A guide to the Pentax ME Super. Buying and Faults

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The Pentax ME Super


First thing, it's pronounced 'Em Eee' Super. (Some seem to think it's 'Me Super', as in 'I am great')

Secondly, and most importantly.

Do not buy an ME Super without first reading this guide!

Seriously, the ME Super is a very capable camera and nice to use when they work, and I do not want to put you off buying one but... With the exception of overhualed examples they suffer from an age related problem which will almost inevitably cause the camera to jam. Getting this corrected after this has happened can be expensive, and it is worth paying for an overhauled example just to avoid this. 

The basics.

  • The ME super offers automatic aperture priority metering, with amanual speed option and mechanical flash sync.
  • The shutter system gives continuously variable shutter speeds from 4s to 1/2000s.
    Manual selection of speeds gives stepped speeds spaced at the usual intervals, and is completely electronic.
  • The Seiko shutter is a metal bladed vertical run electronically controlled type, with three operating modes. 1. Bulb, 2. Mechanical backup/sync at 1/90s, 3. Electronic control achieved by mens of a magnet release. 
  • The camera accepts all K mount lenses, except for some newer autofocus types. (Also lenses designed for digital bodies may also not have sufficient coverage for a 35mm negative.)
  • Compact lightweight design, with metal chassis and plastic top and bottom covers.

General and historic.


This camera was one of the most popular cameras of it's day certainly the most popular Pentax of the time offering fully automatic exposure in aperture priority mode, with a manual shutter speed option, exposure compensation, and data back. A dedicated flash, and auto-winder were also available.

It was first introduced in 1979, and was the first camera ever to use push-button manual speed selection, and was essentially an upgraded version of the ME released in 1976. So these cameras are almost as old as the K1000!

In use it is extremely simple. In automatic mode, point the camera, focus and shoot. In manual mode, the camera indicates the speed it thinks is best, and you can adjust the speed by means of two buttons located on top of the camera. 

The cameras selected shutter speed is displayed in the viewfinder, so if you don't like it, just turn the aperture ring. Alternately choose an aperture, and ignore the selected speed.

The selected speed is displayed on the left of the viewfinder as a series of small LED's, arranged in ascending order. You don't have to read off the speed, a quick glance is enough to see roughly what speed has been selected. Speeds of 1/30 or below are indicated in yellow, and an overexposure led in red indicates a speed over 1/2000s. The other speed indicators are green. Another red LED indicates that you have selected exposure compensation, so you don't forget!

If the display starts to flash, it's time to change batteries. These should be two 375 size silver oxide types, but a single 3v alkaline type can be used instead, but this will not last as long. The silver oxide types normally last a long time, but long shutter speeds drain them quicker as the shutter works by energizing an electromagnet to delay the closing of the shutter. So if you do a lot of long exposures don't expect the batteries to last as long!

For difficult subjects,  in automatic mode, two stops exposure compensation is achieved by adjusting the film speed dial, which is big enough to move with the left thumb, (provided it's properly lubricated!) and provided with click-action settings to make this easy!  (A led flashes in the viewfinder to remind you of this!). You can switch to manual mode for more difficult stuff or special effects.

It's quite light and compact, you can easily carry one around in the pocket of a pair of army surplus combat trousers if you want!

Things to watch for.

All of these cameras are getting quite old, and suffer from age related problems. These have very little to do with how well the camera has been stored, or looked after. Even unused examples in mint cosmetic condition will (And I mean will!) suffer from these aging problems.

These include perished light-seals which (also damages the paintwork) and shutter/winder problems.

The only way to be sure of avoiding these problems is to buy an overhauled example which will have these problems corrected, and parts replaced with newer materials which will last much longer. 

I have a guide entitled "Buying and Selling older Pentax 35mm SLR's" which covers these in more detail, and this is just a brief overview.

  • Door seals perished. Check these with a bit of cocktail stick, if perished these will be reduced to a black tarry substance.
  • Missing door seals. This often occurs as the result of removal of perished seals.
  • Check the paintwork for corrosion at the edges of the film door. This also indicates corrosion.
  • The foam piece thet the mirror lands on is also likely to be gooey, or missing.
     

The above can be relatively easily fixed and kits are available for this, but these symptoms indicate that internal components will also have decayed, and the resulting muck can play merry heck with the works.

Please be aware that abscence of these problems does not nececarily indicate that the camera is good. But is it does show these it will definitely need overhauled. Inexperienced sellers (and owners!) are often unaware or the problem and often only deal with the external seals, but without being dealt with the internal parts will cause the camera to jam. This is practically inevitable! 

Whatever you do, don't try to force a jammed camera. This will break bits inside that are hard to replace. (I know, I have been asked to repair plenty like that. You need to buy another broken camera to get the parts!)

This damage will be generally indicated by a floppy film advance lever. Cameras like this are best treated as scrap!

Checking for shutter faults.


Also shutter problems may occur. This is simply due to the springs which drive the shutter becoming weakened by age. This will be most obvious at 1/2000s as the two curtains will move at different speeds, and exposure will be uneven.

To check for this remove the lens and unclip the back, and turn on your TV. You will need bright screen on the TV, so you may need to find a programmed with lots of daytime or studio scenes. Take out the batteries, and select 'auto', or manually select 1/2000's. Fire the shutter while viewing the TV through it. You will have to do this several times.

You should see a thin bright line running diagonally accross the shutter space. It may be slightly curved but that's ok. The main thing you are looking for is to see that the line is the same width from top to bottom. If it is not, or the line does not reach the bottom, or the top, then you have a problem.

This can be rectified, but be aware that the official service manual states that the shutter is not adjustable, and that it should be replaced. In fact in most cases it can be adjusted, but it's not at all easy! This means that many camera repairers won't tackle this job, or will charge a huge amount.

This is not helped by the fact that new replacement shutters are about as as common as a sabre tooh sheep. A donor camera is the only option if the shutter is beyond help.

Other faults

  • Worn mode selector detent. The top cover is plastic. This means that the click action spring mechanism can wear away the plastic where it contacts it. This is common with dirty cameras. It ranges from completely useless, to mild irritation.
  • Running LED's. Sometimes a short in the electronics means that the shutter speed selection continually scrolls, often when pressure is put on the top cover. This can be fixed, but may need special tools.
  • Won't turn off. The odd one or two refuse to switch off. To fix this means replacing the electronics completely. There are lots of broken cameras with working electronics to use as donors.
  • Bent or broken aperture coupling. This can be caused by using badly fitting lenses. If only slightly bent they can be straightend but doing this too much will cause metal fatigue which will lead to breakage. If broken the only option is to replace the coupling ring. This is expensive. If you have a lens which tends to cause problems with this coupling, stop using it immediately.
  • Jammed. Also repairable but can be expensive. Also virtually inevitable for untreated cameras! Buy only cameras which have been overhauled. It's cheaper to pay £70-£80 for an overhauled body than to get this repaired! 

 

That's about it.

If you do have a camera which has any of these problems you can contact me via, My eBay Shop, and I'll be happy to advise. I can repair and overhaul these cameras. (Subject to availablitiy of parts.) Also check my about me page where you will find a link to my do-it-yourself camera servicing guide which covers (among others) the ME Super.

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