined DoF Preview lever and self-timer. Everything has a nice, tactile feel to it, although the shutter dial is usually a bit stiff. Doesn’t ‘officially’ have mirror lock-up, but there is a well publicised DIY trick that works on most bodies. Centre-weighted metering only, which is accurate and fast, although some complain about the lack of spot-metering.

Viewfinder: Wonderful Significantly better than the Spotmatic and Minolta SLR’s I’ve used, and absolutely incredible if you’re used to an APS dSLR. Big and bright with a handy combined split-prism/micro-prism focusing screen. Shutter speed and aperture value are both displayed, although aperture may not be displayed properly with some non-M series lenses (my Chinon 45mm lights up the focus scale instead). Exposure is displayed as a series of LED’s, which is not to everyone’s taste… I personally prefer the Spotmatic’s needle.

Generally: I love this camera, easily the favourite in my collection. Great to complement a dSLR system, when you just want to take it back to basics and enjoy photography. The size makes it an excellent, unobtrusive street camera. Build quality and reliability are outstanding, although there are a lot of light seals that will need replacing at some point. Worth mentioning that I’ve only ever used the MX with smaller lenses; K24/f2.8, M50/f1.7, M135/f3.5 and M200/f4, and while it feels well balanced with these, if you use larger lenses frequently you may be better off with a K series body… Overall, this is my go-to camera and strongly recommended . 9/10 marked down only for stiff shutter dial and LED light-meter. Get one while they're cheap

Pentax MX and M50/f1.7 'kit lens'. Fully manual without batteries.

10-20-2009, 07:16 PM   #5
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Pentax MX

I`ve had two of these over a span of fifteen years,using it for family & my photo business. Best word to describe the MX would be RELIABLE !!! Never had it fail on any photo shoots.....
For a straight-forward camera this has been one of my favorites !
11-24-2009, 07:16 AM   #6
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A good old friend

A well used second hand MX was my first Pentax camera with some lenses. I still use it nowadays, though I bought two other bodies, a silver and a black in mint condition only for show.

All I can say that this camera is IMHO one of the top ten SLRs ever made. I do not really know other manufacturers' cameras of the same category, but this one is definitely a champ. Though mine's got use during the years it shows no signs of any fault or misfunction. Works as new and does the job all the time.

Just recently happened that I dropped my Pentax digital body from the shelf and it keeps saying: Memory card error. It'd been just a couple of days before leaving for a long term job to the UK. I needed to decide which camera to take as I have no more digital body. So I picked my old friend the MX (out of about ten other Pentax bodies, including such cameras like KX, Super A, MZ-S, MZ-5n etc.) along with some primes. And I am happy to have done that.
01-06-2010, 06:17 AM   #7
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I have one black Pentax MX with winder and begin seriously photography with a silver MX and a 50mm 1.7 M.
I found it on a bookseller shelve. I paid 60€ and fixed easily the "sticky" mirror problem... I won a beautiful camera and a great lens...
I made lots of my best shots with this camera. And found another black one for a bit more bucks with C.L.A.
It is always with me when I travel all over the world.

It's not a complicated camera and it makes what you ask:

- light
- excellent lenses, M lenses fit very well
- Top viewfinder!!!I like the high magnification and accessibility
- exposure led are really ok. I'm more used to it than the needle of the OM1, It's a user choice.
- mechanical, works without battery. And 1.5V batteries are everywhere...
- Shutter is more silent than my Pentax LX shutter (Tried a Leica M6 and I was not so impressed by the "low" shutter noise), It's quiet "for a mechanical reflex" the same league as OM1 by olympus. they are mirror damped.
- Works with the latest FA and FA* lenses and that's great! (just avoid DA and FAJ lenses usable only wide open...)

The only disadvantages:
- winder is really noisy! if you don't care about noise, you win a better handling...
- It seems strong and that's why people forget to do CLA (Clean, Lub., adjusted) always ask for it or make it directly if you can.

I think It's a nice 9/10 for who don't need AF.

