Vintage camera collection – Pentax MZ-60 QD 35mm autofocus slr

This was the last 35mm camera Pentax produced in the MZ series, and in fact the penultimate 35mm film camera they ever produced – only the *ist followed it. It is similar to other cameras in the series, being light weight plastic construction and quite small and follows the route started with the MZ-50, 30 & 7 models by having several picture modes along with standard Aperture, Shutter, Program mode and manual operation.

I bought the camera from eBay for £13 which included the body and the 28 – 90mm zoom along with the printed handbook, the original pentax strap and a nice padded and zipped camera case. As with all the MZ series in my collection it’s in almost new condition – I can’t actually find a mark on it.

Pentax MZ-60 description

There are several differences in the styling of this camera compared to the other units in the MZ series. Although it has the basic functionality of the MZ-50 and 30 models, it no longer sports the mode dial on the top left hand side of the camera or the two way rocker lever under the shutter release of those models. Instead there is a control panel on the top left with individual buttons for the mode, flash and drive controls along with a button to control the date function. The two way rocker has been replaced with a similar control which is behind the shutter button. I think the movement of the rocker control is an improvement – the control seems easier to move with the camera to the eye, although it would have been better still if it had been changed to a control wheel rather than a rocker switch. The other change which removed the mode dial is to my mind a step backwards. It’s much more fiddly to change modes by holding the tiny mode button and using the rocker switch to do the change.

An indicator to the entry level status of the MZ-60 is the plastic ‘crippled’ KAF mount which means it will only work properly with the F & FA lenses. This is the same as the MZ-30

Date imprint

As I stated above this camera has a date imprint function fitted into the body of the camera which allows the date and time the picture was taken to be imprinted on the negative. On earlier cameras in the MZ series this functionality was provided by an optional data back, but for the MZ-60 QD it was moved into the camera itself. By pressing the date function button and moving the rocker switch, the format of the date to be imprinted could be changed to include the time, the date and alter the format of the date. Finally there was an option to set it to ——— which basically turned the option off.

I’m not sure how much I would use this feature – it’s nice to know exactly when the picture was taken, but having it permanently marked on the negative seems a bit destructive to me. The MZ-S has a much more useful option of printing the picture metadata (like aperture, shutter speed etc) on the film edge next to each picture – mind you, the MZ-S was the top model in the range and the MZ-60 about the bottom!

Exposure modes

There are a wealth of different exposure modes available on the MZ-60, as with most of the cameras in the range. Along with the ‘Green’ fully automatic mode, there are several scene modes where the photographer chooses a scene similar to the picture he/she is taking and the camera is set up appropriately for that scene. For example if ‘landscape’ mode were chosen the camera would make sure the aperture was kept stopped down to increase the depth of field etc. These modes are useful for beginner photographers, and I guess are a good thing to add to cameras since it allows the camera to ‘grow’ with you. Once you have moved beyond the fully automatic and scene modes the camera is still there for you to use in aperture priority or shutter priority mode etc. It also makes the camera more useful for different members of the family to use, with different skill levels.

As I said above, along with the scene modes, the camera features Tv, Av and M modes which are shutter speed priority, aperture priority and Manual mode. In these modes the rocker lever behind the shutter button moves the shutter or aperture for Tv and Av and will alter both in Manual mode when used in conjunction with a small button on the side of the lens mount. On the back of the camera is an exposure lock button which allows the photographer to meter for one part of the scene, lock the exposure and then recompose and shoot.

Viewfinder

The viewfinder is the part that really lets the camera down and would make it very difficult to use in anything other than the auto and scene modes. Although the image itself is large enough the additional exposure information which is expected in this type of camera is non-existent.

The only information shown in the viewfinder is a green focus symbol when focus is achieved, a flash symbol for when the flash is needed and a green circle to show that the exposure is ok. If the exposure is off a red + above or – below the circle will show. If the green circle and the + or – show the exposure is off by 1 stop, if just the + or – show the exposure is more than one stop out. Although this is adequate for getting the exposure right, it doesn’t give you any creative information about the exposure.

