Small Pleasures!

Why do I like my Leica IIIa, despite all it’s shortcomings?

It feels good, makes me want to make photos and above all it’s quite compact for a pro-grade camera. Unlike my Spotmatic…

But still it’s not really pocketable, even the IIIa with the collapsible Summitar.

Anyways, I like small cameras and specially the very small ones – looking at you, XA2!

Now I know that I said that I was down to just three cameras, but sometimes you can’t just pass up on a great deal. I managed to get hold of a Pentax MX, a camera that has always intrigued me.

It’s debut was just year or two after the diminutive Olympus OM1 and I guess the guys at Pentax were challenged to trump the dimensions of the OM1. But not only the dimensions. They also tried to equal or surpass the sheer mechanical goodness of the Olympus.

Did they manage? How small did the MX turn out to be? How good is it?

I’ll try to answer there questions here.

First, let’s talk about size. I don’t have an OM1 any more so I can’t vouch for the comparision but there are pictures around that clearly show the size advantae of the MX.

Not my photo…

And the winner is…. The MX. By quite a good margin. Of course it looks boader, but that’s just an optical illusion. But a tiny one. The OM1 measures 136 mm and the MX just 135,8 mm. 0,2mm smaller! Not  a lot but smaller!

Compared to a Leica M, how does it fare. Certainly the mirror will make for a much higher camera? Or not?

Not my photo…

Ooops, it did it again. Barely, but it’s clearly the more compact camera. Just the prism peaking a bit above the M’s plateau.

The next comparison will be against my trusty friend Oskar the Leica IIIa.

Well done, Oskar Barnack, that’s a really small camera!

Clearly the IIIa is tiny compared to the Pentax MX. And it’s not only the bigger SLR lenses that make the difference.D77B0AE5-718D-4B66-B73C-F6A03F076E2F.jpeg

Smaller but certainly heavier! That’s the Leica feeling. Not to say that the MX is light. No way! It’s quite a heavy camera… for it’s size.

But how does such a tiny camera handle? As I love the XA2 it’s certainly not too small for me.

Now there’s a big camera!
Now there’s a small camera!

Compared to the MX, the XA2 is truly tiny and the only pocketable camera I have. That’s why I like to use it so often.

But the XA2 lacks all those controls that drive the MX.  How does it feel to operate this camera? Short answer, GREAT! I don’t have large hands so opinions might differ with big-pawed humans. Personnaly I can reach all the controls easily and holding the camera is very comfortable.

Even the stop-down lever, integrated in the self timer is just under your index finger

Only niggle I have is that the wind lever seems a bit flimsy…. compared to my Spotmatic at least. Don’t misundestand me here. The lever is very much OK and sturdy, just not up to Spotty-level.0DE31415-B86F-4500-8534-7893A80AEDD3

As for the viewfinder, the OM1 has always been praised for it’s huge, bright window to the world. Well, think again, the tiny MX’s viewfinder is in no way smaller or dimmer. As a bonus it informs you about the f-stop and the shutter speed. In a very nice manner. Exposure is indicated by bright LEDs with half and full stop over and under exposure indication.

Apart from this, both cameras offer the exact same functions. Both are entirely mechanical with batteries just powering the meter. As a bonus, the MX uses more modern LR44 or SR44 batteries. For the OM1 you need a special adapter of you’ll have to have the camera modified to accept 1.5V batteries instead of the unavailable 1.35V mercury cells.

And the MX can use all my M42 Takumar lenses with a simple adapter, albeit in stop-down metering mode!

The Pentax MX ticks a lot of boxes for me. It is compact, feels good, weighty for it’s size. Not Spotmatic good but really reassuring and solid. It manages to use a lot of excellent Pentax K-mount lenses and of course all those wonderful M42 lenses that are around, in the price range from Takumar at the upper end to Praktica at rock bottom.

Will it remain in the elite group of cameras I own? Not sure yet, the proof will be in the photos, in the walks with this camera in my hands. It’s going to take some time yet to be sure.

Will it replace the Spotmatic? Very probably not! Once the Spotty will be back from the CLA it will be used heavily. It still feels much more a serious camera than the MX.

