Finally, a New Film Camera: Announcing the Pentax 17


Back in late 2022, Ricoh Imaging/Pentax had announced that it was working on a “new project involving the research and development of new Pentax-brand film camera products.” Today, we finally get to see the fruits of that labor: the Pentax 17. This is a brand-new 35mm half-frame film camera built using a wealth of inspiration from Pentax’s rich history of film camera development. It’s perfectly simple, elegant, and functional, just as a film camera should be. It’s also—perhaps most importantly—a fun camera, something a film camera in 2024 needs to be.

Pentax 17 Film Camera
Pentax 17 Film Camera

Half-Frame Film Camera

The Pentax 17 is a 35mm half-frame point-and-shoot film camera, meaning it captures images that measure 17 x 24mm on 35mm roll film (compared to the 36 x 24mm image area of traditional “full frame” 35mm film cameras). This format isn’t new—there were many half-frame 35mm cameras in the past—and it’s fitting with the design of the camera to be for more casual and spontaneous shooting. The half-frame format has a few unique consequences though:

  • The 17 x 24mm format is smaller than 36 x 24mm and consequently enlargements and scans will appear grainier at the same size.

  • Since the film is running horizontally through the camera, the 17 x 24mm image area is inherently vertical; the viewfinder is setup in a vertical orientation and the camera handles best when shooting vertically. You’ll have to effectively hold the camera in “portrait orientation” to shoot in “landscape orientation.”

  • Since the frames take up about half as much space on the roll of film, you get twice as many exposures per roll. On a 36-exposure roll of film, you can expect to take about 72 exposures.

A Look Inside at the half-frame gate of the Pentax 17
A Look Inside at the half-frame gate of the Pentax 17

The choice for Pentax to re-enter the film camera market with a half-frame model is interesting but also in line with the idea of making film photography accessible for all. It’s a more economical format and the greater number of frames per roll means you can effectively head out for a day of shooting without needing to carry extra rolls.

Point-and-Shoot Design in Detail

Beyond the distinctiveness of the half-frame format, the camera itself is a pretty straightforward point-and-shoot with lots of references to Pentax’s own film camera history. As a point-and-shoot, the camera is meant to do much of the heavy lifting in terms of determining exposure. In fact, you’re not able to manually adjust exposure outside of setting ISO/ASA, turning a +/- 3 stop exposure compensation dial, or choosing whether or not to use flash.

On the top plate, from left to right, there is a manual, locking ISO/ASA dial with settings from 50 to 3200, which surrounds the film remind knob; then an exposure compensation dial with +/-3 EV settings; the viewfinder hump with film plane indicator; the mode dial; the shutter release button, which is surrounded by the On/Off switch; and finally the film winding lever.

Top plate of the Pentax 17
Top plate of the Pentax 17

The mode dial itself has three distinct regions: flash on, flash off, and Auto, which will automatically select whether to use flash depending on the meter reading. In the flash-on region, there is a slow-sync setting and a Program mode with flash setting. In the flash-off region, there is a Program setting, a slow shutter speed position, a Bulb setting, and a unique Bokeh setting, which forces the use of the widest f/3.5 aperture position to get the shallowest depth of field possible. Most of the time, shooters will be choosing between the flash-on or flash-off Program settings, or the Auto setting, with the slow shutter speed and Bokeh modes being used for special circumstances.

The lens is an HD PENTAX HF 25mm f/3.5 Traditional optic, which uses manual zone focusing for control. Pentax claims this is one area of distinction the 17 has over past cameras, with a modern optical design being used alongside Pentax’s contemporary HD coating to suppress flare and generate rich, saturated colors.

For focusing, the lens uses a six-step zone system that can focus as close as about 9.5” away. The six zones are represented by icons on top of the lens (which is also visible from within the viewfinder): flowers for macro, a knife and fork for close-up, a single person, two people, a group of people, and a mountain for distant subjects from 17’ to infinity. The actual measurements these icons represent are also printed on the front of the camera in case you want to make more informed guesses for focusing.

