Lounge chairs

I was deeply impressed with the Pentax IQZoom 170SL when I shot some test rolls in it recently. I got excellent color on consumer-grade Fuji films, and its lens was plenty sharp. If it worked the same magic on black-and-white film, I would keep it in my collection. I bought a fresh CR2 battery, loaded some Kodak T-Max 400, and took it on lunchtime walks around my neighborhood.

Toward the shallow end

I shot a lot of film in the spring! It gave me so much to share here that I’m clearing away a big backlog of photos. I made these about four weeks ago. We had an unusually gray and chilly spring. ISO 400 film is just right for days like that, especially in a point-and-shoot camera.


I developed this roll in Rodinal 1+50 and scanned the negatives with VueScan on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mk II. The VueScan produces smoother tones than the software I was using before. These aren’t quite as good as the scans I get from my favorite lab, but they’re plenty good for every purpose I have for them.

Class of 2020

Our subdivision offers the most affordable homes in what is otherwise a wealthy and expensive suburb of Indianapolis. It’s the only way we can afford to live here. We got excellent schools in the bargain. This year’s high-school seniors will have a very different graduation experience from any class before. These signs are for all of the seniors in our subdivision. It’s one of many visible ways the community is celebrating them.

Village club

But back to the IQZoom 170SL. It handled well. Even though it’s a little chunky, it slid right into my jeans back pocket. And it delivered the goods yet again. I can’t believe you can buy one on eBay for under $50, and often under $20. Other equally capable point-and-shoots go for five or ten times that much. Get one now before everybody else gloms onto them and the prices soar.


Signs proclaim NO all over our subdivision. No soliciting. No fishing, swimming, ice skating, or boating. No digging, because natural gas and petroleum pipelines flow below our ground. We’re the Village of No.

No Outlet at max zoom

I have but two criticisms of the 170SL. First, images go soft at maximum zoom (as above). But that’s typical of long-zoom point-and-shoots.

Aluminum ladder

Second, the camera flashes automatically when it thinks the light calls for it. You can override it, but I found myself caught by surprise every time it happened. Fortunately, in this photo of little aluminum ladder on our deck in mid-renovation, the image retained detail in the aluminum highlights.

My desk

I meant to use the flash in this shot, from the day my wife and I turned our living room into our home office. It lit the scene evenly, which is not always true of the little flashes on point-and-shoot cameras.

This little camera is a winner. If you like point-and-shoots, get one.

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23 responses to “Kodak T-Max 400 in the Pentax IQZoom 170SL”

  1. DougD Avatar

    Feh, disparate school funding and a bunch of No.


    Nice B&W though.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, it’s just wrong that you have to move to the wealthy suburbs to get good schools.

  2. Jerome Carter Avatar

    Hi Jim,
    Do you have a preference between Tri-X and TMax? I’ve never shot TMax and wonder what it might offer.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I prefer T-Max. I like its smoothness and the range of grays I get with it. I don’t dislike Tri-X, however. I tend to shoot it less now than ever, however, because I process and scan my own b/w now and Tri-X curls like crazy and is therefore hard to scan.

  3. Jerome Carter Avatar

    I’ll have to try TMax. I agree about scanning Tri-X. Curling is the main reason I now use Ultrafine and HP5.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I shot T-Max 400 all over Ireland a few years ago. I think these images give a great sense of this film. Have a look.


      1. Jerome Carter Avatar

        Jim, these shots are great. The clouds show up so well. Did you use a filter?

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I might have had an ND or other “lens protector” filter on the lens but not a yellow or orange filter designed to bring out the sky.

  4. Edwin Peter Paar Avatar
    Edwin Peter Paar

    You did again! After your 29 May review of the Pentax IQZoom 170SL I checked Ebay and was able to get one for $30. It is an amazing little camera. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m happy you were able to get one of these and that you like it!

