In the next pages you'll find tables about designations and introduction dates of all SLRSLR
Acronym of "Single Lens Reflex". See also "Reflex" cameras made by Asahi Opt. Co., beginning with the original Asahiflex of 1952 up to the latest AF SRL's.
Sometimes Asahi Opt. Co. sold their cameras under different brand names and/or different model designation in different markets. Some models were not available in all markets.
Introduction dates are gathered from either magazines or official press releases. Special thanks to Derek J. White, whose work was the basis for these charts.
Early Asahiflex cameras were only sold in Japan. When they started selling in USA, the main American importer was Sears, Roebuck & Co., which sold Asahiflex cameras and lenses under their brand name Tower. The Asahiflex model IIB was sold with two different Tower designations, according to the standard lens it was equipped with.
The first Asahi pentaprism SLR was called the Pentax, hence the Asahi Pentax lettering appeared for the first time on front pentaprism housing. The then new Pentacon M42x1 screw mount replaced the narrower M37x1 of the Asahiflex. Since the Pentax name was so nice and the camera so successful, the Pentax name was retained on all next models (which gained a model designation of their own) now the original model is also known as the AP.Sears, Roebuck & Co. continued selling Asahi cameras for a while, again under their brand name Tower. Then starting from 1959, the Heiland division of Minneapolis Honeywell became the exclusive distributor of Pentax products for USA. Honeywell also sold Asahi Pentax cameras with model designations different from those sold worldwide.
Since the name Pentax was registered by Pentacon in South Africa, Asahi sold their cameras with either Pentar or Asahiflex trade marks for some time, untill they could use Pentax.
Asahi introduced the famous Pentax K-bayonet in 1975. The Asahi lettering on pentaprism faded away slowly from K-series (where it was written smaller than in screw mount cameras) to M-series (where Asahi was even smaller and no longer black laquered). With the introduction of the ME Super in January 1980, all cameras were just called Pentax.Soon after the introduction of the K-series, Honeywell went out the photographic business. The photographic division of Honeywell (or part of it) was bought by Asahi Opt. Co., thus becoming Pentax Corporation. Camera designations for US market often continued being different from international market for commercial reasons.
Pentax developed the first mass-produced autofocus SLR, the ME-F, four years before the famous Minolta 7000. The ME-F featured a special variation of the K-bayonet, with electrical contacts for data exchange between body and the special lens with built in focusing motor. This same AF concept was then successfully developed by Canon. The second- generation Pentax AF camera, the SFX, was introduced in 1987, and followed the Minolta concept of focusing motor inside the body. A whole new line of AF lenses was developed, called SMC Pentax-F. With the introduction of the Z-series cameras in late 1991, SMC Pentax-FA lenses introduced power zooming and advanced electronics, also featuring the subject distance detection. This same concept of distance measurement was then followed by Nikon, with their D-series lenses. It often happened that Pentax "forgot" to take advantage of its own world's firsts from the commercial point of view, so that other manufacturers arriving years later are capable to get the public merit and turn it into commercial success. The above mentioned episode of the AF is probably the most evident example of that, but unfortunately there are many more.
During the years, Pentax manufactured a wide range of SLR cameras of more film formats than any other manufacturer. Here you'll find those that are not 35mm film.
Starting in 2000, Pentax also manufactured Digital SLR (DSLR) cameras. Here you'll find them.
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