The 17 has a window-style optical viewfinder (non TTL) with brightline frame lines for composition accuracy; these lines also include two notches to help compensate for parallax when using the close-up focus setting. As a plain finder, with little magnification or extra information, it is easy to use and accurate enough to match the other controls on the camera. On the side of the finder are orange and blue LEDs, which alert when the built-in flash is fully charged, when the battery level is low, or when there is a chance to underexpose the frame.

Design details, including classic Pentax and Asahi AOCo logos
Design details, including classic Pentax and Asahi AOCo logos

On the front of the camera there is a small built-in flash, which has a guide number of about 20’ at ISO 100; the lens, which has a 40.5mm threaded filter ring; and the right-hand grip, which doubles as the battery compartment, holds a single CR2 battery which powers the internal light meter. The meter is incorporated into the front of the lens, so it will provide accurate readings, even if using filters, and works in concert with the viewfinder-integrated LEDs to help warn if you accidentally leave the lens cap on.

The rear of the camera has a simple slot to hold notes or reminders of the type of film in use and a 2.5mm remote switch terminal. The bottom of the camera is equally simple with a ¼”-20 tripod mount and a film rewind button that must be pressed before rewinding a spent roll of film.

A New Film Camera in 2024?

The most pressing question about the Pentax 17 is likely going to be “why?”

It’s common for labs to scan two half-frame frames at once, leading to pleasantly surprising diptychs
It’s common for labs to scan two half-frame frames at once, leading to pleasantly surprising diptychs

Why a new film camera in 2024?

Why a half-frame camera?

Why a point-and-shoot?

Why 17?

There aren’t a lot of straightforward answers to these questions, except for the last one—the camera is called 17 as a reference to the half-frame format (17 x 24mm). As to why Pentax is releasing a new half-frame point-and-shoot film camera in 2024, I think the best answer must be “why not?” Unlike many modern digital cameras that have overlapping features, the Pentax 17 is unique. It harkens back to a time when photography was fun and about the moment as opposed to the need to capture something with technical perfection. The 17 is less a technical feat and  more a tool for capturing a moment without taking you out of it, and its lack of features let you forgo the "how” to do something.

The retro feeling of the Pentax 17 is a perfect match for the retro aesthetics of Coney Island

It also needs to be said that film, much like vinyl, is booming. Despite the lack of new film camera releases, film sales are consistent and there is increasing popularity into this vintage, retro tech that is the original essence of photography. The Pentax 17 is also brand new and with that comes the reliability of having something wholly new, repairable, and under warranty, versus gambling on used cameras. Part of the fun of film photography is working with old cameras but part of the fun is also working with the medium and having a certain lack of control—the Pentax 17 falls into the latter camp. It’s a camera made to make photography fun and a tangible experience; it’s not about technical perfection, it’s about capturing a moment in an authentic and present manner.

A Brief Hands-On Review

Before the launch of the Pentax 17, we had a chance to play with the camera and take it for a spin with a few rolls of color negative, color slide, and black-and-white film. This has been one of the most interesting new cameras I’ve had a chance to test out at B&H; whereas the latest digital cameras are often met with scrutiny, the 17 was met with joy. It’s easy to have fun with this camera and use it for the simple sake of taking pictures.

Another diptych: Yankees game at night, Long Island City at day
Another diptych: Yankees game at night, Long Island City at day

The design is compact, and everything is very tactile. This is nice, as the camera isn’t a burden to carry, but also forced me to be a bit more cautious of accidentally bumping settings—I would occasionally spin the mode dial when advancing the film lever. I also had to remember that there isn’t an LCD to review my shots on—you need to trust you got the shot and be patient knowing it's going to be a few days before you see your results.

The viewfinder is nice for casual composing but isn’t something I’d rely on for making very particular compositions. I’d recommend giving your shots a bit more room to breathe and err on the safe side of including important subjects in the frame.

