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PENTAX Milestones

Trying to spot the most important milestones in the post-war development of the 35mm SLR, you'll see that five out of ten have been set by Pentax (instant-return mirror, spot metering, TTL metering, aperture priority auto exposure, autofocus), while the remaining five are shared between five different manufacturers (either Pentacon or Rectaflex for pentaprism viewfinder, Topcon for full-aperture TTL metering, Konica for mass-produced shutter priority auto exposure, Olympus for TTL flash and Nikon for multi-pattern metering).

Of course there were also many other improvements, and many of them are due to Pentax again. Maybe somebody could claim different innovations as being more important than the above mentioned ones. I feel not too far from being correct when listing the above improvements as the 10 most important; anyway this is matter of opinion, and discussion could be endless. Nevertheless, should you replace some "top milestones" with different ones at your leisure, you see that conclusion remains substantially unchanged: no other manufacturer can even approach Pentax as the leader in the development of the modern SLR concept.

This can probably disappoint many fans of other titled camera makers, but I can point out here some good reasons for that:

  1. When Asahi started developing the 35mm SLR concept from the awkward and specialized stuff of the early days to the modern action camera, all of the other major manufacturers were still relying on vintage rangefinder and TLR cameras, whose limits were impossible to overcome. The resulting gap required many years to be filled by competitors.
  2. From 1951 to 1983 Asahi Opt. Co. Ltd. manufactured only SLR cameras, from 110 to 6x7 formats, concentrating all of their research on the step-to-step development of the SLR concept. This also resulted in better feeling with SLR users and more effective innovations. Pentax marketing was also only focused to SLR users, and that helped a lot giving Pentax the role of SLR leader. In the late Sixties / mid-Seventies, Pentax manufactured more SLR's per month that Canon and Nikon together, thus making well visible how much successfull they were at the time.

You will notice that some milestones in SLR history are also listed in the Masterpieces page.


List of Pentax Milestones

Click on thumbnails on left to enlarge images

1951 - Asahiflex I
First Japanese 35mm SLR (prototype).
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1952 - Asahiflex I
First Japanese 35mm SLR (mass production).
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1954 - Asahiflex IIB
World's first successful instant-return mirror.
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1957 - Asahi Pentax (AP)
World's first 35mm SLR  with right-hand rapid-wind lever. World's first 35mm SLR with microprisms on focusing screen. First Japanese SLR with fixed pentaprism. First pentaprism SLR from Asahi Opt. Co. and first example of stylish and rational design in a pentaprism SLR. This SLR set industry standard about styling and controls layout, then copied by Japanese and German industry.
photo courtesy Boris Jamchtchik
spot01t.jpg (6664 byte)
1960 - Spot-Matic (prototype)
World's first SLR featuring TTL metering. World's first SLR featuring spot metering.
spmet01t.jpg (10144 byte)
1961 - Spot Exposure Meter (3/21)
World's first handheld spot exposure meter. A derivative of the Spot-Matic technology.
sp01t.jpg (7567 byte)
1964 - Spotmatic
The most successful and copied SLR camera of the Sixties. This SLR set industry standard, copied by Japanese and German photographic industry.
metii_01t.jpg (6168 byte)
1966 - Metalica II (prototype)
World's first aperture priority automatic exposure, TTL metering SLR. Bayonet mount and electronic shutter.
1966 - Memorica (prototype)
World's first TTL shutter priority automatic exposure SLR. Bayonet mount and electronic shutter.

6x7_01t.jpg (7377 byte)

1969 - Asahi Pentax 6x7
World's first SLR of 6x7 format. Asahi's first mass-produced camera featuring bayonet mount and electronic shutter.

smc01t.jpg (8292 byte)

1971 - Super-Multi-Coating
World's first multi-layer anti-reflective coating on consumer lenses. This patented technology made possible high-quality wide-range zoom lenses.
All competitors owe Asahi Opt. Co. this technological breakthrough.

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1971 - Honeywell Spotmatic IIa
World's first integrated coupling between camera meter and dedicated flash units. An important step toward modern TTL flash control.

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1971 - Electro Spotmatic
World's first mass -produced aperture priority automatic exposure SLR. Another industry standard, soon or later copied by all competitors.

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1975 - SMC Takumar f/3.5 15mm ultra-wide angle lens
World's first rectilinear ultra-wide angle lens (one aspherical element). Another myth, which all other competitor lenses have to be compared to.

mx01t.jpg (11253 byte)

1976 - MX
World's most compact professional SLR camera and system. First GPD meter cells. Another excellent example of Pentax styling, easy operation, no-nonsense camera.
me1t.jpg (11421 byte)
1976 - ME
World's first auto-only SLR. World's most compact amateur SLR camera. First GPD meter cells.
a110_01t.jpg (6607 byte)
1979 - Auto 110
World's first and only SLR system of 110 format, featuring interchangeable lenses (including zoom), winder, flash units, various accessories.
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1980 - LX
World's first modular SLR with special sealing and gaskets to prevent dust and moisture entering the body. Exposure meter still unequalled today at low light levels.
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1981 - ME-F
World's first mass-produced Autofocus SLR system. Introduced four years before the widely acclaimed Minolta 7000.
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1981 - 10 Million SLR's
Asahi Opt. Co. was the first manufacturer to produce 10 million SLR cameras.
645_01t.jpg (9998 byte)
1984 - 645
World's first multi-mode medium format SLR.
p30_01t.jpg (8983 byte)
1985 - P30
World's first SLR featuring DX coding contacts. It marked the return of the no-nonsense concept in modern SLR design.
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1986 - Zoom 70
World's first zoom compact. European Compact Camera of the Year.
sfx_01t.jpg (10503 byte)
1987 - SFX
World's first AF SLR with built-in flash and IR beam for auto focusing in dim light and darkness. The most complete and fast focusing AF SLR of its era.
fa8020028_01t.jpg (4620 byte)
1991 - FA-series lenses
World's first lenses featuring power-zoom and focusing distance measurement.
Introduced years before the widely acclaimed Nikon D-series.
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1992 - Ghostless Coating
World's first and unique anti-reflective coating allowing no flare at all in daylight and negligible flare in nighttime shots with direct light entering the lens. It is employed on some critical elements in FA* and Limited series lenses.
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1993 - Z-20p
World's first SLR featuring "Panorama" format. Special version for the Japanese home market of the world model Z-20.
mz5_01t.jpg (9526 byte)
1995 - MZ-5
World's smallest AF SLR. World's first AF SLR with retro stylish design and user-friendly controls. An excellent combination of high-tech and easy operation. Pentax set a new trend again. Double-awarded European Camera of the Year.
645n_01t.jpg (8965 byte)
1997 - 645N
World's first AF medium format SLR. Advanced 35mm style features, operation and user-friendly controls brought to the medium format. Camera Grand Prix 1998.

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Page updated 21st Jan. 2001