Here is the latest interview with the Assistant Head of the Business Division and Head of Product Development and Co-ordination Division of Pentax, Mr. 北沢利之, by the Japanese DC Watch:-
(Article in Japanese)
I summarise below and try my best to translate the key points as follows, with reporter's questions in green, answers by the Pentax official in blue, and my remarks and comments in red:-
Warning 1: Well, do beware of those boring sales talks and quite some contradictions and disorders thereafter . I just wonder if this guy is actually a sales rep or an engineer? :-))
Warning 2: The questions raised are quite acute, to-the-point and of huge concerns by quite some Pentaxians. For those easily-angry blinded brand fanboys. Please don't read on! A heart-attack may result! ;-)
Okay, let's go!
Q1: The K20D and K200D have already been marketed this year. The K-m as the 3rd product lanuched in 2008, what are Pentax's intentions and targets?
A1: The aim and purpose of developing the K-m is to seek more DSLR market share so as to secure our business. By considering that the number of entry level DSLRs constitutes around 70% of all the DSLRs in the market whereas up-market models are only at about 5% where the K20D belongs to, in which actually the number of this type of potential buyers is actually uncertain, it's important to make a "mid-level" entry level Pentax DSLR as now the K200D is an "upper-level" entry level DSLR model of Pentax.
My Comments: First, I really find it funny that he dared to tell the world that the K20D is an up-market model of the top 5%. In fact, the latest sales price of the K20D already says it all. Second, the innovative terms of "upper-level" and "mid-level" entry level DSLRs are really amazing! Well, to use his innovation in using words, I would say the K20D is either an "entry level" mid-grade APS-C DSLR Or an "upper-level" entry-level DSLR! .. for whatever anyone like to call it! ;-) Which one you like and choose btw? ;-D
Q2: The market positioning of the K-m is obvious. But actually what are the targets and the reasons behind, for a camera with that specifications?
A2. The specific target buyers for the K-m is for ladies and younger persons. Now that the dominant age group of DSLR users is in the age range of 40 to 60. However, in 3 to 4 years time, it is predicted that the age group of 20 to 30 will become dominant. For the gender share, ladies are now at round 10% and in 1 to 2 years time, it might come up to around 20 to 30%.
Q3: It is absolutely not a new idea and concept for targeting for the female market and younger persons. Afterall, it is just a concept, tell us more specifics about (the design concepts of) the K-m?
A3. The K-m was designed and made with the main goals of minisation and weight decreasing. And more importantly, to make it easy to use and to increase picture quality as well as to raise shooting performance. And, with the kit lens and batteries installed, the K-m kit is amongst the world 3 lightest APS-C DSLR and the world's smallest.
My Comments: So, it's a "perfect" camera then? But in fact, the above are mostly unimportant pure sales talk in my eyes. Everyone knows about the specs on weight and size. What're actually special and unique in the current market, actually? The K-m has no Live View which beginners and novices or even advanced amateurs love. And in fact it's not the smallest nor lightest. It has in-body image stabilisation, though. But then Sony entry level counterparts also have.
Q4: The "Help" Button?
A4. The most easily accessible place for the index finger has been reserved and allocated for the new "Help" button which provides handy and useful detailed descriptions of functions and operations on-the-go.
My Comments: Well, I agree that this somehow new idea and feature is nice and quite user friendly. (Well, the *ist DS firmware 2.0 first introduced LCD "online" guidance when the user operates the camera.) Btw, I bet new users will not need to bring any user manual with them as it has just been bulit into the camera body with this factility. Nonetheless, I think this feature is important and useful just for beginners, but not for any advanced shooters.
New AF Algorithms:
Q5: For quite a while, there have been strong voices for seeking improvements on the AF system of Pentax DSLRs. How about that?
A5: Although basically the AF sensing hardware used in the K-m is the same as that used in the K20D and K200D, newly improved software and calculation algorithms will make it different, in various ways.
My Comments: Well, that's a good thing and I feel good for what Pentax have *finally* done something to deal with their infamous slow and inferior AF system of their DSLRs for years. However, I have some reservations if it's *merely* the software could do the magic. Let's wait and see. And, will the AF accuracy decreased or we really can get the best of both worlds? Time will tell and users will tell ! But, if it is really so, it just means that the bottom of the line K-m will blow the "flagship" K20D out of the water in the AF department, just like what many other entry level DSLRs of other brands could do long ago! Don't believe? Just try a 450D, Sony A350 or Olympus E-420!
And, how about the metering/exposure accuracy improvement for the current unreliable Pentax DSLR exposure system which usually gives inconsistent results and great errors? No Improvement of any kind or by any means?
Q6: Last time the hot and popular DSLR model of Pentax was the K10D which was announced in Photokina 2006. The K10D seeked quite some attentions and received lots of good reviews and appraisals. How about the response for the K-m this time?
A6: The responses from the dealers have been very good so far. It is actually even faster than what K10D did of which the demand was built up gradually. We are now prepared and ready for high volume production so as to meet the demand.
My Comments: Well, just believe it OR not! (There is nothing that can be verified)
Q7: Any plan for expanding the current 3 hierachy of product lines? Any Full Frame body?
A7: The DA lens lineup supports fully the current 3 hierachies of bodies. Basicially, we shall keep updating the products with the current configuration of 3.
My Comments: Well, did he actually answer the question? Yes, but indirectly! The answer is there will be no more upper model above the K20D, not even an APS-C KxD. And of course NO Full Frame body! Oh, well, my God! NOOOOOooooooooooo!!
Q8: So, it means that the K20D and K20D will be replaced. But When?
A8: Before Summer 2009, so as to meet the dates of major Awards and to meet the shipment and delivery dates of Christmas which is of high hopes and expections.
My Comments: Really strange - are Pentax making products for the sake of getting Prizes and Awards? And, how do they know they can get the Awards even if they catch in the dates? (That's *Silly* IMHO). Finally, what's the 6 months in between the Summer to Christmas to do? (Am I really missing something and (yet again) "fail to understand" all those. l think YES, I *must* admit!). In short, I just find the answers and "logics" are just so miraculous!
Q9: Really No Lineup Expansion and no Full Frame?
