Opinion: Pentax Had Way Too Much Time to Make Just Another DSLR

Pentax made yet another DSLR in 2020, and we’re really not sure why.

In a broadcast on the web, Ricoh Pentax announced that a new DSLR is coming. In fact, we knew that one was coming for a while, but this one is APS-C. In fact, it’s supposed to be their new flagship APS-C DSLR. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that it’s going to be well built. Pentax cameras are some of the most durable we’ve ever tested. It’s going to be an unconventional menu system in comparison to the rest of the industry. And it’s going to most likely take great photos. Part of this is due to Pentax’s lenses. But why, oh why, are they making a DSLR? And why didn’t they make a super small APS-C camera with vintage aesthetics akin to the Pentax K-1000 or the Pentax Spotmatic?

Please hear me out on this. I know there are tons of Pentax fans waiting to find a way to DDoS our servers or get really angry in the comments saying that I know nothing. But, why are they making a camera that’s pretty much just catching up to the rest of the market? Why isn’t Pentax trying to do something completely different to set itself apart from the rest? And more importantly, why are they making a DSLR?

The Pentax K mount is capable of creating tiny cameras. Have you ever held a Pentax K-1000 or a Pentax Spotmatic? They’re ergonomic perfections. And with an APS-C sensor, I’m positive Pentax could have found a way to stuff all or most of what’s in a digital camera into a smaller body but still kept the K mount. If you think this sounds nuts, then you don’t remember the Pentax K-01.

The Pentax K-01 was a very odd camera for its time. It was a mirrorless camera that took DSLR lenses, and that felt chunky. But honestly, it didn’t really have to. It was an unusual design collaboration. And it wasn’t really meant to hold big lenses. Pentax has a selection of fantastic, small K mount primes they could have used. But, this new camera could have been built akin to a Fujifilm X-T4 or a Sony a7r IV.

Further, it could have also been built like a Canon EOS R. It’s similar to a lot of other mounts. It’s most similar to the Contax C/Y mount: and I own one of those cameras. Would a mirrorless camera like this have been possible? Absolutely, because Pentax did it before! What’s more, do you have any idea how many artists and posers walk around NYC with Pentax film cameras slung around them? Those small, lightweight, but well-built cameras create an impulse to be taken with you everywhere. And that’s what a Pentax or a camera should be. It shouldn’t be a big, bulky, clunky, modern-design DSLR. It should be a retro-inspired object of desire with a modern interior. Let me put it this way:

  • If Pentax gave it only five frames a second, I’d still buy it because of the design and build quality.
  • If Pentax gave it an older sensor, which they are, I’d still buy it because of the design and build quality.
  • If Pentax gave it an EVF that’s a bit older, I’d still buy it because of the design and build quality.
  • If Pentax gave it a smaller LCD screen, I’d still buy it because of the design and build quality.

This would all be because of the fact that it would be something so different. It would genuinely get the photo world, lifestyle world, and the tech world excited about a DSLR in 2020. Further, Pentax had years to work on this. If Pentax had also embraced the retro aesthetics of many other options on the market, then it would be a gorgeous camera that would entice people to buy it even more so. Let’s be honest; in 2020, cameras are either a professional tool or a mid-tier luxury product. So I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t make something like this new camera more luxurious. Pentax fans would buy it either way. It’s akin to the decision that Nikon seemed to be making. And this is what bothers me so much about the camera world; so many companies are capable of doing fantastic, different things but they don’t even though there is strong evidence that it will sell.