Pentax User Archive: MZ-5 Versus Z1-P

Keith Hughes makes a comparison.

15/02/2013 - 00:00

Pentax MZ-5   Pentax Z-1P

As a Pentax user for over 35 years I am always interested in new models and developments from Pentax. I am very pleased, therefore, to get my hands on the new MZ-5.

Currently I use a Pentax Z1-P and immediately prior to that a Z-1, so my reaction was to compare the MZ-5 with the Z's. I must say that the later MZ-5 measures up to its brothers very favourably. In many ways the Z's are over specified, apart from for the most dedicated enthusiasts, there are more options on the Z-1 and Z1-P than most photographer would use on a regular basis. For the majority of subjects, the specification of the MZ-5 is more than adequate.

The first, and very noticeable, difference between the Z-1 and the MZ-5 is the size of the camera body. The MZ-5 is about half the size of the Z-1 and two thirds the weight - 490g compared with 650g. The same goes for the number of pages in the instruction manuals! Personally, I find a heavier camera easier to hold steady through the MZ-5 strikes a good balance between ease of carrying and giving a steady hold for shake free shooting.

Lens compatibility is an important consideration when buying a new camera body. The consistency of the new Pentax bayonet allows all Pentax 35mm format lenses made over the last twenty years to be used with the latest cameras like the Z-1P and the MZ-5. Not all the exposure and focusing modes will be available with older lenses but focusing and through the lens exposure control remain unaffected.

For this comparison of two first rate cameras, I have to ask myself 'would I swap my Z1-P for the MZ-5?' Perhaps not, mainly due to lack of the depth-of-field preview on the MZ-5. Yet I am delighted to use the MZ-5 alongside my Z1-P. Indeed, for the majority of my photography, the MZ-5 is ideal.

MZ-5 plus points   MZ-5 minus points
  • The appearance is attractive and the body, with front and rear finger grips, fits neatly into the hand of a righthanded person. I wonder how the lefthanded person would feel about this.
  • For more, the figures on the dial controls are sufficiently large and clear to be read without having to put my specs on for every alteration.
  • Easy to follow 'green route'. Set the (top left) dial to the green 'O', the right dial to the green 'A', the exposure to the green, multi segment, position and the lens to 'A'. The 'A' on the lens is not coloured green. Then compose your picture and fire away for first rate results.
  • The predictive focus has to be set by engaging servo mode, on the Z1-P. The MZ-5 takes care of this situation automatically, provided the camera is set to AF.
  • The Panorama facility is a useful aid to in-camera composition. The standard format panorama switch comes easily to hand (thumb) without the need to take the camera away from the eye. This is an important improvement over the Z1-P where the panorama switch, located on the camera back-plate, can easily be activated by mistake; for instance, by the switch rubbing against clothing whilst the camera is carried, without a case, around the neck.
  • Should you forget the speed of the film loaded in the MZ-5, just turn the dial to ISO and the film speed shows in the LCD panel.
  • I like the ability to over-ride the speed of DX coded films. I prefer to rate Kodachrome 64 to ISO 80, no problem with the MZ-5
  • I also like the ability to engage snap focus with a non AF lens. This is a valuable feature for keen wildlife enthusiasts.
  • In my view, the lack of a depth-of-field preview facility on the MZ-5 is a serious omission. I consider it a must for close-up work.
  • Opening and closing the battery chamber needs care and the + and - indicators for the correct polarity could be clearer.
  • At first sight the lugs, on the camera body to which the carrying strap is fixed, appears oddly placed. However, once the strap is attached the camera hangs, neatly, where it should. The strap does tend to catch on the camera back when this is opened and this is a little irritating.
  • Spot AF mode has its (limited) uses but there is no visual, or audible, indication that this mode is engaged (as is the case with the Espio 140). Should the button not be pressed fully in and held, whilst the exposure is made, the error would not be apparent until the film is processed.
  • The delayed action, self-timer, has an audible signal during its 12 second countdown, but there is no visual, red light, warning that may be seen by the subject.
  • There is no built in exposure lock but for occasions when the exposures needs to be held (or locked) this may be achieved by setting the camera to programme AE mode. Then, point the camera at the subject that is to be used for the exposure reading, such as a Grey Card. Note the aperture and speed readings that show in the viewfinder and then, having set the camera to manual (M) mode set the aperture ring on the lens and the speed on the top dial to the exposure required.

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