A9: No. Full Frame sensors have actually been adopted in many competitors' products. The Full Frame products will come down in prices and so do the prices for the mid-range products. Nevertheless, we are always carrying out feasilibility studies on the adoption of Full Frame sensor. However, no actual project for the development of Full Frame product has started.
My Comments: In his words, he unintentionally expressed the facts and what he thinks in heart actually - Full Frame products are up-market products but they are becoming cheaper even. It's the trend. But didn't he forget that he had mentioned that the K20D is the 5% up-market product? Anyway, what are actually the points he want to raise? I really don't get it! You?
Q10: The Viability of 645D for Commercial Usage? 645D current project status (in PIE 2007 Pentax said that "we must do the 645D)?
A10: The project was suspended for a few times owing to the lack of resources but it has not been stopped. The 645D is targeted for artists and landscape photographers for professional usage and for the highest possible picture quality.
My Comments: Actually, he just said that Pentax are uncertain for how many K20D target customers could be secured for the top 5% of "upper class" *mainstream* DSLR buyers/users. How dare they could go ahead on the 645D project, even considering the "lack of internal resources". IF I were HOYA, I must stop and abandon this dead-end project immediate and just put all the remaining (already limited) resources on an upper class Pentax DSLR body. At least ONE ABOVE THE Kx0D, even it is STILL APS-C (as he also said about for what the DA lens lineup (just) supports in the above).
Q11: 35mm Full Frame Vs APS-C??
A11: A full frame body and system must incorporate a Full Frame lens lineup and a ful review is required. Currrently, the image circle of the APS-C lenses and 35mm Full Frame lenses are different and the different image circles are both made tightly with the sensor size. It is therefore it is difficult for 35mm full frame to meet the most demanding commercial use owing to the limitation in size.
My Comments: I think this reporter was really troublesome! :-) He asked question repeatedly in somehow different ways until he could get more information! So, how about APS-C. 645D is not coming soon and in Pentax land there is even no "35mm Full Frame". What was that Pentax Head actually talking about? And, did he know what he was talking about himself, at that time??
Q12: Full Frame DSLRs have been popular and prices are coming down. This would certainly pull down the prices of the APS-C DSLRs below and marketing postions of different DSLRs will become less differentiated. Any worry?
A12: Yes but we have to face it. But possibly, APS-C has the advantages of being compact and lightweight. Moreover, if we can achieve in making close to ordinary Full Frame image quality with APS-C DSLRs. We do know that if the image quality is not high enough and the DSLRs are not small enough, we are difficult to survive.
My Comments: Well, how can they do that *actually*? Do anyone of us actually believe *miracles*? They want to and aimed to do *miracles*?? How can the picture quality of APS-C to meet the "ordinary" (typical?) picture and image quality of the Full Frames???
Q13: So, the new two replacement models in the next summer will target at the ordinary picture quality of the 35mm Full Frame?
A13: Yes, it is.
Q13a: But since it is generally known that the Signal-to-Noise (S/N) bottle neck is at the sensor, without using 35mm Full Frame sensor, it is difficult to improve the overall S/N ratio, with the same current generation of technology. How to do it?
A13a: We cannot disclose more detailed information at this stage. But we shall do it. There are a lot of opportunities to achieve better image quality and we are now jointly developing sensor(s?) with other sensor manufacturer(s? Remarks: all nouns in Japanese are not countable).
Q13b: Do post-processing in camera and (enhanced) A/D conversion could help in improving overall image quality? How about Noise Reduction?
A13b: Yes, both. And those are what we are exploring. Just for example, for the reproduction of greens and tonal response..
Q13c: For what you have just said about the joint development with sensor manufacturer. Is it the newer generation of the K20D Samsung sensor under the pipeline?
A13c: We chose the best sensor for different products at different times. Just say the K20D has the Samsung 14.6MP sensor but the K200D and the K-m both use the Sony 10MP sensor. Anyway, the technologies and techniques we have mastered in developing these products will help us to realise higher picture quality close to Full Frame in the future.
My Comments: Well, I have no more to say. The reporter had asked all the questions which are in the brains of many digital Pentaxians and now we have known more official directions of Pentax now. In short, they have already completed their lineup and there will be no more upper model nor another product hierachy to come. And, they will not have Full Frame even in 2009 and no actual project of any for Full Frame system (nor body nor lenses) has started!
I opt not to translate the last pair of Q and A in the last two paragraphs as I think the incredible, amazing and miraculous answers of that Pentax highly ranked official have been more than enough and it seems that even he himself had been in a big loss in the second half of the interview when he nerves were touched repeated by the reporter on the Full Frame issue and the cruel market reality!
Finally, sorry for the poor translations as it is somehow difficult for me but I do hope you guys/gals find it useful and interesting. The interviewer had actually asked very good questions and in fact we do get quite some new information, putting aside the contradictions shown and other typical sales talks (which any rep must be promoting). But if I were him, I think I would answer even worse - how can he answer for all those questions with no answer by Pentax actually at all?!
(Afterall, I feel for him!)
Friday, September 26, 2008
Here is the latest interview with the Assistant Head of the Business Division and Head of Product Development and Co-ordination Division of Pentax, Mr. 北沢利之, by the Japanese DC Watch:-
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Have just seen this new review and test of the lens:-
As you can see from the crops of the "newspaper" testing shots that:
- At 17mm, there are serious light fall-off, obvious and large amount of barrel distortion, significant edge softness and blur at image corners. The sharpness could only be partially improved until it is stopped down 4 steps down to f/16 (well, stopping down two steps to f/8 still don't help much). And, the vignetting becomes less obvious at f/8 but however is still visible;
- At 70mm, there are still serious light fall-off, significant edge softness and blur at image corners. Again, the sharpness could only be partially improved until it is stopped 4 steps down to f/16 (and again, stopping down two steps to f/8 won't help much). And, the vignetting becomes less obvious at f/8 but is still visible. There is no obvious distortion at 70mm, though.
So, if this new DA 17-70 F4 lens is now being sold for doubling the price of the old DA 16-45 but could even have (much) worse optical performance, then it must be yet a big joke that Pentax are making to us. Not even to mention that this lens is not compatible with all the just older Pentax DSLR bodies for not supporting the body driven AF, although it now has SDM (but only).
Well, I just can't help to ask Pentax/Hoya again: What's going on? (???)
