How Fragile/Delicate/Temperamental is the LX?


CKDexterHaven

Link Posted 12/05/2015 - 21:31
I recently requested advice, as someone only now about to get involved with Pentax. I ended up buying an LX and 50/1.4-A. The LX body arrived, and immediately, the mirror sticks in the Up position at speeds below "X." So, it's being returned. Only when researching this 'syndrome' did i find so many reports of this issue. I wasn't previously aware that it was so common, widespread, and expected.

I kinda like the LX body. It's not a 'spectacular' camera, as i was expecting, though. I feel like it compares to my Nikon FE2, but with a removable viewfinder, which is a moot feature for me. But, now, with the mirror issue, i'm wary of spending another $300 to replace it and try again. It's not necessarily the money, it's that i don't really want to have to do this purchase-test-return thing again, and even if i do get a working sample the second time, how confident could i be that it will remain so?

I've never had problems with cameras not working in the past, with various Nikons, a couple of EOS, a few Contaxes, a couple of Leicas.... Not to mention the various rangefinders and Medium Format cameras. So, i'm a bit unnerved.

I bought the LX because i wanted to use the Pentax 50/1.4. My options:
• Abandon the lens.
• Try another LX. Hope, but always be worried that a small jolt or infrequent use or something else will render it unreliable and require an expensive repair.
• Try an ME Super. I dislike the look of the ME Super, but i really want a body with a HUGE viewfinder.

[I 'need' Aperture Priority, or i would look into the MX.]

Thoughts?

johnriley

Link Posted 12/05/2015 - 23:21
The real problem is that you are using a camera that dates back to the 1980s, so it's quite old now. I would expect any camera of that vintage to benefit from a general service and recalibration. Different models will tend to fail in different areas, so that too is probably predictable.

The LX was the professional camera in its day and if in good condition should be fine.

You could also use your lens on the DSLR range, so that's another avenue should you wish it.
Best regards, John

doingthebobs

Link Posted 13/05/2015 - 00:30
Sorry to hear of your disappointment. As John points out, it's an age thing. Sounds like a CLA (clean, lube and adjust) service Is required. It's usually the foam mirror damper that causes the problem. The foam degrades and gets sticky and the mirror sticks to it. If it is a problem, it is usually worth getting the CLA done and you will then find it is reliable.

The LX is a very good system camera with interchangeable viewfinders, focusing screens and a whole array of other accessories . It is also a very robust design with possibly one of the best light meters found in cameras at the time.

I have two of them, one I had serviced when I got it and the other was of more recent manufacture and has not required servicing yet. Both are reliable and give me no problems.
Bob

CKDexterHaven

Link Posted 13/05/2015 - 02:44
Thanks, guys.
I've dealt with old cameras in the past, with manual focus Nikons, Contax, and Leicas, and never needed a CLA on any of them. Only on rangefinder Leica. So, i wasn't expecting this much fuss with what i thought would be a 'workhorse.'

I guess i'll try again.

But, for my general edification, what should i expect to pay for a CLA on an LX?

Jonathan-Mac

Link Posted 13/05/2015 - 06:29
I've never owned an LX, but I'd love to have one. I do own and use quite a multitude of film cameras though. Many of the ones I've bought have needed a CLA, most notably two K2s, the top-of-the-line SLR before the LX. Well-built cameras will last longer but they won't work without being looked after.

Just because you buy a Mercedes rather than a Citroen doesn't mean it will never need maintenance.

Film cameras can be very, very cheap these days but often they don't work until they've had a CLA, so if you're buyinh one for serious use and you want it to be very reliable, the cost of a CLA has to be factored into the purchase.
Pentax hybrid user - Digital K3 & K200D, film 645 and 35mm SLR and Pentax (&other) lenses adapted to Fuji X digital
Fan of DA limited and old manual lenses

womble

Link Posted 13/05/2015 - 09:00
Check out Harrow Technical in the UK or Eric Hendrickson in the US.

"Sticky mirror syndrome" is a weak point in the LX, but only because they are up to 35 years old now. I have got to the stage that I factor a CLA into the cost of buying an older film camera. Harrow Technical do sell refurbished cameras including LXes.

K.
Kris Lockyear
It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head. Henri Cartier-Bresson
Lots of film bodies, a couple of digital ones, too many lenses (mainly older glass) and a Horseman LE 5x4.

My website

Jonathan-Mac

Link Posted 13/05/2015 - 19:35
womble wrote:
Check out Harrow Technical in the UK or Eric Hendrickson in the US.

"Sticky mirror syndrome" is a weak point in the LX, but only because they are up to 35 years old now. I have got to the stage that I factor a CLA into the cost of buying an older film camera. Harrow Technical do sell refurbished cameras including LXes.

K.

