Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stop the Rumors! All Your Pentax Questions Answered.

photographySpeculating on the future of our favourite photographic company is a popular activity on the various forums that litter the internet. "Will Pentax fail this year?" "Why have they not released a new camera... it's been months!" "Where is the full-frame model?"

Read on and I'll put the rumours to rest.

First I'll point out that the cycle of rumours and speculation goes like this:

1. A big photo show is announced.
2. Wild speculations about revolutionary products abound.
3. The big show happens.
4. No such products are announced or released.
5. Massive disappointment follows.

We saw this most recently with PMA 2009. I am sure I'm not the only one tired of this ritual, which largely occurs because:
a) people just can't believe what Pentax continuously tells them
b) people can't read
c) people love a good game involving wild fantasy

But now some definitive words have escaped from the tight lips in Tokyo. One still has to read between the lines (in Japanese, even!) to get the full scoop, so the forums are once-again ablaze with crazy extrapolations. Here follows my interpretation of an interview with Taku Kawauchi, the brand new Pentax planning group manager. I've re-written it to be as clear as possible. Any direct quotes below are from him, though of course it's my clarification of an interpretation of an interview with... well, you get the idea; this is highly mediated.

When can we expect the successor to the current mid-range K200D?

Early in 2010.

When can we expect the successor to the current top-of-the-line K20D?

This summer we will get a new camera in the same range as the K20D, but it will not be a direct successor. It is a "concept change". (I will call this the KD Limited in anticipation.)

Will this have limited functionality?

No. "If the functions are not enough, PENTAX users will get disappointed" says Kawauchi. Why do I get the feeling he reads all the crap on the online forums? Poor guy!

So what is different about the new camera, given it is not an advancement over the K20D?

"K20D body maybe lacks a certain PENTAX attitude we've had for a long time... For instance, Limited lenses have many attractive features: precise design, ease of use and high performance." The new camera will also be smaller than the K20D, to match the DA Limited lenses.

Perhaps now it begins to come clear why I call this the KD Limited! It seems to be the camera I have often called for: a precision instrument for photographers that builds on the Pentax strengths: excellent compact primes, backwards lens compatibility, in-body stabilisation, etc.

Any unexpected lens news?

Yes, indeed. Pentax plans to revise the DA lens series to fit the style of the KD Limited. "The lenses revising include no optical layout change, but refinement to fit to the new body."

Does this mean some fantastic new features? Will the new models be weather sealed?

Unlikely. Any new features will not be technological improvements but rather attributes of styling and precision workmanship. Some examples given in the interview include the built-in hood of the DA 15mm Limited and the fact that the PENTAX logo on the lens cap aligns perfectly horizontally when secured.

Is that all?

Well, it always worked for Leica.

Perhaps the body and new lenses will be silver?

That's pure speculation. ;-) But it fits the description of a style change that speaks of refinement. And it's something Pentax has a history of doing.

Will there be a full-frame DSLR from Pentax?

No. And please stop asking. Pentax have always said no.

Will there be a medium-frame DSLR from Pentax?

Yes. No. Yes. No. Actually... yes! The 645D project, first announced exactly four years ago at Tokyo's Photo Imaging Expo, is back on! Aren't you glad you didn't stop asking?

Will the 645D be available in the USA?

No, since market research showed only 200 people wanted it. The 645D will be a project for the Japanese market only. (Of course this won't stop the resourceful from obtaining it.)

Do Pentax have anything to do with the new Samsung NX, a mirror-less camera?

No. And it will not be K-mount for technical reasons. Though the two firms have an agreement to share body technology, that's as far as it goes.

Do Pentax have any plans for their own mirror-less camera?

No. They are sticking with K-mount and their continuing lens tradition.

Why have several lenses been dropped from the recent lens development road map?

Pentax have delayed plans to introduce the teleconverter and other items, so rather than get hopes up they are off the chart. However, they will reappear again when the time draws near.

Why are Pentax planning all of this new development in the middle of a recession?

"We think the recession mainly affects entry-level DSLRs. In the high-amateur level category, customers will pay for the products that they love and want seriously".

What is the Pentax philosophy?

"We don't want the largest market share. We want users to buy PENTAX's unique goods with pleasure. PENTAX will offer cameras that are not only good products, but which also bring pleasure to users' hearts."

There you have it! I could not imagine better news for lovers of photography, though the gadget-chasing majority might be disappointed.

Information here was taken from the interview with DC Watch and the translation to English kindly provided by Pentax Forums member "kimpira". Amateur Photographer's coverage of the PMA provided news on the 645D and somewhat contradictory information about the DSLR product line. For extensive discussion visit Pentax Forums,, etc.



Anonymous said...

A fun read, I also like how you give fine credentials and credits in the end; particularly to the great work by kimpira.

KD Limited sounds good. I think if the camera is gonna be expensive, it needs to be sealed. The entry level K-m is the only Pentax DSLR that is not sealed

Anonymous said...

A lot more entertaining than the Google translation! Thanks for this exclusive "interview", Robin :-)

Anonymous said...

Me like. Guess there won't be a full format, or will there... ;)

Anonymous said...

If all you written will come true, especially the so called Limited body, I will be the most happy photographer on the planet!

The article "We don't want the largest market share..." sounds great and if this is truly the Pentax philosophy, than we don't need to do anything but praise Pentax ;-)

Douglas_of_Sweden said...

Well written!
This sounds very promissing to me. I've held back from buyung Ltd lenses since I didn't see the point without a smaller body, though they are sexy and I could not resist the 35mm ltd. Time to start chopping more Ltd lenses now I believe.

Limtied KD? Well, I bet it will be called Pentax XC. Guess why? If you know Pentax history, what year this is in Pentax history, how the LX got its name it should be clear where I got this from. Does not make it worse that XC doubles as a short for "eXCellent".

PS. Love your subtle way of telling people to keep on asking for FF. DS

robin said...

Five of my best lenses are full-frame compatible. I didn't plan it that way; it's simply that I enjoy well-built metal lenses with fast maximum apertures. The FA Limiteds are more than worth it on that basis. Their small size is a bonus.

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