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Saturday, October 08, 2011

Ten Things that I Want Ricoh to Do for Pentax

1. Build a FF K-mount DSLR System (at least for a Body First):

One of the most valuable asset of Pentax is their complete 135 lens designs in K-mount. In fact, It is very easy to update all those old film FA lenses with very little modifications and thus minimal efforts and costs. The modifications involved could be only the incorporation of newer technologies like ultrasonic AF motor and updated lens coatings.

I know that some Pentaxians would argue that it is just a suicide for Pentax to make a FF DSLR body. But I just wish to ask, what "suicide" would it be? Would the Pentax Q be a suicide either btw? Besides, if the 645D body plus two new lenses haven't killed Pentax so far, why a 135 FF DSLR will??

If they never try, how will they succeed? I think the key point to succeed is the uniqueness in product and market positioning. I think Pentax should make a truely compact FF DSLR body, which is their good old tradition for what they were good at. If they make one and it is in K-mount, I shall buy one, provided that it is not dearer than $2500 (US) dollars, I suppose.

2. Build a K-mount Mirrorless:

The Q is indeed helpless for the IQ. It is clear that the Q is targeted to novices and ladies who knew little about digital cameras but wish to buy a new beautiful/elegant-looking (maybe well-built also) ILDC just for the sake of lenses are being interchangeable but nothing else.

It does no harm to simply make a K-mount ILDC straight away. My guess is with all those pancake DA lenses that are already there, this new *system* is going to be strong. People will then say that the body will be too thick than desired, but then I think it will still be much smaller than the current K-mount DSLRs, with the removal of the mirror housing and pent-prism/mirror, won't it?

At the end of the day, Sony NEX is very slim for the body, but all the new lenses are made to be very long. So, what is the point of a thin body if so? After all, my opinion is that Pentax should try to make a K-mount mirrorless, and to put every effort to minimize it, but not making a new mount. Yes, Pentax could then make a K-mount adaptor to it even if they are really going to build from ground yet another new mount of theirs, but this will be so indirect and incur too much development cost to themselves and ultimately to the consumers as well. If we just want a K-mount, just do it straight away, in one-off!

Another short-term alternative is to make a K-mount A1x module for the GXR, but then this would not be the true Pentax gene, as we all knew.

3. Re-build the Full K-mount Specifications for High End Models:

Since the film *ist and the *ist D back to 2001, Pentax has crippled the K-mount "permanently" (up till now and for too long) and the harm to themselves and the K-mount community is unmeasurable. Now, under the new leadership of Ricoh, if they want that their old Rikenon lenses can be used for wide-opened/real-time metering and exposure control on upcoming Pentax bodies. They have to re-incoporate the full K-mount specifications, at least in new higher-end Pentax bodies, just like what Nikon has done for their D300 and upper models.

For low end models, I do not object to cut corners so as to save costs, as most of the new users might not use those old lenses anyway.

Btw, I do see the mentality behind for camera makers to cripple things and support in new bodies as they just want the old users to buy new lenses. Yes, this is true to some extent. But for Pentax and Ricoh, if they want to be more competitive, they have to do something more. Also, I think sometimes brand loyalty is magical, some users (I guess including me), the most old lenses they could use, the more new lenses they will buy! Just believe it or not! ;-D

4. Update the Pentax SLR AF system:

A f/2.8 AF system is just a must. Those "f/2.8" or even wider AF sensors measure focus from the peripherals of the glass instead of in the centre and thus could have to eliminate a lot of those focusing error when using faster primes. I knew that Pentax has been trying to programme different compensation factors into new bodies so as to guess better for where the actual focus *would* be at. But at the end of the day, no guess work is good work and do remember every lens on this planet was actually produced differently, even for the same model. In fact, the manufacturing process and materials etc. are ever changing and alignment for each lens could be somehow different. So, real and actual/exact measurement is the only way to go, as long as accuracy is the prime concern!

Sometimes, I really just don't understand the stubbornness and "insistence" of Pentax of not incorporating any f/2.8 AF sensor into their SAFOX AF system which was first designed exactly ten years ago! Well, Canon, Nikon and Sony had that many years ago and Canon even included the f/2.8 sensor into their entry level DSLR since their 450D. Why not Pentax alone should not and still do not have it (and thus created so many problems)?

When many Pentax users always wonder why when they suffered from those endless BF/FF issues especially when they used older Pentax lenses, many of them just don't know it is just the in-born limitation of the Pentax AF system. I bet not until Pentax is willing to incorporate at least one f/2.8 sensor for the central AF point, this problem will NEVER be cured!

