Pentax P30t

Pentax P30t

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My old standby. I did my research, looked and tried and finally decided on a black body Pentax MX as the camera to buy, to have, to be my first and forever camera, to be the camera to take on my post-graduation road trip from UC San Diego. Couldn’t find one before we left so right in nearby San Francisco (one of our planned stops) I called around and ended up at a place on Kearny (it’s no longer there, oh well) right by that *other* camera store. The snarly clerk proceeded to talk me out of the MX and into a P30t mostly on the argument that the ME was recently discontinued and the P30t was current and at least as good if not better for roughly the same price. I ended up walking out of there with a P30t body, 50mm 1:2 SMC lens, UV filter, case, and Pentax AF160 dedicated flash unit for, uh, a little more than I had originally planned on spending (in the neighborhood of $400, if I remember correctly). Was I snookered? Gypped? No way man. Ten years later this camera has shot more rolls of film than I can count, is light, fast, and looks as new as the day I got it. I think this camera may have been one of Pentax’s great secrets. Lessons learned: I’ll never forget that clerk opening the back of the lensless body and shooting on the ‘B’ setting to show me that a camera was just a holder for the film and the lens. I’ll also never forget him showing me a cracked UV filter and saying it could be my lens instead of a $10 filter. This was my introduction to a ‘real’ camera.

This was my learning camera, and talk about a great student camera, I got the option of letting the camera do just about all the work until I was comfortable selecting shutter speeds and f-stops (f-what?) myself. DOF preview lever, short-stroke wind lever. Super-easy film loading, as easy as a fully automatic camera: line up the leader and close the back. Wind on and shoot. Couldn’t be more simple. The lens is slim, fast and sharp. How good is the Pentax SMC-A lens? I’ve heard it favorably compared to Nikon lenses and all I can say about that is that I had a 16″x20″ poster print made of a handheld shot of grapes on color print film without any loss of clarity. At f2-f22 it’s got an excellent range, is multicoated, light, has infrared marks and an easy-to-read distance scale. My only complaint about this camera is that because it’s an electronically controlled shutter it doesn’t work if the batteries die (which takes a while but always right when you need it the most). Luckily it takes easily available 1.5v silver button batteries.

For the record, I also bought, in Seattle on that same road trip, a great basic book for further study of 35mm photograpy, Michael Langford’s 35mm Handbook. I couldn’t have done it without that little beat-up treasure, and can’t recommend it strongly enough for beginners. Crammed with info, easy to understand with a zillion example photos and small enough to fit in a camera bag. Another good one is Kodak’s Guide to Shooting Great Travel Pictures.

Followup Footnote

Picked it up recently after not using it for a while (gee, why not I wonder?) and I was immediately blown away by the light-weightness of it. After using so many heavy cameras like the Kiev 4, Auto S2, and TL-Super, this camera felt like it was going to float away, even with its everready case! Guess that’s why most cameras are plastic now. Using it I was blown away again at its responsiveness, relatively quiet shutter and bright easy-focusing viewfinder. Nothing like buying and trying a closet full of cameras to find out you really really like the first one you bought. And guess what? I found that I paid little attention to the meter, didn’t really even think about it. My shooting was much quicker, more instinctive. Guess I’ve come a long way, baby. And yes, I feel I’ve a long way to go.One last thing – I was downtown by Union Square shopping for a lens (I went in for film for the Konica C35 I had with me and came out with a 35-70 PK zoom…they were going out of business & I got a good deal, no, really) and when I said that it was for a P30t, the guy said ‘oh, an old Pentax’ and I said ‘it’s not that old’ when I realized that I bought the P30t a few blocks away back in 1991 which meant was ten years old. Guess I should stop thinking of it as my ‘new’ camera…

Tips & Tricks

Turn it off when you’re not using it! That’s simple enough but it bears mentioning. One thing I find I do a lot is accidentally hit the Memory Lock button (exposure lock) when trying to read exposure and the only way to clear that rapidly is to turn off the camera and turn it back on. It’s always when I’m in a hurry so I haven’t taken the time to examine the flaw in my technique…

Related Links

Ok they’re the same as the K1000 page, weak I know, but like I said the P30t was largely overlooked and underrated….