James's Camera Collection: Pentax P3

Pentax P3 Japan 35mm cameras
Pentax P3
Camera type: Single Lens Reflex (SLR)
Approx. date of manufacture: 1985
Lens Mount: Pentax K
Battery: two 1.55v S76/PX76/SR44
Approx. original price: $110
Approx. street value: very low

$6 at a local thrift shop, with a clean 50mm ƒ/2 lens and a small flash. Not bad. The meter button (press the shutter button halfway down) is wonky so you can't get a meter reading without taking a shot. If you run on full manual it's not a problem.

This camera is also known as the P30 in Japan. That's an important distinction because I've got a P30n, which is the Japanese-market version of the P3n, which is the update to this camera.

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I believe this came out to do battle with the Canon T50; a nice, light little camera meant to be easy to use, but capable of handling Pentax lenses and flashes. But it had the misfortune of coming out right after the Minolta Maxxum 7000, which smoked everything in its path and blasted open the doors of the autofocus era. In the Fall of 1985 everybody was talking about (and buying) a Maxxum, and suddenly every camera maker was scrambling for autofocus. A nice little manual focus camera like this was swept aside and mostly ignored.

This would make a good student camera; it's light and compact, but it has full manual exposure controls, takes standard Pentax lenses, and you can learn the whole thing without having to spend a week reading a thick book.

Camera manual: Orphan Cameras.com

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