Photographing a grapefruit at the two close-up zone focus positions
Photographing a grapefruit at the two close-up zone focus positions

Zone focusing isn’t as tough as I expected, since it is a relatively wide-angle lens—but it’s still easiest when shooting distant subjects and working with the infinity position. I was told the included wrist strap is a good guideline for measuring the 9.5” minimum focusing distance for close-up shots, and it did work for me. The trickiest distance to gauge is the middle 6’ to 10’ range and deciding which one would be better suited a subject that’s closer to 8’.

I was impressed by how reliable and consistent the exposures were; considering there is little you can do to affect the exposure or metering of the camera, all my shots turned out with maybe a handful being slightly underexposed (likely to save myself from camera shake). And the flash works, but it’s not tremendously powerful. It’s better as a fill flash for backlighting rather than the sole source of illumination in a scene.

The Pentax 17 is a great companion camera for everyday shooting.
The Pentax 17 is a great companion camera for everyday shooting.

I think the Pentax 17 is great but surprising. I was very excited when the Film Project was announced back in 2022, but I have to admit my mind wandered more into the realms of a new K1000 or 645NII rather than a half-frame point-and-shoot. After shooting with the camera, though, maybe this more casual approach to film photography is the correct avenue for the Film Project’s debut. It’s much more approachable and makes the process of shooting film more economical since you’re getting upwards of 70+ shots per roll and film prices are climbing.

I’m excited to see the reaction to this little camera and see everyone’s results from reembracing film as a medium for fun, in-the-moment photography.

For more information about the new film camera, including additional features, specs, and highlights, be sure to check out the detailed product page for the Pentax 17. Or drop us a line below, and we’ll do our best to answer all your comments and questions.



I disagree with respect to the "film" cost arguments. In the art of film photography, cameras and developing and printing equipment are available at low costs. Digital photographers often argue that although film cameras are inexpensive, especially from used equipment platforms like eBay, the added developing and printing costs involved with respect to film photography makes digital imaging more competitive. This is blatantly false. A relatively new digital camera today can easily cost $2,000 or $4,000 or more, and that's just for the body. A Nikon pro film camera, like the F4 with a battery grip and lens in excellent condition, typically costs about $300. Film photography is fun! It's an enjoyable and challenging artform that brings great satisfaction to the practitioner. Because of this, I believe this is why so many people are returning to film photography; that includes Millennials and Gen Zs who have only known digital photography most of their lives. 

We often hear photographers talk about the art of photography. So, what exactly is the ART of photography? Basically, it gets down to the art of printmaking. PRINTMAKING is the process, as in most other arts, of creating artworks by hand; in this case, printing on paper. Hand printing, as in hand painting or hand sculpting, is the key to understanding what real art is all about. Digital photography, on the other hand, has taken us into the realm of SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY and away from individual artistic creativity and into the world of electronics, menus, submenus, prompts, and algorithms. Thus, the ART of photography is lost.

For me, I love sitting in the quiet and solitude of a darkroom, developing negatives from film, and then enlarging prints from those negatives. It brings to me a world of great satisfaction and enjoyment. Thus, any cost (primarily for film) is a secondary consideration to me. Based upon the very first NEW film camera to be manufactured in more than three decades, I suspect this is a sign of things to come--a renaissance so to speak--in film photography. After all, camera manufacturers are not going to invest dollars in risky adventures, unless they see the "writing on the wall" with respect to a new interest in film photography throughout the north America, Europe, and Asia. I believe Ricoh/Pentax is testing the waters!


I've been following this product development from the beginning, and while I'll admit I was also daydreaming about some cool, back-to-basics compact SLR on the level of e now-classic Pentax ME/MX, or maybe a cool reinterpretation of compact 35 rangefinders like the Canonet, I have to say this was probably the smarter choice to start with. Some might carp about the half-frame format, but I'd say the appeal of getting twice as many photos from a given roll of film will appeal quite a bit to people who might be curious about "this whole film-photography thing", but maybe not so crazy about how much it costs to pop a roll in for a day's snaps. I'm not that big on half-frames overall, but I *do* have an old Olympus Pen EE I take out once in a while for grins. I'm betting - hoping! - this camera does well enough to encourage at least one or two more products from Ricoh/Pentax down the line.