But you can find new cameras with the same handling if you don't care about the MX system (winder, motor, viewscreens,...).
It makes the market of film cameras with PK mount working ! (cosina make it I think, if it's allowed to speak about it here!-) and it's cheap...but I confess I didn't tried)
Nevertheless MX is a wonderful picture machine and for me it's sentimental, really!
Attached Images
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K20D  Photo 

Last edited by mine.cola; 01-06-2010 at 06:47 AM.
01-14-2010, 02:34 PM - 1 Like   #8
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It was my first SLR (my first cam was a Beiretta) and never regret i started with Pentax MX. I bought it just after they appeard on the market. Bought a winder and some vivitar lenses and later got a second body and winder to make my collection complete.
It never failed me in all those years. I still own the camera's and no-way i will ever sell them.

I really loved the very clear viewfinder and was very disappointed at first with the viewfinder of my first DSLR K100.

I made a huge number of pictures with those cams in very dark conditions, in theaters (as a house photographer of a theather here in town), in cold conditions in heavy snow op to very hot conditions in the deserts of Egypt with 35C in the shades. Even once in the desert changed lenses in a sandstorm and the cam never complained but kept going and going.

The most solid cam i have ever seen and still being the most silent complete mechanical cam there ever was on the market.

I really hope my present K7 will once be able to stand proudly in the shadow of the MX.

A better and more reliable cam than the MX, i'm afraid i never wil find one.

Last edited by Sakura; 01-14-2010 at 02:39 PM.
03-14-2010, 10:11 AM - 2 Likes   #9
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Have used 3 MX bodies since 1981. Still have two.
Features of interest with qualifiers:
  1. Small size but not really a pocket camera, sturdy and durable metal body but which dents easily around the pentaprism housing;
  2. Viewfinder: bright compared to DSLRs but not as good as the best Canon, Nikon and Olympus cameras of its time; covers less picture area than these;
  3. Viewfinder LEDs are useful but not easy to see in bright light; shows aperture and shutter speed in viewfinder;
  4. Focussing screens user-interchangeable and of good quality but contemporary Nikon and Canon screens were brighter and easier to replace;
  5. Depth of field preview and delayed released lever combined in single convenient lever;
  6. Shutter button can be locked: convenient for robust travel, preventing accidental release or time exposure in B setting;
  7. Shutter speed dial stiff requiring thumb and forefinger operation which is inconvenient while looking through viewfinder as it involves cocking the right wrist while holding camera cupped in both hands;
    shutter dial combines film speed dial which is lockable to prevent unwanted change;
  8. SMCP-M lenses are light but sturdy and of good quality but Pentax's claim that the optical quality of the SMCP-M lenses is as good as that of the corresponding but heavier K lenses is not substantiated by the results, especially outside the optimum aperture settings which give sharpest results;
  9. Uses LR44 or A76 batteries which are commonly available; contemporary cameras from Canon and Olympus used mercury batteries which are now obsolete and those bodies need meter adjustment or expensive step-down adapters to work accurately;
    mechanical shutter means all speeds remain functional without batteries and experienced users can get acceptable results with print film.
One of the few fully modular 35mm cameras which, in it's time, gave 85 to 90 percent of the performance of the outstanding Canon F1 and Nikon F2AS at just over 60 percent of the price. By any standards this was a remarkable achievement.
05-05-2010, 05:32 AM - 1 Like   #10
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Love that view finder

The MX was my first real camera, purchased new around 1982. Of course I lusted after the LX, but the MX was what I could afford. I've aquired several good cameras over the years, including the Pentax Super A, Nikon F4S and N90S, Konica FT-1. Yashica 12 TLR and GTN rangefinder, Olympus XA, Voitlander Bessa 6x9 folder, and Moskva 6x9 folder. But I still use the MX quite a bit because I love that big bright outrageous 97% magnification finder. Even my big bad $2000 F4 is only 70%.

