Review: Pentax ME Super

One night on ebay……

We all know where this story’s going. It looked so nice, it was so shiny, and the “buy it now” option was there.  Previously owned by an 87 year old professional photographer in Utah, this came to my house in a bit over a week’s time for only $49.99.

What struck me first was the lens that it was sold with – a 28mm Seikanon macro lens.  I had no idea who Seikanon was until the kind people who post on uglyhedgehog.com (the largest photography forum I have ever encountered) shed some light on it.  Searching google yielded one single review on YouTube. From what I’ve gathered Seikanon has been bought out many times over the decades, though they were once owned by Kiron. In my humble opinion, you can’t go wrong with a Japanese-made camera lens. If you’re rich enough to have a German Leica budget, good for you. For all of us mere photo-mortals a Japanese-made Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma or other brand will most likely get you 95-98% of what Leica offers. For the cost differential, that’s not bad.

This lens has also been sold as:

Sicor-XL MC 28mm Macro
Porst-WW MC 28mm Macro
Sirius 28mm Macro
Vivitar 28mm

In any case, this lens goes on ebay for around $30-40 and I didn’t have any lenses in my collection with “macro” capabilities, so that plus a near-mint Pentax body makes for a good deal.

Packed so securely that it could have been dropped out of the airplane right above my house, it literally took nearly 15 minutes to get it unpacked. What finally emerged from the pit of packing peanuts, bubble wrap and tape was a thing of hefty beauty.  Having been manufactured from 1980 until 1986, the camera has got to be at least 32 years old, but potentially as old as 38. With only a couple tiny nicks and some usual scratches on the bottom, it didn’t look a day over 20. A couple of fresh LR44 batteries and I was on my way.

The camera has all the amenities that you’d expect to find in a modern camera, with the exception of auto focus and electronic aperture, both of which were actually only a few years away with Canon’s EF lens system in 1988.  Like others in the “M” line, this camera operates as an “aperture priority” camera in which the user sets the aperture ring and then the shutter speed is automatically calculated.  As with all the “M” series cameras, it’s partially mechanical and partially electronic.  With no battery the camera will work, but only at a shutter speed of 1/125.  It has the more compact design making the camera tiny in comparison to its other counterparts in the “K” series and the older Spotmatic series, though still contains a fair amount of metal so it has a bit of weight to it.

The most unique feature of this camera is the push button shutter speed select – something rarely seen on any camera, new or old.  When set to “M” mode for manual operation, the two buttons can be used to select the shutter speed, which are shown by an LED in the viewfinder.

At first, I found this to be quite awkward.  With other cameras in my collection there is some other way to do it.  Canon cameras have the knob near the shutter button.  Other Pentax cameras have a knob on top for it.  But, after using it a while it actually is quite a comfortable way to use it in manual mode.

Overall, I rate this camera very highly. In its heyday as a new camera it would cost a great deal more than $49.99.  While there are better lenses, the very rare (yet still very inexpensive) Seikanon lens still does a fantastic job in the middle range apertures around 8 or 11.  It’s a bit soft at its widest 2.8.  Still, a good lens that, with the ability to focus only 8 inches away from your target, provides a lot of value for your dollar, considering most macro lenses can easily set you back $500 or more.  The focusing screen makes manual focus about as painless as it’s going to be – not nearly as bad as you might think.

I have a few images from this camera posted here, both of which use the Seikanon lens:

Daily Photo Pictoral – “Vintage Chevy”
Daily photo – “Bridges”

For those interested in the original literature, I have a brochure and the original owners manual here as well.

Pentax ME Super Original Brochure
Pentax ME Super Original Manual

Many of these were made and it is quite a popular camera.  What are your experiences with it?  I would love to hear what you like, or don’t like about this camera.

Shoot photos, not each other!

6 thoughts on “Review: Pentax ME Super

  1. I used 9 ME Supers in my business 7 of which still work. 2 are parts cameras. In 25 years shooting 3 of them probably shot 100k or more each. A great camera model. My first one cost $350 for the Black body with a 50mm -1.4 lens.

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