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Pentax ME Super
Electronic 35mm SLR (1979-1986)
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Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

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Pentax ME Super

Pentax ME Super (Electronic 35mm SLR, uses two common A76 button cells, 16.5 oz./468g. with batteries and film) and SMC PENTAX-A 50mm f/1.7, about $40 used with lens. enlarge. I'd get it at this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay).

My biggest source of support for this free website is when you use those or any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. I get no government hand-outs and run no pledge drives to support my research, so please always use any of these links for the best prices and service whenever you get anything. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.

 

May 2014   More Pentax Reviews   Pentax Lenses   All Reviews

How to Shoot Film

How to shoot the ME Super digitally

Why We Love Film

I've been getting my film directly from Adorama since before this camera was introduced; you've never been able to get pro film at local retail stores. I use NCPS to process and scan all my film. If you're reading this you have a mailbox and can get all the film and processing you need; Adorama ship worldwide, and NCPS does mail-order work from around the world every day.

 

Pentax ME Super

Top, Pentax ME Super. enlarge.

 

Pentax ME Super

Back, Pentax ME Super. enlarge.

 

Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

The Pentax ME Super is an electronic 35mm SLR.

It is unusually compact, lightweight and solid. The ME Super is a great little camera with aperture-preferred automation as well as manual exposure.

The ME Super has a classic look because it is. It usually comes in chrome as shown, as well as black.

It's a real all-metal camera. The ME Super is a straight-ahead camera that just shoots and doesn't get in your way.

It has a huge 0.95x finder, much bigger than today's also-rans like the Nikon D4s (0.70x finder for $6,500) and Canon 1D X (0.76x finder for $7,000).

The ME Super runs pretty much forever on two common A76 button cells.

The ME Super was a very popular camera in the early 1980s when I was in college. I remember my college buddy Greg Foroglou going off about how he just got a new ME Super, not to be confused with the older Pentax ME.

The ME Super adds manual exposure, a faster shutter and a dedicated flash contact to the older ME.

Both the Pentax ME and this ME Super are smaller and better than the Pentax K1000. The K1000 is better known, while the ME Super was always a more advanced, smaller, lighter and better camera.

The ME Super is always ready to shoot. It doesn't have a power switch; it shuts off automatically and is ready the instant you tap the shutter button. The L (Lock) position is only to save the batteries if it's put in a case where the shutter button might get squeezed.

 

Good

Shutter-cocked indicator.

Film winding indicator on back.

Manual 1/125 X and Bulb settings are mechanical and need no batteries.

Traditional ground glass screen means great focus precision with fast lenses, and you can see their actual depths of field at larger apertures which you can't with newer "bright screen" cameras.

 

Missing

No depth-of-field preview (unmount the lens slightly instead to preview at shooting aperture).

No auto exposure lock (use manual exposure instead).

No aperture indication in finder (look at the lens or set it by feel).

Fixed finder screen, just like modern DSLRs.

Traditional ground glass is bright with normal (f/1.4 to f/2) lenses, but will be darker with slow lenses (f/4 for example).

 

Lens Compatibility

Pentax ME Super

Front, Pentax ME Super. enlarge.

The Pentax ME Super uses all of the Pentax K-mount bayonet lenses.

SMC-M lenses came out while the ME Super was shipping.

Newer SMC-A lenses work perfectly, just don't expect the green A setting on the aperture ring to do anything automatically.

Pentax made a screw-mount adapter for use with screw mount Takumar and SMC Takumar lenses. These have no coupling for the automatic diaphragm; diaphragm operation is manual and metering is stop down.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

 

Sensor

Standard 35mm film.

24 x 36 mm image area.

 

Finder

Pentax ME Super viewfinder

Actual view through a Pentax ME Super viewfinder.

Huge 0.95x magnification with 50mm lens.

92% coverage.

-1.0 fixed diopter (standard 1 meter apparent distance).

Silver-coated glass pentaprism.

LED dots light along the left; the numbers you see are merely overlay next to the actual LED dots.

 

Focus Screen

Horizontal split-image in center.

Microprism collar.