Monday, September 22, 2008
For quite a while, there has been a new trend for DSLRs to have the Live View (LV) function. Despite some people would question the usefulness of the LV, it would be interesting to learn that “What does a Live View screen add to a DSLR?”, just read that article to have some ideas.
In short, Live View opens up new photo opportunities and it could be an invaluable tools for more shooting flexibility and for new creative compositions which would have never been possible without Live View but only with special, expensive or bulky accessories for finder optics (which are yet not as versatile).
The Basics (Working Principles and Pros & Cons)
1. Live View CMOS Imagers (for DSLRs)
As we all know, the CCD and CMOS Imagers used in DSLRs are much larger in size and area than those used in smaller DCs for P&S shooters. The design of those DSLR imagers are somehow quite different than those smaller imagers from the very beginning as all DC imagers were capable to do LV on day one. In contrast, DSLR imagers are designed to have the highest possible overall picture quality which means higher pixel count, larger photo site / pixel area, wider dynamic range, lower noise at higher ISO sensitivities and so on.
Until Olympus created the E-330 in January 2006 with a brand new “Live MOS” sensor, the DSLR imagers started to be LV capable.
So, what makes a sensor to be LV capable. There exists a number of criteria for the imager to fulfil, namely:-
- High enough refresh rate – so that the LV display can be updated seamlessly as viewed, say, at least more than 25 fps;
- Not generating much heat during LV and/or to dissipating the heat quickly and efficiently/effectively enough;
- Need to have a short and fast reset after leaving the LV and be prepared to take the actual image. The reset is a discharge process where the shutter need to be closed and let all the stored charge in all pixels of the imager to be drained. Anyway, no matter how fast or slow the discharge process is, it just means there will be a *delay* time to be waited.
The BIGGEST Advantage of using imager as the LV sensor is that it is simply WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), which just means previewing the whole image 100% in area is possible and the user could preview other picture effect clearly and accurately such as the exposure and colours, focus, Depth of Field (DoF) and so on.
As for DCs, the exposure control for the displayed LV image (brightness) could be achieved by dynamic aperture opening and/or electronic shutter of the imager itself. I have no information about how different (brands of) DSLRs control this and their means, though. But some DSLRs are better implemented than others and in general, the later the product, the more mature the LV is.
There is so far no larger CCD Imager for DSLR, unlike those very small CCDs for P&S DCs which all have such LV function (and of course, as said before).
2. Separate Live View Sensor in the Optical ViewFinder
As seen from these two diagrams for the E-330, the working principle is to split some light from the optical viewfinder image to the "Full-time" LV Sensor, but it should be noted that it is NOT exactly WYSIWYG. Moreover, there is light loss as such and hence a relatively dimmer viewfinder image is resulted.
Even worse, with the accommodation of this additional sensor and its associated optics, making a brighter, larger (higher magnified) projected viewfinder image with a higher percentage of actual image coverage has become more difficult. Particularly, 100% coverage is nearly impossible for such a design unless additional full scale half-mirror or split-prism is included to split the lights of finder image into two paths, one to the eyepiece and another to the LV sensor. Even putting aside the complexity of the required optic design, the whole viewfinder will be made rather large and heavy. And the Physics still is, the optical finder image will still be *dimmer*.
Another worse evil few people will notice is that at low light, this LV design simply won’t work well. The displayed LV image will become noisy owing to large amplification required for such only tiny amount of light as received by that LV sensor.
Oh well, when next time DPR and some other reviewers say loudly for the “Seamless Live View Operation” they like to emphasize from time to time, I think it would be better for them to tell more about the above mentioned two killing shortcomings!
3. Phase Matching AF Detection System
Basically, there is a set of AF measuring module with the required optics and electronics are placed under the mirror house, see this.
The Phase Matching Detection method is mature and should be fast and accurate by itself (as the AF systems are all designed based on). However, under LV by the Imager, there are additional overheads of mirror down and up in which time is added for the whole AF operation.
4. Contrast Detection AF (Software Algorithm)
It is just a pure software thing to detect the in-focus point just like what nearly all the P&S DCs do. The implementation is relatively slow for DSLRs, in general. For example, it has been verified uncountably by different reviewers and users that even latest Canon DSLRs in this mode could require 3 to 5 seconds to focus! My impression is that latest Olympus DSLRs like 420 and 520 are faster, though. For that speed of the Canons, I think it is a not yet mature technology and there should exist some limitations. I hope that things will be improved later when more of the existing technical difficulties are tackled.
Well, so there are two LV methods plus two AF methods under the LV mode – a total of four combinations:
1. LV with Imager; AF with Phase Matching
2. LV with Imager; AF with Contrast Detection (by Imager)
3. LV with Separate Sensor; AF with Phase Matching (and of course!)
4. LV with Separate Sensor; AF with Contrast Detection (by Imager? - Oh, it's NOT possible)
But in reality, the fourth combination is not possible as the Contrast Detection AF by Imager must happen at the same time with LV with Imager. In short, the LV with Separate Sensor in Finder and LV with Imager simply cannot be co-exist unless the main mirror is a split prism that split lights into the Finder and the Imager *at the same time*.
One may also ask why not to use the External LV Sensor for the Contrast Detection? There are two reasons: 1. It is not needed as the Phase Detection AF is always here; 2. The gathered light may not be adequate for better image quality for precision contrast AF detection.
1. LV with Imager; AF with Phase Matching
The operating procedures are as follows:-
(i) Mirror Up;
(ii) Enter LV mode by Imager;
(iii) Mirror Down for AF (the norm is a dedicated button other than the shutter release button is to be pressed (all the way down) to initiate action);
(iv) After AF is achieved, the Imager is Reset/Discharged (the Shutter is Closed so that no light is allowed to fall onto the sensor so that it can be discharged fully);
(v) After the Reset, the final image can be recorded by the Imager.
An example of this type of LV mode and AF operation is the Olympus E-410/510, just see the official instructions below:-
Pentax K20D also uses this LV and AF method, however the AF interface/indication and LV functionality are both poorly implemented.
2. LV with Imager; AF with Contrast Detection (by Imager)
Many latest DSLRs offer this mode as an option. With pure software based algorithm, there are actually more to be played with, e.g., face detection. Canon 40D/450D/5D MkII, Olympus E-520, Panasonic L-10 and Nikon D300/D90, etc. are all having such a mode.
