Web Analytics RiceHigh's Pentax Blog: The Current Pentax DSLR "System" As A *System*

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Current Pentax DSLR "System" As A *System*

There is always a good reason for people who need a DSLR, it is because the lenses of a DSLR system are interchangeable and that the lens lineup of a DSLR constitutes the most important part of such a system.

Now, we can have a look at the current lens lineup as offered by Pentax:-


In fact, one will not be difficult to spot that Pentax's current lens lineup has no prime lens which is longer than 100mm and actually that "longest" prime is not a tele-lens neither and it is just a standard 100mm/2.8 macro lens. So, what're the remaining offerings at the tele-side? Well, there are two lenses which the Pentax user can still choose from, but both are just slow consumer zooms, namely, the DA 50-200/4-5.6 or the recent DA 18-250/3.5-6.3, which is widely believed to be a Tamron OEM variant anyway. So, if one don't mind to have such a slow and low-grade zoom (well, again, not even talking about primes), the longest focal one can get is just 250mm, but at f/6.3, with the inferior image quality which can be expected for a 13.9X "super zoom" used at the extreme end focals.

Of course, particular people (usually those brand defenders/blinded brand loyalists/brand fans, or whatever you could find a term to best describe them) would start arguing that *they* do not need to buy new or current lenses, they could just choose to use old lenses. But my opinions are simply that: 1. It is not an excuse for inadequate choice of lenses under the current lens lineup which are in production; 2. Old lenses are not fully supported by the current Pentax DSLR bodies as they were designed to work and function nor these lenses can enable all the latest features as contained in the current DSLR bodies, say, for the AF and AE or even Flash Exposure departments.

Actually, if one looks back Pentax's history and their offerings on those SLR system lens lineup, one would easily discover one sad fact: There has never been a while in Pentax's past history that they lack a complete lens lineup with such a limited focal range and the lack of useful primes (which *were* what Pentax truly excelled in themselves) than the present situation.

Just look at again the Pentax's great stuff for the past generations of the lens lineup, since the late 50s when they made their first SLR:- http://kmp.bdimitrov.de/lenses/index.html#data, then one will know immediately for how weak the current Pentax lens lineup really is.

The funny thing is that if you also look at my own Pentax AF lenses collection, then you will see that actually I have a more complete (or at least more balanced) lens lineup than what Pentax is offering now, especially at the tele-side and/or if those lenses are used with a Full Frame body. Nevertheless, most of the excellent FA film lenses in my own lineup have been discontinued by Pentax in recent years, since they launched their new DA lens production line in Vietnam.

Well, again, those particular people will start to mention about that Pentax has a lens roadmap and they will add new lenses in the future. Yes, I think we all know that. Below is the latest revised lens roadmap by Pentax:-


Now, there are new DA* tele primes to come. But if one have been reading the past lens roadmap updates with a more careful mind, one should have also discovered that now that the latest Pentax lens roadmap for those "future" lenses are now have no "tentative dates" for their targeted release times, if any.

Furthermore, there is yet one big problem with the planned Pentax's system if one bothers to compare it against what Canon, Nikon and Sony has been planning and are offering for their lens systems, that is, no one will make the telephoto side of their lens systems to be in APS-C format, at least not with the same nomenclature as what Pentax has planned for the "DA*" tele lenses. With a DA name, no one can guarantee that those new lenses, even if they are really to come (but when?), are actually Full Frame compatible, or not. BTW, has anyone ever been able to see an EF-S Canon tele lens or a DX formated Nikon tele?? (which doesn't make any sense at all IMHO..)

Well and well, people would ask why "Full Frame compatible" is so important? In fact, Canon, Nikon and Sony are surely having better foresight in planning a system to cope with future Full Frame bodies which they have been planning or simply have already implemented. In fact, the Full Frame trend (or the "Full Frame Train") seem to be the ultimate way to go in the foreseeable future. The C, N and S are at least mind corrected marketing wise, or even technically wise, unlike Pentax, who seems just know to insist on an APS-C development even though even those of their previously promised APS-C lenses are now just paperware which has nowhere to come.