5. Debug/Remove the SDM Sadam; Build a Ring-Type Ultrasonic AF Motor

The fact is SDM has too low the service life time and too low the reliability and yet too low the serviceability either. Ricoh should try hard to see how the design could be improved. If not, just disregard it and find a new design. At last, true ring-type USM should be made, this is still the best current technology on Earth that has the highest performance and to be far more reliable!

6. Build an In-Lens IS System

Whilst I do not object to body SR system, which has its value, the value of in-lens IS should not be ignored. The fact is that in-lens IS is more efficient for long focals and that it is better to use in-lens IS to avoid heating problem for pro-longed video recording and that in-lens IS can also help for making slimmer camera bodies, too.

Some people would then suppose that in-lens IS could have conflict with in-body SR. But I think what will the conflict be if they are made by the same maker? Is it so difficult to write a simple sub-routine in the firmware to teach the camera to turn off one of them when an IS lens is put onto a SR body? :-)

7. Build an Updated Flash System; Re-incorporate the True TTL Measurement for Real-Time Flash Exposure!

The P-TTL system is infamous for P equals to Pathetic for long now. Indeed, it has been proven that the K-5 is yet far more inaccurate with external P-TTL flash guns than the K-r. I think Ricoh should look more seriously on why the P-TTL system of Pentax is so pathetic in accuracy and reliability.

As I have been asking for so many years now since the *ist DL, why Pentax should really disregard the plain old TTL real-time off-the-"film" flash measuring sensor after the *ist DS2. I still recall the indeed very high accurate of my *ist D with my old Pentax TTL auto flash will just win any of the P-TTL flash combo in terms of exposure accuracy and predictability. Yes, the old Pentax centre-weighted TTL-Auto is not having any "intelligence", but it is just a super reliable workhorse.

To think a bit more, with the new CMOS sensor technology, I suspect that even the CMOS sensor could be used for that real-time exposure measurement or maybe the sensor built-in electronic shutter could also be used to control flash exposure, too? But anyway, how much additional cost for such plain old technology for such an additional photo diode and some very simple associated circuitry? If reliable output and backward compatibility could be reassured, it worths! How about to put it in the flagship, at least? If people just want that *feature*, they will buy it! (Pentaxians are always worrying about no one will buy costly Pentax flagship and bodies - but there are always some major issues to force me not to buy the pseudo "flagships" in these years, frankly! If they are just not good enough, why should more people buy? >:-()

8. Improve Qualities

Less design issues, less manufacturing issues, less QC problems. Yes, more manufacturing costs will incur, but the brand reputation will be re-gained and more customers will be attracted (both old and new)! Not even to mention this also saves all those after-sales "support" and repair costs which should not be necessary if qualities were made better!

9. Better Services and Supports

Better pre-sales and after-sales services and supports are always the key-success to companies. What I could say is that the current services and supports by Pentax, are failed, or more directly, they usually suck! Yet again a recent user report, there is no spare part available for his defective DA*300 (once again the SaDaM in action!): http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1036&thread=39519041

10. Better Publicity and Public Relations

I could see that Pentax are trying to do these in short-cut ways nowadays. But the true PR is that they should not try to select/filter things to publicise in an extreme way and select people whom they think will tell mostly the goods for them, which is rather short-sighted afterall. In this IT era, people will know well about all the problems sooner or later and people will judge. The most proactive and positive ways is to let people to know as much as possible and don't try to hide anything. The more the maker tries to hide, the more issues and negative impacts it will create.

P.S. I hope Ricoh decision makers and top management guys could see my this post and more importantly I hope they could take my suggestions and analyses into account (only if they read and understand mine). I think as a really long-time Pentaxian who has supported them for over two decades and have never stopped purchased new Pentax items no matter what and how, they should really treasure my comments and I don't believe that all my inputs and contributions to the Pentax community should be something that they should completely ignore. (This site is a living example, despite that many Pentax fanboys just hated me to death, for my "negative" opinions and continuous "brand bashing"! >:-()

Further Reads:-

The State of Pentax (by Q1 2011)

Ten Reasons for Thinking Twice before Decided on a K-5..

Major Causes of Poor AF Reliability of Pentax DSLRs

My Idea of a K1000D

Reference Technical Articles:-

P-TTL Vs TTL: Is Newer Better?

K-Mount Metering and Exposure Bases - A Technical Brief