Pentax MX

The whole exercise of fixing and eventually selling off the Canon AE-1 got me oriented with the buy and sell market of used cameras. Two sources stood out, a tailor and a barber in old Manila who bought used cameras from returning OCWs (Overseas Contract Workers—the term in the 1980s now referred to as OFWs—Overseas Filipino Workers). The gadgets to bring home then were SLRs (now it’s entirely different) and in keeping with local lore; homecoming OCWs would throw a big party which effectively drained their cash position. So they end up selling some of their goodies which were quickly bought and sold by these two men. Another source were the flea markets near the US military bases up north, where it seems that American servicemen would give SLRs to their Filipino girlfriends who in turn sold them…

The best deal for me at that time was a Pentax ME Super which came with an SMCP M 50/1.4 and a SMCP M 135/3.5. It was not exactly my first choice because it was automatic (Av mode) and had push buttons instead of knobs. I was not too fond of those buttons especially if, say you were at 1/30 and suddenly need to move up to 1/1000. The deal was closed by the telephoto lens which I would keep after I would later sell the ME Super: which happened quite soon enough—I would sell the ME Super for the same price I bought it minus the 135mm! That rather went by rather fast that I was left without a camera for a couple of months (although I had a lens…).

In between a friend would ask me to sell off her Nikon F kit (two bodies; a 28mm, 50mm and the classic 105mm). I had written off Nikons as too expensive on my way to deciding for a Pentax after the Canon episode but it was fun using this set which was a vintage older than even the SRT-101 or the Spotmatic. I actually shot two projects using this and it was with this that I came to appreciate the Minolta SRT-101 as cutting edge. Eventually, no one wanted to buy them and I returned it back to my friend. Just in time too, since a Pentax MX came into the radar screen.


Before the end of summer 1985, a used Pentax MX with an SMCP A 50/1.4 lens would come along. The year earlier, it was a toss up between the Nikon FM and the MX—both virtually had equal features of full manual operation, full information viewfinder and able to take on a motor winder or drive. So why Pentax? Size was the consideration since I would be using it with the winder; the FM was small without it but became humongous with the MD-11 motor drive. Both the metering of the MX and FM performed and behaved similarly, although the MX had five LEDs allowing me to see the half-stop over or under exposure for the tricky exposures which I have loved to play around with.

Ultimately, my original quest for the Pentax K series would be embodied in my acquiring the MX, which is the top of the evolutionary journey from the Spotmatics and the KX/KMs. It was a sort of coming home from which I would have no compulsion to acquire any new camera for a long time no matter what new fangled thingamajigs came around.

Subsequently, photo projects came around to increase my capital allowing
me to buy and sell more cameras. Another Pentax MX—black body—comes by but is quickly sold off (my experience with the black Canon AE-1 factored it; it was harder to maintain its appearance…but that was before eBay). Another ME Super would come around and would be used as my back up through the EDSA Revolution of 1986 before being passed on as well. It would be replaced by a Pentax A3000, then a Pentax K2, then a K1000, an oddball Minolta XE-5, a Pentax Program Plus then another MX.

I had Nikons, Canons and Minoltas available at my sources but I mostly dealt with Pentax gear for the simple reason that I want to have the option to keep them as well as eliminating the stress of not being able to sell them (because if no one bought them, then I will happily keep them for myself); with the exception of the Minolta XE-5 which I acquired really cheap resulting in a really big profit.

I would later swap the M 135/3.5 for a K 135/2.5 and go on a quest to acquire an A 35-70/4 (I took a bus to Baguio City early in the morning, bought it around noon, took the bus back to arrive back in Makati by sundown and nobody knew where I’d been). So by the end of the day (or my buy and selling days) I had a set that included 2 Pentax MX with their own respective winders, a Super Takumar 28/3.5 (leftover from the Spotmatic), a SMCP A 50/1.4, a SMCP A 35-70/4, a SMCP K 135/2.5 (the photo below still showed the M 135/3.5), 2 Vivitar 283s, a Sekonic light meter and a matching Pentax binoculars.


This kit (plus or minus) would stay with me for the next 10 years. Trimming the herd was a result of lifestyle changes as marriage and ministry took me away from photography. Before 1994, one of the MXs would be sold and the one remaining would subsequently require CLA. Another used MX would be bought late in 1998 as a replacement for my aging model but that “newer” one had its own quirks. What would result would be a combination of both as parts from the other made for a fully working unit.

All in all, I have had four Pentax MX pass through my hands. It still remains my favorite even in this digital age.