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!)


  1. "Pentax thinks that action shot bursts are done in JPG and RAW bursts are mainly for bracketing and similiar applications." Shows that Pentax are guessing and not taking any notice of comments on fora. I take raw bursts for action, and never for bracketing.

  2. Thank you so much for the Preview. I am sold to K5 and hope to find an adapter for my Leica R-lenses.

  3. 35 mm F2.4 as kit lens for K-5 only, not K-r?
    - That would be strange...

  4. @everybody Anonymous: please provide a nickname when posting.

    @Anonymous: Yes, no K-r DAL35 kit. That's what I've been told. Of course, such kit, esp. if colored would be cool. So I wonder if it may become available in Japan.

  5. Hi Falk,
    Well maybe Hoya doesn't yet know what direction to go with Pentax, so in that time it's good to keep quiet. Personal I think that the road to outdoors, travel and landscaping is good path for the expencive line of camera's. Traditional Pentaxian's shood realize that they have to be prepared to pay a little more to keep the K-mount alive and kicking, in wich the benefition will be in the long future use of it.

    I'm going to buy the K-5 soon and first read your findings. I was to at the PhotoKina and handled the 645D for a short time. Very excited about it and published some snapshot pictures made at the Kina.

    Hope to see your findings on that. Are they requiring new testshooters for the 645D (then I'm in).

    Greetings Ron Hendriks

  6. Thanks for the preview and the review.

    To my mind, what this shows is that:

    - Pentax have fantastic camera body and lens engineers
    - Pentax is run by bean-counters
    - Pentax marketing is beyond abysmal

    I work in electronics manufacturing, and branded product distribution.

    Seeing Pentax PnS product being heavily discounted down to 50/60 US shoes they are trying to push clogged product.

    What scares me most is their lack of vision. For APS-C bodies, no problem.

    For APS-C lenses, where's the roadmap? Why would PnS upgraders buy in otherwise? Note Sony E-mount providing a lens roadmap for customer confidence. Pentax? ZERO confidence, as you never know what they are thinking, let alone planning.

    FF? This MAY not be a mistake. It just looks like one now, but sensor advancements will make the difference between APS-C aqll but negligible to 99% of users.

    Mirrorless? Pentax have the enviable position of knowing how to make pancakes best. Surely this is a sector they could excel in. What frustrates me the most, is that they say they are in the "evaluation stage"!

    The fastest growing sector in photo hardware sales and they are "evaluating"? Please!

    I love the results Pentax provide me. I am on my 3rd Pentax DSLR body, and have invested in 6 lenses; an FA31 amongst them. I don't want Pentax to go away, and they don't need to. They have product to stand against and beat Canikon. Unfortunately they need better sales, marketing and distribution.

    They also need vision beyond APS-C mirror and the dying PnS segment.

  7. i've had 5 pentax dslrs since the *ist DL.

    while the k5/kr looks very good, what's holding me back from jumping on the k5 (as good as it is) is Pentax's lack of vision or the lack of projecting their vision to the public.

    this photokina is NO exception. One excellent body or two isn't going to cut it.

    Caught with your pants and shirt down by the D7000 $1199 announcement? Can't even put a clear MSRP on the K5.

    Where are the more advanced lenses? Where's your roadmap?

    What has Pentax done to instill confidence in the current user base and to attact new users?

    That's what bothers me.

    what next, Pentax?

  8. Perhaps I'm looking through the wrong end of the telescope, but the lack of announcements and public discussion of long-term strategy sound perfectly reasonable to me and not at all unexpected.

    That's based on the assumption that Hoya is seriously looking for a buyer for the camera operation.

    In that case, Pentax is more attractive if the buyer can easily fit the new operation into its own corporate strategy. Promises now could place an unwelcome burden upon a buyer - lowering the price Hoya gets or alienating a potential buyer entirely.

    I think it's less of a lack of vision and more of a pause to keep options open.

    We shall see ..... perhaps FF will be back under new ownership!

  9. @Ron, Fred, jordan, glanglois,

    good comments, keep'em coming. I'll send Pentax a link to the comment section :)

  10. Nice preview.

    I will be buying the K-5 as soon as I can, I got a white K-x now.

    I REALLY hope Pentax has added manual mode for video this time around. That is more important for me than AF during video, but that would be nice too of course, but I guess we'll have to wait for a sensor with phase detect built into it like the one Fujifilm made for their compact.

  11. I think low light 1080p videos should look great using fast F1.4 lenses IMHO.

  12. @Alexander, contrast AF can be made fast. Physics is ready and engineers will follow soon enough ;) It doesn't need phase detect stuff to be fast.

  13. > ganglois

    Surely if Hoya wanted to enhance the desirability (and price) of a Pentax company purchase, they'd be all over mirrorless. Their engineers have proven themselves to do exceptional work, and I'm sure if they were tasked with a mirrorless system they would do very well indeed.

    Sony will go from about 5% of the Japanese changeable-lens-camera market in Q2 2010 to about 15% (my best guess), simply through the introduction of the NEX twins.

    Pentax need to dare to succeed. Pretty colours will only take you so far.

  14. I was guessing the DC motor is similar to Sony's SAM, a cheap version of non-ultrasonic in-lens motor. It's only quieter but not faster (maybe slower). Now look like it's true.

    HOYA's profitable only policy is a problem, but to be honest, HOYA's management has already exceeded my expectation. I was expecting worst, but they've managed to pull out quite a few nice and competitive cameras. We might not see HOYA trying to make Pentax a great camera brand. This can make them move really slow with new things (if they have to see somebody else making profit first every time). Well, same as the old Pentax, but before was without resources, now is without passion.

  15. You write: "As far as I know, Pentax uses the Sony Exmor HD 16.2 MP APSC CMOS sensor". Pentax's Mark Cheetham confirms that in an interview:

  16. Thanks for the review. Did you notice if the shutter is still as quiet as the K7?

  17. Falk,

    Excellent, concise and frank summary of what info you got at Photokina. Thanks for the details and matter of fact observations. We'll see if HoyaTax decides to step up and deliver in a few unaddressed key areas or let a subset of us who want to stay as well as are willing to invest in higher end glass walk away due to the failure to provide solutions in these few areas.

  18. Nice thoughts about pentax's lacking of vision, marketing strategy and development roadmaps. Is there anyone who know the japanese market? How's pentax doing there?

  19. I like the look of the K5 but am disappointed about the lack of a long lens like a 500/4 or so. The 1.4 TC would also have been a winner, in my mind.

  20. Hi, do you know an aproximate date and final price for the DA 35mm f/2.4 in Europe?

    Thanks for the reviews and opinions.

  21. I've used Pentax since the screw mount days. I truly apppreciate the ability of pentax to support the past (lens mount backwards compatibility) while looking forward, but I do think the every shrinking list of available lenses presents a long term danger to their future viability. I for one will buy a K-5 soon.

  22. Thanks Falk. Did you see this bby Blende?:

  23. Thank you very much for valuable report.
    I'm sad with a bad news about teleconverters.

    >What shall I say...?

    Well, I shall say
    "What is the significance of optical viewfinders and K7(K5)'s 100% coverage?"

  24. From Monobod.

    For me, this is the ultimate prize. I have the K-7 and had the K20D and K10D before that. All excellent in their way, but the K-5 seems to offer me everything I had hoped for. It really could be my last ever camera, but I have said that before (he grins).

  25. So, here I sit in June 2011, owning about the 10th K20D sold in Canada (just guessing ...).

    Q. Where is the Pentax Trade-In program to get me a K5?

    Victoria, BC


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