Their website of items for sale doesn't seem to have been updated for quite some time. I suppose they stopped using it for that purpose.
Pentax hybrid user - Digital K3 & K200D, film 645 and 35mm SLR and Pentax (&other) lenses adapted to Fuji X digital
Fan of DA limited and old manual lenses

johnha

Link Posted 13/05/2015 - 23:18
Jonathan-Mac wrote:
Their website of items for sale doesn't seem to have been updated for quite some time. I suppose they stopped using it for that purpose.

My LX was serviced by Harrow Technical about a year ago - excellent service. If buying one that claims to have been serviced, it's worth asking for proof of the service (I received an invoice with the camera serial number). Servicing isn't cheap and should be factored into any purchase - hint - someone who has just had an LX serviced through a reputable agent should be asking a premium price for it.

As far as the LX goes, compared to every other manual focus Pentax, it's miles ahead of the rest. I have every notable MF Pentax body (KX, K2, K1000, MX, etc.) and the LX blows them all away. The build quality is better, the click-stops are better defined and further apart, it's weather sealed, the wind-on is simply superb, the viewfinder is excellent, it has off the film metering and will shoot without batteries 1/75 - 1/2000.
PPG Flickr

CKDexterHaven

Link Posted 14/05/2015 - 02:01
Scary, that this issue is so super-prevalent. I was about to order an LX from KEH, but first had them check to see if the mirror would stick at slower shutter speeds. They checked. It stuck.

But, i am trying again. Just found a nice-looking sample on eBay and asked the seller to confirm it's okay, so i've got one on the way.

I did (almost accidentally) find a nice LX in a local shop, but they wanted too much for it. It was working nicely, though. So, i'm hopefully batting .500....

womble

Link Posted 14/05/2015 - 06:49
I don't understand why it is scary. Virtually all 35 year old cameras need their seals and buffer foam etc. renewed if it hasn't been done already. The LX is only different in that rather than just manifesting itself in black muck all over the insides of the camera, it also affects the mirror. The LX's weather and dust seals, usually regarded as a plus point, have to be replaced if one opens the camera up for a service which is why they are relatively expensive to CLA. One has three choices:

1. Buy an LX which has been serviced and pay a premium.
2. Buy an LX which needs a service, negotiate a discount and send it to Robin or Eric. Once it comes back you'll be good to go for another 35 years.
3. Buy a less sophisticated model. It'll still need a CLA. The KX is very popular but bigger and chunkier, the MX is a minature marvel, the Super A has more automation...

Given you mentioned KEH, I assume you are stateside? I would have negotiated a discount and sent it to Eric. He is the world's best (film) Pentax repair/service person and you could have been 100% confident of having a lovely working LX. Several times I have bought a cheap "spares or repairs" body (e.g. my ESII) and just sent it straight to him. Result? A beautiful working camera...

Best wishes, Kris.
Kris Lockyear
It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head. Henri Cartier-Bresson
Lots of film bodies, a couple of digital ones, too many lenses (mainly older glass) and a Horseman LE 5x4.

My website

co049

Link Posted 20/05/2015 - 12:51
womble wrote:
I don't understand why it is scary. Virtually all 35 year old cameras need their seals and buffer foam etc. renewed if it hasn't been done already. The LX is only different in that rather than just manifesting itself in black muck all over the insides of the camera, it also affects the mirror. The LX's weather and dust seals, usually regarded as a plus point, have to be replaced if one opens the camera up for a service which is why they are relatively expensive to CLA. One has three choices:

1. Buy an LX which has been serviced and pay a premium.
2. Buy an LX which needs a service, negotiate a discount and send it to Robin or Eric. Once it comes back you'll be good to go for another 35 years.
3. Buy a less sophisticated model. It'll still need a CLA. The KX is very popular but bigger and chunkier, the MX is a minature marvel, the Super A has more automation...

Given you mentioned KEH, I assume you are stateside? I would have negotiated a discount and sent it to Eric. He is the world's best (film) Pentax repair/service person and you could have been 100% confident of having a lovely working LX. Several times I have bought a cheap "spares or repairs" body (e.g. my ESII) and just sent it straight to him. Result? A beautiful working camera...

Best wishes, Kris.

How much does shipping normal cost to send a camera body to the USA and return Kris?
Chris,

Pentax K3, MX-1.
Pentax LX, Pentax MX, Pentax ME Super & Pentax MV.
"Old Skool" with the new!

Defragged

Link Posted 23/05/2015 - 08:43
The LX is a fabulous camera. I owned one since the early 1980's and reluctantly parted with it through lack of use after going digital. The sticky mirror syndrome is an easy fix. I had mine serviced twice during the time I owned it and I believe that these days the replacement mirror buffers are of a different material and should not degrade like the originals.

I reckon should get a service for less than a hundred notes but if you have a word with the Pentax Service Centre at Harrow, They will advise you. They are very helpful people and the turn around is quick. link

Persevere and good luck.....
C.O.L.B.A.S victim
(Compulsive Obsessive Lens Buying Addiction Syndrome)

What you need are lenses, more lenses, bigger lenses, better lenses, faster lenses, and when you have these, your pictures will be perfect!

