The Pentax 17 Is The First Wholly New, Unique Film Camera In 2 Decades


If there’s one sure sign that film photography isn’t dead, it’s the release of new cameras for the job. The Pentax 17 offers plenty for exactly that.

This brand-new camera was recently rumored to be coming and now it’s really here.

This is a unique camera for several reasons but one of them is the simple fact that it’s the first completely new film shooter to be released by a major brand in almost two decades.

Sure, Leica, the iconic maker of so many famous cameras, did re-release the M6 film camera in 2022, but that was a rehash of an existing model. The Pentax 17 is entirely new, and unique too.

To even build the Pentax 17, the people at Pentax had to start from scratch. The brand itself has hardly been prolific in releasing new cameras of any kind and its last camera release was years ago, for a digital model.

Thus, to develop the Pentax 17, the engineers at Pentax had to rehire retired film camera designers for consultation and source machines and facilities for mass production of parts that basically aren’t being manufactured anymore.

As Pentax itself states, “Borne out of the Pentax Film Camera Project, a concept first announced in December of 2022, the new camera resulted from a close collaboration between Ricoh Imaging and Pentax experts and younger engineers,”

The company also adds,

“The experts shared their vast knowledge and decades of experience in film and imaging technology with the current team members to design a film camera that would allow photographers to express their originality and creativity by leaving some room for manual operation, rather than making it a fully automatic camera.”

With its release, Ricoh Pentax is offering a device that allows you to take half-frame still photos to 35mm film with vertical orientation through the Pentax 17’s fixed 25mm f3.5 lens, which offers a 37mm equivalent.

According to the company, the vertical format of the dual exposure design lets the camera create images similar to those shot with smartphones.

This half-frame design in the camera is also useful in letting photographers, used to near limitless shooting via digital media, save some money with the switch to film by capturing twice as many photos per 35mm roll.

A Pentax camera features a roll of Ilford Delta 100 Professional black and white film inserted in the back.A Pentax camera features a roll of Ilford Delta 100 Professional black and white film inserted in the back.

Each of the camera’s half-frame exposures is sized at 17 x 24mm on the film negative, from a single 35mm frame’s normal 36 x 24mm dimensions.

Two crucial aspects of the Pentax 17’s design and build are that it’s easy to use for a film camera and that it’s at the core of a whole, active production ecosystem for the device.

For the first of these, what we’re talking about is a camera that Pentax designed to be easy for quick photography due to plenty of automatic features for younger users who don’t have experience with film cameras.

One part of the automation is a zone-focus system that divides a composition into six focus zones that users can select from a ring around the camera’s fixed lens.

Depending on which zone is selected and the lens focus, the Pentax 17 can focus in on subjects as close as 25 centimeters or as far away as infinity.

Top view of a Pentax film camera showing various controls including ISO settings, a shutter speed dial, and an auto exposure mode dial.Top view of a Pentax film camera showing various controls including ISO settings, a shutter speed dial, and an auto exposure mode dial.

Inside the viewfinder, there’s also an Albada-type frame finder that simplifies photo composition by letting a photographer easily frame a scene, compose a close-up, or clearly see which focus zone option from the lens they’re using, all while looking through the viewfinder.

The other crucial aspect of the Pentax 17’s attractiveness to film photographers is that it’s a new, serious film camera from a major and experienced brand.

Thus, if you’re asking yourself why you should buy it when so many older but perfectly functional secondhand film cameras are available, the simplest reason is that the Pentax 17 comes with a 1-year warranty (with an optional extension to 2 years, at least on the U.S. market.)

It also includes modern design features and an easy source for new replacement parts right from the manufacturer.

As for the camera’s lens, it’s based on the 1994 design of the Pentax Espio Mini camera and contains three elements in three groups. It also has a 40.5mm filter mounting.

Inside it is also a leaf shutter with a speed range of 1/350 to 4 seconds and the lens contains a circular aperture of between f3.5 and f16. Pentax has also given the lens shutter a bulb mode for long exposures.

Externally, the Pentax 17 is built from magnesium alloy and has a CR2 lithium battery for powering the flash, light meter and viewfinder indicators.

It also has a manual film winding mechanism, a manual film advance lever and sensitivity adjustments for exposure and ISO sensitivity. Each of these has its own dial.

Pentax has also explained that its new film camera supports a range of ISO film speeds. These include 50, 100, 125, 160, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and even 3200.

In case you’ve never before used film photography, remember that in these old-fashioned cameras, ISO sensitivity depends on the film type, and not so much the camera itself.

Worth noting as well, is that the quality of the shots it takes is quite nice, even by film standards. Here are some examples, courtesy of Pentax:

Two images of waterfalls surrounded by rocks and greenery. Left image has a small cascade, and the right image shows a larger waterfall with a more powerful flow.Two images of waterfalls surrounded by rocks and greenery. Left image has a small cascade, and the right image shows a larger waterfall with a more powerful flow. Left side: A person sitting on a bench looking at a body of water. Right side: A person walking up stairs casting a shadow under a metal handrail.Left side: A person sitting on a bench looking at a body of water. Right side: A person walking up stairs casting a shadow under a metal handrail. A black-and-white diptych: the left image shows a dimly lit, empty outdoor eating area; the right image shows a person lying face down on the ground in front of a structure resembling a door.A black-and-white diptych: the left image shows a dimly lit, empty outdoor eating area; the right image shows a person lying face down on the ground in front of a structure resembling a door. A scenic view of a forested landscape with a lake in the middle ground, surrounded by mountain ranges with snow-capped peaks under a partly cloudy sky.A scenic view of a forested landscape with a lake in the middle ground, surrounded by mountain ranges with snow-capped peaks under a partly cloudy sky.

Going back to the automated settings that this camera has for easier film photography, Pentax explains that the camera delivers automated exposure settings.

This is for making sure that photos get exposed correctly as much as possible. In fact, it doesn’t even have a manual exposure mode in it.

The company specifically elaborates,

“The Pentax 17 automatically adjusts exposure settings based on the lighting data collected by its metering sensor. In addition to the Full Auto mode in which all exposure settings are selected by the camera, it provides six other shooting modes, including Slow-speed sync, which is highly useful in twilight photography; and Bulb, a slow-shutter speed mode that comes in handy for photographing nightscapes and fireworks. The Pentax 17 also features an independent exposure compensation dial, which allows the user to swiftly shift the exposure level to accommodate different types of subjects or express the user’s creative intentions.”

With all of the above the Pentax 17 is quite compact, weighing just 290 grams or 10.2 ounces without its battery or film inside it.

Ricoh Pentax is making the Pentax 17 available as of late June for $499.95.

If this seems a bit steep, remember that it’s for a wholly new film camera backed by an active brand, a warranty and spare parts and accessories sourcing.



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