September 28, 2010

Pentax K-5 Preview

Pentax K-5 cut model © Falk Lumo 2010--A cut model of the Pentax K-5 as shown at Photokina 2010.
A cut model of the Pentax K-5 as shown at Photokina 2010
"The engineering masterpiece" (photo © 2010 Falk Lumo)

The Photokina 2010 has just closed its doors and I am compiling my findings regarding Pentax into this article. I posted my first impressions a week ago.

Pentax K-5

K-5 with grip

The most exciting part (besides trying out the 645D) certainly was to find out about the new K-5 camera. I gathered a lot of material from various sources and wrote a full Pentax K-5 hands-on preview report. A short blog article turned out to be the wrong format and therefore, I posted it on my website. Here you go:

Don't miss the exciting news. Moreover, I tried to answer as many questions I received as possible in the report and to skip as much redundant info as possible too.

However, a small number of questions didn't fit the K-5 context so I am putting them here:

Lens questions:

DA 35mm f/2.4:

The new DA 35/2.4 introduced short before Photokina is specified here:
The production capacity is 2/3 of that of the 18-135 lens and will be available as a kit lens for the K-5. Early reports about the 35/2.4 have been very positive (sharpness wide open, bokeh, very fast focussing, maybe 35mm image circle) and as a kit, may have a very attractive pricing.
The kit will be black only and non-black versions are said to be unavailable (at least outside Japan).

DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6:

This lens was announced together with the K-5 at Photokina and is specified here:
The lens was received with much interest and will be offered as a kit lens for the K-5 too. A number of features I could clarify:
  1. The aperture ranges are as follows:
    18-19 mm f/3.5
    20-29 mm f/4.0
    30-79 mm f/4.5
    80-135 mm f/5.6
  2. DC focus motor:
    "DC" stands for direct current according to one source, and for dual current according to another. That needs further clarification although my bet is with the direct current camp ;)
  3. Focus motor noise:
    The focus motor almost certainly is not ultrasonic. I tried to listen despite the show's background noise. It sounds different than an ultrasonic motor (it's more motor-like, less twitter-like) but isn't necessarily (much) noisier.
  4. Focus motor speed:
    The focus motor appeared to be about as fast as a DA*16-50mm ultrasonic motor. Which isn't fast exactly. The DA 18-55 WR kit lens is a lot faster!
    Pentax missed a chance to deliver a higher speed focus motor (e.g. ring type) rather than a lower production cost one.
  5. Image quality:
    I don't know. From the specs, it could be better than that of a usual floating aperture lens.


Pentax showed its 1.4x autofocus teleconverter at Photokina 2 years ago. It has disappeared. I asked what happened to it. The response I obtained was hard to accept: Pentax Germany requests production of the teleconverter but Japan denies saying that teleconverters aren't required anymore in the digital age. Pentax Germany tried to explain that a digital magnification may actually have a negative impact on image quality (as we all know) but obviously it did not help much. What shall I say...?

Post Photokina Pentax strategy (as I guess it):

Overall, Pentax is a bold performer in 2010: 645D, K-5 and K-r seem to be 3 winners. And the company itself is making profit. So what else should it take to make a Pentaxian a happy Pentaxian? Not much should one think. Esp. as an Olympus E-5 (good-bye gift?), Canon 60D (downgrade?) and Nikon D7000 (Pentax clone?) are not particularly exciting. But the grass never is green enough ;)

It's because many Pentaxians are addicted to their hobby. They want to invest further in their system and are imaginative enough to foresee "their" camera and lenses in one or two years time.

Therefore, it's a bit irritating that all signs emanating from Pentax at Photokina (foremost but not only from Pentax Germany staff) cry out: we're not going upstream with the K mount. Not now. The 645D digital medium format is as professional as one may actually desire. "Unfortunately" however, cameras in the tradition of the *istD or the higher end film bodies attracted quite a few rather professional photographers into Pentax. Over the last couple years, their fraction is shrinking though and this Photokina won't halt it. It's no fortunate coincidence either that no new Star-lenses are announced and FA Ltds. are tagged "end of life" (whatever that means...) in Germany. Personally, I also don't expect a revival of non-standard lenses (like 85/1.4, 135/1.8, 300/2.8, 600/4, maybe not even a 400/5.6), based on a statement that the rarer lenses aren't currently profitable for Pentax to make. And I hear a bold "no" to full frame. Pentax doesn't see their enthusiast user base go full frame.

To be fair, nobody knows about the future prospect of mirrored cameras. On the other hand, Pentax seems still to be in an evaluation phase with respect to mirrorless cameras and meanwhile anticipates to sell the K-r against mirrorless cameras from other vendors. This worked out fine in the past (with the K-x) but Pentax may start to realize that this won't continue for too long. So, it may be understandable that in this atmosphere of change, Pentax may not invest in the $1500+ segment in order to re-establish their share in that market segment. On the other hand, Pentax learns that what was the $1500 segment (K-7, D300) now is the $1200 segment (D7000) and soon will be in a region with aggressive price competition. As will be mirrorless cameras.

So, some kind of either upstream or innovation strategy was expected and missed from Pentax at this year's Photokina. That's the one complaint. But I hear it from many, from Pentaxians and all over the press watching the market: "where is Pentax heading?".

