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Pentax MZ-7 35mm autofocus slr

I have an on/off love affair with Pentax. Although I basically love Pentax cameras I have a bit of a problem at the moment with reliability.

Pentax MZ-7 Reliability

I’m looking for a good autofocus 35mm camera to carry with me when I’m out with my Nex 6 or Pentax K5 and an obvious choice would be a Pentax since the majority of my K-mount lenses are actually full frame. Because of that I’ve bought a few from the MZ series but I’ve found several problems. I have an MZ-50 and an MZ-30 which seem to be fine, and MZ-5n which has  a problem with the mirror motor (a standard problem on Pentax MZ) and I have an Pentax MZ-7 on which the shutter stopped firing.

Except I tried the MZ-7 again today and the shutter is firing again?

Anyway I only paid just over £4 for the MZ-7 and a Pentax M 80-200mm Zoom so it wasn’t bad value!

Pentax MZ-7 Images

Pentax MZ-7 Description

This is one of the better Pentax Auto-focus cameras in the MZ series.

As with all Pentax models the numbers go down as the features and price go up, so the MZ-50 I have is an entry level camera, the MZ-30 is slightly more featured etc and the MZ-7 is a mid-range camera  only bettered by the MZ-6, the MZ-5, the MZ-3 and the MZ-S.

Even though this is officially a mid-range camera it has a pretty impressive feature set. There are the full range of automatic exposure controls, along with manual control, automatic focusing, auto picture modes, DX coding with override, motor film drive, multiple exposures etc. There is a top mounted LCD display which has a lot of the picture information displayed, and a lot of this is also repeated in the small panel to the right of the main display in the viewfinder

Exposure modes

The MZ-7 offers all the exposure modes an experienced photographer could need as well as some ‘beginner’ modes. For the photographer there is shutter priority and aperture priority auto exposure along with full manual operation, and then a variety of ‘picture modes’ to assist the beginner photographer to achieve the photo they are after.

The picture modes are ‘low light’, ‘sports’, ‘macro’, ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’ & ‘Green mode’. There is also an ‘Auto Picture’ mode which will select the best mode for the picture being taken – well the mode the camera assesses is the best mode. The mode dial lights up with the selected picture mode and interestingly, when the Auto Picture mode is selected the individual mode selected lights on the mode dial. The picture mode selected is also displayed in the viewfinder as a reminder when the camera is up to the eye.

I think the range of modes available made this a good camera to ‘grow’ with – a complete beginner could use it to get great photos, and once they have some experience they can switch to the more creative modes.

Exposure measurement

By the time this camera was made, the exposure measuring system had developed into a quite sophisticated system. Multi segment metering has been built into this camera, although only 6 segments instead of the possibly hundreds used in modern digital cameras. In theory, the multi segment measurement should mean that the camera will be able to detect high contrast scenes (such as back lit portraits) and automatically apply correction. In my experience these systems are not fool proof, but they do make a difference in some cases.

In instances where exposure compensation needs to be applied, the switch is just above the auto/manual focus swich and in a convenient place to apply it with the left hand. This contrasts well with the MZ-50 which used the switch in that position to enable/disable the beep the camera makes when auto focussing!

Auto focus

The MZ-7 can auto focus using appropriate lenses and has a 3 sensor system to allow focusing on subjects away from the middle of the frame. The pentax system used screw drive auto focus lenses where the focus motor is in the camera body, which was starting to become a bit ‘behind the curve’ when this camera was designed because manufacturers like Canon and Nikon were starting to fit ultrasonic motors to the lenses. In fact the screw driven lenses are not significantly slower that ultrasonic motors, but they are considerably noisier.

There is a manual/auto switch located on the left hand side of the lens mount which is quite convenient to switch to manual focus when the camera is held to the eye.

Drive modes

The MZ-7 takes DX coded film which is automatically advanced and loaded. As well as the normal single shot mode, it’s possible to select continuous shot mode, multiple exposures, self-timer mode and remote shutter release using and optional remote control. There is also a very weird ‘panorama’ mode which just frames of a portion of the top and bottom of the picture to only expose the middle of the film. This cropping occurs in the viewfinder as well to make the picture easier to correctly compose. Apparently when you took the film to the lab to develop you needed to tell them that there were panorama images on the film so the lab correctly framed them when printing.