Drive Modes

The drive modes offered by the MZ-60 are controlled by the ‘drive’ button on the top plate control panel. By pressing and holding the button and moving the rocker switch the camera switches between the various drive modes which are displayed on the top plate LCD display. The modes are

  • Single frame mode
  • Multiple frame mode
  • Self timer mode (shutter fires after 12 seconds)
  • 2 sec mirror lock up (the mirror is flipped up and 2 seconds later the shutter is fired)
  • Auto bracket mode of 1/2 stop
  • Auto bracket mode of 1 stop

Some of these are pretty sophisticated modes – the 2 second mirror lock up for example is something that a snap-shot user would probably have no use for and wouldn’t know why it was included. I guess this camera is just in the era when these features are basically software so once they have been written for one model it’s almost zero cost to add it to another one.

Lens

The lens supplied with the MZ-60 is a plastic construction slow zoom lens which, at the time the camera was made, was becoming the standard lens fitted to SLR cameras – a trend which continues to this day. Earlier models in the series had a 35 – 80mm and then later this was replaced with a 28 – 80mm. By the time the MZ-60 was made the telephoto end had been extended to become 28 – 90mm which is the one fitted to my camera. As standard lenses go it’s about what you would expect – quite a slow maximum aperture and being focus by a screw thread driven by the camera quite noisy, although surprisingly fast to focus, and quite good at achieving focus in low light. The click-stop, 6 blade aperture goes from f/3.5 to f/22 and has an A position allowing the camera to control the f stop setting from the rocker control.

Conclusion

All in all this camera is a bit of an oddity. There are a wealth of exposure modes and drive modes which make it a well featured camera, but the viewfinder and lens mount make it much less useful than those features would suggest. I suspect that it was produced at a time when Pentax were really feeling the pinch from other manufacturers like Canon and Nikon and were trying to produce a cheaper camera for the mass market but with appeal to the serious amateur as well.

  • Pentax MZ-60 35mm SLR autofocus camera
  • Scene modes and green mode exposure control
  • Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Manual exposure control
  • DX coded auto film speed selection with manual override
  • 30sec to 1/2000sec shutter on auto & manual selection
  • Crippled KAF plastic lens mount
  • TTL autofocus system range 0 to 18EV
  • Penta mirror viewfinder with limited information display
  • Top plate LCD panel display
  • Self timer with 12sec delay and 2sec mirror lockup
  • 1/2 & 1 stop bracketing
  • Single shot or auto wind at 1 frame/sec
  • 2 segment metering
  • AE Lock button
  • Powered by 2 CR2 batteries
  • Date imprint function
  • 28 – 90mm f/3.5-f/5.6 plastic zoom lens
  • Body Ser No: 5519578
  • Lens Ser No: 6569218
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5 thoughts on “Vintage camera collection – Pentax MZ-60 QD 35mm autofocus slr

  1. Which of the Pentax auto-focus cameras is considered to be well built, semi or professional quality, in terms of construction? I’m looking to upgrade from the ZX-30 body.

    Thanks

    • Hi Russ

      I am in a similar position – looking for a good semi-pro film body which can use my K mount lenses. I’ve found that although there are some nice advanced cameras in the MZ range (such as the MZ-3 and the MZ-s) they all suffer from the same basic design fault which is the motor which controls the mirror has a plastic cog which splits causing the camera to be basically useless. Although the cog can be replaced with a metal one it’s buried within the guts of the camera and is not an easy fix. I have two MZ-5n bodies with this problem which I’m hoping I can fix at some point. I think the best option is to get a Pentax Z-1P which, although older than the MZ series is a very nice spec and (hopefully) reliable camera.

  2. I’m glad you’re working your way through all the semi-modern Pentax SLRs, as I keep eyeing them but am unsure where to wade in. You’re giving me valuable advice about which to embrace and which to avoid!

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