The Procedures are as follows:-
(i) Mirror Up;
(ii) Enter LV mode by Imager;
(iii) No need for Mirror Down to do the AF (usually a dedicated button other than the shutter release button is pressed to initiate action – the method of AF whether by Phase Detection or by Contrast Detection is to be set in a custom function option or by different buttons as assigned, depending on the design);
(iv) After AF is achieved, the Mirror is Lowered (which could be skipped, if mechanically allowed?) and Shutter is Closed so that the Imager can be Reset/Discharged (the Shutter must be Closed so that no light is allowed to fall onto the sensor for it to discharge);
(v) After the Reset, the final image can be recorded by the Imager.
But, as said, the problem with the Contrast Detection AF is mainly about its (slow) speed, the shutter is still required to be closed before taking the actual picture so that the Imager can be reset, which just introduce more time delay for resetting such a large Imager.
3. LV with Separate Sensor; AF with Phase Matching
(i) Enter LV mode by activating the LV Sensor in the Finder;
(ii) Doing AF as usual – half pressed shutter release button;
(iii) Take the picture!
Well, as it can be seen, that’s the “Seamless Operation" which DPR reviewers (and quite some others) like. But they just forgot to mention about the real weaknesses and limitations of this LV mode, particularly, the dark blindness and actually it is NOT WYSIWYG, no matter on actual image coverage, DoF, exposure and so on. What the user could see is JUST a very close *simulation*. Nonetheless, this LV still helps much in the shooting flexibility and for composition, undoubtedly.
Example (for Sony A300/350):-
Actually, this is just the same original Olympus E-330 design (Mode A LV). Just see above!
Saturday, September 20, 2008
See the latest various Japanese news reports (all in Japanese) below:-
It is told that:-
- All existing camera and related productions are to be retreated from Japanese home;
- The retreated productions include those for large and medium format cameras, lenses and other camera accessories/peripherals;
- Productions will be moved to factories at Vietnam and Philippines, targeted by the middle of this fiscal year for most;
- The productions of DCs and DSLRs have already moved to overseas earlier;
- The migration is owing to the rigorous market and price competitions and the increase in the face amount of the Japanese currency (which increase production costs);
- All the affected production facilities will be closed by March 2009.
The Pentax factory at Mashiko, Tokyo will be closed. There are 750 staff affected and around 400 out of them are currently employed for the camera and related productions. In late August, a voluntary retirement scheme has been offered which was targeted to get a maximum of 300 staff to join the scheme. Some of the engineers will be able to keep their jobs but will be re-deployed to the remaining production facility for making high-precision and high-tech products like micro lenses because migration of that facility would be difficult and is not desirable.
Nikkan Industry News:-
Some of the Pentax engineers are retained but the production of cameras and related items are all moved to overseas.
The factory was set up by the ex-Pentax Corporation company, the Asahi Optical Industry, in November 1969, which has been manufacturing interchangeable lenses for SLRs as well as endoscopes and some other medical equipment and accessories like artificial bones, etc.
Previous Related Blog Reports:-
Hoya to Liquidate Pentax Factory in Guangzhou China (Sept. 1)
Hoya to Liquidate Pentax Scandinavia (Sept. 1)
Hoya to Liquidate Pentax Factory in Shanghai China (August 27)
Hoya Reported Net Loss in Running Pentax and Overall Profit Declined (August 13)
DA L 18-55 and 50-200 Kit Lenses:
SDM DA AF Converter 1.4X:
( Source, with Full Press Release Article in German: http://img254.imageshack.us/img254/5269/nachrichtendivisionimagjz7.jpg )
Well, do Pentax really need to dig a deeper hole for them to jump into it with all these latest DA lens products and get buried eventually? Could any of those new DA products cover Full Frame? Or NOT?? Who knows??? .. UNLESS they tell us - BUT it SHOULD BE NOOOOW! NOT LATER!!
WHO *dares* to invest on those expensive gear (even) without the knowledge of knowing whether they can support full frame or not? EVEN though now there is no sign of any Pentax Full Frame camera yet. Hoya Pentax, you must face it - now the DSLR trend is TOWARDS FULL FRAME! Don't be a coward anymore! Be BRAVE and SMART *marketing-wise*!!
From what I could see from what's happening, it is just called stupidity and shortsightedness in my book but nothing else!
Friday, September 19, 2008
Together with two new plastic DA "L" kit lenses where L stands for Lightweight, I believe, and "m" to be "mini". Well, this seems like to be somehow a Light joke to Canon and their users but actually a big joke to Pentax themselves, IMHO. Now, we Pentax users finally have the widely percepted luxury L lenses, but not made by Canon, which are just the bottom of the line products by Pentax which are told to be using plastic as far as possible (so as to save weight)! Really good, I can have both Canon and Pentax L lenses very soon!!
Source of information was *once* official (and actually it is just true), just see:-
The page has just appeared just shortly at the Pentax Europe (Germany) GmbH site but was removed quickly.
But someone has already copied the announcement and here it is:-
Well, the set price tags are not really cheap for the kits: 499 Euros for single kit with DA L 18-55 and 599 Euros for twin lens kit with also DA L 50-200. Competitive? I'm afraid NOT! (Unless the street prices are cheaper..)
In addition, there are more "insider" information as disclosed, just believe it or not:-
- 10.2 MP Sony sensor - the same one used in the K10D and K200D
- No LiveView (Huh! What? STILL Nooo LLLivveee Vieeeeeeeewwwwww?? OH NOOOO!!)
- 3.5 fps (but dunno how many frames it can shoot up to)
- "Help" button
- 1600 shots per charge! (So, no more AA batteries but just a small, lightweight and powerful proprietary lithium rechargeable is to be provided? Possibly a new battery model which is smaller in size. Finally, Pentax has just been able to kill one big evil that has been hurting them and their users much for years if it really is! Well..)
- No top monochrome LCD display panel, originally where now sits with a right hand mode dial
Well, how about the AF and the AE systems used in this new body, still the old (too crappy IMHO) ones??
Despite I have kept updating my (pre-)Photokina news blog entry frequently once important news for new gear (brand regardless) arose, I opt to write a new entry about the possible coming of new Pentax stuff this time!
