Friday, April 27, 2007

Internal Struggle within Pentax Escalates

Here is the latest headline from the Japanese Daily Yomiuri Online, on the news of "Pentax set to pull backers of takeover bid from board":-

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/business/20070427TDY08006.htm
(News article is in English)

Now that the internal conflicts within Pentax, mainly between the (majority of) the current Pentax Management Board and the largest shareholder Sparx Group Co., have become scorching hot. Whilst the current Board opposes the merger (with Hoya), the investment company supports it. As a result, vigorous struggles and struggling between the two gangs will be totally unavoidable.

It is very likely that the current situation of the tangled warfare cannot come to a stop until 22nd of June, when a shareholder's meeting has been called and will be held, and the fate of Pentax will be determined by voting, and the new Board of Directors of the company will be elected.

No matter whether the case can be settled by June 22 or if the chaos can really come to an end (or just a temporary stop), the stability of the company is greatly affected as well as the investors will hesitate in investing in Pentax for the time being or even in the near future, undoubtedly, unless some days things can be cleared up and that Pentax can recover from the wound and looks worth for investment (again?).

Nonetheless, as Pentax's supporters, customers and users, what we do not want to see is that Pentax will not continue in the camera business (not even to mention about "commitment"), but it has the chance to happen if Hoya really takes over Pentax, as Hoya's stance had been stated clearly before, by their CEO previously, when the merger was first proposed and announced.

All in all, I am indeed upset to see things got worsen like that. I think Fumio Urano is the one who should bear most of the responsibility for all those undesirable happenings in this case, which are very sad afterall, frankly speaking.

Background Stories:-

Pentax's withdrawal from being merged by Hoya

Hoya Swallows Pentax

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Shipment of the DA* Lenses is Delayed

Pentax have just announced today that the shipment of their DA* zoom lenses, the two very or probably even most important new products of the year of theirs, is delayed and now that the new arrival date will be in fall July! (So late?) It's really disappointing afterall.

http://www.pentax.co.jp/japan/news/2007/200731.html

(The Press Release is in Japanese, use WorldLingo to translate if needed)

The reason Pentax gives us is that "they need to have more time for the quality assurance part because of the huge demand of the lenses globally". Well, do you really understand what they are actually talking about? Even if yes, do you think that the given reason is sensible?

Nevertheless, it just looks like an excuse to me. The most important thing is that customers will look back at the past track records for how many times those commitments made in the past by Pentax in their official announcements were fulfilled and how many times those announced products were delayed and release dates were postponed, once and once again, and for most of the time.

Yes, by saying that a new (maybe attractive) product will be coming soon is a way for promoting the current line of products and is also a way to retain old customers. But, when those cannot come true repeatedly, the disappointed customers will go away. Simple.

See Also:- PMA Disappointment (but there is hope)

Pentax targeted at releasing at least five new DA* lenses in their new lens roadmap which was published around the PMA. Let's wait and see if they can really make the remaining three lenses in the remaining four months of 2007, counting from the late July. Just for the sake of direct review and comparison, here is the Pentax's lens roadmap published in 2006 - just have a look for the DA* zooms, which should be products of 2006!

Firmware and Software Updates for the K10D (Only?)

Pentax have announced today three updates (solely) for the K10D at the support page of their Japan website. These are a new firmware update for the K10D (version 1.2), the new software Remote Assistant 3, which requires the latest firmware version 1.2 to work with, and a minor update to the Pentax Photo Browser 3.10 to 3.11 for the support of the two long-anticipated and belated DA Star zooms. The corresponding direct links are as follows:-

http://www.pentax.co.jp/english/support/digital/k10d_s.html

http://www.pentax.co.jp/english/support/digital/remoteassistant_k10d_win.html

http://www.pentax.co.jp/english/support/digital/photo310.html

Whilst it is good to see that there is a new software from Pentax, i.e, the Remote Assistant, which had disappeared long time ago with the decline of the original *ist D (and all subsequent Pentax DSLR models do not have the Remote Assistant software to be used with), there is actually no new feature/function nor performance tweaking made available in the updated firmware and the Photo Browser, at least as officially announced.

