Pentax Super Program shooting experience and sample pictures

It was a couple of months ago I acquired a Pentax Super Program 35mm camera and I’ve just developed my first film from it, so I thought I’d publish a follow up post describing how I found the camera to shoot with.


All these pictures can be viewed full size here.

First a few details about the photos. The camera was loaded with a roll of Kodak ColourPlus 200 film which I exposed at box speed with the camera used mostly in either program mode or aperture priority. The film was developed using the digibase C-41 pre-diluted kit and the negatives scanned with an Epson V550 perfection photo scanner. The resulting scans were imported into Lightroom where I used my normal workflow for film.

The first few pictures were taken with a Tamron 10-24mm Super Wide angle lens which I use on my Pentax K5 DSLR. It’s designed for use on an APS-C sensor, but I was interested to see how it would perform on a full frame SLR. In the viewfinder the lens vignetted below about 15mm, but from 15 to 24mm it seemed ok, and the pictures above seem to confirm this. Although there is a small amount of vignetting, it’s not too bad.

The next few pictures were taken with a standard 50mm f/1.7 A series lens from my P30, and interestingly seem to have better contrast and definition than the Tamron. On my K5, I find the Tamron one of my best lenses, so I was surprised it didn’t perform so well on film.

There are 5 pictures (starting with the picture of my Daughter) which were taken with the Super Program in Program mode with a Pentax AF200S flash gun fitted to the camera and set to auto mode. I wanted to see how the flash and camera performed in auto mode and it seems to have measured the exposure quite nicely and achieved some decent results.

Now my impressions of using the camera. I found the Super Program a nice small camera to take about and use and found most of the controls easy to get to and select with one exception. The one exception was the mode dial and specifically the small lock button which stops it being accidentally moved. I found this really fiddly to press and release to turn the camera on.

Other that that issue, the camera seemed to perform well, and I’m quite pleased with the quality of the resultant scans.

3 thoughts on “Pentax Super Program shooting experience and sample pictures

  1. Simon, I’ve owned a Super Program since 1983 and would like to point out something that you’ve overlooked and thus came to an rather skewed conclusion regarding its usability. The small lock button beside the mode dial is intentionally designed to lock the camera in program mode, and you don’t want to ever take it out of program mode when using SMC Pentax-A series lenses. In fact, the mode dial is somewhat superfluous, because this is the way the camera operates:

    Program Mode – with the mode dial set to P (program mode) and the aperture ring set to “A” (automatic) and the shutter-control dial set to AUTO, the camera is indeed in fully-automatic program mode. Note, however, that this requires a SMC Pentax-A series lens that has an “A” position on the aperture ring.

    Aperture-Priority – when in program mode (as described above), simply setting an aperture other than “A” switches the camera to aperture-priority mode (again, assuming an A-series lens).

    Shutter-Priority – when in program mode (as described above), set the shutter-control dial to M (manual shutter) and use the shutter-speed buttons. An A-series lens is required, as the earlier M-series lenses were designed for aperture priority and the camera cannot adjust the aperture.

    Manual – the mode dial can remain at P, but as long as the shutter-control dial is at “M” and the aperture is set to anything but “A,” the camera is in full manual mode and displays the number of stops (over/underexposure) which differ from what the camera considers optimal.

    When coupled with an A-series lens (and I have three : 28mm, 50mm, and a superb 35-105 f/3.5 zoom) I have found the Super Program to be the most usable and flexible camera that I’ve ever owned. When used with an M-series lens (in fact, any lens without an “A” position), the camera is limited to aperture-priority and manual modes – even with the mode dial set to “P.” Perhaps it’s best to think of “P” on the mode dial as being “programmed lens-sensing mode,” and if the lens has aperture control, you can use “programmed exposure mode.”

    This is a good case for buying inexpensive used Pentax A-series lenses, as the Super Program is compact, lightweight and a joy to shoot with. It’s also very rugged and very well weather sealed… I once rolled down a California seaside cliff with my Super Program around my neck. After a thorough exterior cleaning, the camera operated perfectly without any hint of dust or grit in the camera mechanisms or the lens controls. I, on the other hand, required a dozen bandages for my wounds.

Leave a Reply