I have an on/off love affair with Pentax. Although I basically love Pentax cameras I have a bit of a problem at the moment with reliability. I’m looking for a good autofocus 35mm camera to carry with me when I’m out with my Nex 6 or Pentax K5 and an obvious choice would be a Pentax since the majority of my K-mount lenses are actually full frame. Because of that I’ve bought a few from the MZ series but I’ve found several problems. I have an MZ-50 and an MZ-30 which seem to be fine, and MZ-5n which has a problem with the mirror motor (a standard problem on Pentax MZ) and I have an MZ-7 on which the shutter stopped firing.
Except I tried the MZ-7 again today and the shutter is firing again?
Anyway I only paid just over £4 for the MZ-7 and a Pentax M 80-200mm Zoom so it wasn’t bad value!
This is one of the better Pentax Auto-focus cameras in the MZ series. As with all Pentax models the numbers go down as the features and price go up, so the MZ-50 I have is an entry level camera, the MZ-30 is slightly more featured etc and the MZ-7 is a mid-range camera only bettered by the MZ-6, the MZ-5, the MZ-3 and the MZ-S.
Even though this is officially a mid-range camera it has a pretty impressive feature set. There are the full range of automatic exposure controls, along with manual control, automatic focusing, auto picture modes, DX coding with override, motor film drive, multiple exposures etc. There is a top mounted LCD display which has a lot of the picture information displayed, and a lot of this is also repeated in the small panel to the right of the main display in the viewfinder.
The MZ-7 offers all the exposure modes an experienced photographer could need as well as some ‘beginner’ modes. For the photographer there is shutter priority and aperture priority auto exposure along with full manual operation, and then a variety of ‘picture modes’ to assist the beginner photographer to achieve the photo they are after.
The picture modes are ‘low light’, ‘sports’, ‘macro’, ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’ & ‘Green mode’. There is also an ‘Auto Picture’ mode which will select the best mode for the picture being taken – well the mode the camera assesses is the best mode. The mode dial lights up with the selected picture mode and interestingly, when the Auto Picture mode is selected the individual mode selected lights on the mode dial. The picture mode selected is also displayed in the viewfinder as a reminder when the camera is up to the eye.
I think the range of modes available made this a good camera to ‘grow’ with – a complete beginner could use it to get great photos, and once they have some experience they can switch to the more creative modes.
By the time this camera was made, the exposure measuring system had developed into a quite sophisticated system. Multi segment metering has been built into this camera, although only 6 segments instead of the possibly hundreds used in modern digital cameras. In theory, the multi segment measurement should mean that the camera will be able to detect high contrast scenes (such as back lit portraits) and automatically apply correction. In my experience these systems are not fool proof, but they do make a difference in some cases.
In instances where exposure compensation needs to be applied, the switch is just above the auto/manual focus swich and in a convenient place to apply it with the left hand. This contrasts well with the MZ-50 which used the switch in that position to enable/disable the beep the camera makes when auto focussing!
The MZ-7 can auto focus using appropriate lenses and has a 3 sensor system to allow focusing on subjects away from the middle of the frame. The pentax system used screw drive auto focus lenses where the focus motor is in the camera body, which was starting to become a bit ‘behind the curve’ when this camera was designed because manufacturers like Canon and Nikon were starting to fit ultrasonic motors to the lenses. In fact the screw driven lenses are not significantly slower that ultrasonic motors, but they are considerably noisier.
There is a manual/auto switch located on the left hand side of the lens mount which is quite convenient to switch to manual focus when the camera is held to the eye.
The MZ-7 takes DX coded film which is automatically advanced and loaded. As well as the normal single shot mode, it’s possible to select continuous shot mode, multiple exposures, self-timer mode and remote shutter release using and optional remote control. There is also a very weird ‘panorama’ mode which just frames of a portion of the top and bottom of the picture to only expose the middle of the film. This cropping occurs in the viewfinder as well to make the picture easier to correctly compose. Apparently when you took the film to the lab to develop you needed to tell them that there were panorama images on the film so the lab correctly framed them when printing.
As I mentioned above there are a whole host of features on this camera, many of which would be familiar to users of modern digital cameras. If it remains working it will be really useful – althouth in the meantime I’ve bought a Nikon F80 to use as my main autofocus 35mm SLR which I’m very impressed with.
- Pentax MZ-7 35mm auto-focus camera
- DX coded film with override and mid roll rewind
- Auto focus with 3 point sensor + manual focus
- Snap in focus feature.
- Aperture priority/Shutter priority/Manual mode
- Auto Picture mode/Green mode/Scene modes
- Shutter 1/2000 to 30sec
- Exposure compensation of +- 3 stops – visible in viewfinder
- Self timer and remote shutter release
- Popup flash
- 92% pentamirror viewfinder with lots of shooting information
- Kaf lens mount
- Manual available on line here