As the Photo Browser is now able to recognise the new Star zooms, this might hint that the long delayed lenses may be marketed soon. However, Pentax still haven't stated if the new firmware version 1.2 could support the new SDM lenses or not. Maybe there is yet another update of the firmware to make thing works, as it is generally believed that the K10D firmware versions 1.11 or earlier do not support the new SDM lenses. (Update: My above guess has been wrong and it's just a wishful thinking of mine. The shipment of the DA* zooms is delayed!)

Last but not least, do note also that the software update of Photo Browser does limit to K10D users only (as stated in the official documentation contained in the above provided link), it is clear that other Pentax DSLR models are "not" supported *intentionally*. As the Photo Browser is *actually* a generic software for all Pentax DSLRs which *should* work with all Pentax DSLRs *actually* as designed, the above act of Pentax is indeed rather disappointing and it is highly questionable for their intention which can be considered as rather poor. Just say, I am a K100D user, even I do not expect any further firmware update for my K100D, why my existing Photo Browser need to be excluded from supporting the new Pentax lenses, even just for the correct display of the lens models in the Photo Browser, just because I'm not one of the K10D users? And why all those other Pentax DSLR users need to be excluded from being supported by Pentax?? Would this mean Pentax do not encourage (actually it should be "discourage") all Pentax DSLR users, except those with K10D, to buy their new lenses??? I'm afraid that this is simply called super "short vision" in my book, again, very unfortunately.

Indeed, such short-sighted behaviour of a company, which harms the benefits of both their customers and ultimately the company themselves, resulting in a lose-lose situation, is the most disappointing thing which nobody would like to see in the commercial world.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

(Unique) Colour Moire Problem of the K10D

As you may know, Klaus Schroiff of PhotoZone is now testing the K10D, also along with some of the more common Pentax lenses.

Whilst his full review on the K10D hasn't yet been published, nor any of his Pentax lens tests, all of which I believe are still under progress, his latest findings have revealed that the K10D does produce a special type of colour moire artifacts which is unique amongst all of the 10Mega-Pixel DSLRs which use the Sony 10MP APS-C CCDs:-

http://www.photozone.de/active/forum/ShowMessage?ID=1083172A

As we can see from the test shots of the resolution test charts at 100%, those colour moires are particularly visible, for images converted with ACR 3.7 and Raw Therapee V2. With Pentax's original Photo Laboratory 3.1 (PPL 3.1), it seems that the software tries to eliminate something, but then the image's contrast and sharpness are reduced dramatically with obvious blur and resolution is greatly affected.

Following down the PhotoZone discussion thread of the above, the same test shot made with the Sony A100 can be compared and it is clear that the Sony one does not exhibit similar problems.

Well, it is guessed and generally agreed that the possible cause for this problem is that a very weak Anti-Aliasing (AA) filter has been chosen and used by Pentax. However, Pentax has failed to manage the aliasing problem, no matter for the hardware and firmware/software used in the K10D, without scarifying resolution and image quality.

The good thing is that it is the first time I can see some very simple but solid evidence and a very sensible answer to the K10D image low fidelity problem for its in-camera jpegs and why also for converted RAWs with original PPL 3.1, which this problem have never been found with the K100D. So, it is probably a hardware problem inside the K10D for some limitations and barriers which Pentax has not yet able to break through at this moment. Indeed, the comparatively lower image quality of the K10D was first suggested by Phil Askey but then he hasn't commented any further on the possible cause(s) to the problems he found in his review, nor Phil Askey mentioned anything about the problem of colour moires, which is for the first time pointed out by Klaus. In fact, as Klaus has pointed out in the above thread that same symptoms do indeed show up in the sample image of the of the DC Resource Samsung GX-10 review.