Since there is no leak nor not much more trustworthy news so far for any new Pentax gear right before the Photokina and there is only 4 days left from now on for the Photokina to start, many Pentaxians have been disappointed for long, already! (Well, the last time there is an (almost) official report about a new Pentax DSLR body was that piece of news, which I reported in early August.)
So, Pentaxians, please don't be upset. And here are some light which I would share!
My special thanks to one of my readers, Thomas W. S. from the Germany, who kindly dropped me an email, to tell me that there was a new Pentax Ad at the site fotocommunity.de & forums a few days ago, there were 3 DSLRs shown, including the K200D and K20D plus a secret model. Here is the screen capture:-
(Click to Enlarge)
So, that new DSLR is smaller than both the K200D and K20D. And, the left hand mode dial is now absent and possibly it is just replaced by buttons and thus this new smaller DSLR is very possibly an entry level one with trimmed down operation facilities.
But I think the more important message from this Ad is that very possibly there will only be ONE new Pentax DSLR to be shown at the Photokina and I guess it will be marketed shortly and there will be no K20D replacement at least for the time being (and this explains why Pentax and Samsung have cut the price of the K20D so dramatically), although the K200D might be simply replaced by that new model as the sales of the K200D have never been really good (other entry level DSLRs from the competitors are selling far better nor the K200D is as popular as the K100D it replaced did). Anyway, the K20D successor may come before the X'mas, which I dare to make a sensible guess, just follow on for why..
Now PentaxForums user Asahiflex writes today that he has seen the new Pentax DSLR body and has got some insider news for the coming new products from Pentax, see his new post below:-
I do believe mostly for what he says from his tone of reporting (and from what I know about the poster as well for the considerable amount of time when I was at the forum). Now, the new entry level DSLR body (if there is one, but very possibly, again!) is of a new series but not with the K-something designation. If this is true, this will (very likely) mark an end to the somehow short-life K series which has only four models since the K100D (I don't count the "Super" model which is just indifferent from the original K100 except just for the SDM lens support). Maybe Hoya/Pentax now know well it's the time to drop the K line as those cameras have been infamous for long for those persistent shortcomings. Maybe (and much hopefully) there will be new AF and/or new metering system to be included in the new DSLR body very soon - so that Pentax/Hoya decided to start a new DSLR family. Who knows? (at least not publicly known at this moment) Anyway, we shall know just within a few days!
As for the new P-TTL ring flash. If it is true, it will too mark a formal full-stop to the traditional Pentax TTL OTF (Off-The-"Film") flash support as seen from this determination of Pentax as shown (which is good to have than not have it anything, even if this is to "kill" something). But, as I and others old(er) Pentax users who have an older generation(s) of Pentax dedicated flash units, which are excellent and extremely accurate and consistent, our almost perfect (but "stupid", as seen by today's Pentax) flash units will become obsolete forever! The new P-TTL flashes and system are by no means as good, as widely reported by many users. I do hope Pentax could improve it vastly anyway.
The SDM adaptor, if true, will also hint that Pentax just want to shift from body driven AF to ultransonic AF in lenses, as they already did it for the new DA 17-70 lens. Such an adaptor will have a multiplying factor yet, for both the focal length and the apeture number, inevitably, nonetheless.
Last but not least, I do really really hope Pentax should show some commitments in Photokina in the development of new upper class bodies and lenses, especially to re-introduce a Full Frame lens system and to tell the world that they are prepared to develop a real FF DSLR body/system sooner (or even later) - despite that it is of no doubt that this won't come true in the near future! But, as least they should kick off now! And, they should let us know, in order to prevent further loss of existing users and retain many of those customers!
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
For quite a long time, there has been a common Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) that is asked repeatedly by different Pentax DSLR users: To Jump Ship or to Stay??
For anyone who just lurks around the Internet at various Pentax places, very quickly we shall see all those user dissatisfactions, frustrations and switching sentiments. The root cause of all those is in fact owing to just one thing: Sub-par system performance and poor reliability, namely, for the AF (Auto Focus) and AE (Auto Exposure) systems. As for the AE inaccuracy issue, it can be further divided into ambient light exposure/metering errors and P-TTL exposure errors, both of which are not small and the results could be very inconsistent. Yet, the reason of the aforesaid sub-par performance may be owing to inadequate or outdated design, low cost design or cheap electronics components chosen/used or (so as to cut corners) and/or even in-born system (design) limitations.
Putting aside of those (part of) user feedbacks and reports that you can search and find here in my Blog, below are just a few more examples of all those *real* "negative" reports made by different Pentax users, recently:-
1. People thinking about to leave:-
User Comment - RiceHigh's Pentax Blog: Photokina is Coming Close
Convince me to stay: Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review
Thinking of switching??: Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review
2. Annoying and persistent infamous system issues with Pentax DSLR gear, as reported:-
Exposure Issue and Underexposure - PentaxForums
Focus, Pentax! Focus! - PentaxForums
Pentax Frustrations - Flickr Pentax Discuss
In the last thread above, the OP complaints about the poor P-TTL reliability which gave awful exposure results plus the rate of out-of-focus photos he got were way too high, even he had already mounted the top-of-the-line Pentax flash gun AF-540FGZ, which has a large AF assistance spotbeam on the flashgun.
The guy who first replied to the thread made very sensible statements and his comments are actually very insightful. He was able to explain quite well very precisely for the main problem with the current Pentax as well as the current adverse situation faced by Pentax. Thumb up!
Well, as read along the thread, there is another reply near the end of thread from an ex-Pentax camera dealer who told about the new Hoya's policy for product distribution, which is just horrible and a nightmare to smaller camera shops - but at the end it hurts the sales of Hoya themselves and eventually the potential customers or old users who want to buy Pentax stuff. In fact, Hoya had just already destroyed the old Pentax product sales and distribution network by frying off or forced retirement of all the old Pentax sales reps after their takeover of Pentax! Huh?
Besides, see also this one:-
The last 3 years Pentax en Samsung have been telling us lie's: Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review
The angry user complaints about the poor availability and slow development of Pentax/Samsung DSLR and gear..
and so on.. Just go read yourself anywhere and elsewhere. I just can't go the numerous user remorse, disappointment, anger and worry or whatever you can think of! But, its the Reality and all these are true!
