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05-23-2009, 07:44 PM   #1
Ole's Avatar

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Pentax MZ-M/ZX-M

Year introduced
Meter range
1 - 21 EV
Meter pattern
m c
ISO range
6 - 6400
DX ISO range
25 - 5000
Exposure modes
P, Av, Tv, M, B
Exposure compensation
+/-3 EV
Exposure memory lock
Shutter speeds (auto)
30 - 1/2000s
Shutter speeds (manual)
2 - 1/2000s
Shutter speeds (mechanical)
Self timer
Mirror lock-up
Auto bracketing
Multiple exposures
Built-in 2 fps
Built-in flash
TTL flash
P-TTL flash
Sync speed
Flash exposure comp
Autofocus sensitivity
Not applicable
Power zoom
0.77x, 92%
Viewfinder type
Diopter correction
Exchangeable screen
Depth of field preview
Image size
24 x 36 mm
Panorama format
2 x CR2
Battery grip/pack
Grip FG, 4x AA
Size (W x H x D)
135 x 90.5 x 55 mm
320 g
The sole manual focus only camera in the MZ/ZX line. The camera was positioned as the successor to the K1000 which was discontinued the same year

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Last edited by Ole; 05-06-2010 at 10:27 PM.
04-07-2010, 10:24 PM   #2
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OK, somebody has to say it. Let's consider this body as a niche item. Aside from its very low used cost it has one application in which it excels.

If you're the type that (a) shoots film, (b) cuts the handles off your tooth brush to save weight on the trail, and (c) thinks the classic K1000 or Spotmatic has all the exposure control anyone needs . . . you may find this body just what you want.

Not AF, of course. No need to even think of hauling around heavy AF glass. But it will handle all the older K-mount lenses with full authority for their type. It does have a polycarbonate body and mount but neither you or I will ever wear it out.

So what's the pro's? 320 grams! with DOF button, +/-3 EV compensation, selectable ISO, exposure memory lock and NO INTERNAL FLASH bulge to hide the aperture ring using the older lenses. (You want flash? - carry a light 200-series strobe.)

I've carried this with an SMC_A 35-70/f4 (which weighs more than the body at 330g) or -A 50/F1.7 plus #1+#2 extension rings and been very pleased with the versatility, compact size and light weight.

I'll say one other thing too: I've never had a poly-carbonate body accumulate the dings and dints of the classic metal body cameras -- to me, that's a big plus for a field camera body.

Don't compare it to an LX, it'll feel like a toy. Do judge it on its merits for a particular use when simplicity and light weight are important to you. My other favorite light weight bodies are the P-series for the same reason - light and durable in field use -- but the P-'s don't allow manual ISO entry if that's important to you because you push film speed.

You won't realize just what a PITA that flash bulge is until you use a body without it.

If you only use film for nostalgia's sake you may not mind the weight of the K1000, etc for an afternoon stroll. But if you travel with film, consider this body (but pass on the standard issue SMC-A 35-80/4-5.6 kit lens).

06-20-2010, 01:20 PM   #3
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Location: Philadelphia
Posts: 33
Pentax MZ-M/ZX-M Camera Review

Pros Cheap, light, easy to use
Cons Not well sealed, expensive batteries
Rating 7
Price $30
Years Owned 1

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
An inexpensive, compact, lightweight manual focus camera.

Camera Review
The ZX-M is light -- not surprising since it's all plastic down to the lens mount. When you set the camera down, the weight of even a small prime lens will cause it to pitch forward.

This is a virtue when you're carrying it around all day, though. I keep it in my bag with a 28 or 35mm lens for street photography. It's unobtrusive and fairly quiet (at least on city streets).

Will this camera last? Frankly I don't care. With near-mint replacements to be had so cheaply I'd consider them practically disposable. Having said that I've had my ZX-M rattling around in my bag for close to a year and it doesn't seem to be showing any signs of wear.

Controls are basic and logically placed. It's easy to use the camera without looking at the controls. DX override is the one thing I needed to read the manual to learn how to do.

The finder is bright and easy to focus. It displays shutter speed and aperture (with A lenses), and a +/- 3 stop meter, which seems like an unusually wide range.

Tv, Av and full program autoexposure are available with +/- 3 stop exposure bias. On the few times I've used any autoexposure mode negatives appeared a bit overexposed. I almost always use a handheld meter and manual exposure so this is not a concern for me.