Nonetheless, besides, from what I can see from the thread and another previous thread mentioned for what Klaus has tested and found, actually Imatest is not really something very reliable in determining the resolution figure of LW/PH (Line Widths per Picture Height) by the method of calculating the highest spatial frequency by plotting the Spatial Frequency Response (SPR) curve via some mathematical methods and algorithms (simple Fourier transform?), which is also very susceptible to image noise and other artifacts, say, colour moires. So, sometimes a higher Imatest LW/PH figure does *not* really mean a higher resolution nor a better image (with good quality) afterall.

Read also:- The Secrets of the K10D (Part 1 of 3): The Heart - The CCD Imager

Friday, April 13, 2007

When the Focusing Screen Lies (for Focusing and Metering)

Do you still use some of the legacy lenses on your Pentax DSLR(s) and carry out focusing manually and metering stopped-down? If yes, it would be always interesting to know if actually it is accurate or not for the aid which facilitates both, i.e., the focusing screen.

Here is an interesting recent article by an Olympus DSLR guy who has presented the case very clearly:-

Manual Focus with AF DSLRs

The article is self-explanatory on the problem found. Indeed, the focusing screen of his Olympus DSLR is not good for Manual Focusing (MF) with fast lenses. From my experience with Pentax DSLRs, I found that my *ist D and DS are quite reliable for MF for *any* lenses, including my very fast short tele-prime FA* 85/1.4 which often fooled me with incorrect focus with their AF.

However, for MF with my K100D, I found that it is not so reliable as my *ist Dx bodies. Maybe it is just the limitation of its viewfinder with a smaller magnification of 0.85X (versus the 0.95X of my *ist Dx), but it maybe also because of the design of the focusing screen is not good for MF with fast lenses, just like the Olympus case illustrated above.

It is known that the focusing screen of the K100D and K10D are newly designed, to make them even brighter, especially for that the K10D's one has been widely recognised to have metering problems with legacy lenses for stopped-down metering, which causes obvious overexposure. The more one stopped down, the more overexposure will result. Here are some of the related (numerous) discussions on the issue:-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=21822089

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=22056769

As we follow down the threads, various people do suggest that by replacing the original K10D focusing screen with an *ist DS one, which is of the same size but of a different optical characteristic, can resolve the problem mostly, which makes the K10D to expose correctly regardless of the aperture selected. By doing so, one would usually need to swap back the K10D screen to the *ist DS. But ironically, this would again correct the underexposure problem of the stop-down metering of the *ist DS (and *ist D as well), which it was quite firstly reported by me, in the following full "measurbation" report in my homepage long time ago:-

http://www.geocities.com/ricehigh/FAStar_85_1_4.html

For the exact evidence on this method really works, see this systematic presentation with all the posted pictures, metered and shot with different f-stops:-

http://forum.digitalfotonetz.de/viewtopic.php?t=31356&start=21
(Post in German, use BabelFish if required)

So, for a Pentax DSLR user who has both the *ist DS and the K10D whom uses his legacy Pentax lenses on his DSLRs, he can get both cameras for the right exposure. This is what a secret and special gift which Pentax gives us! In all other cases, the exposure will be off, either overexposed or underexposed!

As for the K100D, my limited experience with pre-A lenses on it for stop-down metering is just right for the metering/exposure accuracy.

So, next time when we believe firmly that the MF with the focusing screen through the finder and metering stopped down TTL-ly (Through-The-Lens-ly), then we should think twice if this is really the case or not. The only reason for the errors, if any seen, is simply that the focusing screen is not WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get), it simply lies most of the time afterall. In fact, it is either not designed to do particular jobs and/or off-calibrated actually, especially for the metering inaccuracy case.