Well, after all those "bashings" (for what those stupid (frankly) fanboys must say even though there exists so many other Pentax users who have been reporting their true but unhappy experiences), below are my humble opinions, suggestions and advice on what we existing Pentaxians, who are dissatisfied or even desperate, could do:-
1. If money is not an issue, just keep all those good old Pentax film glass that are usually good to excellent, I must mention. And then wait for the Pentax Full Frame body, possibly, hopefully and wishful-thinkingly in some time around 2010 or even later, if Pentax can still be alive by that time and still think that they should make a FF body *by now*!
All in all, just keeping those old film lenses if you really love them. It is because they will be the legacy lenses with excellent quality that you will very possibly never be able to get back again in the future, forever! And, it will be very difficult and it would take a very long time for Pentax to re-build a complete FF lens lineup. So, it is always wise to keep the good old glass just owing to these two reasons. Furthermore, do note that new lenses are in general being not as good in image quality as the old ones, even for the "same" model, see this example.
In short, selling off all those good old discontinued Pentax film glass will not get you many bucks, but instead that will consume you much time to get reasonable paybacks for what they should actually worth (IF Pentax is now a better DSLR system, those lenses should sell much easier and at much higher prices). My humble advice is to WAIT for a Pentax FF DSLR (which is far more realistic to wait for a whole new FF lens lineup anyway). But the obvious risk underneath is if Pentax don't make a FF body forever or they eventually die or just killed completely by Hoya (who knows?) in the future, then all the kept investment will be in vain! ( but you can still use them to shoot film anyway.. :-( )
2. Don't invest too much for the DA lenses and too deep into the current APS-C Pentax digital lens system. Why we need to gamble together with Pentax and take high risk for our investment? Ditto for the Olympus 4/3 E-lenses, honestly speaking;
Indeed, I found that new digital lenses of Pentax often don't have the good old tastes of classic Pentax glass (those actually are not too old, the FA glass in the late 90s / early 2000 are still very nice, their performance on Pentax DSLRs are still by far much better!), but quite some of them taste more like those 3rd party lenses especially as if a Tokina or Tamron lens is mounted for the photo results, which just scared me off really. In fact, the DFA 100/2.8 Macro lens is the last lens I bought from Pentax and it has been my most regretted lens purchase from Pentax so far since two decades ago when I bought my first Pentax lens, the F 35-70/3.5-4.5, which is undoubtedly a good lens.
As an old Pentax user whom has loved the brand and the quality of their glass for decades, it is really very sad to see many of their newer and latest "Pentax" glass now have no unique Pentax character of any at all. Just think about that if the latest Pentaxes are just going to look like Tokinas or Tamrons for the final results obtained, I just wish to ask: WHY PENTAX NOW? WHY NOT simply get those better DSLR bodies from Canon and Nikon or even Sony and then mount those similar spec-ed or even OEM models of Tokinas and Tamrons which are sold way cheaper than those Pentax counterparts.
Previously, I have already reported about those strange unfavourable colour response of many of those newer "Pentax" digital lenses and how I compare various newer Pentax lenses to the old ones, just read them also if you are interested.
3. Next, if there are *still* NO NEW AF and NEW metering system that would *really* perform by Photokina, I would truly suggest any of all those dissatisfied Pentax users please just don't waste your valuable time further, to wait endlessly. Just act decisively and better start off another system! It is unarguable and even generally accepted amongst quite some Pentax users that now all C, N, S and Olympus have better AF and far more accurate and stable exposure systems as well.
HOWEVER, IF Hoya can roll out new debugged (I won't use the word "improved") AF and AE systems by this Photokina, I will still be glad to spend some little money of mine to try it out and report back my findings on the Internet, especially about if the accuracy, performance and reliability of the new systems could be better.
4. Now, it would be wise to sell off those DA lenses as far as possible, especially for those which are for sure cannot even cover the 135 Full Frame, provided that if you don't need them often and that you are thinking about to switch. It should be done before possibly some days later, in a year or so, the APS-C DSLR bodies and lenses are dying and no further development or significant investment is carried out and put by major vendors in the market. By that time, even Pentax/Hoya would insist on the development, very likely this will be just a dead end!
For those who would like to sell off completely all the Pentax gear no matter what they are, film or digital, bodies or lenses or flashes, I think this is not a good option especially for those who have a considerable size lens collection, unless you are totally desperate with Pentax and have no hope of any kind with them. Of course, this can always be done but the lost cannot be estimated, in terms of both money and time. And I still do not wish to depart with my good Pentax glass, which are all innocent! :-( The culprits are only the Pentax DSLRs and the maker who made them.
So, to jump OR to stay, its all up to YOU! That's in short my answer to all those annoyed and dissatisfied Pentax users who are puzzled much now and ask the same question from day to day. But if money is allowed, may I repeat my opinion that to keep the really good old glass which are real keepers, get rid of the evils (e.g., some of those so-so digital lenses), keep waiting and keep urging Hoya to invest to enable Pentax to wake up again (wishful thinking though!).
Nevertheless, to fulfill the current shooting need, do NOT waste more time to think further after the Photokina and simply start off another system that suit your current shooting needs (if the current Pentax offers are just failed to meet your need(s))! Waste no more time to wait endlessly (as it maybe) and don't waste no more money with current incapable or maybe new Pentax offers just with a different look and package. If they don't debug/improve the designs under users' loud complaints which have been accumulated for so many years, why give them more chance and less our photo opportunities gone? Pentax / Hoya, are you LISTEN?? This Photokina should be your LAST CHANCE!
Thursday, September 04, 2008
The Photokina is coming closer and closer. The DSLR big two have already marketed or announced their new powerful weapons already. And then it is followed by Sony and Panasonic, who will announce new DSLRs with ground-breaking feature(s) and technolog(ies) (as claimed) in the next week, most possibly (see reliable reports here and here). Olympus have not yet announced any DSLR related new products yet but they have already made a few announcements for their new DC products.
If you look at the New Product Index for Photokina 2008 at the DPR, it can be seen that Pentax have not yet appeared on the list for any new product (they have none so far). Now, it leaves only less than 20 days for this most important bi-annual event for the photo industry to come. Let's wait and see if there is just really nothing and/or nothing of real importance to come in the Pentax land or it is just that Pentax opted to keep their secret(s) until the last minute!