  5. adventurepdx Avatar

    Nice! I haven’t yet put b&w in my IQ Zoom 170SL, but should at some point. And yes to the whole flash thing: if you don’t disable the flash, it can fire in situations where you don’t think it’s necessary. This seems to be an issue with these superzoom compacts.

    For example, here’s a shot I did in the middle of a field on a sunny day, and yet, the flash fired. I have to admit: the flash reflecting on the safety triangle is a cool effect:

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That *is* a cool effect — but boy wouldn’t it be nice to not have it happen by accident! As you can see, this camera likes b/w film just fine.

  6. P Avatar

    I don’t know why, but I just really don’t care for the design of most of the IQZoom/Espio line of cameras. Most of them are capable of producing great photos for point-and-shoots (your results and many others’ prove this), but they just don’t appeal to me when I’m holding them in my hand, even most of the metal bodied ones. Maybe I just haven’t found the right one yet. For the sake of not adding to the problem of people charging way too much for point-and-shoots I won’t mention what they are, but there are other point-and-shoots that feel a lot better to me, have dedicated flash off switches, produce every bit as good of results, and go for less than most IQZooms. That said, I’m very impressed with your results here, both in terms of what the camera did and your choice of T-MAX 400/Rodinal. Nicely done!

    1. adventurepdx Avatar

      “…but there are other point-and-shoots that feel a lot better to me, have dedicated flash off switches, produce every bit as good of results, and go for less than most IQZooms.”

      Less than four bucks? That’s what I got my 170SL for. :-D

      I do agree that the IQ Zooms don’t have that much of an appeal, whether in feel or aesthetics. That seemed to be a common trend for late-era zoom compacts. The ones that do have that appeal seem to command the high prices.

      1. P Avatar

        Haha, you got lucky with your $4 170SL. That’s not typical, but I’m always glad to hear when people get a great deal! The better IQZooms, like this one, generally go for at least $25, and often a lot more. I don’t know about everyone else, but I really can’t justify spending more than $10-15 on a point-and-shoot (full of electronics just waiting to fail); maybe $20 at most with shipping. And that would only be a very high quality one at that. I don’t care how expensive they were twenty years ago new (so were CD and DVD players — the value of consumer electronics plummeting is just the nature of technology and Moore’s law). The prices of point-and-shoots these days is ludicrous. They’re simply not worth it. I hope your $4 bargain hangs in there for you!

        1. adventurepdx Avatar

          And since I paid $4 for it, no big loss if/when it does break! But I’ll have fun until then, and try to source another inexpensive compact zoom when the time comes.

          As for the plummeting value of consumer electronics, that’s a big reason why I’m no “early adapter”–I’ll wait a year or two for the inevitable price drop.

        2. P Avatar

          That’s definitely the way to do it! :)

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      These cameras are not pretty, and they share no common design language. That part, Pentax got flat wrong.

      1. P Avatar

        I agree. Pentax messed that up. Maybe if they hadn’t I’d like the IQZooms more. I like the images they produce, but not the designs of the cameras themselves. At least the metal-bodied ones, like the 170SL, are sleeker than most of their siblings.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Sleeker but not sleek. That thing is still a chunk.

          I bought another IQZoom today on eBay, one with some sort of macro mode.

        2. P Avatar

          Yeah, I know, they’re still pretty beefy, especially in their depth. I mean, I know a roll of film has to fit in there, but come on Pentax, these things are like a foot deep. :)

          “… some sort of macro mode.”

          Haha, awesome. With point-and-shoots one never knows what that means.

          Does your 170SL, or the one you just bought today, have a panorama mode, where the plastic bits slide down/up behind the lens and cover up part of the film? I’ve always found that hilarious. I have one that has it. I haven’t tried it, but maybe I will someday. I just feel like I’d be wasting film.

      2. Jim Grey Avatar

        It does have pano mode. I tried it; it’s dumb.

        1. P Avatar

          Ha! That was hilarious. Thanks for your user report. I feel the same about it.

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