Pentax S3

The Pentax S3 is a fully manual and mechanical M42 screw mount SLR introduced in 1960. Pentax produced a total of 9 different M42 SLRs (AP/Asahi-Pentax, S, K, S2, S3, S1, Super S2, SV and S1a) before the introduction of the well-known Spotmatic, one of the first SLR with TTL metering, in 1964. Major changes from model to model among them include combining high-speed and low-speed shutter speeds into a single dial, self-zeroing exposure counter and optional external coupled meter. In the North American market, the S3 was called the H3 because Pentax SLRs were imported by Honeywell Corporation (the pentaprism would read Honeywell Pentax instead of Asahi Pentax).

Beside the usual layout for an ordinary manual-exposure-only SLR, there is a “T” setting located beside the cut-out (which itself is part the coupling mechanism of the external meter) on the shutter speed dial. This setting enables the shutter to open when pressed and stay opened until pressed again, saving the use of a cable release in certain situations. There is also a small circular window at the upper-left of the shutter dial which serves as a shutter-cocking indicator (first used on the earlier S2). Perhaps the most interesting “feature” is the frame counter which adds a bit of antiquity and elegance to the camera although it needs to be reset to zero manually after each roll of film.

As the meter coupling mechanism on the shutter has hinted, the S3 does not have a TTL meter. However, a film speed dial which serves only as a reminder is still provided on the left of the top plate where the remind knob is. Finally, unlike many other SLRs during the 1970s-80s, the camera back is opened with a hitch lock on the left side of the body instead of by pulling up the remind knob.

The S3 is old enough to have a FP-sync port for use with flash-bulbs beside the more common X-sync terminal for electronic flashes. Also, because of the use of cloth-shutter and its age, the S3 can only sync up to 1/50 seconds even with electronic flashes.

The Story behind my Pentax S3…

Attracted by its “beautiful” frame counter, the dual sync-terminals and its price ($6.50CAD!!!), this camera was bought mainly as a display item although it is in good working order. One thing I found out while testing the camera is its incompatibility with Praktica/Pentacon M42 lenses in which the camera cannot complete the mirror cycle while the shutter is being fired. I believe this is similar in nature to the incompatibility between the SMC Takumar lenses (which have the aperture indexing lugs at the rear) with non-Pentax M42 bodies.

Status: In Collection

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2 Responses to Pentax S3

  1. Dee says:

    I just bought a ES 2 ….. Looking for more lens , hard to get as it’s the screw on type …. Any suggestions other than eBay ?

    • Not sure where you live but many local camera stores should have an used department. Online, B&H has an used section while KEH is dedicated to used items. Both should be more reliable then buying from EBay.

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