Pentax Finally Announce New Equipment

by Miserere

  

Pentax have been slightly slow these past two years. OK, Pentax have been slightly slow this past decade! But they’ve seemed even slower as of lately. It’s not like they haven’t released anything, it’s just that it hasn’t felt like they’ve been moving forward as much as other industry players have (Olympus, Panasonic and Sony come to mind). Within the last 24 months Pentax have released the incredibly popular, capable and colourful K-x entry-level camera and the almost pro-level K-7 in the APS-C DSLR segment, and finally released the perennially almost-here medium format digital 645D. That’s as far as cameras go; with respect to lenses and accessories they’ve released a DA 15mm f/4, DA* 55mm f/1.4, DA* 60-250mm f/4 and AF160FC macro flash, all of which were announced in September 2008, and DFA 100mm f/2.8 WR macro announced in December 2009 to great bewilderment (it’s a metal-bodied, weather-resistant optical equivalent of the venerable DFA 100mm f/2.8 macro). A 1.4x teleconverter was also announced in September 2008 but has yet to materialise.

Photokina, held every 2 years, is the biggest Photography fair in the World, and companies usually try to time their big releases so they coincide with it. After such a long dormant period, Pentaxians were naturally expecting big things for this year’s Photokina, especially after the recent announcements made by Canon, Nikon and Sony. So what has Pentax been up to these last 2 years…? Part of the answer we found out today, in a pre-Photokina announcement made in the early hours of the American continent:

  

Pentax K-r

Pentax K-r

Pentax K-r with new DA 35mm f/2.4.

The K-r replaces the K-x as Pentax’s entry-level DSLR camera, although Pentax will leave the K-x in the current line-up and call the K-r a mid-level camera. Though similar in appearance, there are some improvements that make this a better camera. The main specs are:

  • Sensor: 12MP CMOS manufactured by Sony, probably the same as in the K-x (which is a good thing!).
  • Battery: Li-Ion rechargeable, surprise! (The K-x uses 4 AA.) But the K-r will also be able to use 4 AA with an adapter that is sold separately (really Pentax? Separately?).
  • New autofocus module, SAFOX IX, first implemented on the 645D.
  • AF point confirmation in viewfinder (not available on the K-x).
  • AF adjustment (not available on the K-x).
  • AF assist lamp (not available on the K-x).
  • Maximum ISO of 25,600 (K-x was 12,800).
  • 6 FPS (K-x was 4.7 FPS).
  • 3 inch 921k LCD screen (K-x is 2.7 inch 230k).
  • IR data transfer.
  • 120 colour combinations.
  • Price: US$800 body only (available in a number of kits too).

The K-x has been a huge success for Pentax, both in terms of exposure and revenue, so it’s understandable that they didn’t want to spoil their recipe. The K-r seems like a natural evolution of the K-x, with Pentax having addressed some of the issues reported by users, most noticeably the lack of autofocus confirmation points in the viewfinder. I welcome the use of a rechargeable battery, and I applaud them for thinking of all those people who love AA’s by providing an adapter. Leaving the sensor untouched is also a good move as the K-x proved to be highly capable in low light providing high ISO image quality that was top of its class.

  

Pentax DA L 35mm f/2.4

Pentax DA 35mm f/2.4

 

Pentax is no stranger to weird focal lengths (they have prime lenses in 21mm, 31mm, 43mm, 70mm and 77mm focal lengths, unique to the Pentax system as far as I know), but this is probably the first time they pair a common focal length with a strange aperture value. After many years of complaints from the Pentax user community for the lack of an affordable fastish normal prime for the APS-C sensor format, this $220 lens is what Pentax has given us. I say ‘us’, because I’ve been quite vocal in this request. Nikon and Sony released cheap 35mm f/1.8 lenses for their users (the Nikon version is $195 while the Sony version is $200, scheduled to hit stores next month) that are also reasonably fast at f/1.8, which is 0.8 stops faster than f/2.4. True, the Pentax is smaller (not by much) and lighter (somewhat), but I’m willing to bet most shooters would be OK with a slightly bigger heavier lens if it were faster (had a larger aperture). On the bright side, it’s apparently going to be available in different colours, at least in Japan.

Here’s a comparison table between the three available cheap 35mm lenses for APS-C DSLRs (Note: I’ve added the full-frame Canon too). They all rely heavily on plastic, including for the mount. Make up your own mind which you’d prefer to own.

