Why do I like this 80’s ugly, plasticky fixed focus oddity from Pentax. Probably because it delivers the best shots of any fixed focus camera I own.
The Pentax Pino 35 is a bit of an odd fish from Pentax a company better known for it’s role in shaping and producing classic SLR cameras. The Pino 35 arrived in 1984 as the first in the series (the others have the same name with suffix e.g. Pentax Pino 35J). Like the rest of the series was a fixed focus compact with built in flash. Unlike later models this one had no automated exposure with the basic CdS cell triggering a Low light warning red LED in the viewfinder.
Pentax Pino 35 Specs
- Lens: 38mm 1:3.8
- Focus: Fixed
- Aperture: f/3.8 – f/19
- Shutter: 1/125
- Meter: Low light warning only
- ASA range : 100, 200 & 400 ¹
- EV 100asa : ~10½-#16½
- Batteries : 2xAA
¹ Values settable on camera – can use other speeds
The pino 35 is also perhaps the worst looking of an already particular ugly range of compact but step away from the looks for a mo.
Although the exposure system is basic (fixed shutter speed) and unmetered it does work well due to the highly controllable aperture. When you load the camera you set the ASA which moves aperture range up and down dependant on speed. All you need do is then set either the exposure by the 3 weather icons (Sunny, Mixed and Cloudy) or by distance if using flash. The metering isn’t require to work the camera (just the flash and the warning light) which isn’t surprising as this has a mechanical leaf shutter and the low light warning doesn’t stop you from taking a shot (it just tell you to turn on the flash manually)
This actually works well enough (and with 400asa in low light you can move the ring a few stops beyond cloudy allowing you take full advantage of the f/3.8 lens). However this isn’t a low light shooter without flash with a maximum f/3.8 and 1/125.
However the killer feature is the lens. For such a basic camera Pentax chucked in a coated glass triplet and this makes it much sharper than other fixed focus cameras I’ve used. As with most a sweet spot exists about 3m although the camera can hold it’s own at other distances (recommended range 1.5m to infinity). As ever faster settings/film do better as you can narrow the aperture. I’ve shot comparisons shots against a Goko UF which the Pentax topped out (although the plastic lensed Goko gave it a run for it’s money).
The built in flash needs to be triggered manually by a switch on rear (worryingly just above film compartment door release switch !!). When triggered a clear plastic cube pops up with a LED in it to tell you camera is charged. Push this in to turn off as it will fire even in good light if on. Worth noting you may need to prime the flash if the camera hasn’t been used for a while ( I’d clean contact and leave batteries in for a while with flash turned on, even if flash system seems dead leave half an hour and then remove batteries and try again). The flash is pretty typical but works well enough.
There is no other features except a weird, pointless (no cable point or timer) off centre tripod mount. The viewfinder is simple with no markings and therefore you can end up off centred particularly if close up
This is an ugly but great fixed focus camera with the boon of built in flash and some user control for exposure. It is otherwise limited and has some odd ergonomic but is still a good choice. Worth noting not recognised as Toy class by the the Toy camera group on Flickr because of the lens.
The camera isn’t that common but can be bought for a few quid on eBay (Last one sold on eBay when writing this went for 99 pence !!). If you can get with lens cap great but don’t panic as lens slightly recessed on barrel.
- Goko UF : Rare, surprisingly sharp, plastic lens fixed focus model
- Halina 1000 : Fun 70’s Fixed focus from Haking
- Diana Mini : Scale focus retro-styled plastic ultra compact
- Konica C35EF : The granddaddy of flash compacts
- Pentax Pino 35 page at Camera-wiki.org
- The Lo-Fi camera Club at Flickr
- List of Pentax Film Point & Shoot on same name Blog
- Pentax P&S manuals (inc Pino 35) on Mike Butkus’s site
- Pentax Pino 35 review at Old Cameras Collection Blog