This Camera has been my ‘can’t believe it’s not butter’ moment of the Poundland Challenge. It turned up with a pack of other cameras as s 99p Job lot. Whilst others have made that job lot quite a good deal this was the hidden cracker. But why has this AF zoom compact so impressed me.
Pentax stuck together one neat camera ( also sold in the US as the Pentax IQZoom 70XL). At first glance you might be lulled into thinking this is a 21st Century 35mm compact or a bulkier digital given it svelte matt black body. But nope – this hails from 1992 and was the first in a line of highly successful shooters from Pentax. Whilst later models had similar styling to other rivals this oozes a different class. The only camera matching this was the Olympus µ[mju:] (stylus) series IMHO.
At first glance it specs very closely to the Canon Sure Shot 60 Zoom. It is an autofocus X2 zoom with all singing and dancing auto exposure. But not only does it kick the Canon into touch stylistically, I goes on and converts the try with its lens and functions. And boy does it have functions
Pentax Espio AF Zoom Specs
- Lens: 35-70mm 1:3.8-8
- Focus : Infra-Red AF
- Focus : 0.6m to ∞
- DX Coding: 25-3200 ISO *
- Shutter: 1/5-1/400 + Bulb
- EV 100 : 6.5-17 (35mm)¹
- Exposure: Auto
- Battery : 1 x CR123A
*Non DX films code at 25 ISO ¹ slow shutter speed
You select these by means of 4 buttons around the Large LCD. You get the usual auto, flash on, flash off setting and there is a separate control for red eye reduction. Then things get interesting. There is an landscape shot mode and a bewildering array of timer modes including a neat option that takes a picture on wide and then auto zooms & takes another. Or there is the time lapse mode.
Phew !! and that’s not all. You can even knock into bulb mode, slow syncro mode for flash, repeat shot mode and it also has a Backlight function (+1.5EV). My only quibble is no flexible EV compensation but that really isn’t an option you’ll find on compacts of this era. There was a databack version too.
Half depress the shutter and an green LED on right of viewfinder tells you if you’ve got focus (or blinks if you’re not or too close) and also locks focus in the central focusing spot. A red LED on the left tells you flash is ready (blinks if charging). The zoom is driven by a rocker switch. Bit slow and noisy by 21st century standards but fine for 1992.
And then there’s the lens.
8 element in 7 groups and with the AF is pretty sharp at both near and far. This is a corker and doubts about it. Sharp and accurate although you’ll need to engage panorama mode to get the best out of distance shooting. Up close and it is stonking as you can see. The flash is pretty typical so good for snapshots fairly close about 2m away but less good beyond.
This is a truly great late 20th century compact. It’s only failings really is the usual X2 length zoom but otherwise it’s the Dog’s Boll*&ks
- Crisp images
- Stylistically great
- All the features you want
- Only x2 zoom
- Uses slightly more expensive CR123A battery
- Bulkier than a µ[mju:]
What I paid, got & sold for
- Part of group for 99p + £5 ( effectively less than £1 inc postage)
- Came with strap
- It’s a keeper
- Canon Sure Shot 60 – Typical 90’s zoom compact
- Olympus Superzoom 80G – small zoom 21st century compact
- Olympus µ[mju:] series – ultra compact but light leak prone