Comparison of 35mm lenses for APS-C DSLR cameras
  Pentax Nikon Sony Canon
Max. aperture f/2.4 f/1.8 f/1.8 f/2
Weight 124g 210g 170g 209g
Dimensions
(H x W)
45mm x 63mm 52.5mm x 70mm 52mm x 70mm 43mm x 66mm
Focus type Screwdrive In-lens motor In-lens motor In-lens motor
Manual focus override No Yes ? No
Distance scale No No Yes Yes
Closest focus distance 30cm 30cm 23cm 24cm
Mount Polycarbonate Metal Polycarbonate Metal
Filter size 49mm 52mm 55mm 52mm
Price (US) $220 $195 $200 $329

If I sound harsh, it’s because I am very disappointed in Pentax; this feels like a lens the head engineer’s son knocked off last time it was bring-your-kid-to-work day rather than the affordable fastish normal prime Pentaxians have been requesting for years. You can do a lot better than this, Pentax, and your users deserve a lot more too.

  

Is That All?

I doubt it. Well-founded rumours (and logical deductions based on camera lifetimes) have it that there will be a K-5 announced during Photokina. This DSLR will sit above the k-7 in Pentax’s current line and, like the K-r, may not immediately kill off its predecessor but rather coexist with it. It is expected to use Sony’s new 16MP CMOS sensor instead of Samsung’s 14MP sensor, as found in the K-7.

Another, less-substantiated, rumour says an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens will also be announced. But Pentax need to aim higher than that. Sony has announced a new SLT technology, Canon released a boatload of lenses, Nikon is poised to replace its hugely popular D700 and D90 cameras, and Panolympus continue to strengthen their micro-4/3 brand. Two cameras and a couple of inconsequential lenses are not going to cut it at this point in time.

I’ll keep you posted!

  

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Related posts:

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  4. Speaking to Pentax at PhotoPlus Expo in New York
  5. Pentax Introduces the 645D – A Game Changer?


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19 Comments

  1. good to hear they have a 35mm coming and from what I hear they also have a 18-125 zoom which is also something I’ve wanted for a long time from them as the only option was a sigma. 35mm 2.4 or 1.8 doesn’t really matter as it will have that 2.8 zone and should be sharp and way affordable than the da35 macro which is an incredible sharp lens but three times as much…ouch. Pentax isn’t one to follow the crowd and they always do things their way which hinders them and i’m sure upsets people but it also makes them unique and liked a by a lot of people. It would be poor for them to produce the same as Nikon and Canon as there is already a third company doing that…Sony. Pentax has to be innovative and create a niche and with three companies doing the same it has to be different to survive.

    I’ve shot both Nikon and Pentax and stayed away from Canon. I never put Pentax in the league of Canikon but more int he league of Leica, Hassbleda and Mamaya as their approach has always been best mage quality than speed and the company is a spec compared to Nikon and Canon…not considering Hoya as they are the parent company and the camera division must sink or swim on its own.

    But Hoya is really helping Pentax as they have pushed the kx, k7, and 645d…I’m sure there is more to come and as we are entering a new age we only need to be patient and see. I guess we live in the age of immediacy when we want things created, done, and sold yesterday.

    My pentax ist DS though smaller and slower than most Nikons, but produces some of the sharpest, most colorful images and meters all my manual lenses.
    The Nikon version is big compared to this new 35 and Pentax has always wanted things small.

    As the rumor goes FF is being developed but announcing it now would be bad for business as it would not help camera sales and definatley cut into the sales of 645d, as most people would be waiting for FF…from what I hear this is bad marketing that happened to Lieca and the CEO was dismissed. I’m sure Hoya is a lot smarter and is trying to avoid this..

    • Yes, Pentax do try to be different (as I noted in my post when mentioning their unique focal lengths), but they have to be different and better. Just being different does nothing. If they want to be different, make it an f/1.7 instead of f/1.8. Or even better, make it a 28mm f/2, that way Pentax would not only be different, they’d also be making many of their current users extremely happy.

  2. You’re right about the 35/2.4, I don’t know who cooked that one up. All plastic, slow aperture, and the same price as their competitors? The Nikon 35/1.8 has a AF-S motor, which is slow but still a nice feature as it allows manual override. It also has a metal mount and a rear rubber gasket for “some” weathersealing.

    Regarding the comment above on legacy glass and metering – You can mount Nikkors from 1976 and up on D300′s and higher and enjoy accurate metering as the lens can be programmed into the camera. You also get autofocus confirmation. Or you could just get the adapter of your choice and mount almost anything onto a Canon and use it in Av mode, basically the same thing as M42′s on a Pentax. Of course, you get in-body IS with Pentax which is nice.

    I wish Pentax good luck, they have great bodies but are always just a bit behind the rest.

  3. I’m really disappointed in the new 35mm. While f/2.4 might be fine on a sensor with a wide ISO range, it just does not match up to the competition. I’ve been okay with slower-than-competition DA limited primes because of their unique focal lengths, but with 35mm, I’m really disappointed. After all, Pentax had f/2.0 in K, M, A, and FA line of the lenses. I don’t know why they couldn’t do the same with the DA line. Perhaps not to hurt the street price of the FA35? Who knows?

