My Life in Cameras no.9

9. PENTAX SV

I acquired a Pentax SV in 1971 when I foolishly swapped a nearly new Mamiya C33 for this 10 year old camera. I was jipped! But it got me through a couple of weddings and a year of study at Prahran Tech. This camera needed an externally-fitted light meter, that contraption you see on top in the photo. This was before through-the-lens lightmeters were invented. The later Pentax Spotmatic, a classy camera in its day, solved that problem with an internal spot meter.

The Asahi company started in 1919 making lenses, converted to military output during World War II, and grew in the postwar years when Allied (American) assistance helped it develop the first Japanese SLR  in 1952, the Asahiflex. Pentax led the game in developing the SLR camera. In 1954 it invented the mirror-return feature – before that the reflex mirror stayed up after you pressed the shutter blocking your view. Since then, viewfinders just blink.

It was also the inventor of the pentaprism, that pyramid-shape on top that became characteristic of all SLRs. This was the first eye-level SLR viewfinder, before that you looked down into the viewer like a you do in a twin-lens-reflex. The invention gave the company its name: “PENTAprism” and “refleX”. The company settled into a long reign – continuing today – as one of the leading makers of consumer cameras.

I have a soft spot for Pentax, a name which doesn’t quite have the caché of Nikon or Canon. But Pentax SLRs were always so smooth and easy to handle they became an extension of you – their advertising slogan in the 1960s was “Just Hold a Pentax”. And they looked so tasty.

These photographs were of two girls I hardly knew. They are very much of-their-time, but I think they hold up pretty well

Greg Neville, Lyndy Farrell, 1971

Greg Neville, Lyndy Farrell, 1971

Greg Neville, Lynn at Labassa, 1972

My Life in Cameras no.10

10. PENTAX MX

The MX was one of the best products of the SLR era: compact, ergonomic and straightforward. This is a mechanical, fully manual camera which is the logical form for an analogue SLR. If you’re using such a sophisticated tool, why would you want it to be automated, surely the whole point is control. In my experience, autos and semi-autos were more complicated to use, not less. Matching a needle in a viewfinder is not hard work.

The MX was made between 1976 and 1985. According to the entry in Wikipedia it was their flagship SLR at that time. Mine was purchased in 1980 for $300. It was a great moment for me, I was a newly enrolled student at Photography Studies College in Melbourne, and very excited to be back in photography. In those days at PSC, you were only allowed to use a standard 50mm lens in first year, no zooms, wides or teles. This was a brilliant discipline that taught you to really learn the possibilities of a single lens.

Greg Neville, Flinders Street, 1982

Greg Neville, South Melbourne Football Club, 1981

Greg Neville, Flinders St, 1982

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