Opinion: Pentax, if You Don’t Embrace Mirrorless Tech, it’s Game Over

I have so much love for Pentax, but if they don’t jump into the 21st century soon, they will simply slip away.

Pentax and Pentaxians get a lot of hate and smack talk directed towards them for choosing to use cameras, that by many, are seen as antiquated. Let’s be clear, though, while current Pentax cameras may not sport the fastest autofocus systems, Mirrorless technologies, or the fastest burst rates; their cameras are still pretty great. Still, there’s no denying that Pentax has fallen far behind the competition. The camera market is now more competitive than ever before, and Pentax needs to figure out where they fit into this ever-evolving industry before it’s too late. Let’s talk about this after the break.

photography gear

2019 marked the 100 year anniversary for Pentax, and their impact in the photographic field cannot be underestimated. Through the years, Pentax has created some real gems when it comes to cameras (K1000 anyone) and lenses (the whole limited line), but as we have progressed deeper into the digital world, Pentax seems to have struggled to keep up with the changing times. They have still made and sold some tremendous digital DSLR cameras like the APS-C Pentax KP, and the Full Frame Pentax K1 II (which happens to be one of my favorite cameras for landscape work). Still, Pentax’s unwillingness to make the next jump into Mirrorless technology is severely holding them back. Honestly, unless they move forward, they will become but a distant memory. Let’s take a quick look at what Pentax should do to become a player in the field once again.

“I couldn’t quite believe that two of Ricoh’s top execs were putting all of the brand’s eggs into one very old basket; dismissing Mirrorless technology almost felt like a deathwish.”

Does Ricoh Know What They’re Doing?

gear doesn't matter

It wasn’t too long ago that Hiroki Sugahara, the General Manager of Ricoh’s marketing communication department, and Hiraku Kawauchi, the Group Leader of PR and marketing at Ricoh released a telling statement about things at Pentax. The statement from the pair told the story of how Pentax believes photographers who have jumped to Mirrorless platforms will return to DSLR cameras. They believe that Mirrorless cameras are nothing more than a movement and that many photographers are merely interested in seeing how the technology works. Pentax truly believes that photographers would see that the cons of Mirrorless technology would far outweigh the pros.

As a Pentax fan, for me, this was the biggest facepalm moment in regards to Pentax and their vision in recent history. I couldn’t quite believe that two of Ricoh’s top execs were putting all of the brand’s eggs into one very old basket; dismissing Mirrorless technology almost felt like a deathwish. After the shock of those comments wore off, I started to look at their comments a little more, and I could see and understand why Pentax wants to believe that their statements would ring true.

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Over the last 15 years or so, Pentax has worked incredibly hard at carving out a niche market for themselves. The platform is loved by landscape photographers because of how rock-solid the current line of cameras are. The K1 II, which is pictured above, is one of the most durable cameras on the market, and the image quality from this camera (and from many of their cameras) is honestly quite hard to beat. These two traits and their spectacular (but short in numbers) modern lenses are what keep Pentaxians around. Pentax was hoping that rugged cameras and a few quality lenses would be enough to bring the masses back to the fold, however, things have not quite worked out this way.

Another reason for hoping their DSLR dreams would stay alive is that Pentax has gone through several changes in ownership. Current owners, Ricoh, know that they simply cannot compete financially with juggernauts like Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, and the others, and because of this, coming up with a new Mirrorless system that would require a new mount probably isn’t feasible. This, however, does not mean that Pentax can’t dabble with some Mirrorless technology.

“A hybrid camera that can bridge the gap from DSLR to Mirrorless from Pentax is needed because just rehashing old DSLR technology simply will not cut it.”

A Hybrid DSLR/Mirrorless Camera Would be a Savior

Credit: Niels Kemp Creative

At the end of last year, during Pentax’s celebration for their 100 year anniversary, not only did Pentax run a huge 100-year celebration competition (of which, I was one of their winners), the company also announced a new flagship APS-C camera. There was very little information about the new body, but you could tell instantly that this was going to be another DSLR and not a Mirrorless camera and that it would include Pentax’s in-body image stabilization, which is noted by the SR on the front of the body.

