Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Poll of "My Favourite Entry Level DSLR"

Here is a poll on the above topic:-

http://www.dcfever.com/polling/index.php?id=45

(Page is in traditional Chinese, use Babelfish to translate if needed)

The selected five models from the five DSLR brands are closest in the street prices and actually are targeted for the same market segment. They are actually very representative for what an average beginner would consider and could get for such a cheaply priced DSLR and kit set.

The number of votes made within the month is actually not small, in a total of 3,242 votes for the period, and thus the final results obtained are quite representative and self-speaking for what the mass market would think and opt.

Yet again, Pentax came last in the poll with their K200D, even the small frame sensor format Olympus E-420 won slightly (but both the shares are low). People do like the D60 and the A350 most, whereas the EOS 1000D still got a considerably large share, even though it came third.

So, there must be some "good" reasons for people didn't and don't choose the Olympus and Pentax, in both there should be some real bad things that are obvious. For the Olympus case, the main disadvantage is simply just all about the 4/3 system, namely, problems caused by the small sensor format such as poorer higher ISO performance, less dynamic range, just too much DoF, smaller and dim viewfinder, very limited choice of lens and poor availability plus the high risk involved in the investment on such a lens system. For Pentax case, it may not be as obvious, as all the competitors' offers are all APS-C DSLRs also. So, what makes the differences? In fact, they are also quite obvious, namely:-

1. Pentax just do not have a big name as Canon, Nikon and Sony do in the eyes of most average customers, especially for those who are new to DSLR photography;

2. Pentax K200D is obviously much bigger and bulkier than all other offers in the same price range, which in fact is just a major con which hurts much the sales of the K200D. This is just a very poor marketing decision made by Pentax afterall of which they just put a stone to throw on their own feet - when the first impression to the potential customers is bad and in fact it is just highly undesirable to have such a bulky and heavy entry level DSLR for most people for their practical daily use. The case is even made worst when AA batteries are inserted into the K200D which just make an operatable camera to be even much heavier;

3. Pentax do not have a pro grade DSLR model in their lineup, nor, they have neither a Full Frame body nor lens system which Canon, Nikon and Sony all have - when there is no true flagship and a bright future ahead, people just don't choose such a system, even those most of those people would never buy such a flagship - simple marketing reasoning again;

4. The specifications of the K200D is the weakest: Ridiculously small frame buffer for continuous shooting, and a slower shooting rate as well, ancient type metering system (and indeed the actual performance is inferior also, not just on paper), no Live View and so on. But then, some Pentax fanboys would start to argue (forever) that the K200D is weather sealed. Yes, it is. BUT, so what? .. as long as there is not a kit lens that is weather sealed! So, what's the point of making an entry level body weather sealed (which just made the camera body to be larger and increased the manufacturing cost)? Did Pentax be just so silly to expect and hope that those beginners would buy a DA* lens which is doubled the price of a K200D body alone as a "startup" kit?? In short, it is just of no marketing sense at all, or just even no common sense!

5. In fact, the K200D has virtually no innovation of any kind at all! This holds true somehow for the EOS 1000D as well. But then the 1000D is yet already miles ahead of the K200D in terms of those more updated features and technology used, such as Live View with Live Histogram and Live AF, etc. The D60 has an innovative sensor cleaning system that can be useful (which Pentax also had a similar patent but have never been able to implement it in any model yet, anyway).

Well, some Pentax fanboys will surely yet again to bash me for being "too negative" or whatsoever. But when sadly the situation is just like that and when Pentax is lagging behind in the competition all the time and the majority of consumers don't choose Pentax, what can I do? (Even though I am always trying to make some good suggestions for them) And also, when Pentax don't think how to upkeep themselves in the game and improve and don't listen much as well..

Just remember that: "The market tells the difference(s)"(!), which is just something that universally holds true..

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pentax Forbade Use of CR-V3 Batteries in the K200D

Lately, I found that there have been some K200D users reported on the Internet that CR-V3 batteries could not be used in the K200D. So, I started a new thread at the PentaxForums to confirm about the case and seek more additional information:-

http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/32368-can-k200d-use-ordinary-cr-v3-lithiums.html

Thanks to the PentaxForums user chanthon, who is a K200D owner, who kindly posted a series of photos which showing the physical layout (restriction) of the K200D battery compartment as well as what will happen when CR-V3 batteries are inserted (brand and type regardless), see directly this and this posts of his for the useful photos.

So, now that Pentax have totally forbidden the use of CR-V3 batteries in the K200D, both disposable Lithium and rechargeable Li-ion types as well (and of course), the battery choices of the K200D are now limited only to the Energizer AA Lithiums (at around 1.7V when new and 1.4V when old) and Ni-MH type (with typical nominal voltage of 1.25V when fully charged and will drop to below 1V eventually or under sudden larger current drain).