The one thing I've never liked is that the shutter button is small and it requires some concentration to shoot without jiggling the camera. The light weight contributes to this too. The Super A is even worse because the mirror slaps the camera so hard. I'm going to try one of those oversized soft shutter buttons that screws into the cable release hole.
By contrast, the big F4S weighs so much that its sheer mass acts like VR: just try and shake it.
05-06-2010, 05:10 AM - 1 Like   #11
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I purchased my first MX in the late '70s, and it was my first K-mount body. I have owned two of them. At the time it came out, this body offered features you could not find without paying several times the price and carrying several times the bulk. The camera is reliable and sturdy, and feels like a fine Swiss watch in hand. The black model was a thing of beauty. The finder is terrific, and was one of the few at the time to offer interchangeable screens and full exposure info.

At the size and weight, I could afford to have more than one body around and shoot more than one kind of film. My silver MX has was and still is my B&W film body, while the black one was always loaded with Kodachrome.

Alas, my original black MX was stolen in 1986, but the good news is that the insurance company replaced it with an LX.
08-25-2010, 12:44 PM   #12
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Pentax MX Camera Review

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
I like the colored LEDs in the viewfinder!

Camera Review
I sold my chrome MX a while ago and as they say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I missed it so much I bought a black MX. The camera is small and light-weight, and the black makes it look pretty sleek. I really like the LEDs used for metering, but I can't explain why. The MX is one of my favorite cameras.

A photo taken with the MX recently:
11-13-2010, 04:13 AM - 1 Like   #13
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Pentax MX Camera Review

Pros Viewfinder
Cons Shutter
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) can't remember
Years Owned 32 years

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Everything said.

Camera Review
If you never looked through the MX with a 50 mm lens attached, you mist something. It is exactly the normal human vision. You can focus and shot with both eyes open. This is by far the best street shoting posible.
If only the shutter would be faster. You need ND filter even if you use ASA 32.
12-05-2010, 03:11 AM - 1 Like   #14
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Pentax MX Camera Review

Pros Size, weight, all mechanical speeds
Cons some duds were in production
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) 219
Years Owned 30+

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Billed as a PRO camera, it was a simple no nonsense camera that had a many folks, when it first came out, saying it was "too puny to be a pro camera". However, Pentax believe in it or why else included a very impressive array of accessories for this camera. A true system as was something for every situation certainly worth noting the nice selection of focusing screens. Its size, seeming feather weight, but that was only a disguise. A sturdy workhorse that was very capable of being adapted to many shooting conditions. The lack of automation might seem like a limitation, but most advanced user would not notice this as much.

Camera Review
This is still my standby cameras and I started with a chrome one that I still have today and also was fortunate to added recently a black version (got it cheap broken that I repaired very easily). So my time with this model has been long and pretty good mostly. The size is a pleasure to have as it often allowed me to carry it much like a pocket camera...coat pocket and with the pancake mounted. When I was out and about I would have folks gave positive remarks about the size, but felt concerned that is was too small to do real work with it. I once had the winder for it which was comfortable and did added a little heft in steadying for slow speed shot, but that has mysteriously disappeared from my collection so no further testing there. So the weight might be a little getting use to for some, but I thing the right lens and a long day is when the combination shines. The shutter never had issues and as mentioned, all mechanical so no real need for batteries, it just keeps working. I had my chrome hit the floor a few times and with only a minor dent, that I banged out later and it kept on working! The meter is a simple five LED array that indicates high/low and near/"right-on". It seem to be too simple to some, but with practice and an understanding of this center/bottom weighted meter, I've confidently use it without too many surprises. The meter is activated in two methods: when you move the advance lever out to the stand-off position, about 10 degrees, and a slight depressing of the release button will lock it on or when you simple slightly press the release along for the momentary use of the meter. I am saying all this because this is a common situation that one might find a dead meter due to the lever being out leaving the battery to drain. On some copies of the MX, the leaf switches are set too close and you can activate the meter even while the release button is in the locked position as on my black MX. Speaking of quirks... years ago, I learned that quite a few of the MX bodies had improperly drilled holes for the mirror hinge. This would give a slightly tilted image, but often not effect the accuracy from the focusing aid. This is because the axis of the error is directly centered... so one side is around half a millimeter up and the other down. This fact was disclosed when my chrome MX a year after purchase had a sudden a non-working meter. The very helpful technician told me the story about the mirror as well as being a good guy and told me the meter fix was free since it was simply of the leaf connector... it could get jarred out of position if it were set too far at the factory. Another thing I found was a common issue with rough film advance on early copies. The first runs had an uneven feel when you advance a frame, but in later versions this problem was fixed by supposedly polishing differently. This seems true as my chrome version is a little ragged and my black version being a later one is very smooth to advance. The quirks aside, hundreds of rolls have gone through the chrome camera and hopefully hundreds more as I try to keep it CLA'ed and well stored. Years ago, I thought this might be the best choice over the big Nikon that others recommended and I was right. So if you are liking the traditional all mechanical workhorse in a compact package...MX!

