Which film camera to replace a Super A?

Discussion in 'Pentax' started by jose_angel, Oct 9, 2014.

  1. Hi all,
    My Pentax Super A is faulty one more time. The shutter button use to loose the contact from time to time (I keep it almost unused for decades). I know the repair is easy, I did it a couple times before, but I`m tired of it... springs, minute parts, etc. My camera is so abused, so I`m thinking about buying a second hand working unit (they are dirty cheap here).
    Well, I`m looking for a quality camera to work with the bunch of Pentax M and A lenses and accessories I still keep. As said, I`m used to the Super A and ME, dislike the A3; like the LX, but find them to be slightly big and insanely expensive (unless in very used condition). Anyway, my only requisites are tiny size, good meter and AE.
    Which model do you recommend? Should I buy another Super A? I wonder if I`d be better with a later version, maybe with an unknown to me "P" series camera (P3, P5 P30?, know nothing about them, I use Nikon). What do you think? Thanks.
  2. A Chinon CE-4S is about the same size as a Pentax MX - dirt cheap, good meter, manual operation or aperture-priority AE, and a top
    shutter speed of 1/2000s if you need it. And did I mention they're cheap?

    Were it not for your desire for autoexposure I'd have recommended the MX - it's small, tough, a pleasure to shoot, and has a superb viewfinder.
  3. Thanks, it looks quite good! I was not aware that Chinon is K mount. Isn`t it too plasticky?
    BTW, do you know if Chinon is Pentax 100% compatible? (e.g., Super-A battery grip, Pentax 280? flash, -I have many accessories-).
    (Don`t mind about price... from the lists I have seen, the only "prohibitive" model is the LX. Price is not an issue!)
  4. Ah, no - only compatibility is that it's K-mount.
  5. I'd say try another Super A. Hopefully one that hasn't been used as hard. But the electronics on them aren't aging super gracefully.
    Pentax LX isn't cheap, and can be repair-prone. But it is superb, a joy to focus.
  6. I'm seeing all the Pentax bodies (except the LX) regularly all over my local Craigslist for <$100. Pick one, and go get it. Maybe you'll even get good glass with it.
    I find the ME Super to be quite enough camera, much more fun to carry than my Nikon F3HP, and 99% as competent. I've picked up a few at an average cost per body of around $35.
    My 2 cents.
  7. Replacing a Super A, I would recommend a Pentax P3n.
    These are super cheap, but still sturdy. A P3n won't feel as nice in the hands as an LX, but it will deliver all the functionality or more. The P3n has a real shutter speed knob (not the push buttons of the A series.) It offers full Program mode shooting, like your Super A, and works perfectly with your Pentax A and M lenses. It has an actual Exposure Lock button (a feature that is missing on too many Pentax bodies.) It has a higher flash sync speed than the LX. The only "gotcha" is no manual ISO setting -- you will need to use commercial film with DX coding, or get some DX code stickers for your hand-rolled film.
    I speak from the experience of having:
    - an LX (sold, I found it required service too often, was too expensive to carry around and use heavily, and didn't add any features that were important to me)
    - a Program Plus (sold, it was nice but I disliked the button interface)
    - a P3n (keeping it)
    - an MX and a KX (keeping one or both as fully-manual cameras.)
  8. I own a copy or have used most of these.
    I like the P3n, and the P5 is decent too. The P5 uses pushbuttons for shutter speed but unlike P3, offers exposure compensation. Note P3 is also known as P30 and P5 as P50, and there are some minor variations (n, t).

