The past few months I’ve been on a “reacquire past film cameras” kick. It first started with a Pentax IQZoom 150SL, basically the sister camera to a Pentax IQZoom 170SL I had last year. Then I found a Minolta Freedom Zoom 160 which I liked a bit better than the 150SL. The two cameras were too similar that I didn’t want to keep both, so the IQZoom went.
Of course after I got rid of the Pentax, I missed it a little. Well, maybe not that exact camera, but the IQZoom series, or “Espio” as its known overseas. They were good little cameras. Then someone on flickr started commenting on a photo taken with my Pentax IQZoom 928, a camera introduced in 1994. The conversation made me think of that particular camera again. At the end of my ownership I sort of dismissed it, but thinking back it was a nice, capable machine. Again I go to eBay, and thankfully these cameras still can be found for cheap. I made an offer on one, and a couple weeks ago I got my hands on another.
There seem to be a lot of different IQZoom/Espio cameras made from the late 80s to early 00s. (According to this wiki, about 60 different models.) Many of them are good, some not so. What makes the IQZoom 928 unique/special that I’d want to get it again?
Well, first off, the lens. The “zoom” maxxes at 90mm, nothing super, but still respectable. But on the other side we get a 28mm focal length, which is truly wide-angle. And while none of these superzoom cameras from the 90s would be considered fast lenses, it opens up to f/3.5, pretty respectable (and the same maximum aperture as my Olympus XA2.) So it’s a more capable natural-light machine than many of its brethren, though it still will flash more than you want, and stopped down it goes to only f/9.
Then there are the features. Oh, the features:
- It’s got several flash modes, which is pretty common for these kinds of cameras. Yes, you can turn the flash off, though it defaults to “auto” (also standard).
- A “landscape” shooting mode, where the camera focuses from about 10 feet (2.9m) to infinity and flash is disabled
- “Snapshot” mode, which works like landscape mode, except that the lens is locked in at 28mm. In this mode one can take pictures in rapid succession since flash and autofocus are disabled.
- Spot autofocus
- Red-eye reduction
The features above are pretty common for these kinds of cameras. But here’s the added ones that make the IQZoom 928 stand out:
- Double exposure! Maybe not the most useful function, but fun. Want to do a self-portrait double-exposure? You can take the selfie on the second shot (self-timer function uses the same button as the double, but once the first photo has been shot you can switch modes.)
- Exposure compensation! The IQZoom 928 can under- or over-expose up to three stops, done in half-stop increments. Once it’s in the compensation mode, it stays in it until either you switch it off, or the roll has been fully exposed and rewound. So you have to be careful if you are just adjusting exposure with one stop. But since the compensation can stay set for the full roll of film, you can basically override the DX coding of the film. This can be useful if you want to push/pull film or shoot expired film.
- Remote shutter operation. The not-included Pentax remote can trigger the shutter for self-portraits, and also zoom the lens. I don’t think the “zoom with remote” is that useful, since you can’t look through the viewfinder at the same time. But it is helpful for finding the 50mm focal length, as remote zoom goes from 28mm to 90mm, then back to 50 and 28. The remote can be conveniently attached to the wrist strap.
- Bulb mode! The shutter can stay open for up to five minutes for long-exposure shots. It’s a bit tricky, as you’ll need the remote to really pull it off, and your finger must be on the remote button and held just so and aimed at the sensor in the front of the camera. I really wish they also put a remote sensor in the rear or a way to “lock” open the shutter or set a shutter time. But it’s better than nothing!
The Pentax IQZoom 928 is not the most handsome camera, a victim of 90s “blobby” design. Nor is it the most compact, the later IQZoom 150SL/170SL are slimmer and smaller. It doesn’t have the sharpest lens but it’s still plenty competent. And the battery life can be considered “ok”. But it is a damn fun camera to use. Some of the added functions seem a bit superfluous but can be handy when one wants to be creative. This was probably the height of “lots of functions” on compact superzoom cameras, the cameras that came later focused on having longer zooms with less features. (The IQZoom 928M came a few years later, featuring the same 28-90mm focal length but with a slower lens and more basic features.)
I’m thinking I’ll be holding onto this camera for a bit. It’s convenient for things like bike tours (I brought it with me on my Willamette Valley Tour) and if it breaks, I don’t sweat it that much.
For photos from the Pentax IQZoom (Espio) 928, see the dynamic flickr album below. Or click here.