Still, since the K200D was marketed a few months ago, there have been various users reported problems with their Ni-MH batteries for the battery problems they found and the short battery life issues, as usual (but of course)! In fact, those new users would not expect it could be so problematic just with the batteries. I would not list those user reports here furthermore as those could be easily found in the Internet and I have been so tired to list those and hate to do so as well - the issue has been there for nearly five years now, since the first Pentax DSLR market, the *ist D - a 2003 model.

With the super stubbornness of Pentax in keeping a "AA battery" DSLR whilst at the same time they do not find an effective solution to a real problem but just make the case worse and worse, their products could never succeed but in contrast, this would just only give new buyers poor impressions about Pentax for those who are really bugged.

I just wish to ask again (and again) that: What actually is the point to keep using old battery technology which is outdated and problematic, uncontrollable for Pentax for what the type (and hence characteristic) of the batteries the users use. Even though now the K200D users are forced to use Ni-MH batteries as the only usable rechargeable type in their cameras, the battery issue indeed persists. I can't see there is any real advantage (not even one) for the Ni-MH batteries in a DSLR but all are just disadvantages: heavy and bulky, sensitive to cold weather, not enough voltage and power, less total energy deliverable, variable discharge characteristics and quick self-discharge (Eneloop or alike would be better but they are *still* Ni-MHs and are just not as good as Lithium-ions). Whilst other camera manufacturers have abandoned the use of AA batteries for so many years and no one else ever used this so-outdated battery technology and solution in any DSLR ever made except Pentax ones, why Pentax needed to insist, on such a unwise and indeed stupid choice? Now that even CR-V3 cannot be used in the K200D, it just makes the situation worst than ever (non there is no sign of any for their power supply circuit in their DSLRs has been improved to give stabler power supply! - which is rather difficult indeed owing to the limitations of the old technology, as I've stated above).

If they just opted to use a Li-ion battery solution in the K200D, I am sure the camera could be made smaller, with a more stable and reliable battery performance, and a higher overall camera performance as well. Afterall, they stupid choice and unexplainable stubbornness just failed their product which could be more competitive if they could just do it to remove at least one of their long-lasting and infamous issues of their DSLRs.

Read Also: When 1100mAh Li-ion RCR-V3s Outperform 2500mAh+ NiMH AAs

Netscape Has Died under the "Big Wheel" of History

AOL made an announcement on the official end of the Netscape browsers, on the 1st of March this year.

Whilst this is a somehow sobbing news to me as I have been a long-time supporter of the Netscape Browser (and their "Composer" as well) since the birth of their first browser Netscape 1.0 in 1994, which was indeed a big innovation or could be considered as a somewhat ground-breaking invention when the "http" was born.

In the past, Internet users accessed to the Internet solely with Unix platforms and machines and thus so did the software applications used. At that time, every users needed to learn and know some basic Unix commands to carry the tasks they wanted and remembered the commands for common protocols or application programs such as those for emails, ftp, reading newsgroups/Gopher directories, IRC (subsequently killed by the ICQ and now the Netmeeting or Yahoo messenger etc.) and so on.

However, by facing the injustice competition by the Microsoft over the years and some other reasons (which I'll state below), Netscape has been bitten more and more for their market share for web browsers. The loss of market is not solely owing to the threats imposed by the MS, but also the repeated mistakes taken by Netscape themselves. As I downloaded each of their new releases for the Netscape browsers and tried/used them, I knew very well about their browsers that the latter versions had been full of bugs and they were less and less reliable and were unstable. Sometimes, even the setup procedures were troublesome and the setup programs were written in an unthoughtful way (maybe the beta testings were not done so completely). In fact, I have been felt that Netscape had never been able to think how to make an easier-to-use piece of software so as o upkeep with the IE but yet had all the powerful and most updated features without sacrifying stability and compatibility - that was what Mozilla and Firefox have been able to do and succeeded finally, but just in recent years.

If Netscape could do some kind of revolution, which is clear-cut and effective but not too late, they would not have an end story like that now. Fortunately, it passes all the good stuff to Firefox before it dies and the Firefox does inherit most of the good stuff whereas most of the instability and unexplainable bugs and annoyances have been removed and the user interface is greatly simplified and it is straight forward and easy to use for most users whereas powerful and new innovative features are continue to be introduced. In fact, the Firefox looks prettier and smarter than the later versions of Netscape also. So, I think the Firefox team must have put a lot of efforts on their new browsers.

So, this story yet again shows us a good lesson: If one reacts and reforms too late, one will be killed under the "Big Wheel" of History, where the incapable candidates would only be thrown to the downstream and disappeared. Revolution and Innovation should not be late, and of course could not be TOO late. And, long lasting issues which users hate should be got rid of soonest.

I see this story applies very well to the case of Pentax. I hope Hoya could do a good reform to Pentax very soon but not *too late*, hopefully like what AOL have succeeded for the Mozilla foundation, but yet not killing Pentax like what they have done for the Netscape.

When the Old is Unmatched by the New..