Top shutter speed of 1/2000 is nice.

It uses expensive lithium batteries, but they seem to last a long time. My current set has over 50 rolls on it.

I got the battery grip adapter for it ($5 on eBay!) which makes it easier to hold and uses AA batteries. But I've since taken it off - I prefer light weight to everything.

The bad parts:

I don't like that automatically starts rewinding at the end of a roll, which is not so quiet. I wish it would just stop taking pictures and wait for me to press a button to rewind.

It's not particularly well-sealed; somehow several specs of dust have managed to work their way on to the top of the focusing screen.

Negative spacing is irregular - spacing can vary by a mm or so. Not sure if this is a trait of the model or my particular camera.

I hate, hate, hate the beeping self timer. Isn't a blinking light enough?

Bottom line: A light, unobtrusive manual focus camera with very few bad habits. Probably not for everyone, though.
10-18-2010, 10:26 AM   #4
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Location: California
Posts: 8
Pentax MZ-M/ZX-M Camera Review

Pros Small and light!!!
Cons small viewfinder
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) ~$50
Years Owned 1

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Cheap, Manual Focus, Small and Light

Camera Review
Pentax's last manual focus body...A great body for travelling light. Ultra simple in its design. It works!!! I still wish the viewfinder was slightly bigger. I might try an eyepiece magnifier on it at some point.

11-18-2010, 05:53 PM   #5
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Pentax MZ-M/ZX-M Camera Review

Pros light weight, intuitive design
Cons small viewfinder
Rating 8
Price (U.S. Dollars) 40.00
Years Owned one

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Great value, all the basics, easy to use (love the auto-load), compact and lightweight.

Camera Review
It's a really nice camera, a pleasure to use with a lens such as the basic SMC Pentax-A f2/50mm, and you can also use older manual lenses such as the Takumars (with an M42 adapter). With the Pentax-A lenses, you can set the camera in program mode, let it set aperture and shutter speed, and learn in that way, or use aperture, shutter priority, or manual simply by a twist of a dial. With Pentax-M or M42 lenses, you can shoot in aperture priority or full manual mode, the latter assisted by Pentax's exposure graph in the viewfinder.

I have several other Pentax film cameras--SF1n, P3n, and Spotmatic II. While I like the relative heft of these other cameras, I find myself gravitating more toward the compact and light ZX-M. One feature I really like is the off-on switch. On the P3n it's somewhat awkwardly placed to the left of the viewfinder, but with the ZX-M it's right there encircling the shutter release, same as with digital SLRs, with the shutter speed dial next to it, easy to access. Exposure compensation can be set from a dial to the left of the viewfinder, as can ISO speed and drive mode (single shot, consecutive, or self-timed). It also has depth of field preview.

In short, a well-designed camera, fun to use.
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Last edited by Fiddling Bob; 11-18-2010 at 06:21 PM.
12-12-2010, 09:00 AM   #6
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Pentax MZ-M/ZX-M Camera Review

Pros Intuitive controls
Cons Small viewfinder; noise; unreliability
Rating 3
Price (U.S. Dollars) $20
Years Owned 2 years

I can recommend this camera: No

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Small, light manual focus SLR

Camera Review
Others have pointed out what the ZX-M can be good for. I find this camera frustrating to use, and cannot be so charitable in reviewing it. I do like the way the controls are laid out, but that's where the positives end.

Pentax didn't really design the ZX-M as a manual focus camera. At heart it is an autofocus camera with some stuff left out. Nowhere is this more evident than in the viewfinder, which is simply too small to use effectively for critical focus. A poor viewfinder isn't just one item in a features checklist. For a manual focus film camera, it should be considered a disqualifier.

Also it shares with the rest of the ZX/MZ series a simple engineering flaw: a plastic gear on the mirror motor gets brittle with age and then cracks, rendering the camera useless. The repair is expensive, not because of the part, but because of labor; so the body generally proceeds to a landfill (possibly after changing hands once or twice via ebay with the caveat "as-is, shutter tends to stick").

Although the ZX-M was positioned as a replacement for the K1000 "student" camera, it is not a robust design, nor a good learning tool. The K1000 itself and its ilk (KM, MX, Olympus OM-1, Chinon CM-4, various Ricoh and Sears equivalents) are still plentiful, easy to find in good shape, and better for learning the basics of photography.
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