Goodbye, Pentax IQZoom 170SL

From the The Dalles Ramble, Leap Day 2020. It’s one of my favorite shots of the year, and it was shot on the Pentax IQZoom 170SL. (Espio 170SL)

Another camera departs the flock. This time it was my Pentax IQZoom 170SL, known as the Espio 170SL outside of North America. I got this camera way back in the pre-history of February when I decided I should get a compact camera to augment the bulky Minolta Hi-Matic 7s rangefinder. I used it a bunch in the intervening months. It was nice to have a dorky late-film era zoom compact. I ended up liking it, despite the low esteem held for most of these super-zoom cameras.

Then on a lark I got the Pentax IQZoom 928. It has a faster and wider lens than the 170SL, plus it has more features, like exposure compensation and double exposure. I figured I’d keep the 170SL since it was more compact than the 928, and had the longer zoom. But if I don’t care about zoom, my Olympus XA2 is even smaller (by a hair) than the 170SL and takes as good, if not better, pics.

When I headed out to Ainsworth on my bike overnight a few weeks ago, I decided to bring the 170SL as the color camera (black and white duty would be handled by my Ricoh 35 ZF). While I could have brought the XA2, I decided I wanted something with zoom, and the 170SL fit easily into a pocket on my handlebar bag. I think I used the zoom a couple times, which meant that I could have “gotten away” with the XA2. And there were a couple times I wish I had the wider lens of the 928 instead of the longer zoom of the 170SL.

Full moon rise at Mount Tabor Park, 9 March 2020.

If anything, the 38-170 mm zoom on the 170SL is too big and too small at the same time. The 28-90 mm zoom on the 928 is “just right”–a super wide setting, a middle ground (50 mm) and all the zoom (90 mm) for bringing in distant objects or use as a portrait lens. I was finding that for the most part the full extension of the 170 mm lens was more than I needed for usual circumstances. And when I really wanted a zoom for taking a photo of the moon, it was just not enough. See the photo above. That’s as good as I’ll get with this camera. While you definitely can see detail, I realize that if I want to do it right, I need to get an SLR with a telephoto lens.

So the Pentax IQZoom 170SL has found itself a new home: Eric down by Sacramento took it off my hands. Hope he has fun with it. Despite what I said above, it’s still a great little camera that takes good pictures. So if you are looking for a nice compact zoom, you could do worse. Jim Grey has a lot of good things to say about it. And those Pentax compacts still seem to be relatively inexpensive, compared to the other brands. If I didn’t grab the 928, I’d still be keeping it. But I don’t need a lot of cameras, I’ll be fine with the ones I still have.

Journal Comic, 25 Feb 2020. Anticipation.

4 thoughts on “Goodbye, Pentax IQZoom 170SL

Add yours

  1. I’ve often thought about picking up a compact film camera. I do most of my shooting on a massive EOS-1 with an EF 50mm F1.4 hanging off the front end. I’ll be the first to admit that a light camera it is not.

    I briefly had a Russian Fed 2 range finder that I really enjoyed but the lack of a light meter meant I had to guess the exposure going off sunny 16. I used to be pretty good at that, but quality light meters have made me lazy.

    Compact cameras of quality also seem to be all the rage these days selling for far more than I can justify. But maybe I’ll look for a Pentax IQZoom.

    Looking forward to your next post!

    1. Hey Tobias-
      Thank you for your kind words!

      A compact can be useful. The prices are going up, but there still are deals out there. The Pentax IQZoom/Espio range seems to still be decently priced. The super-zooms of the late film era (90’s to the mid-aughts) don’t seem to be as desirable as the higher-end, non-zoom bretheren.

      There is also the option of a nice small rangefinder or viewfinder/scale-focus camera from the 70’s to early 80’s. Many of them are not cheap anymore, but sometimes you can find a deal!

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