Pentax ME-F

The Pentax ME-F was the world's first autofocus 35mm SLR.  It was introduced in 1981.  The body was based on the hugely succesful ME Super but with some additions to enable the focus assist or autofocus functions.  Autofocus was only available with the SMC Pentax AF Zoom 1:2.8 35-70mm shown here. (This is, in fact, a non-functioning lens but since taking this image I have managed to acquire a working model.)  In order to use the camera with autofocus one has to turn the mode dial to Auto or Manual, turn on the focus assist mechanism which is to the left of the pentaprism, and turn on the lens via a switch on the bottom near the on/off indicator seen in the photograph.  One then points the lens at an area with reasonable contrast and pushes one of the two buttons on the lens.  All-in-all the system is rather slow and inconvenient.  These days, the lens is more often than not broken, although optically it is excellent and is one of the faster mid-range zooms Pentax ever made. How long the camera and lens stayed in production is unclear.  Bojidar Dimitrov's site claims the lens was made from 1981 to 1988, and the ME-F itself from 1981 to 1989.  Ivor Matanle, however, claims the camera was dropped from the Pentax catalogue in 1984 (Amateur Photographer, 15/09/12, p.58).  The Minolta 7000 which was released in 1985 was the first really succesful autofocus 35mm SLR, predating the Canon EOS 650 which wasn't released until 1987.