Japan 1959 – Compact – 35 mm – Infrequent.
The Pentax H2 (or S2), produced in 1959, was launched two years after the original Pentax and is by no means a rare camera. It is the direct descendent of the Asahi Asahiflex, the first Japanese SLR using 35 mm film (launched in 1952).
The Pentax was designed to be mass produced at a reasonable cost while still offering a very qualitative finish, comparable to that of the best Nikon and Canon of the same vintage. It is an incredibly modern and efficient machine, so much so that holding one today makes you wonder if it is really 65 years old. It is considerably simpler and lighter than other cameras of the time.
Beyond the individual models, the Pentax line is remarkable for the continuous flow of innovations it brought through its different versions while always staying affordable. First of all the adoption of the pentaprism viewfinder. The name “Pentax” actually comes from the contraction “Pentaprism” and “Contax” and was originally a registered trademark of Zeiss Ikon before Asahi acquired it.
It was also one of the first SLR featuring Fresnel lens viewing screen, which was an important advantage in the 1950s with a lot of slow lenses without automatic diaphragm. Just three years later Pentax invented the concept of TTL (Through The Lens) exposition measure and introduced it in the Spotmatic version in 1964.
The Pentax was robust, simple and efficient. It was placed at the right price point making it a very serious competitor for many more complex cameras. Especially given the quality of its Takumar lenses.
The H2 specifically is the model of Pentax by which Asahi achieved both mass production and mass distribution with various international partnerships such as Honeywell in the United States (hence the various denominations you will find for the same camera in various continents)