Pentax ES II

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Pentax ES II

Pentax ES II current value
Pentax ES II user manual

In the early 1970s the (Japanese) camera industry came to a level field, where save for the name most cameras offered similar specs. Some manufacturers such as Petri, Miranda, Topcon, and so just gave up, will not know if it was quality or marketing. Others were looking for the next big thing, with the stepless shutter speed high on the list. Other than in theory, there was no real need for that. It brings to mind the continuous gearbox, painted as a cheaper alternative to automatic till it was shelved for improvements. I had a car with this gearbox; the only good thing I can think of is that when I switched off the engine, the gearbox stopped screeching.

The continuous / stepless shutter speed was tried by several camera makers; Yashica and Minolta come to mind. Needless to say that such an option requires a live set of batteries, so there was always a fallback option of manual shooting.

Both the ES and the ES II are Pentax’s take on this technology. The name origin has two versions, ‘Electro Spotmatic’ or ‘Electronic Shutter’. Both make sense.

The Spotmatic, on the many variants, was growing long in the tooth. So I assume that Pentax elected to introduce another moniker. All that while, they kept selling the Spotmatics alongside the ES under Honeywell. Here were the last 42mm thread lenses, where the K mount took over with the K, L, and M camera series.

The ES II brought new features, some meaningful, others less so. It has an aperture-priority automatic exposure or fully manual, all controlled via the shutter speed selector ring.  TTL meter with an in-the-viewer scale and needle, too busy to my taste. Other improvements were the continuous, electronically controlled shutter, still cloth. A depth of field preview is activated by a left side-mounted lever; Over/under exposure options were in line with the mid-1970’s camera offerings.

Speeds are in two sets, 8 seconds to 1000 with the auto mode and a  scant selection of B, 60, 125, 250, 500, and 1000 with the manual mode. This brings up a question: What is the importance of continuous speeds if one could do with five speeds?

Minor quirks worth mentioning:

  • A red dot by the shutter release indicates that it is cocked.
  • A tiny battery check button by the rewind assembly pops up the meter needle.
  • An available mirror lock can block the viewer so no light will go through the viewer while the eye is away from the viewer. This is activated by turning the speed dial towards a rectangle icon.
  • LR44 batteries, four of them, are hidden under the lens barrel.
  • The self-timer has a hidden activation lever rather than using the shutter trigger for that.
  • Black finish as standard, chrome as an option.
  • On the lens that came with my camera, a lever selecting between ‘auto’ or ‘manual’ is set on ‘auto’ and cannot change to ‘manual’. After digging into the uer manual, I learned that this is used for the depth of field preview and should be set on ‘auto’ – page 17 in the manual. A tiny pin at the lens’ base prevents it from being set on ‘manual’. When using the same lens on other bodies, it drops happily into the ‘manual’ position. There is a thread that deals with that or see note on the Pentax K page.


List number 2423
Brand Pentax
Format 35mm
Model ES II
Introduced 1973
Qty made
Country Japan
Type Compact SLR
Body material Metal
Mode Auto / manual
Weight 680 gr,  Body only
Class average weight 620 gr,  Body only
ASA range 20-3200
Kit lens 1,8/55
Lens make Super Takumar
Filter size 49 mm
Lens mount Thread
Mount size 42mm
shutter Focal plane cloth horizontal
Light meter TTL, lever activated
Winder Lever
Lock Yes
Speeds Auto 8 – /1000, manual B – 1000
DOF preview Yes
Exposure lock Yes
Exposure compensation Yes
Shoe Hot
External sync X/F
Sync speed 60
Timer Yes
Battery 4 ea LR44
Battery style Button
Battery voltage 6
Integral flash None
Other Power drive option. Continuous shutter speeds.

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