Although…. time will tell.

As for the photos, you’ll have to wait a bit. As virtually all the eBay cameras around, my MX has completely decayed light seals, a crumbling mirror bumper and the light meter, though working, does not turn off unless you take out the batteries…

So there’s still a bit of work until I try my first film in it.

I’ll certainly get back to you as soon as I’ll have the first test film done.

Thanks for reading!

18 thoughts on “Small Pleasures!

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  1. Given the choice personally I prefer analog (moving needle) metering. On the OM-1 the metering is such you don’t have to match the needle by reading the shutter speed in the viewfinder so you take pictures quicker if you shoot in that way. LEDs can fade but on the other hand because they’re solid state they might survive better if you drop the camera. MX battery switch – may something to do with an insulator under the bottom plate that’s connected to the shutter?!

    The battery adapter for the OM-1 doesn’t make much difference to the metering as such but the Wein cell is designed to continue pumping 1.35v until it basically dies, unlike the LR44s where the voltage tends to tail off. Hence the advantage of the adapter. Camera blogs say the Weins cells don’t last more than a month must be basing their claims on cameras that rely on the battery for more than just the meter. I’ve been using mine since November last. Maybe it’s the sea air 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. SR44 (silver oxyde) batteries have a much flatter current output curve than the LR44. Better suited for these cameras. What’s true is that the OM1’s simple needle is much less intrusive as red, orange and green LEDs. But the LEDs might be less prone to breaking as you say.

      As for the battery switch, there’s some contacts assembly under the bottom cover that’s supposed to make the meter work. I’ll give it a try and take the cover off and poke around in there a bit.

      The CLA for my Spotmatic cost me 120€ already so I’d like to get around that for the MX as I’m not sure it will stay. But then again, it works without batteries and meter!

      Guess I’ll replace the light seals and shoot a test roll.


      1. Thanks. I already have the diodes and could do the job myself, but I decided not to do it as I’ve got the adapter and the Wein cells are cheaply available and seem to last. I found the 0.15 voltage difference that the diode would compensate for doesn’t make that much difference in practise and the diode would not compensate for the fall off as the cell drains. Anyway, that’s why I stick to using the Wein cells.


  2. Frank, how far did you get with your Hackintosh idea? I think somebody mentioned TonyMac on here or elsewhere and so I found this info about getting MacOS onto Intel chipped PCs. I wondered if you or anyone else had tried it. The trouble is you need a Mac to get hold of a copy of the operating system… hmm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not going the Hackintosh way! Too much trouble. Any update will trash the system and you have to wait months until they get the new version up and running on a Hack.

      And there’s other incompatibilities. A Mac runs flawlessly… but at a cost, sure.

      Using my old MacMini and looking into the iPad only thing. Been working on the iPad exclusively for two weeks now. It’s a real option with some workarounds and some creative thinking. Got to change some habits too. It’s a whole new world out there! Hehe


      1. I haven’t tried a Hackintosh option but have recently put cloudready (basically makes it a Chromebook) on a 9 year old HP laptop and it’s working better than it ever did as a Windows machine! I would reach for this now ahead of my iPad when I want to do a lot of typing and browsing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh why not a Google fan? I’m starting to drift more towards them than Apple. Heresy!

        With the Chromebook thing I’ve done with our old laptop, the only app it has on it is Chromium, the browser. I can use the main services I need through that – Flickr, WordPress, Google Photos, Google, GMail. I don’t need a bunch of other apps. This simplicity keeps it so, well, simple, and fast.

        Plus the laptop has plug in options that an iPad doesn’t (at least without extra cables/devices) – USB and SD slots being the most useful to me. My MacBook doesn’t even have the SD slot!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeh, but depends how much we give them. I’m not sharing any deep dark secrets – not that I have any!

        If we don’t want people to have certain info, then don’t give it. The only sure way is to not go online at all, not have a bank account, etc.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. When I tried out Windows some time ago I was apalled about the amount of ads I was swamped with in the browser… Very specific ads so that I assume they are very quick to profile the users.


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