Pentax Finally Announce New Equipment
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:
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 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.
(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|
|Closest focus distance||30cm||30cm||23cm||24cm|
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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Tags: Cameras, DA L 35mm f/2.4, DSLR, Lenses, Pentax, Pentax K-r, Photography