Matte (ground glass) field with standard Fresnel and condensers.

The traditional ground glass shows the real depth of field even with fast lenses, something newer SLRs and DSLRs can't do. Then again, the ME Super's finder will get much darker if used with slower lenses (f/4 for instance).

 

Light Meter

Full-aperture TTL GPD (through-the-lens Gallium photo diode).

Center weighted.

Meter range with f/1.4 lens: LV 1 to 19.

Meter reads to 4 full seconds.

 

ASA

ASA 12 ~ 1,600.

 

Exposure Compensation

-2 to +2 stops, set in full stops.

You can't set a combination of ASA and compensation beyond the range of EI 12 ~ 1,600; in other words, you can't cheat to set ASA beyond its limits.

 

Shutter

SEIKO MFC-E2 vertical metal focal plane.

1/2,000 to much longer than 4 seconds steplessly in AUTO.

1/2,000 to 4 seconds in full stops in manual, battery powered and timed.

1/125 and Bulb, mechanical (no batteries needed).

Self timer setable from 4 to 10 seconds.

Standard threaded cable release socket.

 

Flash

Maximum shutter speed (sync) with electronic flash: 1/125.

Hot shoe.

PC (Prontor-Compur) terminal.

Dedicated terminal for AF 200S or AF 160 flashes; sets 1/125 in AUTO and M modes and has an in-finder ready light.

 

Standard Lenses

You could get your new Pentax ME Super with your choice of, in descending price order:

SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2

SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.4

SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7

SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/2

SMC Pentax-M 40mm f/2.8

Most people got the 50mm f/1.7.

 

Power

Pentax ME Super

Bottom, Pentax ME Super.

Takes two standard A76, S76, G13, S76E, 357, MS76H, LR44 or similar cells.

Rated about a year of use, usually last for years.

 

Environmental

Proper operation specified from -20ºC to +50ºC (-4ºF to +122ºF).

 

Quality

Made in Japan.

 

Size

131.5 x 83 x 49.5mm, WHD.

5.13 x 3.24 x 1.93 inches, WHD.

 

Weight

16.505 oz. (467.9g) with batteries and 36-exposure film, but no lens or strap lugs.

15.725 oz. (445.8g) measured with batteries, but no film or strap lugs.

Pentax specifies 15.7 oz. (445g), empty.

 

Optional Accessories

 

Winders

Pentax Winder ME II

2 frames per second.

 

Pentax Winder ME

1.5 frames per second.

 

Data Backs

Pentax Dial Data ME

It's called Dial Data because it has three manual dials you can set to record date or exposure data.

It sets from 00 January 1977 through 36 December 1988.

The YEAR may also be set to apertures from f/1.2 to f/32 in half stops.

The MONTH may be set to 0-12, as well as shutter speeds from 2000 to 15, as well as the letters A through O. (The O and 0 are the same setting, hee hee.)

The DAY may be set to 0 through 36.

It is completely manual. You have to turn the dial by hand to set what it records. Each of the three dials also has a BLANK settings.

 

Pentax Digital Data M

The Digital Data M databack is electronic and more automated, but needs the Pentax Syncro Cord adapter since this back can't talk directly with the ME Super.

Digital Data M users manual

 

Price, USA

When new in 1982, it sold for the equivalent with inflation in 2014 of $415 for the body-only, $520 with 50/2 lens, $565 with 50/1.7 as most often seen, or $640 with the f/1.4 lens. (That was $169, $212, $229 or $259 at the time).

In 2014, it sells for about $40 used, including f/1.7 lens. If you know How to Win at eBay, you can score a perfectly good ME Super and lens for as little as $20, and of course the ignorant will pay $50 or more.

 

Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

 

Overall

The Pentax ME Super is a straight-ahead camera; just load and go. It's easy to shoot; nothing gets in your way.

It has a much bigger finder than any professional DSLR, and the ME Super is a tiny little camera.

 

Loading and Winding

Loading and rewinding are the usual.

Film winding is fast, but there's no ratchet. You have to move the wind lever all the way.

 

Frame Counter

The frame counter is engraved metal behind a plastic window.