Last but not least and in addition, what I feel indeed rather disappointed (again) for Pentax's lens lineup is that in the past I was always felt proud of being a Pentax user for having the choice or even owning quite some of the best valued and optically excellent and uniquely characterised lenses of Pentax which other systems lacked. But now if one with a more careful mind and without any stance who judges and compares different systems, he/she will not be difficult to learn that Pentax lenses, even DA* zooms, can be purchased as Tokina variants in C and N mounts at much cheaper prices but with similar optical performances and characteristics for all those "co-developed" (as verified in various published reviews and tests), and even the latest Pentax's offer can be found as a Tamron 18-250 super zoom in C or N mount, too. (But Tokina and Tamron just haven't offered those lens models in Pentax mount!)

So, after all and all in all, the big question is my mind is: Why Pentax NOW? And how could and should the Pentax DSLR system be chosen and be considered as a complete system?

You may think that I might be saying too many things that are considered "negative" about the *current* Pentax system in the above. But anyway whether you like the above or not, all these are *facts*. Nonetheless, I would still try to be contributive for my own insight and comment for how Pentax can be alive out of the current difficult situation. I can think out of a possible way or even maybe the only way for them to compete again with others *again* in the future: That is, to re-build/re-setup the old FA film Full Frame lens lineup for lens models as needed (especially for the primes and the tele-side lenses they are lacking, which I think they are theoretically capable of and the re-design works would be minimal, technically) *and* try ALL of their best efforts to make a Full Frame DSLR body - even though it shall not come eariler than the Sony, but should not be (much) later than them. Otherwise, when Canon, Nikon and Sony all have affordable FF DSLR models in the foreseeable future, Pentax would probably die in the end. Note again that C, N and S all have a complete lens lineup for *both* APS-C and FF but Pentax has actually not yet completed even their APS-C lineup (but they were however too "roughly" to decide to discontinue all those old film lenses, especially at the tele-side). My humble opinions and my two cents..


  1. I think I bought the "Pentax System" because it's all I need at the moment and it was the best price/value ratio.

    By the time I get bored with my Sigma 17-70mm, Pentax 100mm and Pentax 50-135mm they'll spit out the 60-250mm and if I'll really feel the need for that long and heavy tele I'll just buy the Sigma 100-400mm. I see no problem there.
    And as far as ultra zoom goes, there's the Bigma 50-500mm.

    BTW, you didn't mention anything about the medium format cameras.

  2. "Old" users have enough of Pentax optics, "new" users are not pros, they are happy w/ 18-250

  3. While I agree the Pentax lineup definitely needs some long zoom, they are generally the most expensive of a lens lineup, and Pentax doesn't even have a higher end camera yet.

    Not that many amateurs need or can afford a massive heavy white Canon long zoom. The 50-200mm is about right.

    Wish they'd hurry up with the 60-250mm though.

    Pentax does have all the brilliant stabilized primes though, so each brand has their advantages.

  4. You guys are missing the point. Pentax should be synonymous with Professional, but for now, Pentax is synonymous with quality, cheap, and budget. Their lens lineup, marketing choices, are not helping the image.

    The K10D was a first step towards professional. The K10D in itself is an amazing camera. Pentax's FA series were great lenses. Just imagine what they could do if they expanded on the technology and put it in a full frame camera with pro features and lenses.

    I do hope this will all change despite what we are seeing now. In the future, hopefully Pentax will surprise us all with a pro camera body with supporting lenses. Then maybe myself, and a whole bunch of Pentax users who seek more out of their camera will finally be content with Pentax.

  5. Canikon also have APS-C tele lenses: EF-S 55-250 IS, DX 50-200 and DX 50-200 VR.

    I'll just hang on until Sigma starts putting USM into their Pentax-mount teles. I understand that might take some time :)

    The USP of Pentax is that they have the cheapest stabilized bodies, and a good selection of affordable large-aperture Pentax-mount lenses.

  6. Every system has gaps, but whether it's detrimental is totally dependent on what you shoot. I agree that Pentax is lacking in telephoto primes, and I'm sure wildlife photographers will see that as a problem.

    However, Pentax has an excellent selection of primes in the 14-100mm range which is fantastic for street photography. Pentax also has the DA*50-135, a fast telephoto zoom that covers the FF equivalent of 70-200 F2.8, which Nikon and Canon do NOT have. They only have the much slower consumer zooms in that range.

    A couple of Canon friends of mine have complained about this, since 70mm-200mm on their Canon 10Ds are a bit too "long" for their purposes. They want something a bit shorter on their APS-C cameras.

    All in all, the adequacy of the "system", regardless of brand, is entirely dependent on what you shoot.

