Pentax LX - Its Concept and Basic Body Design

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Now- look and see what have we got here ? To begin with, we have the most compact, an ultra-rugged and has the distinction of being the most well sealed construction professional system manual focus camera body available in the market. (Note: however, no matter how well it is, the LX is not splash or water proof). The LX's pioneered seal construction feature is aimed to prevent penetration of sand, dust and rain which enables it to work in any harsh environment imaginable.

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It is a SLR which has its body structure made of rugged, die cast aluminum-alloy and equipped with a very reliable horizontally traveled Titanium electro-mechanical shutter, which provides a range of variable mechanical shutter speeds that will still be functional and withstanding temperatures down to -30C even in a battery-free situation. It has a multiple exposure mechanism that allows the photographer to wind back to any desirable frame in pin sharp accurate registration, it has an enormous array of photographic system accessories and a wie range of top class optic ranges from Fisheyes, Ultrawides, Super-Telephoto and close-up lenses for macro/microscopic reproduction - these make the Pentax LX can stands up to everyday professional use.

Its compact and light weight design is a triumph of human engineering. While on the metering, it encompasses a revolutionary IDM Light Measuring System for a theoretical perfect automatic exposure. Its Integrated Direct Metering ("IDM" in short, they called it) system offers the photographers with extremely accurate, instantaneous automatic exposure readings from as low as 125 sec to 1/2000 sec, both in available light and in the TTL Auto Flash mode. All these have enabled the Pentax LX to truly recognised as one of the modern classic SLR camera of modern times.

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Physically - top and bottom panels of the LX are die cast with an aluminum alloy produced specially for the LX. With a property and metal characteristic of lighter than zinc but far stronger than plastic/poly carbonate, this provides excellent protection against shock and not at the expense of weight factor. Further, to protect from possible corrosive intrusion, a black alumite coating was applied. Thus, even if the exterior coating is damage, your camera body still has an extra insulation.

Complete lineup of optics is available for any photographic situation imaginable, the full LX system includes over 50 SMC Pentax lenses, 8 interchangeable viewfinders with three under system finder section and 12 user interchangeable focusing screens. With other options such as high-speed motor drive unit or a slower power winder, infrared remote control system, dedicated TTL Auto Flash units, and macro and close-up accessories, the LX system has opened up many new potential creative possibilities in photography.

Every true professional camera has their own uniqueness in features or functionality. To help you understand why the Pentax LX can withstand the test of time to almost 2 decades, it has its own brands of features that others were felt short. Some of the key ideas are very fresh and original, but most of all, it has successfully combined some of the best available features available during those era of the seventies and early eighties and blended in a very original Pentax way of interpretation in what is like in a professional camera system.

First the LX's advantage is its compactness and light weight of which is the strongest asset in all Pentaxes. When compare the LX with other similar class SLRs, one may wonder - Should a professional grade camera body always be designed that bulky and heavy ?

Camera down view.jpg (27k) big.. with nice.
This is especially true when used in combination with a motor drive and a power pack unit. Pentax LX is the lightest, most compact among all the available options. And this alone appeal very much to some sector of photographers who prefers compactness yet backed with a highly versatile system body.

Next, regardless of how Pros think, metering and exposure control can be invaluable feature, and the LX has the most comprehensive metering system available incorporated within (I don't like to portray it as a copycat of Olympus's pioneered TTL/OTF metering, but it goes far beyond what the original OM system can offer as a whole). May be only thing you can pick on is it doesn't offer partial or spot metering as in the case of what the New F-1 can offer.

Third was its reliability issues. As said earlier, this camera has the most advanced body seal construction against penetration of particles or even mosture, where major joints or possible entry to dust or moisture were given special attention. While this could be the fact, it is also has a hybrid shutter that can work, function with or without a battery cell. The mechanical shutter has a very broad range of functional shutter speed to choose from, same as the New F-1, but unlike the Nikon F3, which has only a sole shutter speed to look at - should the battery fails to function, either dead or due to extreme change in temperatures. While the rest of other features are identical as with any other professional camera system, like high speed motor drives, macro, remote capabilities, but those guys who has design the viewfinder system in the LX must be given a thumbs up honorable mention as well. Pentax LX has the most innovative interchangeable viewfinders - even by today's standard in the nineties !

It offers 8 interchangeable viewfinders in total, ranging from eye level finders (3), waist level, high magnification waist finder and three system finder eyepiece in a separate group - of which,
45 degrees view (FD-1 and FD-2 eye piece) is workable with the system finder FB-1; of which another option available is the FC-1 eyepiece that yield a high eye point at 60mm and a full 180 degrees rotation for total flexibility from waist to eye level are also provided for more convenient and comfortable viewing and composing. All these finders can works in combination with the 12 user interchangeable focusing screens to tackle any photographic situations.

The viewfinder info of various shutter speeds, flash ready signal or exposure warning were printed on the fixed condenser lens by means of a chrome evaporation process. Thus, all you have to do is just to mount any of the interchangeable focusing screens, and yet the info panel will display the same info or data in the viewfinder.

Is that all ? Not quite. Some of the less significant features are very innovative. Like Pentax LX is the only camera that has a built in film blind and a special cordless watch databack (Watch Data LX) to imprint a clock face or allow user to hand written info on ground glass and transplant directly on the corner of the photograph. Further, a telescope adapter, microscope lens adapter and even a 6 x7 lens mount adapter is available in the Pentax system to further enhance its capabilities. Attention was even given to the minute detail like the strap lug (I bet you will never realize how much attention they have put in the LX). Other notable features like FA-1, FA-1W and FA-2 has a built in user adjustable diopters, not to mention they have the most friendly interchangeable viewfinder operations. And I personally like the all in one, triple functions - self timer/Depth of Field preview/mirror lockup lever. Some proven innovation earlier seen on the M series, like the magic needle film take-up spool was another (But this Pentax-only proprietary camera function may make some non-Pentax users scratch their heads when used for the first time..).

Thus, to summarize what are essentially factors making the Pentax so attractive to so many loyal followers worldwide: A compact, light weight, rugged and dependable body, with an unchallenged world class metering system, backed by some very original and innovative system component and of cause, the name - Pentax behind the label.

As one of my good friend,
Michael Patrick Wong, an award winning underwater photographers who is a proud owner of six LX bodies said "I have spent the last six years with the LX, in and out of the salt water, 8 hours a day during actual assignment - all survive ! What more can you ask from a camera with this kind of reliability ? while I am not so fortunate with another brand..." I agreed.

* Credit: Some of the photos of the LX in this site was actually one of Michael's camera, loaned it for me to take some snaps...incidentally, some of his works of those assignments mentioned are in this site, you may take a clicking here. Beware, shockwaves ahead !

The Concept | Metering | Exposure Control | Viewfinders | Motor Drive / Winder | Flash | Macro | Databack | Remote | Screens |


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