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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Very Different Fates of Two ex-AOC Top Optical Engineers

Here is the full story and article (written in Simplified Chinese) by Peter Zheng at the Chinese Xitek forum via RiceHigh's Pentax FREE Discussion Group.. A Google translation of that article in English can be found here.

The article writes about the last "resignation" of a loyal employee of Pentax, Mr. Hirakawa, Jun (平川 纯), who is a famous and renowned optical engineer in the Japanese optical industry. Mr. Hirakawa designed various classic and very popular Pentax lenses back to the days Pentax was solely owned by the Asahi Optical Company (AOC). With he huge loyalty to the brand that I can see, he yet decided to stay with Pentax even after HOYA's acquisition on Pentax in 2007, until right before his *early* "retirement" recently. In fact, he is the original designer of many of those popular Pentax glass, including the following, just to name a few..

- FA*24/2, FA*85/1.4, FA*80-200
- FA 28/2.8, FA 35/2, FA 43/1.9 Limited, FA 77/1.8 Limited
- DA 10-17/3.5-4.5 Fisheye, DA 14/2.8, DA 40/2.8 Limited, DA*55/1.4

The article further briefs about the only comment from Mr. Hirakawa about his early "retirement", whom is now only at the age of 48, at his Bulletin board that "It is Sad". It seems that he have had no choice other than to "resign" and "retire"! :-(

On the contrary, another ex-AOC top lens designer and the same famous optical engineer, Mr. Sensui, Takayuki (泉水 隆之), who decided to leave the Pentax Corporation in 2001 and switched to Nikon, is now still very active in the industry and his career is still going strong. He is now the manager of a major lens development and design team of Nikon. And, Mr. Sensui's current age is 47, and is only two years younger than Mr. Hirakawa. Below is a very recent interview and report by the Japanese Impress DC Watch, in which Mr. Sensui has just been the "protagonist" of the "show":-

(Full Interview Here: http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/news/20101001_397410.html - in Japanese)

Mr. Sensui is actually the designer of some of the contemporary most popular and best Pentax AF glass and then followed by some high-end Nikkor AF glass after he worked for Nikon, to name a few again:-

- FA 20-35/4, FA 35/2, FA* 200/4 Macro and then Nikkor 17-55 f2.8G, Nikkor 105mm F2.8G VR Micro, Nikkor 24mm F3.5D ED and etc.

As an engineer and a corporate executive myself, I feel particularly sad and with deep sorrow for a talent like Mr. Hirakawa to have had his career path ends up like this, at least for the time being. Human resource is actually the most valuable thing for a company. And for a technology brand of which business are being done like that of Pentax, Hoya is actually rather stupid and completely short-sighted to let (or should be "force", very possibly) Mr. Hirakawa gone! People like Mr. Hirakawa indeed is the most valuable asset of the company. His (forced) *early* "retirement" could possibly save some little bucks for Hoya and Hoya just need not to pay his monthly salary anymore, but So What?!

Another issue is that with this precedent showcase, will other talents work for Hoya to develop better lenses even some days later Hoya have changed their mind that they need to employ back some of the talents?!

Lastly, there are some food for thought for we Pentaxians: What new Pentax lenses we have had after the Photokina and what we Pentaxians will have in the future? Another crippled FA 35/2 AL? The FA 35/2, as told above, was just originally designed by Mr. Sensui back to the 90s. The so called DA35/2 AL is actually a variant of the FA 35 by cutting the peripheral glass and then re-packaging it into an all plastic lens barrel with a plastic mount!

Yes, we have had another one-and-only-one new DA lens, i.e., a long 7.5X kit zoom that Canon and Nikon have had theirs quite a while already! Moreover, the new Pentax lens looks quite Nikon alike for its outlook and design. But then WHAT NEW lenses in the Pentaxland are coming? Any *New* Primes? Any Tele-Convertor? Any Full Frame Plan? Any *Minimal Commitment* Shown by HOYA?? Will reverse "engineering" and re-packaging do the job and create a bright future for Pentax? Will re-painting and re-painting their "new" cameras and lenses repeatedly save them? Will those?? >:-[

Related Previous Reports:-

Ten DA/DFA Lenses Officially Discontinued! New Lineup/Format to Come?

The End of the DA Line?

Hoya to Cut Digital Camera Workforce Worldwide

Hoya Closing Pentax Production Facilities in Japan