My winning image in the celebration category of Pentax’s 100-year competition

Pentax released absolutely no other details about the new camera other than saying it would ship by the summer of 2020 (which has now been delayed). Pentax didn’t even say which line the camera would be a part of, though speculation suggests it will be a new KP model. Niels Kemp Creative was at the event and managed to get some good video of the device that was on display (which you can see here). There was one feature that stood out on the camera that gave us some hope that Pentax has indeed embraced some new technology.

Credit: Niels Kemp Creative

Around the back of the display underneath the viewfinder, you can see what looks like a sensor. If this is indeed the case, perhaps Pentax has come up with a new hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder. There is also hope that Pentax has included new live view technology that will rival that which can be found in the new Canon 90D and the Nikon D780. A hybrid camera that can bridge the gap from DSLR to Mirrorless from Pentax is needed because just rehashing old DSLR technology simply will not cut it, and they will find that even their faithful following of Pentaxians will start to disperse. With a hybrid camera like this, Pentax could still use its current K mount lenses, too, so it would be a win-win. We can’t wait to find out more about this release.

Release a Pentax K1 III with a Bigger Sensor

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The K1 II was released in 2018, but really it is just the same camera as the K1, which hit the market in 2016. The only difference between the two is that the K1 II had a new processor, which allowed for slightly faster autofocus performance and hand-held hi-res modes. The K1 featured the same sensor as the Nikon D810 and then built upon that solid foundation. 

We would like to see a K1 III that utilizes the same 45.7 Megapixel sensor that’s found in the Nikon D850, and of course, we would like to see a hybrid viewfinder and new Mirrorless-like live view functions to go along with it. This bump in specs along with hi-res modes, Astrotracer technology, IBIS, a self-leveling sensor, and the wonderful ruggedness that we know and love would make this camera one of the best landscape cameras around. I would pick one up in a heartbeat! Make this happen, Pentax!

While You’re at it, Re-imagine the Pentax 645Z

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The 645 line is one of Pentax’s greatest achievements, and in recent years you have practically let this legendary system die a brutal death. The 645z was, as at one point, one of the most sought after Medium Format cameras on the planet. Still, you took your foot off the gas and have allowed Fujifilm and their GFX 50R, and now even Hasselblad with their X1D II to come in and take the crown for affordable Medium Format cameras. For shame.

Ricoh/Pentax put your heads down and come up with a way to make the 645 series relevant again. Make it sleeker, lighter, pack it full of the latest tech, and price it competitively. A new age of affordable Medium Format cameras is upon us, and you owe it to yourselves to be a part of that. Keep this part of your legacy and wonderful 100-year-old history alive.

“The alarm bells on your clock have been ringing for a while now Pentax, and if you’re not careful, your time to react to them will come to an end; and honestly, nobody wants to see that.”

Pentax, Open up to Your Followers and Let Them in

Perhaps one of the biggest gripes about the current state of affairs is your communication; or lack of it. Pentaxians are a faithful bunch who stay with you through thick and thin, but you are so shy when it comes to handing out information, and it’s quite painful. We go months, heck years without hearing a peep about new cameras or new lenses.

We have only just officially found out about the 70-210mm f4, which was first mentioned well over a year ago, and the same goes with the 85mm f1.4 D FA star lens. We have known about them for ages, but you would never release any development updates, which led to frustration. The same is now being done with your new flagship APS-C camera. Release a few details about it to create some buzz and excitement. I know Pentax fans would love to hear more about it. I know I would. Get excited about what you have planned and pass that excitement along to us. News like this would be very well received.

pentax

These things are the bare minimum that Pentax needs to do to remain relevant going forward. Every other camera company is moving forward with new and exciting technology, yet Pentax, it seems, wishes to remain in a time when DSLR cameras were king. I love DSLR bodies, but it is time to retire them. Please wake up, Pentax. The alarm bells on your clock have been ringing for a while now, and if you’re not careful, your time to react to them will come to an end; and honestly, nobody wants to see that.

Do you like using Pentax cameras? Are you a current Pentaxian? What cameras do you use and what do you want to see from them going forward? Let us know in the comment section below.