The Pentax 17 is a New Half-Frame Film Camera Two Years in the Making

A vintage Pentax 17 camera sits on a rock with a waterfall and lush greenery in the background. The camera is positioned slightly to the right, highlighting its lens and intricate design amidst the natural setting.

The brand-new film camera from Pentax that has been in development since 2022 is finally here. Called the Pentax 17 and teased last month, it is a half-frame, vertically oriented, fixed-lens camera that captures two 17mm x 24mm pictures within a single 35mm-format frame.

The Pentax 17 is the first brand new 35mm film camera designed by a major manufacturer in the last 19 years (excluding the re-release of the Leica M6 since it wasn’t a new design, instant film cameras, and pinhole cameras). The last major camera maker to release a new film camera was Canon with the Sure Shot 130u II in 2005, and before that, Nikon last released a film camera with the F6 back in 2004 — final production of the camera ceased in 2020. It could be argued that the Film Never Die Nana was a new design, but that was heavily based on the Contax T2, so that line is a bit murky. Multiple companies have released cheap, reusable film cameras that mimic classic disposables, too, but they all share basically the same underlying design and feature set. Whatever the case, it’s been a very long time since there has been mass production of a wholly new, manual winding, 35mm film camera like the Pentax 17.

It had been so long since anyone at Pentax had attempted to build a new film camera from scratch that the company’s engineers called back retired camera designers to consult on the design and had to spin up manufacturing for parts that have long since been out of production.

A retro-style Pentax 17 camera with a black and silver body. The camera has a large central lens labeled "HD Pentax Lens HF 1:3.5 25mm Traditional" and several control dials and buttons on the top. The front features textured grip areas and a built-in flash.

“Borne out of the Pentax Film Camera Project, a concept first announced in December of 2022, the new camera resulted from a close collaboration between Ricoh Imaging and Pentax experts and younger engineers,” Pentax says. “The experts shared their vast knowledge and decades of experience in film and imaging technology with the current team members to design a film camera that would allow photographers to express their originality and creativity by leaving some room for manual operation, rather than making it a fully automatic camera.”

Pentax saw the rising popularity of analog photography but also balanced that against the rising costs of film, which is why the company chose a half-frame design for its first new film camera. With this design, photographers can get double the photos for the price of one roll.

A top-down view of a Pentax film camera featuring various dials, a shutter button, and an ISO setting range from 50 to 3200. The camera body is silver with black accents, and the branding "Pentax" is prominently displayed in the center.

The Pentax 17 is heavily inspired by the company’s heritage and incorporates multiple pieces based on products from its history. The flash and shutter buttons are based on the Pentax KP, the front texture is based on the DA WR lenses, and the film advance lever is the same one used on the Auto 110. The lens design is based on the Espio Mini (a triplet lens), the film focal plane is made similarly to the K-40, and the color of the Pentax 17 body is from the LX Titan 75-year special edition. The film rewind arrows are from the Pentax Spotomatic, the film rewind assembly is new but mechanically identically to the Pentax LX, and the font for “17” is the same as the one used on the Pentax 67.

The Pentax 17 Combines Manual Operation with Ease of Use

Pentax wanted to mix the desire for a film camera with one that made it easy to take photos since fully manual film cameras can be daunting for those without experience. It uses a zone-focus system divided into six focus zones that can be selected from a ring around the lens. Depending on the selected zone, the Pentax 17 can capture subjects in focus from as close as 25 centimeters in the macro zone to as far away as infinite focus. The viewfinder uses an Albada-type frame finder to make it easier to frame a scene, compose close-up images, and provides visibility to the current focus zone, so photographers don’t need to pull the camera away from their eye and look at the lens to see which zone they’re in.

Speaking of the lens, Pentax chose a newly-developed 25mm f/3.5, which is equivalent to a 37mm lens on the 35mm format (since it is a half-frame camera). As mentioned, it’s based on the one found in the Espio Mini from 1994 but was redesigned to support the half-frame format. Pentax says that it has been treated with High Definition coatings to optimize clarity and sharpness and, as a nod to the company’s history in optics, Pentax engineers based the design on the Ricoh Auto Half from 1962 (since Pentax has never before made a half-frame camera), incorporating the angle of view and focal length.

A silver and black Pentax 17 camera with a 12.5mm f/3.5 lens is shown against a white background. The camera has a textured grip, multiple control dials on the top, a viewfinder, and a flash on the front right section above the lens.

The body features a manual film winding mechanism, a manual film advance lever, and exposure compensation and ISO sensitivity adjustments, each with its own dials. Pentax also focused on providing a camera body that uses high-quality materials: the top and bottom covers are made of solid magnesium alloy. Despite this, it weighs 290 grams (10.2 ounces) without a battery or film loaded.

The 40.5mm filter mounting thread allows photographers to use a range of filters, too.

