Building a New Film Camera Isn’t as Easy as You’d Think

Derrick Story
3 min readDec 27, 2022
Vintage Pentax ZX-5N 35mm Film Camera

Pentax Japan just announced the Film Project, where they will begin to investigate building multiple types of cameras for the analog community.

At first you might think, “Well, they made those for years. That should be easy.” But the reality is far more daunting.

This is not you remembering how to ride a bike after years of driving a car. More appropriately, it would be you designing your old 10-Speed, manufacturing the parts, and remembering what you did to make it better than everyone else’s.

Pentax has the wisdom to realize that engineers who helped them design some of the best SLRs ever built, are still alive. But who knows for how long? The nuances that they know are just as important, if not more, than the blueprints and parts lists that are safely stored in vaults.

The new magic could be the blending of old wisdom with current technologies; a partnering of film artisians and young designers who have their fingers on the pulse of the market. If Pentax can perform the perfect alchemy, the result will be gold.

But endeavoring this in a vacuum, manufacturing every part yourself, is a mind-numbing proposition. Honestly, it feels like a moonshot.

To give you some idea of the challenge, remove the bottom plate of any vintage SLR camera and count what you see. There are so many little levers and widgets. And that’s just under the bottom plate!

Vintage Pentax Super Program 35mm Film Camera

On the plus side, Pentax is still making DSLRs. Ricoh (the parent company) has a very popular compact. If they could leverage many of the parts they’re already producing, well, a film camera just might happen.

I own and use a Pentax LX, Program Plus, and ZX-5N. They are great 35mm cameras. But I have to take good care of them because when they’re gone, they’re gone.

A new camera, especially one that uses the K-Mount optics that I already have, would be so welcomed. I could take it everywhere. If something happened to it, I could get another. It would change my approach to film photography.

Not to mention possible hybrid technologies. What if your film camera could have a 2" LCD on the back to help you preview the shot before pressing the shutter button? Oh man. The cost savings for wasted film exposures would be substantial.

It’s conceivable that you could have a roll of 36-exposure film with every frame gorgeous. And that’s just one possibility.

A new 35mm film camera — Wow. Get it done Pentax. I’m pulling for you.

Author’s Note: You can read more about the Pentax Film Project on the Japan Camera Hunter website.

Derrick Story

Photographer, writer, podcaster — — Editor of "Live View" on