Has the Pentax K-1 Come Too Late?

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Before the Pentax fans come out with pitchforks and try to DDoS this site into oblivion, hear me out.

Pentax Ricoh recently announced their K-1 DSLR: the company’s first full frame DSLR. It’s been the answer to what many folks have been asking for for years. Pentax has had one of the most decorated histories in photography. They had the Auto 110 SLR, the K-1000, some of the most unique focal lengths out there, the Pentax 645, the Pentax 67, and many more. For years, Pentax cameras were in the hands of many photography students.

But when digital came along, the company kind of went into obscurity. Their initial products weren’t really the best performers until they started to put rugged builds and excellent features into their entry level DSLRs and move the improvements up the line. Even today, they’re the company that offers fantastic products but that aren’t really talked about that much. They’ve got the most APS-C DSLR lenses out there of any company and they’ve always had a very loyal core following.

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Now let’s get one thing straight here: if Pentax never delivered the Pentax K-1, we’d all still be asking for it. So yes, Pentax needed the K-1, but they needed it a while ago.

Canon, Nikon and Sony are the other manufacturers of full frame DSLR cameras. Can Pentax make a dent in this? Quite honestly, I genuinely think they will. You’d be stupid not to get this camera over a current Sony A99, Canon 6D or Nikon D610. It’s got serious weather sealing, more megapixels, WiFi/GPS, can shoot at a decent frame rate, and has loads of lenses available to it from both Pentax and third parties. And when you look at it, the big three haven’t updated their options in a while. But this is a Photokina year, and it’s bound to happen. Pentax will need to keep finding ways to push this camera ahead through lenses and other marketing techniques considering that the other three are most likely to roll out their updates in September.

But this hurts on a couple more fronts too; for example Sony has full frame mirrorless cameras that are absolutely fantastic but don’t have the best ergonomics. If you’re used to other camera brands, Pentax ergonomics are a bit more to wrap your head around because of new dials and ways of doing things, but they’re not terrible.

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One audience that the Pentax K1 will be very popular with is Pentax users. If you’ve owned legacy glass for a while, you’ll be able to use them now and you’ll also probably see Pentax lens prices go up. Beyond all the folks who have Pentax glass though, you’ll likely see this camera really marketed to the outdoors crowd and the enthusiast.

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As it is, Ricoh’s stock also went up.

But is it too late? In some ways no; but in other ways I’m sure that the full frame market has seen the Sony a7 series of cameras really eat into them.