Pentax : A Milestone.

Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, May 29, 2011.

  1. This may not look like an historic camera, but in one sense it is. It's the first Pentax Compact Auto-Focus Camera, the PC35 AF.
  2. To be strictly accurate, it's the last version of the camera. Introduced in 1982 and also known as the Sport 35, the first model had manual wind, but a accessory winder was available. This camera is the PC35 AF-M Date, with built-in power wind and a data back, released in 1884 and known as the Super Sport 35. It had the distinction of being the world's first non-SLR camera to have the DX film-sensing system. Briefly, the camera features an infra-red active triangular focusing system with focus confirmation, and focus lock by the usual method of first pressure on the shutter release. The auto-exposure system is of the programmed variety, ranging from 1/8th second at f/2.8 to 1/430th at f/16. It has a total lack of other programs or modes other than a 1.5 stop backlight exposure compensation switch, and the user pops the flash up when a red warning light is displayed in the viewfinder. At the end of the film the user switches on the rewind motor from a switch on the bottom of the camera, and switches it off when the film wind confirmation indicator has ceased to revolve. All fairly basic. Film speed can be selected manually only if film lacking DX coding is loaded, so I guess it's possible to set your own ISO by taping over the DX coding on the cassette.

    The focusing system has a real prototype feel to it. For some strange reason, the designers installed a zone focus system in the viewfinder, and as the auto focus locks, a pointer moves along the zone focus symbols to indicate in general terms the point of focus. As the green "Focus Confirmed" light is gleaming brightly, I can only assume that there was a fear that the users would distrust this new-fangled auto stuff, and need reassurance that the thing was actually working. Here's a diagram of the set-up, taken from the instructions.
  3. I'd read from several sources that the AF worked only in the four stages defined by the icons, but the pointer settles at any point along it's span, and thankfully the focusing seems very accurate, and fast.

    The camera has something of a cult following, rather after the style of the Olympus Epic and the Yashica T4, mainly because Pentax fitted an exceptionally good lens, a 35mm five-element five-group f/2.8. It was the reading of some glowing accounts of the lens that ignited my interest in the camera, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a very fine lens, indeed. The cameras can fetch quite high prices, and I don't see them up for sale very often. The build quality is excellent, metallic and solid, (apart from a ludicrously weak battery door), with a tidy sliding cover for the lens and viewfinder, and the general feel and functional appearance of the camera grew on me as I lived with it.
  4. It's not a particularly pleasant camera to use. The large bright viewfinder has been cluttered up with the zone symbols and parallax correction frames and it's difficult to tell just where one is framing an image. I never really felt confident that I was getting what I intended, and the negatives proved that some of my framing had been inaccurate. However, the overall quality of the images was very high indeed, and I attach some samples from a Fuji Superia 200. Scans from the Fuji Frontier.
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  8. interesting. but I'm curious about the aspect ratio, is it originally has the 6x7 format or you cropped it in photoshop?
  9. Not bad for a camera made in 1884!! :)
    Actually very impressive.
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  10. Very nice, Rick. I have the earlier version which doesn't look nearly as nice with the optional winder attached, but I do like the way it looks without it; sort of like an XA on mega-steroids. The lens is a great one, as you said. For a long time I had read that one of the best early compact AF cameras was the Minolta AF-C (it is outstanding, by the way), but then I noticed on Flickr that a number of people were dumping the Minoltas in favor of the Pentax. Interesting! I agree with the annoying zone-focus icons in the vf, but that must have been the trend at the time, as a number of cameras utilized the same system or something similar. Canon's system was very similar except that even more annoying was the fact that it didn't indicate which distance was focused on until after you took the shot!
    Great shots as always, and a wonderful presentation of a camera that doesn't get as much attention as it should. Thanks for posting this, and here's a shot of my older Pentax with the winder attached (excuse the's been sitting for quite awhile!).
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  11. Oops...this is the shot with the winder detached. Hey, I just finished my Sunday morning coffee, so I'm still waking up!
  12. After seeing the photos of this camera and thinking back to the 1980's, I realize that I had one of these and it actually worked quite well in non-challenging conditions. IIRC, it also did double-duty as a Television remote control with some TV sets using IR controls.
  13. Nice results. During the early 80's the fixed focal length, auto-everything compact AF P&S helped wean the remaining 110 users and introduce them to 35mm photography. Overall, most of these cameras with the f2.8 (or so) lenses were quite capable when used within their limits. Who knows how far this design might have gone if it weren't for the fact that most snapshooters were clamoring for zooms in their P&S cameras.
  14. Of course, Rick is too modest to admit that his pictures make any camera look good.
    This is the sort of thing that makes me ever happier that we now have this forum.
    Thanks, Rick.
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  15. Thanks for your comments! Very kind, JDM, (Blush..), and I'd agree that this forum is providing a home for some interesting and neglected cameras. Most of the pics have had a little cropped off the top or bottom, Tohar; unless one is trying to fit in a really tall object, I find that 35mm verticals can look a little skinny, especially on a monitor.
    , I seem to recall a previous post of yours pertaining to this camera, now you mention it, something to do with a camouflage version? I must go search. Thanks for fleshing out the post. Jack, one of these days I'll get through a post without making a typo.... And thanks, Tom and Mike, for your input.
  16. the lens coating is very nice and keeping very well . The camera like new.
  17. You're right, Sobing, it's a very tidy camera. I don't think it's seen much use!
  18. Brings back nice memories. I bought a new PC35AF (my first p&s) when my first son was born. It was absolutely dependable. Gave it away to a charity that was collecting cameras for a children's project a few years back.
  19. I see zero grain and very accurate colors in these images, very high quality indeed.
  20. You're right, Harry, the quality is high. A well-exposed Superia 200 negative doesn't usually show grain at this degree of enlargement, and I use the film consistently because of it's very neutral colour. It also converts to B&W very happily.

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