Anyway, if the last disclosed information by the Pentax official is true, I do expect at least there should be a new entry level Pentax DSLR body to be shown. Otherwise, it will be utter disappointed and the future of Pentax is really much worrisome.
Meanwhile, I shall keep very close eyes to see if there is any leak or those more "substantiated" rumours for any new Pentax product(s) before the Photokina and report it here in my Blog within the shortest possible time if they are found. Besides, for those important inventions or more significant products by the others which probably would have larger impacts to the market, I shall also report them.
Well, so far, I think the most important product made by now in 2008 is the Nikon D700, which is the first "budget" Full Frame DSLR which can compete with the "entry level" Full Frame Canon 5D, which has almost been 3 years old right now (and during the period there was in fact no competition of any kind in the market for that unique market segment but of huge demand, or at least desires by many). Of course, the D700 has a better spec and with more updated features (and, I believe performance wise and in the IQ department, too). The Nikon D90 and Canon 50D are quite nice jobs by the big two indeed IMO as they are upkeeping the market needs with the latest features as well as some new innovations. Hmm.. Let's wait and see what Sony and Pana are to announce very soon and we shall know just in a few days that if there are really something important or even ground-breaking!
News on Sept 5: Sony A900 Surfaced!
A scan of a printed magazine Ad page was posted at the largest Chinese Photo forum here previously but however that scanned image was deleted after a while and now in that post are only the confessions and apologies of the OP (and some other new unimportant responses as well :-)).
Fortunately, I was fast enough to look at the image before it was deleted and indeed I had made a quick inspection on it with suspicion in mind. The image that I saw was not of very high resolution anyway but most of the descriptions of the A900 could be almost seen. What I can tell is that it should be *real* as it looked, especially for the reflected lights on the dark theme background on the print, which is just what we can see on quality magazine or catalogue prints. There were a few visible short folded traces as scanned, too.
At the top of the page, it was a large image of the Sony A900. At the bottom, there was a list of the key product highlights of the A900, namely:-
- 24.6 MP Full Frame CMOS Sensor;
- Dual "Bionz" Image Processing Engines;
- Super Steady Shot (in-camera??);
- 5 FPS;
- 3" LCD with VGA Resolution;
- 100% Coverage Viewfinder with 0.74X Magnification
- 9 Point Crossed AF Sensor (with some more additional descriptions that I couldn't see clearly)
- No Built-in Flash (as judged from the sharp edge triangular shape pentaprism of the A900)
So, the Sony FF and flagship model finally arrives and its pixel count is the highest ever for a 135 DSLR! In fact, the 135 Full Frame DSLR era has now arrived, with the A900 actually comes true and not being a prolonged paperware!
News on Sept 9: Sony A900 Officially Announced!
Just read one of the latest hot press release below:-
Well, the last leaked news on Sept 5 was real and the disclosed information were correct!
News on Sept 11: Canon 5D MkII to be Announced on Sept 17
Here is the latest rumour from a prestige European EOS website (not official), since the first more "solid" rumour came up around one month ago by some "small" others:-
* 24 Megapixel 24X36 CMOS sensor
* New battery, new grip
* DIGIC IV processor
* Magnesium alloy body
* Live view
* Video Mode
* Integrated Cleaning System
* Full compatibility with Canon EF and EX-series Speedlites
* Price : 2600€
* Official announcement date by Canon: 17/09/2008
Well, is this to be the A900 killer? Will people choose the lower pixel count D700 or the A900 and the 5D MkII which are now doubled in pixels? Anyway, as I have said for quite some time already, the (affordable) Full Frame era has now really come!
News on Sept 11: Pentax K20D street prices in Hong Kong are dropping crazily
There have been two abnormal phenomenons recently at two large camera chain shop companies in Hong Kong. Either there is no more K20D units at many branch shops of the "Boardway" and many of the K20D goods disappeared there "suddenly" just a while ago. And, at another large chain shop company called the "Citicall", the K20D prices are being cut crazily and price could drop significantly within a few days recently and that happened for several times already in just a few weeks.
A guy who has just purchased a K20D + DA 16-45 Kit at Citicall at only HK$8,100 (US$1038) and actually the body worths about US$850 for the cost breakdown ratio he writes (and thus his new DA 16-45 is just for US$188 only!):-
(Post in Traditional Chinese, use BabelFish if needed)
In fact, this price level is already the same as what Samsung has announced for the suggested retail price of the GX-20.
So, what do these two incidents hint? My guess is that quite possibly a K20D replacement (K30D or K20D Super or whatever it is named) is coming very soon! If it is really true, it is very likely that we shall see it in the Photokina. And, Pentax may also discontinue the DA 16-45 very soon and replace it with the more expensive DA 17-70 (as the shops seem to try hard to get rid of the DA 16-45 stocks soonest, also).
News on Sept 12: New Panasonic G1 Micro 4/3 DSLR with EVF
The first new micro 4/3 DSLR has been announced! It's the Pana DMC-G1 with new Electronic ViewFinder (EVF):-
This little cam is the most lovely for its compactness and lighweightness, for both body and the lens(es). It is very innovative and I do like it very much for the first impression! (as I also do for every innovative product with new innovative feature(s) introduced). Its new design resolves the old classic problem of small and dim optical viewfinders of the 4/3 DSLRs. Panasonic has been quite smart to put in a high resolution EVF panel with 1.44 Mega-"dots" (1 dot contains 3 RGB pixels?) and with 0.7X magnification at 50mm in 135 film term which just mean a bright and large viewfinder with fine details, very possibly. Despite its small size and compact design, the external LCD panel is large (at 3") and of moderate high resolution of 460k dots (although not a highest VGA one) and I think it's unique in the very high degree of freedom as newly designed, which is again a big plus. Well, I think this is just the ideal dream compact DSLR that I have been dreaming of for long! Nevertheless, I won't put high hope on the high ISO IQ of the 4/3 nor more shallow DoF control owing to its small sensor format - its a 4/3 afterall! For serious shooting, I shall still use my Full Frame camera, that is, the Canon 5D. But for causal shootings for those used to use mostly DSLRs but want to have a carry-everywhere DSLR camera, this one is the true perfect P&S DSLR to go, so do for most DSLR novices and beginners, I bet.