The frame counter reads frames 0 - 36 in even numbers, with dots for the odd numbers.

Frames 0,12, 20, 24 and 36 are in orange.

Film economy is 39 on Fuji and 38 frames on Kodak 36.

Regardless of how many frames you get, the counter stops at orange 36.

 

Finder

The finder is huge and sharp.

The traditional matte field will show the actual shallow depth of field of an f/1.2 lens correctly. This means that you'll see the difference as an f/1.2 lens is previewed at f/1.4, for instance, something that modern "bright screen" SLRs optimized for slower zoom lenses cannot do.

With a 50mm lens of f/2 or faster, it's easy to focus on the ground glass at any place in the frame, exactly as God intended. You can't do this as well with modern "bright" finders optimized for slower lenses.

The shutter scale tends to crowd the image on the left. It might lead to off-center images if you only compose up to the edge of the speeds scale and not the actual edge of the image.

My old sample reviewed here tends to light some extra LEDs, ignore them.

The LEDs are dots next to the lettering; the numbers and letters themselves don't light.

EF (Exposure Factor (compensation)) is a warning reminder, in red.

M (manual exposure mode) is green.

OVER is red.

1/60 to 1/2,000 are green, meaning go!

1/30 to 4 seconds are yellow, meaning hold still. 1/30 is normal brightness, while 1/15 to 4 seconds are dimmer, since it expects that the ambient light will be less.

UNDER is red.

 

Meter and Exposure

No surprises here; the center-weighted meter and automation system work great.

As an analog system, it will expose much longer than 4 seconds in AUTO, although my flaky old sample of ME Super sometimes quits after a second; I haven't worried about it.

 

Flash

With dedicated flash like the AF 200S or AF 160, the M LED blinks when the flash is ready to fire. The camera forces the 125X setting in AUTO or manual, shown in the finder as well.

With dedicated flash, it's smart enough to revert to the usual AUTO or manual settings until the flash is ready to fire. Thus if you use all the flash power on one shot, the next shot will exposure correctly for no flash as the flash recycles. As soon as the flash is ready to fire, the ME Super again sets itself for flash exposure.

Other than that, you have to set the aperture manually. You'll either set it with a manually calculated guide number value, or the aperture needed per the flash's own internal Auto mode. Hey, this is 1970's technology.

 

Shutter

Shutter release is a long, mostly smooth, push-in. It's better than most modern cameras.

There is very little recoil or vibration as it fires. The ME Super is a well-damped camera.

There's a real cable release socket.

 

Ergonomics

Ergonomics are great, load and shoot.

The strap lugs are on top in front, so the camera is perfectly balanced with a 50mm lens and isn't always trying to tilt forward when around your neck.

 

Mechanics

This is a compact, precise all-metal camera.

The sprockets and take-up are plastic, while all the chrome is metal.

The rewind crank and ASA dial are metal, while the shutter button and mode dial are plastic. The wind lever, top and bottom covers and battery and power winder covers are all metal.

The ME Super feels much nicer than almost all DSLRs today. It's metal, not plastic.

 

Battery and Power

Two S76 or A76 button cells should last a full year of daily professional use.

In normal use today, the meter batteries should last for years.

The biggest problem is putting away your ME Super and having the batteries leak when you weren't expecting it.

 

Compared         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Pentax ME and K1000

Pentax ME and Pentax K1000. enlarge.

The ME Super (the same size as the Pentax ME shown above) is much better than the popular K1000.

The ME Super is smaller and lighter as you can see, and the ME and ME Super add automatic exposure.

The K1000 is popular as a basic, inexpensive camera and has become an icon unto itself because it was made for many decades, while the ME and ME Super were always more expensive and better cameras, but only made for a few years.

Today, forget the K1000 unless you really need an all-mechanical camera. The ME and ME Super both have two manual mechanical shutter speeds: X (1/100 in the ME and 1/125 in the ME Super) and bulb.

You'll really appreciate the much higher performance of the meter and exposure system of the ME Super, and especially the smaller size and significantly lighter weight.