As a side note, there has been staff from Hoya visiting Pentax and Photokina. E.g., Ned Bunnell was spotted at Photokina and Eguchi Kazumichi (head of marketing imaging systems division) gave an interview. So, if anybody (not me) had a chance to meet with Hoya Int'l management at Photokina and exchange some ideas, please drop a comment... ;)

Summary and verdict:

Pictureword Girl © Falk Lumo 2010--A Photokina 2010 press tour model holding the globe with one hand.

I activated some ads on my blog. It enables a certain guy to pay reparations:) (just joking!)

September 20, 2010

Photokina 2010: First impressions

Marie showing the Pentax K-r.

This morning, I made a first tour across Photokina opening tomorrow in Cologne. It is already open to the press and most booths are still under construction. I'll report more about Photokina later today and this week. Nevertheless, I have a couple first impressions to share.

Pentax K-5
Pentax officially launched the K-5 which is the successor to the K-7. A body is still on its way to Cologne and I'll have more about it soon. The press kit is out though and these are the specs:
  • Same specs as the Pentax K-7 which it succeeds, except:
  • New CMOS sensor with integrated A/D converter and 16.3 MP (4928 x 3264).
  • Noise reduction configurable per ISO.
  • New prime II four channel processing (but I believe K-7 had prime II too).
  • 7.0 fps.
  • New SAFOX IX+ 11 point autofocus with higher light sensitivity (larger light intake).
    "Complete rehaul and faster and more accurate".
  • ISO 80 to 51.200 (standard is 100 to 12.800).
  • Sensor position is adjustable in order to tune to lens (whatever this means, I will clarify).
  • Full HD video with 1920x1080 25fps.
  • HDR with image alignment and adjustable equalizing parameter.
  • Golden rule grid and scale grid in LV.
  • Electronic horizon for roll (old) and pitch (new).
  • 670g body only w/o batteries.
  • German list price body only €1.459,- which includes 19% VAT.
  • Available in October 2010.

The press kit is full of errors and I'll have to verify a number of other details first. E.g., I doubt that the camera ships June 2009 ;) Meanwhile, I verified and it ships next month already! They fixed a number of other errors too.

The price hints at a US list price of $1,399.- which is only $100 more than the D7000 and means that both cameras will have an equal street price.

Let me repeat: The K-5 is not more expensive than the D7000!

... updated and continued from the break ...

Two points I have run a quick test for are (i.e., I may have missed a hidden custom function): no manual control in video (merde) and almost certainly no f/2.8 center AF sensor. However, the AF box on the bottom of the mirror box changed indeed. I took a photograph of it. The AF feels faster too.

"Sensor position is adjustable in order to tune to lens" and "New prime II processor" are two questions Pentax has to call back Japan to find out what this actually means ...

I'll have more about the K-5 in a separate blog article.

Pentax DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED WR new kit lens

This lens has the additional "DC" designation. I asked. It stands for a new, faster ultrasonic focus motor. Pentax could not answer the question if this implies a ring type motor. The list price is 799.- € incl. 19% VAT.

Pentax 645D

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Pentax introduces the applauded 645D medium format digital camera in the Europen market. It is the same model as in the Japanese market and will be available January 2011 for 10,000.- € incl. 19% VAT list price. Add another 1,000.- € incl. 19% VAT list price for the 55/2.8 lens.

The positioning is straightforward: best image quality for both the entire range of outdoor as well as indoor photography. What a well defined positioning ;)

I heard people say that the backlog of orders in Japan is slowly decreasing now and this is why delivery outside Japan has become possible. In other words, it was sold out which is why we haven't seen more gray imports actually.

The 645D press announcement contains no mention about a creation of a professional support network. I heard that this is under consideration though. Strange.

For anybody visiting Photokina: Pentax has one single 645D in the business area behind the public area of their booth. This is an restricted area. You normally have to be press or a business partner to enter. But insist a bit, maybe refer to my blog, and I think you will be able to do a quick test. Bring an SD card because you can put your own card if you don't ask ;)

Fuji Finepix X100

Fuji announced a camera in development, the Finepix X100. They showed a prototype and it is awesome. It is the perfect blend between a rangefinder and an EVIL camera. Well, almost because its lens isn't interchangeable.

It is an APS-C camera with a an "exceptional resolution" 23mm f/2 fixed prime lens and a very rangefinder-like viewfinder: It is both optical and electronic! You switch between optical and electronic. Additionally, the optical viewfinder may display an electronic overlay for additional information. And so, it is no surprise the camera looks like a rangefinder.

I asked why not with a lens mount? Answer: We want see how this one sells first. I asked: but you know that if this version does not sell it may be because it has no mount? Answer: no, is it so...?

Obviously, the X100 was made to compete against the Leica X1. With the optical viewfinder as its bonus. I asked if its cheaper than Leica X1. Answer was hesitant. Eventually they gave me "1000" as a ballpark number which would be about 2/3 of a Leica X1.

The Finepix X100 was one of the positive surprises of the Photokina.

More colors

Who says that Pentax is the only company with colorful bodies?

An Olympus P&S embedded into a frozen block of melting ice. Marie is behind the block though :)

Ah yes, Olympus showed the E-5 of course and a concept camera which is said to compete against the Panasonic LX5 with a high resolution Zuiko lens. They denied to answer questions about its sensor size. However to my eye, the camera looked larger than an LX5.

Lomographical bodies in various colors.

I'll update my blog with more articles about the Pentax K-5 as soon as possible. Enjoy the read for the time being.