Other features

As I mentioned above there are a whole host of features on this camera, many of which would be familiar to users of modern digital cameras. If it remains working it will be really useful – althouth in the meantime I’ve bought a Nikon F80 to use as my main autofocus 35mm SLR which I’m very impressed with.

Pentax MZ-7 Specifications

  • Pentax MZ-7 35mm auto-focus camera
  • DX coded film with override and mid roll rewind
  • Auto focus with 3 point sensor + manual focus
  • Snap in focus feature.
  • Aperture priority/Shutter priority/Manual mode
  • Auto Picture mode/Green mode/Scene modes
  • Shutter 1/2000 to 30sec
  • Exposure compensation of +- 3 stops – visible in viewfinder
  • Self timer and remote shutter release
  • Popup flash
  • 92% pentamirror viewfinder with lots of shooting information
  • Kaf lens mount
  • Manual available on line here

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I’m a software developer by profession but I’ve been taking pictures since I was about 8 years old. In that time I’ve owned cameras of all types and sizes from 120 roll film thro’ 35mm to my current Pentax K-5, Ricoh GXR + P10/S10/A12 28mm/A12 50mm, Canon S95 and recently acquired Sony NEX 6.

  1. Hi Simon. Yes,the Pentax MZ-7 is certainly a lovely little camera in the hands indeed I have three of them and all with lenses attached.
    One has a 28-80 and the other a 35-80 and a third also with a 28-80 but alas afflicted with the dreaded “Mirror Lock-up” issue.
    The camera has enjoyed popularity again as a Student/Beginner tool and periodically they are abundant on E’bay – often as body only.
    Good clean examples are fetching upwards of £50.00. without a lens,dealer examples but with a 35-80 lens can see the other side of £130.00.

    I bought mine to have a small easy to store camera in the car for those unexpected moments than can often produced some remarkable opportunities that often are beyond the scope of the camera phone.
    I also have Nikon F80’s and Nikon F-801’s which I alternate.
    My all-time favourites are my Yashica 230AF’s, one of which I bought new in 1987/1988.

    The sad thing about the Pentax MZ-7 like so many of the MZ variants it suffered with the aftermath of cheapening the products in the name of weight-savings and using plastics for the cogs that were all performing essential and duties and driven by motors.

    I have taken many complex items apart and successfully repaired and reassembled to working order – but never a camera – YET !!!!!!!

    1. They are nice cameras. I started to take my mz-5n apart this evening to see if I could replace the cog but actually stopped before I went too far and re-assembled it – I decided it was not the job to do after 2 glasses of wine! Actually I’m also a bit reluctant to ruin my donor MZ-50 because even though it was only £3 and I specifically bought it for the motor it still seems wrong to wreck such a nice little camera.

  2. Hi again Simon. Having exhausted the Pentax forums for a resolve to the issue that has afflicted one of my MZ-7’s – I was informed that a repair could be affected by a chap in the USA and with a brass replacement wheel instead of another plastic one.

    For a newer example/had it only just been out of warranty – maybe !!! Then there was the tracked courier service and the whole exercise became an – Oh well I still have two that currently function perfectly well and a spare 28-80 SMC Pentax – FA lens.

    If you can make use of it and are prepared to cover the small postage cost you can have the body with pleasure.

    1. Hi – thanks very much that’s a very kind offer. At the moment I don’t really have a need for an MZ-7 since I have one but if I work out how to repair my mz-5n and the process is reasonably straight forward I’ll publish the process and perhaps you could repair it? I did wonder if it would be possible to 3d print a better replacement cog – I might investigate.

  3. Andrew says:

    Hi Simon, I bought a mz-7 and the shutter has stopped firing…what should I do?

    1. Hi Andrew

      It’s difficult to give too much advice without a full description of how the failure occurred. I can say that the most likely failure mode on the Pentax MZ series is the mirror motor however. There is a small cog which drives the mirror and it tends to split. In that case the mirror stays up and the camera just makes a whirring noise when you turn it on. It is possible to replace the cog – I did a post on it here but it’s not for the faint hearted! To be honest you can pick up another MZ-7 for only a few pounds so you may be better off getting another.

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