Pentax SFXn 35mm slr camera

This is my review of the Pentax SFXn camera body fitted with a Sigma 28-80mm F/3.5 zoom. I bought the camera body for £8.30 from eBay UK in March 2013, and paid £5.00 to have it shipped to me. As well as the camera body I received a small camera bag, the camera Handbook and some additional advertising blurb.

The camera dates from about 1989 and is an AutoFocus 35mm film camera.

Pentax SFXn Description and Design

The camera is of fairly solid construction and quite weighty, although quite well balanced when fitted with the Sigma lens I have on it. Most of the camera setting are made with small rocker switches on the camera top plate and another rocker fitter just behind the shutter button which can be moved with the eye to the eyepiece. There is a built in flash, fitted in the usual place above the prism and a flash hot shoe which is unusual because it’s fitted to the right of the camera top plate. The film compartment is DX coded, although the camera can also have it’s ISO set when non-dx coded film is fitted.

When I received the camera there had been a spill of something like orange juice over the top of the camera so the rocker buttons and the pop-up flash were difficult to move. After a bit of cleaning the rockers seem to work OK, but the flash is still a bit reluctant to pop-up and sometimes needs to be prised up with a finger nail.

On the top of the prism behind the pop up flash is an LCD panel (called the CENTIC display panel in the handbook) which shows the current camera settings, and a button at the back of the camera behind the hot shoe turns on a small light to illuminate this panel.

Exposure Modes

There are a variety of exposure modes offered on the Pentax SFXn, almost as many as offered on a modern DSLR.

It’s possible to use Aperture priority, Shutter Priority & Fully Manual operation. In addition there are three Program modes where the camera sets both aperture and shutter speed. The three program modes are normal ‘Fully Automatic’ mode, a Sports mode which uses the fastest shutter speed possible and a depth mode which maximizes depth of field by using the largest aperture possible.

Aperture priority mode is set when the aperture on the lens is set to anything other than the A setting. If the camera is fitted with a lens with out the A setting than Aperture Priority will be the mode it operates in unless set to manual.

Once the lens is set to A, the camera can be set to any of it’s program modes or Shutter Priority mode by pushing the top plate rocker switch to ‘Mode’ and using the slider behind the shutter button to set the mode, which is displayed on the LCD Panel. This is such a simple operation that it’s very easy to quickly work out all the operating modes of the camera.

Viewfinder

In common with most 35mm film cameras the viewfinder on the Pentax SFXn is big and bright, and the focusing screen is replaceable.

There is one focus point which is marked in the middle of the frame and some electronic indicators up the right hand side and at the bottom. These indicators are not as sophisticated as modern cameras; They are more like some fixed coloured numbers which light up when appropriate. For example, the shutter speed is indicated by a series of numbers up the right hand side of the viewfinder ranging from ‘LT’ (Long Time?) to 4000 (1/4000 sec) to show the shutter speed selected. There is an indicator at the top which is either A (Auto) or P (Program) and a display at the bottom of a green square when focussed and red arrows when not. The shutter speed lights are yellow up to 1/30th indicating caution for hand held  photography and green above that. If the exposure will be under or over exposed the indicated speed flashes as a warning.

One piece of information missing from the viewfinder display is the aperture which the lens is set to. With the sigma lens I have fitted you can only see the aperture by looking at the lens, but the LCD display has an F number display so I guess some lenses would display their F stop setting.

Film Drive & Autofocus

The camera has an inbuilt motor drive which can be set to normal single frame shooting, self-timer mode, bracketing mode or self timer multiple exposures.

The autofocus system will work in single focus or continuous mode. This is set with a small switch at the from the the camera which also allows the lens to be set to manual focus. I have found that the focus is quite quick in use with the sigma 28 – 80 lens I have fitted to is and it works in quite low light. The accuracy of the focus system will be determined once I’ve put a film through the camera.

Results

Watch this space – I’ve just loaded a roll of Ilford FP4 plus black & White film to this camera and I’ll post the scanned results once the film has been through the camera. I know that results from film cameras are only really about the lens and film used, but the exposure and focus systems are also under test so it still becomes interesting.

Update: I used this camera during a recent holiday and took some pictures with fuji superia 400

Overall this is an interesting camera and quite good value for about £14! The manual for his camera is available on-line here (the password is pentax).



Categories: Pentax, Photography, Vintage

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