Pentax ME Super Review

Pentax ME Super (1979-84) with compact 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom lens with macro.

A nimble 35mm analog beauty, the Pentax ME doesn't take up much space in the camera bag, but delivers big pictures. Shown here with one of my favorite lenses for it, the K Mount 35-70mm zoom with macro capability. 

This zoom isn't much bigger than many prime optics. It's a push-pull type, with 70mm at the base (with macro focusing) widening to 35mm focal length as your push outward. Thanks to the very bright viewfinder in the ME Super ( 0.95x covering 92 percent of field), focusing is fast and easy.

The camera itself is primarily an aperture priority model. You set the f/stop on the lens and the ME Super sets the appropriate shutter speed (a vertically traveling electronic focal plane type with metal curtains, up to 1/2000th.) You can go into full manual if you wish, but it's a bit odd. Press one of two buttons on the top deck to increase the shutter speed, or the other to decrease it. It reminds me of classic cars that had push button transmissions.

One feature that I really like is the 1/125 all mechanical shutter speed setting. (It's worth keeping for this alone!) This setting is available even if the batteries drain completely. And 1/125th is a very useful option for most outdoor settings, especially if you have 100 speed film in the camera, allowing you to use the Sunny 16 rule for determining the aperture setting.

Speaking of power, the ME Super uses two LR44 button cell batteries, which are readily available. And there is a lock switch on the top deck to prevent accidental battery drain when stashed in a camera bag. (Type of battery is a very important factor in vintage cameras, IMHO. I only go after bodies that are powered by cells that I can find easily.)

The ME Super uses a film advance lever to move the film from frame to frame. It's very nice. But a motor drive is available for those who want a bit more automation. Two models are available: 1.5 fps and 2 fps.

Camera highlights: Very bright viewfinder, 1/125th manual shutter, compact size, great lenses, affordable price (around $50 for body alone), and easy to find batteries. This is a fun camera to shoot with. It's easy to operate and a pleasure to compose with.

Nits include: Odd controls for setting shutter speeds manually (except for 1/125th and B) and no depth of field button.

Things to ask about: The metering readout in the viewfinder can malfunction, even if the camera is making proper exposures. Look for erratic behavior of the LEDs. It's a easy check. So that would be something to ask about for a potential purchase. Also the foam mirror bumper tends to get sticky or even deteriorate over time, as well as the seals on the back door. This is common among SLRs of this vintage. I usually replace these as a matter of course.

Overall rating: 3.5 click-stops out of 5.

It's definitely a cool camera!



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