    With regards to K-r, impressive specs for an entry level camera, good for you, but I’m not an entry level user. From the look of things, the rumored K-5 will be priced higher than the previous Pentax DSLRs. If Pentax can deliver with K-5 I might consider an upgrade from my banged-up K10D, but at such a high price, there will really be no incentive for me to stay with Pentax.

    • Perhaps not to hurt the street price of the FA35?

      The FA 35 has been discontinued for months (maybe even more than a year) so that’s not the reason. And I’ll note that it sold for $300 new, before being discontinued. just $70 more than the DA L 35, but offering so much more. I never bought one because I was waiting for a DA 28mm f/2 (35mm was not wide enough for me), which I imagine will never come.

      The DA Limiteds are not very fast aperture lenses, but they’re small and built of metal—built to last. The DA L 35 is neither small nor built to last, so I see no appeal for serious shooters to buy one.

      I’m also still shooting a K10D (not banged up, though!) and will be considering the K-5; though if it does come out at the rumoured $1,600 price point, I’ll have to think very hard about it.

  4. Your chart lists the price for DA-L 35/2.4 at $230, I believe it was actually $220 (which is what you said in the article text). Also, in fairness, the MSRP of the Nikkor is $200 (199.95)–$195 is a street price. No need to make a bad situation worse. Shortcomings in the specs aside, hopefully the street price will be competitive?

    Also for what it’s worth, 70mm isn’t exactly unique as Sigma has a 70mm macro, and Zeiss has a 21/2.8, but I certainly take your point.

    • Thanks for pointing out the price typo, I’ve corrected it. The other prices are according to B&H where available.

      True, Zeiss and Sigma have those focal lengths. When I was racking my brains I was thinking of Camera makers rather than lens makers…though in all fairness Sigma does make DSLRs and Zeiss rangefinders :-)

  5. I meant to comment this morning, but was running late. I see that others where thinking along the same lines. A 35F/2.4 seems like a step back to the quite good FA35F/2.0. 35MM also is a strange focal length for me personally. How I would have loved a 24 or 28 F/1.8-2.0

    As for the K-R, it sounds like a K-X SUPER to me.

  6. I don’t really think the KR and this new 35mm lens are geared towards “gear heads” or people with a bit more photo experience. I read this and it sounds about right:

    “It is a perfect choice for digital SLR beginners to familiarize themselves with the basics of using interchangeable lenses.”

    Pentax is an unusual camera company when compared to Nikon or Canon. They are what they are, but it seems to me that this lens and the KR are really for entry level, if a bit expensive for that demographic.

    I’m not sure someone who just stared using a camera really needs f1.8 even if they auto focus which if you started photography out on a rangefinder or K1000 is sort of photography for dummies anyway. The depth of field at f1.8 is so narrow that you really need to know how to compose to use that f stop or you just end up with 10-20% of the frame in focus if you are lucky. Then I guess you can crop…..which along with auto focus is another crutch. Actually focus I suppose is a subjective aesthetic.

    That said I wouldn’t buy this lens or the KR. I have the 35mm Limited which is an incredible lens.

    I do think the colors are really cool though. That part is very tempting.

  7. Mis, you disappoint me. Here Pentax have made a bold statement of their principles by giving us a near-normal prime as a kit lens! This is something no other competing company has dared to do! It’s an optimised digital version of a prized full-frame lens with improved coatings, much reduced weight and lower price. All that is lost is the aperture ring and half a stop of speed. As such it is still faster than all the DA Limited lenses!

    Your emphasis of the MSRP is irrelevant as this lens will come bundled with cameras for almost nothing.

    Yes, it has a plastic mount. Have you ever heard of one failing? Is there a long history of this being a real photographic problem? If so, I would love to hear about it.

    So we would no doubt all like it if they re-invent the FA 31mm Limited for two hundred bucks. But, give me a break, let’s deal with reality one step at a time, OK? This is a beginner’s lens for intro SLR shooters. It seems like a pretty darned good choice for all that.

    My view here.

    • Robin,

      I fully understand what Pentax is trying to do here with the DA L 35, but it’s not as smart as they think. The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 is selling like crazy, not just to complete newbies buying it in a kit with their 18-55mm zoom, but also to enthusiasts, and even to people with full frame Nikons who enjoy shooting it uncropped because they like the vignetting. One lens, 3 user levels who are buying it. With this Pentax you get 1 lens, and 1 user level who will buy it (complete newbies). It doesn’t make financial sense.