 

Usage         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

 

Batteries

Unscrew the battery cover with a coin and pop them in the bottom of the camera.

Pay attention to polarity; they can go in several ways but only one is correct.

If batteries are low, the shutter speed LED (1/2,000 to 4s) will blink. With good batteries, those LEDs are solid and stay on a while after you release the shutter.

There's no power switch; it's always ready to shoot except if you're in Lock. Only use the Lock setting to prevent running down the batteries if you put the camera away in a tight case.

 

Loading and Winding

Pull-up the rewind crank to open the back.

Slip the film leader in the "ghost fingers" of the take-up spool and you're good. There's a wiggling indicator with orange bars on the back of the ME Super, just below the winding lever, that wiggle to let you know film is advancing or rewinding.

In AUTO, you might get long exposures if loading in the dark or with a cap on. Set the cameras to 125X while loading and that won't happen.

The shutter-cocked indicator is the dot between the exposure mode switches and the wind lever. Black is discharged, while orange is wound and ready to fire.

The orange bars seen through a window on the back near the wind lever wiggle whenever film is moving in either direction.

Rewind is the usual; push the button on the bottom and turn the crank.

 

Exposure

The meter and camera are always ready to shoot in AUTO or M (manual). There is no power switch.

The meter does turn off in L (lock), 125X (flash) and B (Bulb).

The exposure mode dial locks only at AUTO. It's free to move from any of the other positions. The shutter release button is also locked in the Lock position.

 

Manual Exposure

When setting manual exposure, push the two shutter speed UP and DOWN buttons (the black buttons on the top next to the mode dial) and/or turn the aperture ring until neither of the OVER or UNDER LEDs are lit.

Manual speeds wrap around: press Down at 4s and you'll wrap around to 1/2,000, and vice-versa.

Contrary to the User's Manual, exposure compensation does affect the manual meter reading.

The meter over and under LEDs blink quickly, so manual exposure is much easier to set than other cameras that blink the set speed slowly while the metered speed shows as steady.

There's a wide null. You can always get both lights to extinguish as you set the shutter in full stops, but this isn't as precise if you want to set the aperture to the exact spot since often two different half-stops will read as OK.

 

Self Timer

Pull the self-timer lever on the front down to charge it. Pull it a little way down for 4 seconds, or all the way down for a 10 second delay.

There's a trick starting it to take the picture: simply lift the lever! There's no start button as I'd expect.

 

Flash

With dedicated flash like the AF 200S or AF 160, the M LED blinks when the flash is ready to fire. The camera forces the 125X setting, shown in the finder as well.

With dedicated flash, it's smart enough to revert to the usual AUTO or manual settings until the flash is ready to fire. Thus if you use all the flash power on one shot, the next shot will exposure correctly for no flash as the flash recycles. As soon as the flash is ready to fire, the ME Super again sets itself for flash exposure.

 

Strap

The ME Super is so light that I use the LEICA strap.

 

Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

 

Overall

The Pentax ME Super is a super little camera. It's tight and precise and made better and smaller and lighter than most cameras today. It has a well-damped shutter and mirror for sharp hand-held shots at slow speeds.

For more serious photography, top professional cameras like the Nikon F2S, Nikon F3, Nikon F4, Nikon F5 or Canon EOS 1V only sell for a few hundred dollars each today, but even if they were free, they are much larger and heavier cameras.

When I'm out and about with my ME Super, I've having more fun than lugging one of my pro cameras.

 

For Photo Class

For photo class, the ME Super can't be beat. It's much less expensive than the Pentax K1000 because fewer people know about it, and the ME Super is a much better and smaller camera.

If you have to have a manual camera, just ignore the AUTO setting.

For photo class, get an ME Super and you're done!

 

General Decency

If you've found all the time, effort and expense I put into researching and sharing all this for free, getting yours at link directly to the ME Super at eBay (see How to Win at eBay) is what keeps this site on the air. My biggest source of support is when you use those and these links, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live.

Thanks!

Ken.

 

More Information         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Pentax ME Super User's Manual.

Digital Data M users manual.

 

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Thanks for reading!

 

 

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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26 May 2014