Read also:-
Focus Calibrations for (Pentax) (D)SLR Bodies and Lenses

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pentax's Withdrawal from being Merged by Hoya

Further to the "merger" plan for that Hoya would actually swallow Pentax, which was officially announced by both corporations in last December, recently there have been various news from different sources including Asahi, Reuters and Bloomberg starting from April 8 that majority of Pentax's Board of Directors are actually opposing the "proposal", which is now known to be proposed by the resigned CEO, Fumio Urano, solely, as the sources quote (from insider sources).

Urano, the ex-CEO and his sub-ordinate, who was also one of the ("automatic"?) members in the Board of Directors, have both (been) stepped down owing to the rift with the Board on the issue.

However, from what the news articles/sources disclose, it is really a big surprise for such a *supposed to be* well thought and planned merger plan, which *should* be a result of extensive and intensive negotiations (between Hoya and Pentax) and internal communications (within Pentax), would die in the embryo like this case, just because indeed the above assumed activities seem have never taken any place!(?)

In fact, similar case(s) have rarely been seen and heard in the past for other mergers.

Whilst I myself have never been a true supporter on the "merger" as I had pointed out the obvious cons and primitive problems to Pentax of the "merger" on day one in my last Blog entry about the merger news, I feel sad again on this recent happened case just because the future of Pentax is now even more unclear and unforeseeable, which must be imposing very bad effects and impacts to the company, and of course, will undoubtedly hinder the progresses of future product developmentes for such a big (unhealthy) earthquake within the company.

Indeed, the sudden drops in the stock prices of both Pentax and Hoya have reflected the worries of the investors.

Nevertheless, I hope Pentax can recover and stand-by again soonest and everything are to be back on the right tracks again! My best wishes..

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pentax Still Comes Last in 2006 DSLR Global Shipment Share

Here comes the latest Reuters news for the numbers of shipments for Digicams and DSLRs in 2006, with figures of 2005 for comparison, too.

The key figures for DSLR shipments in 2006 are quoted as below:-
Canon 46.7%
Nikon 33%
Sony 6.2%
Olympus 5.9%
Pentax 5.4%

More unfortunately, for the DC shipments, Pentax's name cannot be seen in the list of major players.

Again, as in 2005, Pentax still comes last in 2006. It is of no surprise at all as for the first half year of 2006, I bet there was virtually no market share at all for Pentax DSLRs, with their "persistent" *ist Dx models. In fact, Pentax DSLR's sales could only see the light with the K100D, which was launched suddenly in July 06. But again, the K100D has been fighting for so long until the K10D arrived in late November, just because the K10 was delayed in shipment, as most "new" Pentax DSLRs did.

So, from another point of view, Pentax has done so well with their K100D and K10D, already, which was indeed quite a miracle for keeping up the sales figures with just half a year time, and mostly with the K100D, for most of the time. Otherwise, I'm sure that probably we cannot see Pentax as listed in the Reuters report anymore, as their share would have been more than neglectible so that their name would not appear. Here is some evidence showing that the K10D and K100D were once selling well in the Japan home market during their honeymoon periods, which reinforces my above suggestion.

But again, with the aging and outdating of the K100D and K10D, which are having much room for improvement indeed, plus, the limited supply of the Pentax lenses, plus, the down trend in image quality and performance of their glass IMHO, I'm afraid the same will happen again in 2007, unless they do launch and market new DSLRs to replace the two existing K models shortly. There is still hope, though. But at this moment, it is still very silent and there has not been any news from Pentax at all - but, no news is bad news this time.

Nevertheless, there are yet some signs for new Pentax DSLR replacement models *might* come, as recently there has been an obvious price cut campaign by Pentax globally, as we can see. For example, B&H has reduced the price for K10D recently and there have been very large cuts in the prices of the K10D and K100D in Hong Kong, for nearly 20% and more than 10%, respectively. So, if you are (still) really interested in a Pentax DSLR body, I think it would be wise to wait for a moment to see what will happen in the near future. I bet if Pentax is once again not acting fast, 2007 will be the turning point for them to be quitted from the game!

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