A vintage Pentax film camera with a roll of Ilford Delta 100 Professional black and white film loaded. The camera has a textured black grip and metallic upper body, with various buttons and dials visible on top.

Pentax notes the camera supports a wide range of ISO film speeds (50, 100, 125, 160, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and 3200) and features a classic note holder on the back cover where the end of the film package can be inserted to remind a photographer which stock is currently in the camera. Three strap lugs allow horizontal and vertical suspension, and the Pentax 17 is also compatible with the optional CS-205 Cable Switch for use in long-exposure photography in Bulb mode.

An open film camera showing the interior with slots for film canisters and spools. The camera is labeled "Pentax" above the viewfinder. The back door is fully open, exposing the inner mechanisms and components. The camera exterior is a mix of silver and black.

The camera relies heavily on auto exposure settings to ensure that photos are exposed correctly. There is no fully manual mode, for example, as Pentax’s goal was to appeal to photographers who are interested in film photography but don’t want to worry about wasted rolls during what can be a steep learning curve.

“The Pentax 17 automatically adjusts exposure settings based on the lighting data collected by its metering sensor,” Pentax explains. “In addition to the Full Auto mode in which all exposure settings are selected by the camera, it provides six other shooting modes, including Slow-speed sync, which is highly useful in twilight photography; and Bulb, a slow-shutter speed mode that comes in handy for photographing nightscapes and fireworks. The Pentax 17 also features an independent exposure compensation dial, which allows the user to swiftly shift the exposure level to accommodate different types of subjects or express the user’s creative intentions.”

Front view of a Pentax camera with a 25mm f/3.5 lens. The camera features a silver top, black textured body, and various control dials and buttons. "Pentax" and "17" are labeled at the top, along with the lens specifications around the lens barrel.

As a mostly automatic camera, the control that a photographer has over it is unique, especially compared to expectations set by modern digital cameras. Its aperture will adjust between f/3.5 and f/16, its minimum shutter speed is four seconds while it can fire as fast as 1/350 second. Despite having a leaf shutter, its flash sync speed is locked to 1/125. Some settings will force the camera to lock aperture at f/3.5 and bulb mode allows photographers to control the shutter speed manually (with that locked aperture), but most of the time, the camera is making decisions based on how far away a subject is and its light meter readings. The benefit here is that it is difficult to mess up an exposure, but it is simultaneously hard to give the camera specific instructions.

The Pentax 17 also has a built-in flash that can be programmed to automatically fire when needed, fire on command, or never fire, depending on a photographer’s needs. Below are a series of sample photos captured with the Pentax 17, provided courtesy of Pentax:

A red and white streetcar moves along tracks on a city street corner, with modern and older-style buildings in the background. A van is parked on the side of the street. Reflections of buildings are visible on the streetcar windows.

A red electric scooter is parked on a cobblestone street, positioned against a backdrop of red brick buildings. To the right, a store window displays a yellow sign advertising a 70% off sale. The area is brightly lit by the sun.

A street view of a historic beige stone building with tall, arched windows. The building has a sign reading "JAZZ" above the entrance. The architectural style features a mix of stone and brick materials with ornamental details. Shadows fall across the sidewalk.

A person sits alone on a wooden bench, facing a body of water with many boats anchored in the distance. The sky is clear and blue, stretching over the calm water and extending to the horizon. Two piers frame the scene on either side.

A motion blur photograph of a modern light rail tram with red and white colors moving along a city street. The background features tall buildings with illuminated windows, reflecting an urban evening scene.

An orange Canadian National Railway caboose with "CNR Serves All Canada" written in a green leaf graphic on the side. The caboose has a small windowed cupola on the roof and is situated outside, with a clear sky in the background.

An indoor scene of a vibrant casino features people walking and talking amidst slot machines and gaming tables. The space is illuminated by ornate chandeliers and warm lighting, creating a lively atmosphere. The ceiling is adorned with red lampshades.

A serene urban canal lined with bare trees on both sides, reflecting clear blue skies. Modern high-rise buildings flanking the waterway, with some greenery visible to the right. A bridge in the distance connects the buildings over the canal.

A serene forest stream flows gently over moss-covered rocks, creating small waterfalls. The surrounding vegetation is lush and green, contributing to the tranquil and natural ambiance of the scene.

A tranquil waterfall cascades over a cliff into a rocky stream. Large stones and boulders are scattered in the water, creating a serene and natural scene. The lush greenery in the background enhances the peaceful ambiance.

An aerial nighttime view of a city, showing illuminated skyscrapers and buildings lining both sides of a wide, well-lit street with vehicle headlights streaking along it. The sky is partly cloudy, and the city lights create a glowing urban ambiance.

Pricing and Availability

The Pentax 17 will be available in “late June” and will retail for $499.95.