Pentax ME Super

The Pentax ME Super is a 35mm SLR that belongs to the famous Pentax M-series cameras and is an improved successor of the original Pentax ME. Among all the compact automatic exposure electronic SLRs (e.g. Nikon FE/EM, Canon AE-1, Olympus OM-2, etc.) in the same era, ME Super is one of the lightest (only 445g!) and smallest. The M-series SLRs started in 1976 when Pentax introduced a new breed of compact light weight SLRs that is unlike the previous K-series which are larger and heavier. The first two cameras of the M-series are the aperture priority only ME (similar spec. to a Nikon EM) and the fully mechanical MX (similar spec. to a Nikon FM). While the MX was more intended to be a professional system camera, the ME was aimed for amateurs and those who wanted to upgrade from 35mm compact rangefinders to SLRs (much like people today who wants to switch from digital point-and-shoot to a compact and easy-to-use DSLR).

The ME Super replaces the ME in 1979 with significant improvements. Maximum shutter speed was increased from 1/1000 seconds to 1/2000 seconds. Flash sync. speed also got a slight raise from 1/100 seconds to 1/125 seconds. Most important, full manual override is now available and shutter speed is adjusted through a pair of “up” and “down” buttons (see photo below)  with the LED indicators in the viewfinder instead of the traditional shutter speed dial. This design looks more “high tech.” but I do prefer the old way because I can adjust and confirm the shutter speed without looking through the viewfinder.

An extra contact is also added to the hot shoe (see photo below) for dedicated flash operation which provides flash ready light in the viewfinder and shutter speed being automatically set to maximum sync speed. Similar to the original ME, the ME Super can also operate without batteries in a limited manner.  The 1/125 seconds (125X in the photo above) which also serves as the setting for non-dedicated flash units is one of the two mechanical speeds. Besides, the B mode is also mechanical which makes the ME Super well suited for long exposure photography without battery draining. Exposure compensation of EV -2 to +2 in steps of 1 EV is also provided on the ME Super just as its predecessor. More accurate adjustment can be done by using the ASA film speed dail in 1/3 EV step (see photo below).

A new power winder ME II was also introduced with a slightly higher frame rate (2 fps) and lower battery consumption (4AAs) to replace the older power winder ME which only has a frame rate of 1.5 fps but requires 6AAs. The Dial Data ME back (originally designed for the ME) and the relatively newer Digital Data M back can also be used with the ME Super.

Here is a sample photo taken from the ME Super using a XR Rikenon 50mm f2L. Film used is Ilford HP5+.


The Story of my Pentax ME Super…

The Pentax ME Super has special meaning to me as it is my first SLR camera. I remembered skipping lunches in junior high just to save up money to buy the camera. Later, my parents discovered my plan and decided to assist me financially mainly based on my health condition. Sadly, my original ME Super was sold long ago.

I have bought a total of two ME Super bodies (i.e. lenses in the photo were bought separately) since I started the hobby of collecting old cameras. The first one was sold at a very cheap price, so I decided to buy it solely for what this particular model means to me. However, the cheap price does come with “costs”. First, cosmetically the camera is only in fair condition with the cover of the winding lever missing. Both the covers of the battery compartment and the winder driveshaft were stuck. I got the battery cover freed myself but not the other one. Surprisingly, the light-seals of the back are fine.

Not long later, I bought another body at a slightly higher price but it is cosmetically better. This is the one as shown in the title photo of this post. So for a while, I owned two ME Super bodies but I finally sold the first one (with a Takumar 28mm as a kit) to cut down my collection. An interesting fact is the mirror damping foam on both bodies are gone and I had to perform some functional but ugly repairs to solve the problem.

The Pentax M-Series Family…

  • ME – introduced in 1976, vertical travel metal brade electronic shutter (8 – 1/1000 seconds) apreture priority auto only, 1/100 seconds max. sync speed.
  • MX – introduced in 1976, horizontal travel cloth mechanical shutter (1 – 1/1000 seconds), 1/6o seconds max. sync speed, manual exposure only, aperture setting visible in viewfinder through a small window on the pentaprism, wide range of system accessories including interchangeable focusing screens, a 5 fps high speed motor-drive and a 250 frames bulk film back!
  • ME Super – introduced in 1979, the one described in this post.
  • MV – introduced in 1979 along with the ME Super, a highly stripped down version of the original ME but with dedicated flash capability of the ME Super, shutter speed ranged only from 1 – 1/1000 seconds, no exposure compensation, no shutter speed displayed in viewfinder, no self-timer and a few more omitted items, it is the lightest among all of the M-series cameras, only 420g!
  • MV-1 – introduced in 1980, basically the MV upgraded back to the ME spec. but retaining the narrower 1 – 1/1000 seconds shutter speed range, simple LEDs display of MV and no exposure compensation.
  • MG – introduced in 1981, MV-1 upgraded with shutter speed displayed in viewfinder.
  • ME-F – introduced in 1981, a ME Super with TTL auto focus (with dedicated AF 35-70mm f2.8) and focus assist (other K mount lenses), first mass production auto focus SLR in the world predating Nikon F3AF, Canon T80 and Minolta 7000.

Status: One Sold, One In Collection

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14 Responses to Pentax ME Super

  1. Jim says:

    Nice review of the ME Super! Coincidentally, I wrote about my non-Super ME today on my blog.

  2. Hi! Jim, just read it and left a comment…great sharing!

  3. Keith Rutter says:

    I’ve just inherited a ME Super, previous history unknown, waiting for a film and battery so I can try it. My last SLR was a Zenith E, 35 years ago.

    • If you like compact and light, you will like the ME Super. The feel will sure be different then your Zenit E which is bigger and heavier. By the way, you should be able to use the Helios lens on your Zenit with a M42-K mount adpater. I heard the Helios is a pretty good lens.

  4. Kevin Basko says:

    I just inherited this camera from my father. I put in new 1.5V batteries and film but the LED Viewfinder still wont turn on. Any troubleshooting tips?

    • If the “shutter dail” is at auto/manual and the LED still doesn’t turn on, then it could be something wrong with the electric circuit providing the contacts in the battery compartment are clean. Also, the LEDs stay off when shutter dail at 125x or B.

  5. RDS says:

    Nice read. I bought my ME Super new in 1981 and still have it. The shutter locked up over 15 years ago and sat in a closet until recently when I had the shutter & light seals replaced along with being cleaned/lubed. It works like new and I’m loving it. It has huge sentimental value for me and I’m enjoying shooting B&W film and developing it myself. I’ll never part with this camera.

  6. Pingback: The Amazing Ilford HP5 Plus | MY CAMERA CABINET

  7. Dee says:

    Great stuff ! I’m about to buy an ME in a few weeks after the next pay check ;-) ….. hope to chat with you more after that …. I’m using an Ilford 400 roll …. Thanks again

  8. Pingback: My 2 Cents on the Following Films… | MY CAMERA CABINET

  9. Alta says:

    Hi there, You have done an excellent job. I will certainly
    digg it and personally recommend to my friends.
    I’m sure they will be benefited from this website.

  10. Pingback: Pentax ME | MY CAMERA CABINET

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