Doing the Pentax Flick!
The MX can have mirror-lock-up if you know how to use the release button. The best way I found to do this is to position the very tip of my finger at the edge of the button and flick my finger off that edge. Just enough force to quickly make the button go down, but not hard or long enough to hit bottom and trigger the shutter. You will hear a soft click of the mirror going up and no slap of the shutter... as pointed out below... it may not always work... and my MX is also with a plastic holder.

Last edited by MysteryOnion; 02-01-2011 at 02:49 AM. Reason: My proof reading stinks
01-06-2011, 08:14 AM   #15
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Pentax MX Camera Review

Pros Size, build quality, features, viewfinder
Cons Film counter failure, used prices
Rating 8
Price (U.S. Dollars) 40
Years Owned 1

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
I find the MX a great camera for 'casual' use, with a good feature set, a magnificent viewfinder and its small size. The metering system is very good, I find the LEDs better than using a needle showing speeds or over-/underexposure.

Camera Review
I like the MX a lot, in fact maybe even more than the Nikon FM, which, apart from size, is very similar in a lot of aspects. The five-LED metering system is easy to read in all situations, which I enjoy a lot, and having both shutter and aperture read-out in the viewfinder is a luxury in itself. The meter turns on while half-pressing the shutter and stays on when the wind lever is at the stand-off angle. The viewfinder itself is one of the largest in the 35mm SLR world, and very nice and bright.
The MX is easily handled even with bigger lenses, but some of its appeal is being used with a few M-series primes. I mostly use it with a K50/1.4, M50/1.7, M40/2.8 or a K105/2.8. Especially the 40mm makes the camera essentially pocketable and very stealthy.

I have yet to experience any major faults with the MX, the only thing being the film counter, which doesn't work. Not a terribly big deal, but it's nevertheless something to watch out for. I got mine for a quite low price from a private seller, considering its good shape and being CLAed some time during the 90s.
I've noticed high prices for this camera elsewhere, probably due to its cult status and relatively high collector value.

I consider this one of the 'ultimate' camera bodies in terms of usability, and perhaps my favourite Pentax camera.

If you are to buy one, check for typical 'fall damage' (dents), if the film counter works, light meter switch, the meter itself and if it responds correctly as well as noting whether the mechanical shutter works correctly at all speeds. Run it a few times at low shutter speeds to check the mechanism, as well as the 1/1000 s. speed. From what I've gathered, the errors on most SLRs show themselves at slow and very fast speeds. Also, a MX with a plastic film holder (wider than the metal one) should be more refined than the older ones. I doubt all fixes to the design came at once, but it's nevertheless something to look for.

Doing the Pentax flick!
As a follow-up to the above review, my MX is not easily 'flicked' the way described. I think I've managed it once by accident, though. Mine is a later model (plastic film reminder holder), it would be interesting to determine if the 'flick' is easier on older cameras.

Last edited by KjetilH; 01-07-2011 at 06:30 AM.
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