      Now let me qualify my thoughts about this lens: I don’t care if Pentax want to introduce a silly lens that will appeal only to complete beginners; that’s fine, and I’ll even cheer and applaud if it gets newbies interested in primes (I love primes!). What I do care about is Pentax releasing this lens before a lens for the Pentax faithful who’ve been waiting since 2003 for a fastish normal prime that wouldn’t break the bank. The only way Pentax has to redeem itself is if at Photokina they announce a DA Ltd 28mm f/2 for under $400—a lens that should have been the first DA Ltd, not the 6th.

      It’s important to bring new users into the fold; it’s important to show them the way of the prime; but it’s also important not to piss your current users off by not listening to them for 7 years.

      • Mis, you know I agree with you that we need a 28/2 Limited (and a 24/2 Limited and a 135/2 Limited for that matter). But this has nothing to do with whether this product is any good or not, or meets a need or not (whether that need is real or one of marketing).

        You underestimate the number of people who will be totally happy to get a 35/2.4 with their camera. It’s not just total beginners, but many who might instead have bought a micro-four-thirds or other smaller form factor. Plus there is the purist photographer crowd who love buying new cameras just to try them out and compare to their beloved Leica. The word “zoom” is poison to them, but they will fondly compare the new Pentax 35mm lens to their favourite optic.

        There are also many people who simply cannot afford more than one or two-hundred bucks for a lens. You find this sentiment all the time on non-American forums, where people have much less disposable income and prices for glass are much higher. For example, the initial response to this lens on the Pentax UK forum was strongly positive.

        P.S. Your “human checker” is broken as it regularly throws up missing Flickr images.

        • I do hope beginners buying the K-r as their first DSLR are happy with this lens, but I also hope Pentax understand they have not fulfilled our request of an affordable fastish normal prime. That said, maybe I am completely wrong and this is the affordable fastish prime that many were waiting for and Pentax sells a gazillion of them. I’ve always said that what’s good for Pentax is good for me.

          As for the optical quality of the lens, I have never stated it is bad, as I haven’t used it. In fact, I am assuming that it will be a very good lens optically given that a) it’s a slow prime, and b) it’s a Pentax prime.

          Once it goes on sale I’ll request one for review. And I do hope its store price is closer to $150 given what the Nikon and Sony 35′s cost.

          I apologise for the Humaniser issues. It’s a plugin that uses Flickr images and if the user has deleted the image then it doesn’t show up. It seemed like the best plugin at the time I researched it, but I’ll take another look at what’s available to see if I can install something new.

          • Unfortunately it looks like only in Japan will the 35/2.4 be available as a bundle with the K-r. Info I have from the UK and USA shows the usual kit zoom instead. What a missed opportunity!

            I think the Humaniser is cute. Surely the developer could put in a check for image availability. Or maybe the Flickr API does not permit that.

          • Hopefully the US will see the err of its ways and add the DA L 35 to the kits. Or maybe the stores themselves will do it—a popular kit for the NX10 at B&H was to pair it with the 18-55mm kit zoom and the 30mm f/2 pancake lens.

          • On the Japanese sites the 35 mm F2.4 comes in all colors, as well as the K-r body also in all K-x colors. At B&H even the 18-55 mm kit lenses on non-black bodies are all just black.
            - In other words the way to roll out 35 mm F2.4 world-wide has not yet been anounced
            - I currently live in Japan and am buying used 18-55 and 50-200 kit lenses (from K-7, so with metal mount) to go with new K-r including 35 mm F2.4 kit lens…

  8. “even to people with full frame Nikons who enjoy shooting it uncropped because they like the vignetting. One lens, 3 user levels who are buying it.”

    Really? Are there more than four people who bought one solely for this purpose? I’d have to think this ‘user level’ consists more of people who bought it for reason 1 or 2, perhaps running dual DX/FX systems or have since upgraded to D700 and still own the 35.

    Your point was made well enough made with the other two ‘user levels’. The lens should be cheaper and/or faster, and they need something to cater to their enthusiasts who think there should be something better available that doesn’t cost $964 at B&H.

    Like Robin, I’ve found the humanizer can take a few tries b/c often one of the pictures is f—ed.

  9. OMG…F2.4 is slow…now I have to laugh….With the high ISO of these new cameras coming out with new sony exemeler sensors it really doens’t matter. For Depth of field purposes its ridiculous because if you look at pix done with the da35limited on flickr…the bokeh is stellar at 2.8. People get real. Even my M28 2.8 has great bokeh…

    I don’t believe everything about Nikon post here. There is a guy with a d700 who sold all his Nikon glass and Bought Zeiss. I guess he didn’t like the Nikkor 35 1.8.

    Looking at the pix of the kr with this new lens on flickr I think Pentax has another winner on their hands. Maybe not in America..but definitely in Japan and Europe.

  10. Good day! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could get a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having difficulty finding one?
    Thanks a lot!

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