    Drawbacks of P3 or P5 -- 1/1000 shutter rather than the 1/2000 you get on the Super A, and no TTL flash.
    You also lose shutter-priority automation and you have no indication as to what aperture is being chosen when shooting full Program AE. In fact, like the ME/ME Super, there's no viewfinder display of aperture at all.
    P5 can use the Super A's 'Motor Drive A', but the P3 cannot.
    More on TTL flash. The only manual focus (pre autofocus) Pentax bodies to offer TTL flash were the Super A (aka Super Program) and the LX. So if you're accustomed to using the TTL mode on your AF280T (a pretty good flash unit), you won't get that level of automation with other models; you'll be stuck with full manual flash, or 'auto' flash that uses the little flash sensor built into the face of the flash unit. You should still get some 'dedicated' features such as showing 'flash ready' signal in the viewfinder, automatically setting shutter speed to X-Sync, automatically setting aperture when using aperture setting 'A' on a full Program AE-capable body such as P3 or P5.
    Incidentally, the Super A's downscale cousin Program A (aka Program Plus) has the ergonomics of the Super A but a feature set more like a P5 (except for the 'ML', aka AE-lock, which P series includes but Program Plus/Super Program/Super A do not).
    If you like small size and light weight but are not especially sensitive to smaller viewfinders or lack of split-prism screen focusing aid (though it may be possible to retrofit that) you might also consider an AF body like a ZX-5n/MZ-5n. Many of these offer TTL flash, and all offer built-in film advance motorization. There's also a ZX-M/MZ-M which is very similar but intended for manual focus (has split-prism screen, no AF motor), unfortunately drops the TTL flash support though. These also have somewhat more modern metering -- instead of center-weighted, they offer segmented (matrix) metering.
    In addition to Chinon there are also other K-mount bodies from Ricoh (should work with Pentax-M lenses (and with Pentax-A but no Program AE or Shutter-priority AE). I believe there are also newer Cosina-built bodies branded as Vivitar or Promaster that accept K-mount glass.
    The LX is nice but much more expensive to purchase. Generally feels like a better-crafted, more solid machine in the hand, has a better viewfinder, supports TTL flash, offers 1/2000 shutter. A little bit larger and heavier than ME or Super A -- closer in size to a K1000 or KX, but lighter and more compact than a Nikon F-series. One of its relatively unique strengths is long exposures -- it continues to meter off the film DURING a long autoexposure and will end the exposure when it believes it's received enough light, somewhat like how classic TTL flash works (though that stops the flash rather than closing the shutter). Few cameras do this, though I believe Olympus may have had something at least somewhat similar.
  9. Chinons are not 100% Pentax compatible, never had TTL flash (I believe) and worst: They did a "sod exactness" aproach to aperture controlling auto exposure since, the plain K mount seems public domain but KA Pentax' intelectual property Chinon simply offered aperture control on a hit and miss basis for the plain K mount. Tests reported that to be 2/3 f-stop off.
    I did start out with a Super A too and had the shuttertrigger replaced by Pentax pretty early - after 3 years? - the camera seems hopefully still working.
    From Pentax brochures I am recalling that the programs for full auto exposure became more ill ballanced in the later models like P50 or SFX.
    If you want to enjoy your 280 flash (awesome little unit!) fully, you are a bit limited. The ProgramA only does "programed Auto" via the flash's internal sensor, no TTL and maybe a few other modern (KA mount) budged bodies too. - ME Super has no TTL flash, not every LX has a hotshoe on its finder.
    Bottom line: there seemd to have been no real upgrade of the SuperA in my eyes. The LX was earlier and has its own bunch of proprietary flaws. (But is nice to have IF(!) working).
    Personally I don't trust my Super A very much anymore and meandered to fully mechanical non auto bodies like K1000, KX, MXs and even 3rd party stuff from Ricoh or Sigma.
    Only advice to share: Stay away from AF bodies; their focusing screens are worse with manual lenses.
  10. Very much appreciated. You have shortened my search a lot. Great help. :)
    I actually have some gear from my pre-Nikon era and some inherited from my mother, most in very good shape. The Super A is so used, some repairs in its life (Jochen, also shutter trigger issues for two times, problems with the finder illumination window, I try to remember that the advance lever has been also fixed).
    I like the P3N dial better, and the chrome ME Super I used decades ago is still on my head... but I have checked that the flash is the mentioned AF280T (yes, I now remember it to be a good one), the grip is the Motor Drive A (looks unused), so I think you`re right, maybe I should buy another Super A to keep all that features. I also have the user manual, eyecup, pouch, etc.
    I`m with Nikon since long time ago, but I have always missed the size of the Pentaxes. I now have gathered all this gear in my closet, so it`d be nice to use once again this awesome little bodies.
    No more laps. I`m ordering a Super A (... also tempted to include another one in the package). Thank you very much!
  11. "From Pentax brochures I am recalling that the programs for full auto exposure became more ill ballanced in the later models like P50 or SFX."​
    None of this matters if you're using Aperture-priority AE (only affects full Program AE) but...
    The P5/P50 and SF1/X offered multiple program AE lines -- you could select a line that would favor fast shutter/wide aperture/shallow depth-of-field/action or increased depth-of-field/narrow aperture/slow shutter.
    P5/P50 has two: Program Action and Program Depth.
    SF1/X offers three -- Action, Depth, and Normal. Furthermore, with Pentax-F (AF) lenses, SF1/X could vary the program based on lens focal length. Neither the A or P series bodies could do this since the Pentax-A lenses don't report focal length to the body.
    Of course, none of this matters if you're using Aperture-priority AE rather than full Program AE.

    I believe the P3's single-line Program AE favored faster shutter speeds than the Super Program; I believe this was considered more novice-friendly to reduce camera shake. The line is similar to the 'Program Action' line on the P5/P50. An example (looking at the chart in the manual), it would shoot ~1/250 at f/4, while a depth program would stop down more quickly, maybe something close to 1/60 f/8 in similar light.
  12. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    I have the Super Program, in fact I have two Super Programs (US Super A) that are looking for homes. I think I would be more than willing to part with them for postage if either is going to get a good home and get used.
  13. Douglas, you`re so kind, thank you very much. :)
    I`m sorry a new Super A is already on the way to my home, just ordered it this morning. Hope it is fine.
  14. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    I actually pined for the Super A at one time, I think simply because it is an all black camera with all the charms of the Super Program. But then I discovered the LX. That's when I really figured out what gear love was all about.
  15. The ME Super might be a good choice. Aperture priority plus manual with top shutter speed to 1/2000 second. Compact body like the MX.
  16. Thanks Les. Jean`s advice about the Chinon is also something to consider. Anyway, I love the tiny size of the smallest Pentaxes.
    I have just received the new Super-A. It cames in almost new condition. I`m surprised how different it looks compared to my shiny, copper edged, so abused unit! I was not aware that it have that nice all black matte finish! :) The foam light seals are entire, but somewhat sticky; ask for a replacement, I`m afraid.

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