Pentax ME Super

The ME Super was one of the SLRs designed by Pentax in the 1970s to compete with the famously compact and stylish Olympus OM series. The Pentax is slightly smaller than my Olympus OM-2n in terms of height and width, but the Pentax has more depth than the Olympus. 

The ME Super is a primarily meant to be used as an Aperture Priority camera. Shutter speeds can be manually cycled through using two buttons near the shutter button. 

Aesthetics and feel. The Pentax is a nice looking compact camera, especially in black. It doesn’t feel nearly as premium as the Olympus. I have medium hands and the camera is slightly awkward to hold, but that is to be expected with a small camera. 

SMC Pentax 50mm f1.4. Fuji CN100

Adjusting settings on the camera is a tedious process. All 3 of my ME Supers have exposure compensation dials which are extremely difficult to rotate. Switching between Off, Auto, and Manual is equally tedious, as there is a tiny white button which needs to be depressed to switch settings. Lastly, adjusting the shutter speed is actually not my biggest complaint. Using the two buttons is different from what I’m used to, but contrary to most online opinions, I don’t mind it. It does make quickly changing shutter speeds impossible, however. 

SMC Pentax 24mm f2.8. Fuji CN100

Pentax lenses also have a reverse focus and aperture ring orientation when compared to most other camera manufacturers. I’m not sure what the reason for this was, but it makes it difficult to switch between camera systems. Maybe that’s why they did it. In any case, it’s another reason I don’t use it much.

SMC Pentax 24mm f2.8. Fuji CN100
SMC Pentax 40mm f2.8. Fuji CN100

Reliability. I mentioned above that I have 3 ME Supers. They are notorious for electrical and mechanical problems. For a camera this old, it isn’t surprising, but finding a completely functional model will likely cost over $100. Like most (all) used cameras, you get what you pay for. All 3 of my Supers have something wrong with them, ranging from stuck shutters, sticky exposure compensation dials, inaccurate light meters, and flickering LEDs in the viewfinder. It’s not a camera I feel confident taking on a trip.

SMC Pentax 24mm f2.8. Fuji CN100

Picture Quality. Admittedly I haven’t used this camera extensively, aside from a few test rolls with cheap Fuji CN100. I’ve used the 50mm f1.7, 40mm f2.8, and 24mm f2.8. The 40mm and 50mm are nothing to write home about. The major selling point of the 40mm is obviously its extremely small size. In theory it seemed like a perfect way to travel lightly with a (nearly) fully featured SLR camera. In practice, the lens is lacking in resolution and contrast, especially when compared to the slightly larger Minolta Rokkor 45mm f2. 

SMC Pentax 50mm f1.4. Fuji CN100

The 24mm f2.8 is however a very nice lens, in terms of the images it produces it’s probably my favorite between the Minolta MD Rokkor-X 24mm f2.8 and Olympus OM 24mm f2.8. The Pentax 24mm produces vibrant, slightly saturated pictures, which I’ve read is what Pentax is known for. If it weren’t for the reverse orientation of the focus and aperture ring, I might have gotten a more reliable Pentax body just to use this lens.

SMC Pentax 24mm f2.8. Fuji CN100

Conclusion. Because of the aforementioned issues I decided to stick to the Minolta system. I wouldn’t recommend the ME Super unless you know what you’re getting into and are prepared for potential mechanical and electrical problems. However, if you’re looking for the smallest possible 35mm SLR look no further. Just be aware that it comes with some caveats.

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