Pentax MZ3 - Small & Light Auto SLR
The Pentax MZ series holds a special place in my heart after buying an MZ5 for my university cource in 1999. Unfortunately I wasn't very into photogrpahy at the time, so ended selling it before properly appreciating it. Now that I'm more interested in camera design and history I wanted to revist this gem of a camera, but during my search I discovered the higher MZ3 model. Pretty much exaxtly the same camera as the MZ5N, but with a higher 1/4000th shutter speed.
The Pentax MZ3 is one of the smallest fully automatic film cameras, weighing only 410g on it's own. It's so light that kind of feels like a toy with the 50mm f/1.4 lens, but it certainly isn't. The higher 1/4000th shutter speed (doubled from the MZ5) comes in handy with lenses like this, but probably puts that frail shutter mechanism under far too much stress, so I will be keeping my fingers crossed that it holds out long enough for me to finish this review.
The three might seem like a joke now, Although the measly amount of autofocus points weren't too bad for the time, the fact that none of them were "cross type" was and this was espeially poor in a relatively high-end model. In reality tho, this AF isn't too bad. I feel like the 2014 Sony A7 was worse, so whether this will bug you will greatly depending on what you're used to.
The MZ controls were a welcome departure from the previous Z and SF series. These retro-esque top dials are probably more relevant now than they were in the 90's, but they're the strongest element of the controls so it's a shame that you only get them here and on the MZ-5. I imagine people were more hung up on the build and materials back then but the overall design feels solid. It's something that wouldn't look out of place next to a Fuji X-T camera today.
I mentioned that the low weight makes it feel like a toy and it does, but it's also sheer amount of plastic on display and here's probaby the main reason I feel that Pentax ownership continued to drop away. The relatively shallow grip was fairly normal back in the 90's and the lack of ergonomics mattered less due to the low weight... as long as you didn't put a heavy lens on it of course.
Like Nikon, Pentax continued to use the same lens mount for all of their SLRs. Pentax had less issues transitioning through internal motors and kept their screw driven mechanism right up to present day.
The Pentax MZ3 is one of the smallest fully automatic film cameras. It weighs next to nothing with this 50mm f/1.4 lens, which cost me more than the camera...