Cuthbert

Link Posted 25/05/2015 - 00:10
CKDexterHaven wrote:
Scary, that this issue is so super-prevalent. I was about to order an LX from KEH, but first had them check to see if the mirror would stick at slower shutter speeds. They checked. It stuck.

But, i am trying again. Just found a nice-looking sample on eBay and asked the seller to confirm it's okay, so i've got one on the way.

I did (almost accidentally) find a nice LX in a local shop, but they wanted too much for it. It was working nicely, though. So, i'm hopefully batting .500....

Perhaps I'm late for this party but the sticky syndrome is the only relevant problem of the LX, probably its Achille's heel.

Every 20 years or so you have to take into account the pads have to be replaced.

I don't see why this is scary, or makes the LX to be a "temperemental" or "unreliable" machine, EVERY camera from the 70s, 80s and probably 90s needs some service, INCLUDING the supertough heavyweights Nikon F2s and Canon F-1s that were cameras designed to be used in wartime by reporters...have you ever heard about the resistors of the Nikon F2AS and SBs that get busted and need to be replaced? Do they make them bad cameras?

I have a LX and it's one of my favourite camera, along with my F2s and F-1s, if I had to choose between the three kings I couldn't, they are the top three SLRs ever made.

CKDexterHaven

Link Posted 21/07/2015 - 00:42
Well, here's the update on my LX experience:

It ended.
To recap — I bought an LX which the owner said did NOT have the sticky mirror problem. It did. I returned it. I found another LX on eBay from Japan. It arrived, and everything seemed fantastic. I quickly got to really appreciate the camera, but the first test roll was just BAD. I didn't know if it was a problem with the lens or the camera, so i had to buy another lens to eliminate the first one as a variable. Turns out it was not the lenses. Somehow, the viewfinder showed a perfectly beautiful, in-focus image, but the camera was back focusing by several centimeters at a distance of 2' from the chart.

I didn't get any manner of professional communication from the recommended repairperson, so i opted for a return. The seller was phenomenally accommodating (yay, Japan), and so that was that.

I was about to consider my Pentax Experiment concluded, but had a flash thought/realization: the only reason i was buying the LX was because i wanted to use the 50/1.4. So, i decided to compromise on the body and just get an ME Super as a cheap platform. I quickly found a black one, and for a fantastic price, it came with (another) 50/1.4 lens — this time, an M- version.

Received the Super. Tested it with both lenses. The lenses performed fantastically. But, there was another problem with the body! Three for three! This time, the rewind pin was stuck in the body. I considered returning the whole shebang, but for the price (less than the value of the A-50/1.4 alone) i decided to try to repair it myself. Not something i'd ever done before. I'll happily deal with many kinds of tech issues, like installing components in my computers, etc., but taking a camera apart was a bit over the line for me. But, what the hell — it seemed to be a simple thing. Popped the bottom off, moved some things around, and figured out that someone had put the pin sleeve on upside down. Fixed....

....And, finally i'm happy. I had never considered the ME Super because i thought the top plastic plate and shutter speed buttons were ridiculous. But, in-person, in the hand, it's not so bad at all, and the button scheme (almost) makes sense. I'd still prefer a dial, but it makes sense to be able to adjust speeds by sight while still composing/viewing. And, the viewfinder is spectacular — on the same level as the LX's, which is to say, better than anything else i've used. I also bought a Nikon F3-HP, which is well-regarded for its viewfinder, but the LX/Super are head and shoulders above it.

So, yeah, i stick with my "scary" comment, regarding Pentax bodies. I won't expect reliability. Three for Three with issues, while i've owned a metric sh!t ton of over (old-ish) SLRs without ever having a problem or needing a repair [Contax 159, Aria, RX, Nikon F6, F100(x2), F80, F4, F3(x2), FE2, Canon EOS1n, EOS3, plus Leicas(x2), Contax G2(x3) and Zeiss Ikon]... Now that i type the list, i'm reminded of problems with a Nikon EM and FG, but those are the two cheapest bodies they made.... So, the comparison is lopsided, just not one-sided.

But, i have a Super now. And, two great 50/1.4 lenses. And, if the Super ever goes wonky, i'll just replace it. I prolly shoulda taken this route to begin with, but i wanted 'the best' experience.

I should prolly sell the M-50/1.4 or trade it for something else, though, right? A 35 or 28mm?

johnriley

Link Posted 21/07/2015 - 09:01
To be fair, these are very old bodies and there are a lot of heavily misused ones around. Some have been messed with by enthusiastic but unskilled owners as well. If you could have a new ME Super or MX then it would give many years of good service. Unfortunately, the 1980s is a long time ago now, and seals, electronics and plastic cogs have all started to give up.

Other makes are even worse in this respect and I've had some very nice looking Yashica and Nikon SLRs given to me, and bits just fell off.

Classic SLRs probably need a good service before use now.
Best regards, John
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