  7. I always thought it was a mistake to stop making analog camera, they should have maintain one pro 24x36 camera, and the lens that comes with it. For the same reason i agree Pentax miss what would be a K1d, 24x36. Specialy if the medium format camera is canceled, thing that is not really clear at that point.

    But actually for me The K10d is perfect : the camera is very good and the choice of lens is vast, knowing i buy only used lens (and for this, its perfect).

    Two things :
    — You actually don't know what Pentax is working on
    — i can't beleive the Hoya merge won't have some massive effect on the future of Pentax, despite the facts its too soon in wich direction. If Hoya wants to compete with Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus, i assume they know they will have to make big changes like : new lens for real, new (high end) cameras, new investment in R&D, a make Pentax available everywhere (in some countries Pentax is mostly impossible to find), and new marketing campaigns. Theres a lot to do if they want to compete. And i see no reason to buy Pentax if you don't want to compete : the camera market is that if you want to make money you shouldnt go in the cheap camera direction (where pentax is not really good anyway, pentax's compacts are so-so.

    Maybe for the first time, your article is quite interesting (doesn't mean all is true or revelant) but at least you don't look like an anti-pentax.

    Just stop complaigning about the fact your reader are fanboys, things i think they arent, and you should never insult the ppl that make the effort to read you.

  8. Anonymous3/11/07 18:53

    all excellent points there RH. pentax ought to bring back select FA lenses. not all but a cherry picked few to fill the open gaps. and restore the old glory. and keep FF options open even if that is not the intent today. while i love the k10- vpn and all the sad lens line up is the one thing that could make me switch.

    on a side note you make often make excellent points but you do yourself a disservice somtimes. strive for a more balanced approach. that will raise your credibility greatly IMHO.

  9. An excellent summary Mr RiceHigh. Pentax is entry level and there is little to aspire to. The K100D is outstanding value. The K10D is arguably slightly better but no strong reason to upgrade if you already own a K100D. Pentax needs high end bodies and high end lenses. Otherwise I fear it will not be in the market in 3 years time.

  10. Umm, I think they may not disappear but I'm sure they will never succeed if so. Even they can survive eventually, they will just continue to play in the game as a minority player with low end products in the entry level market segment, which is in fact many of the old (truly die-hard) Pentaxians do not want to see.

    It's now really the time to change, before it is too late! Otherwise, it'll be too late.

  11. I certainly agree the lens issue (as in few available) is insane and will destroy them. out of despiration people are buying second hand lenses on EBAY often for more than they sold for new. That is revenue that Pentax is leaving on the table. they need all the revenue they can get if they are to succeed.

  12. All very good points, even if a bit hard to stomac for some of the people here. But nevertheless true.

  13. Very good summary. It's understandable that many people are frustrated by the lack of high end products by Pentax, but please do keep in mind that dSLRs are very R&D intensity. Unlike film DLRs, Pentax can't just expect consumers to buy their own CCD sensor, which is the film equivalent. Therefore, Pentax need access to a cutting-edge sensor in order to enter the high-end market. Canon make its own CCD for 1D series, because it has a huge research budget. Nikon relies on Sony for the sensor of D3. I have a hard time seeing Pentax getting a FF chip. Without FF chip, there's really no point making lenses that cost more than 1.5k, as you'll be throwing away huge amount of light anyway.

    I can see Pentax eventually merging with either Canon or Nikon, and share the sensor. The world is not big enough for three CCD chip makers.

  14. So are you going to rewrite this article now that Pentax, only a short time later, has a complete system? There's a superlative 200mm, 300mm, 35mm Limited that is also a macro, plus weather-sealed lenses, SDM offerings and new zoom ranges.

    All of this besides what is still promised throughout the year and beyond, the DA15mm Limited, DA*30mm and DA*55mm, the perfect replacement for the "missing" 85mm slot.

    That doesn't even count the newer offerings from third parties. Looks like the perfect system to me.

    Andreas who says "All very good points, even if a bit hard to stomac for some of the people here. But nevertheless true." cannot even spell, let alone do any independent research into a system he doesn't use. And markx thinks it's "understandable that many people are frustrated by the lack of high end products by Pentax", even though the Pentax users I know are happy their lenses are as good as Leica and Zeiss at a fraction of the price.

    Nice dream world you've constructed here. I notice it has not one photo. Telling, huh?

  15. Anonymous27/1/09 01:22

    Nice one Robin at last a sensible view.