As I’m sure you have realized by now, I primarily used Pentax equipment. I also spend time reading forums like pentaxforums.com with the lively equipment centric debates. I would like to eventually offer more content on this site for all brands, but I will need to make some connections before that can happen. Well anyways, here is another post about Pentax I was writing up for a forum topic. It deals with Pentax’s recent history and how I see it. I also talk about full-frame digital cameras as that was the topic of discussion.
I love talking about Pentax full-frame. I’ll first include some background as how I see it before saying where I think they will go.
I think the K-7 and K-x were a positive turning point for Pentax. Both in leadership (Hoya) and focus on the photographic tools they offer. Camera companies are not known to be fast. Even before Hoya showed up there was a shift internally when the K-7 was being developed, so I’d say it was more internal Pentax with some reality checks by Hoya that made the biggest changes happen.
The K-7 era shifted to focus on the historical strengths of Pentax (small yet excellent ergonomics, weather resistant evolution, quality construction, retro yet good look), but missed a few marks by partnering with Samsung instead of Sony technology wise. Some of that was fixed once the K-x came out (fun cameras for everyone, sensor improvements from Sony, low price point to entice).
The K-5 generation is now pushing forward in absolute image quality and further focusing on Pentax specific strengths all around. While the 645D was before this, I’ll just included it here along with the K-5 and K-r. Pentax has shifted a bit further to really focus on quality output results as it was the next logical step. The K-5 is the strongest APS-C camera around, thanks in part to Sony and Pentax programmers/engineers. The 645D and K-5 show everyone that Pentax is serious about absolute image quality and professional photographers. Along with that, more focus on low-cost WR lenses along with cheap entry ones such as the DA-L 35mm f2.4. Where else can you find something like the DA 50-200mm WR lens? That’s a great lens in my opinion.
So moving forward we have the GPS accessory and the Pentax Q to look at. I see two distinct markets Pentax is (still) interested in focusing on. The serious photographers who have a tendency to enjoy the outdoors is an obvious market. These people want absolute quality in results and the tools themselves should fit that too (FA Limiteds, DA*, and DA Limiteds).
With much hate from the western enthusiasts, Pentax also desires to focus on people who just want to enjoy photography everywhere they can with their small yet powerful setups. The K-r and new Q focus on these people. What most don’t realize is that this will help keep Pentax profitable. The Q was never designed to appease the pros. It’s a high quality photographic tool for casual photographers with a special emphasis toward women ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LyyPGgE5Gk ). It makes sense when the history of their company is looked at.
I still see a few issues before Pentax moves to full-frame 35mm, but some of the hurdles have passed.
– Pentax is not a “me to” camera company. They dabbled with that in the early DSLR days, especially the K10D/K20D era. It nearly killed them. The Q proves they have a unique idea on what photography tools should be like. This is the biggest issue I see with them offering full-frame in the somewhat near future.
– Existing DA* lenses are hit and miss for full-frame and some are specifically designed with focal lengths to fit with APS-C cameras such as the 50-135mm f2.8. Others like the 300mm and 200mm should be fine if FF comes out. All pentax will have to do is offer an optional in-camera crop for any lenses that can’t fill the frame.
– Pentax has been saying in the past they won’t discount anything if all of the factors fall into place. The factors I can see would be FF mark-share increasing and/or APS-C DSLRs decreasing due to mirror-less big sensor bodies. Sony is a big factor as well. I can’t see Pentax using one of the existing sensors out there, so they would wait until a suitable sensor is available at a good price. Things like cheap WR lenses show Pentax doesn’t want to release insanely expensive 35mm FF pro equipment (that’s what 645D is for…). I think if Pentax can assemble a 35mm FF for a good price they would seriously consider it.
– What’s the next step after the K-5? Better video control should be a given. Besides that I’m having a hard time seeing where the K-5 level body will go. Dropping APS-C pro for FF pro would obviously be a bad idea because there are benefits to APS-C in size/weight and telephoto consideration. I can’t see them completely replacing the K-5 with a full-frame unless they somehow made it the same size. I think the big question is if Pentax will decide to offer three 35mm cameras at a time again or not. The 645D is a case against that in part, but there is a big price gap between that and the K-5 body.
– Pentax 35mm feels a big stagnant, so I think some big thing should be on the horizon. Sure the 645D and Q probably took a lot of resources to accomplish, but I find it hard to believe that 35mm isn’t their primary focus. The kind of unexciting releases in the 35mm lens department makes me think they are up to something. it might happen the next release cycle, or not…
I do know I’d be interested in FF for:
1. Getting more use out of my prime lenses if I owned a FF and APS-C body. I’d love to see my 31mm on a FF Pentax body…
2. A nice big viewfinder and all of the benefits to that.
3. Depth of field considerations. Had a chance to use a 645D, amazing DOF possibilities there.