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05-23-2009, 06:59 PM   #1
Ole's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
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Posts: 3,853
Pentax P3N/P30N

Year introduced
Meter range
1 - 18 EV
Meter pattern
ISO range
DX ISO range
25 - 1600
Exposure modes
P, Av, M, X, B
Exposure compensation
Exposure memory lock
Shutter speeds (auto)
1 - 1/1000s
Shutter speeds (manual)
1 - 1/1000s, B
Shutter speeds (mechanical)
Self timer
Mirror lock-up
Auto bracketing
Multiple exposures
Built-in flash
TTL flash
P-TTL flash
Sync speed
Flash exposure comp
Autofocus sensitivity
Not applicable
Power zoom
0.82x, 92%
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)
137 x 87.5 x 50.5 mm
500 g

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Last edited by Ole; 05-06-2010 at 10:29 PM.
06-15-2009, 09:57 PM   #2
Just1MoreDave's Avatar

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Location: Aurora, CO
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Posts: 4,841
The P30n was delivered both with a metal film door similar to the P30 and with a plastic film door similar to the P30t. All of them had a plastic bottom plate where one can open the battery cover without using a coin.

I bought the P3n not long after they were introduced, and used it regularily until 2005. I chose it over the still-available-new K1000 for the split-prism focus screen, DOF preview, off switch and smaller body. The P3n has a lot more features than that, those were the important ones at the time. As I recall the K1000 was $99 and the P3n was $149.

I had to return my first one; if I tightened a tripod mount too much the shutter wouldn't fire. That's the only problem I had until lately. Lack of use has made it necessary to wind and dry-fire the camera empty a few times before loading film, otherwise the shutter won't fully cock without winding two or three times. I have never had it serviced or taken it apart. I dropped it in 2005 hard enough to break my Sigma 35-70 zoom, but the camera still worked well and has no visible damage.

My sister got a P3 and I was surprised at the differences. The P3n has a cable release socket, Av mode, a grip on the film door as well as the front grip, and a battery door that doesn't require a coin. Both these have a horizontal split-prism. I handled a P30t and it felt more plasticky, but I don't know if that's actually true. The P3 and P30t reviews match my experiences with the P3n.

The camera has a very clean design at the top, and the knobs and controls are all protected. I've seen a lot of other film cameras with broken bits, and I am sure this protected design kept mine from breaking. I traveled everywhere with a barely padded camera bag, P3n, A50/1.7, Sigma 35-70 something, Takumar-A 70-200 f4 and Vivitar 550FD flash. The camera still looks great. Lately I added an eyecup from a ZX series camera, which works well. The markings on the shutter speed dial are painted, not engraved, and worn. They are displayed in the viewfinder, though.

I have a very nice black MX now, and yes, it does have a nicer mechanical feel and the best viewfinder. But I am afraid I'll scratch it. The P3n matches it very well for practical features.
11-29-2010, 01:30 PM   #3
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Pentax P3N/P30N Camera Review

Pros It's a forgotten workhorse that can be picked up cheaply.
Cons No MLU, No ISO adjust
Rating 8
Price (U.S. Dollars) $20
Years Owned 1 Year

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
The P3n comes loaded with just enough features to make it a worthwhile shooter. It's size and weight are my ideal, and the camera is a joy to shoot with. As for value, it'll be tough to beat this one. These seem to be forgotten cameras of Pentaxia and they can be found pretty cheaply with a little hunting.

Camera Review
The P3n seems to be a bit of a forgotten camera, but makes a great little manual focus shooter. It has just enough features to make it pleasant to use, but not so many that it takes 5 hours with a manual to figure it out. The camera is just the right size and weight to match well with some Pentax primes, or a small zoom. Ergonomically, I really like how it fits into my hand. I'd have no problem shooting a P3n all day long.

In the end, there are only 3 real gripes I have with the camera, and one is just me being silly:

1) There's no Mirror Lock Up. It's not a huge deal, but when shooting in the 1/2 to 1/30th range, I can note a tiny little bit of blur on images, and I'm wondering if it's a result of mirror slap. Now, I try to avoid that shutter speed range if possible. If not, I use the biggest tripod I can manage to carry to my shooting location and try to damp it as best as I can. I think with those precautions, the blur would only be noticeable in the 16x20 or bigger enlargement range. Since I'm already pushing my luck blowing up 35mm slides/negs that big anyways, I'm not going to worry about it too much.

2) There's no DX coding override. Since I don't do much push/pull processing, this isn't a big deal to me. I could see it being quite problematic for some shooters, though.

3) I don't like the shutter sound of the P3n. Yeah...I know that it's silly to list this as a fault, but shooting film is purely for enjoyment for me these days. It's kind of a journey back in time for me. The cameras I remember using when I was younger (Canon FTb, Mamiya Sekor 500 DTL, etc.) all had quite satisfying "Ka-Thwacks!" to them. When I picked up a K1000 for the first time, it surged to the front as my favorite camera acoustically. Man it sounds nice! The P3n, on the other hand, has kind of a squeak to it that reminds me too much of a Canon A-series camera with the dreaded shutter squeak. Unlike those Canons, the P3n seems to be in no danger with it's squeak, but it still isn't quite as satisfying of an experience for me. I'm just weird like that, I guess.

Beyond all of that, though, the P3n has proven to be a reliable, enjoyable camera that I quite like to take out and shoot with. Much of my last stash of Kodachrome has been shot with either the K1000 or the P3n. I can't think of a better way to have a final huzzah with my favorite film than with these two classic Pentax bodies!
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