James's Camera Collection: Pentax ZX-30

Pentax ZX-30 Japan 35mm cameras
Pentax ZX-30
Camera type: Single Lens Reflex (SLR)
Approx. date of manufacture: 2000
Lens Mount: Pentax "crippled" AF
Battery: two CR2
Approx. original price: $350 (list), $200 (street)
Approx. street value: low

This is the first non-Canon autofocus SLR that I acquired (or even handled). When autofocus took over in the 1990s, Canon, Minolta and Nikon dominated the SLR market; everyone else scrambled. Pentax, in particular, had a rough time of it because they always tried to keep backward compatibility with older lenses; and it's very difficult to harness new techology when your lens-to-body connections weren't designed for it. This ZX-30, for instance, uses the "crippled" AF mount, which means you can use Pentax's FA (autofocus) lenses, K-mount manual focus, and even M42 screw mount, albiet you have to use manual exposure.

I don't know much about Pentax cameras so most of what I know comes from the internet and magazine articles. This one appears to be a budget version of the Pentax PZ-1p but still has most of the features. By the standards of the day it's lower-middle tier, yet for someone like me who grew up in the Canon AE-1 era, the stats are amazing: numerous automatic modes, 1/2000th top shutter, 2fps motor drive, TTL flash metering, autofocus, and of course all those lenses.

So to give you a sense of where things are today in 2011: I was making the rounds of the thrift shops and bought this for $25, which included the 28-80 ƒ/3.5 kit lens and a nice hip-holster bag, which was worth about $25 by itself. Meanwhile I see Canon Rebel bodies priced at three or four times that (I'm not saying they're selling at that price...) Amazing.

Camera manual: Orphan Cameras.com

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