Well Done and Bravo, Panasonic! I buy much your new concept and I do believe now that you (and Olympus) have (finally) gone down the right path to become more competitive in the DSLR market! If they can really succeed in the near future, it is just because they have acted fast and being the first in making new stuff and introduce new innovations/inventions. See, Pentax / Hoya? Can YOU learn somethings from others?? Do you know one MUST INVEST before there is HOPE for getting ANY REWARD/HARVEST???
News on Sept 13: Price Cuts of K20D and Kit Lenses are Now Official
See the Hong Kong Press Release:-
( Text in Traditional Chinese, use BabelFish if needed. And, 1 US$ = 7.8 HK$ )
So, Is now that a K20D replacement around the corner or Pentax just want to change the K20D to be an entry level (priced) DSLR so as to "compete" in that market segment? (but frankly it is just too large as compared to all others!)
News on Sept 17: Canon 5D MkII is Here, Finally!
The previous rumours are true, the MkII is announced today!
It has all the most updated and latest features and innovations for a DSLR and is simply unbeatable! If you compare this "Advanced Amateur" Canon 5D MkII to the "Flagship" Pentax K20D, the K20D just looks like both dwarf and dinosaur:-
- New 21 MP Full Frame CMOS sensor: higher resolution, lower noise! (Just because it is Full Frame!)
- Super High ISO up to 25,600 available!
- Full HD H.264 Movie Mode up to 1920 x 1080(p) resolution and scanning mode!
- 3.9 fps at Full 21 MP continuous shooting rate!
- 3" VGA Resolution Monitor with 170 Degree of View (Actually, this is now just the basic standard for a LCD monitor on a non-entry level DSLR!)
- Standard Canon LiveView features with Live Histogram, Contrast Detection AF during LiveView and Face Detection (which no Pentax DSLR has any of these "standard" functions)
- 14 bit A to D output with the 4th generation Digic 4 Image Processor (Pentax are still using the 1st generation "PRIME")
- 98% Coverage, 71% Magnification Viewfinder (better than the original 5D and of course way better than any APS-C DSLR)
- New Dust Prevention and Removal System (which shakes the AA filter in front of the sensor at high frequency, not the whole heavy sensor at low frequency. Anyway, I think Oly's ultrasonic solution should be the best and the worst "solution" is now the Sony and Pentax's "shake the sensor" one, which is just useless.)
- Weight kept at 810g (same as the original 5D and really not heavy for such a monster!)
- and so on..
Monday, September 01, 2008
Here is the third piece of news about Hoya to liquidate subsidiary Pentax units, I have not much more to write and say, go read yourself the official press article released today:-
Just do note that this very young factory, which is just 3.5 years old by now, is to be closed down by this financial year end. The scale of this factory is not small and is comparable in scale and value to the Pentax Shanghai factory, which will be executed on the same day March 31, 2009.
According to the announcement of Hoya on August 7, 2008, Pentax Scandinavia is to be dissolved and liquidated by December 31, 2008. The decision was actually made back to September 3, 2007 when Hoya had already held 90.5% shares of the ex-Pentax Corporation.
This will make an end to the Pentax Scandinavia which have served the Northern Europe (Scandinavia) Pentax users for 26 years since established in 1982.
It is told that "a (new?) branch of Pentax Europe GmBH" would be set up to replace the Pentax Scandinavia, "in order to improve the business efficiency".
In fact, Hoya have shown the world their strong determination of "business efficiency improvement" once again recently which seems to be solely (running) cost conscious but nothing else. But, is "efficiency" actually all *just* about the operating cost and expenditures? Indeed, how can a company to gain more profit margin in running a business? Yes, expenditures include manufacturing costs of goods, both material and labour costs in running business and so on, but, do a company need to cut all those cost as far as possible and then wishfully hoping a success in the end?
Whilst closing down those Pentax branch and factory one by one (no matter they are new or old) would certain save some costs, the actual effects to the business (of the Pentax brand) are yet uncertain. For example, a local Pentax branch could help to promote products and sales and surely would provide better after-sales support and services to the existing Pentax users at the region. So, *unless* the sales of current Pentax products (mainly the Pentax DSLR system, in fact) in Northern Europe is just so poor, I see no point to close down that regional head office even though its scale maybe small somehow.
On the other hand, Pentax's head in China informed that in a recent interview that *Pentax* (not Hoya, unfortunately) were going to set up more local branch offices in the large cities of China in order to get more business opportunities and to improve the current customer support and service levels at China. Are Hoya actually doing the reverse in Europe for their sales and after-sales policy now? Well, I just wish to ask again that: Are the sales of current Pentax products in (Northern) Europe declining so badly that Hoya decided taking the move is so necessary? IF NOT, WHY? Just because Hoya wanted to cut costs for the sake of cutting costs and for a better looking business results / financial report, even if the cost is actually really small?
I really hope that Hoya should think very seriously and more clearly that whether they should cut more branches of Pentax further in order to improve their "business efficiency" (well, I quote their term here again). Or, in contrast, to upkeep their pace of product updating/evolution and technologies revolution and invest more in R&D and manufacturing facilities so that more business and marketing opportunities could be gained which would mean better sales and business results. By then, more local branches and sales offices can be and should be set up as a consequence. But then in order to get better results, they should strengthen their organisation locally at different countries, cities and regions - really a real chicken and egg problem afterall!
Now, it leaves only a few Pentax subsidiaries on this planet after the death of Pentax Scandinavia. WHO will be the NEXT?? Or, will *Hoya* really set up new branches at China as the Pentax head in China told? (Really Very Unlikely, I bet, from what we have seen so far for the recent happenings!)
To give all of my readers here more food for thought. The live examples are: Canon and Nikon have many many branches and direct subsidiaries all over the world, do they ever need to cut many of those to save costs? Just think about it.
Last but not least, when I look again at the successful history of Pentax and some historical backgrounds of the company, I have some kinds of sorrow myself, like this one:-
Now that Hoya had to change the web address of pentax.co.jp to pentax.jp to get rid of the "co" in the URL and ditto in the latest firmware update of the K20D (which caused much incompatibility as a result), for example, I do really question much about the open-mind-ness (if any) of the Hoya heads who have the real authority in the company. Really sad, yet once again!