Here is an interesting blog article about the two different versions of the FA 43 Limited lens of earlier and later productions:-

http://stevenlins.blogspot.com/2008/06/type-of-pentax-fa-4319-limited.html
(Article in Traditional Chinese, use Babelfish to translate if needed)

Well, physically, the new version looks cheap for the bundled bag. I don't like the deep green matte inside the lens cap neither. The black printed "PENTAX" logo on the lens cap of the old version looks more natural to me too. The purple blue or green SMC coating on the front lens element don't bother me much as what actually counts should be the image quality. So, how the image quality differs for the two versions? Are there any differences? Fortunately, the author did some quick tests to verify this in his Part II article for comparing the lens(es):-

http://stevenlins.blogspot.com/2008/07/pentax-fa-4319-limited.html
(Article in Traditional Chinese, use Babelfish to translate if needed)

In the above, the author carried out some comparison shots head-to-head for the two lenses in pairs, at the same time and for the same scenes. He also compared to a Contax T* Tessar 45/2.8 lens for one of the shootouts.

I think the posted pictures are indeed self-explanatory. Anyway, you can read the observations and comments by the author if interested. But I do have the same impressions and observations as he does mostly for what he writes. The new version of the 43 Limited is somehow mediocre and it produces darker pictures too (the author suspected the light loss is more). And, the colour reproduction is not so favourable as the old one. The lightness rendition is not as detailed but more bolded and the image rendition is not as crystal clear (of course the Contax T* is just better, when it is compared to the old version).

All in all, for what the test pictures show, the new FA Limited produces some kinds of unfavourable colour responses which I don't like (or just hate) as I pointed out earlier, in my this old blog article. In fact, I do find that the effect of unfavourable colour response and "darkness" of the new version of the 43 Limited is already minimal. In fact, many (but not all, e.g., the 18-55 kit lens is one of the few exceptions) newer Pentax digital lenses are suffering mostly for those unfavourable colours of the newly designed and made Pentax lenses.

The author did guess that the reason for the inferior image production could be caused by new lead-free designs of newer Pentax lenses as required by the EU lately. However, whilst this might be (one of) the reason(s), I don't think that it would be a good excuse. It is just because I cannot see any new generation of Canon lenses which I newly acquired, e.g., my 24-105L and 50/1.8II etc., suffered from the same problem. Maybe it's the DIGIC processing remove the strange colours but I think which is quite unlikely as it is not easy. But, even though it is, as long as one cannot see the evils, who cares? All in all, it's all about the final results that count - one should have either the best glass or the best digital technology or both so as to produce better or the best results.

When the old lenses are unmatched by the new ones, what I can only think about is: Those *were* the days! :-((

Monday, July 07, 2008

Pentax Still Came Last in 2007 DSLR Global Market Share

Here is a bit of an old news indeed, an Imaging Resource article, which was published earlier in April, talks about the global DSLR shipment worldwide in 2007 and the brand shares, according to the IDC figures:-

http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1207604859.html

The key paragraph is extracted and quoted as follows:-

"dSLR growth reached 41 percent as shipments climbed to 7.5 million units. Canon was again number 1 with share of 43 percent, yet lost another 4 points on top of the 5 points the firm lost in 2005. Nikon was second with share of 40 percent, gaining 7 points from 2005. Sony again placed third, with a share of 6 percent, unchanged from 2005. Olympus, despite having a broader product lineup, failed to make it out of 4th place with a share of 6 percent, just behind Sony.", which simply just tells:

- Canon had 43% of the global market share in 2007;
- Nikon had 40%;
- Sony had 6%;
- Olympus had 6% (also, but just behind Sony, it is said)

Pentax is not mentioned in the report. But a quick subtraction reveals that the remaining market percentage left by all other DSLR vendors is just 5%. I bet Pentax wouldn't have acquired all the 5%, would they?

Since Pentax had yet already (virtually) come last in both 2006 and 2005 DSLR global share, according to what the sources of the published market reports told, Pentax has actually been ranked no. 5, or virtually the last for consecutive three years now (now in 2007 maybe even lower than the truly minority brands like Fujifilm, Panasonic and Leica, whom do not have a system of their own, as Pentax is not even mentioned this time, unlike in the previous two years). Really too bad and very sad.. :-((

So, afterall, the end results once again tell it all: The K10D and the K100D/Super were not selling well in 2007 globally. And now, from what I can observe and learn from different indicators and sources, the K20D and K200D are not even as "interested" as when the K100D and K10D were (just forget about the K100D Super in the second half of 2007, which was just a DSLR which rarely sold, as I predicted in the very beginning). If this situation and trend continues, I feel rather pessimistic if Pentax can survive and go on with her "business" in the coming days, not even to mention nobody except Pentax or Hoya knows what Hoya has been thinking and will decide to do in the next fiscal years, when the big boss Hoya looks back and is to be doing the company's (annual?) business review.

After all the bad news, what I really want to point out is without some kinds of minimal market insights, marketing creativity (e.g., this for what I suggested) and adequate R&D plus manufacturing/QC improvement initiatives and efforts (so as to resolve various problems as widely reported and upkeep their technologies and products with the competitors), there is no hope, really, I can surely tell.

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