Pentax Announce More Equipment
A little over a week ago Pentax announced the entry-level (by price, not specs) K-r with a cheap 35mm, both in many happy colours. After a very dry 2 years as far as new gear in concerned, Pentax needed to bring something strong to the table. They’re already losing shooters to full frame brands, they don’t need to start losing APS-C shooters too. The K-7 was a change of direction towards a smaller DSLR with advanced capabilities and competitive price. It provided an upgrade over its predecessor, the K20D, but incorporated a new version of Samsung’s 14MP CMOS sensor that didn’t offer any better performance than that the K20D’s sensor (some still say it’s downright inferior). Although the K-7 sold well amongst low ISO shooters, those wanting to photograph in the dark flocked to the (theoretically) lower level K-x. The one comment I saw repeated over and over again in the fora was all I want is a K-7 with the K-x sensor. It seems Pentax have gone a step further.
Behold the Pentax K-5. Externally almost identical to the K-7, it also inherits most of the firmware from its predecessor, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The main differences are just two: The sensor, now Sony’s 16.1MP CMOS, and the updated autofocus system, now the next generation SAFOX IX (also in the K-r and 645D), which Pentax is claiming is a big step up from the K-7, especially in AF-C mode. This remains to be seen, but initial reports suggest it is better. After seeing some prerelease high-ISO images taken with the K-5 and the Nikon D7000 (with which it shares a Sony 16MP sensor) I can say that this is the camera Pentaxians wanted the K-7 to have been…but even better. Once the price comes down to $1,200-1,300 it will be a strong seller I’m sure. Here are the main specs (noted when different to K-7):
- Sensor: 16MP CMOS manufactured by Sony (the K-7 had a 14MP sensor by Samsung).
- Battery: Li-Ion rechargeable, same as the K-7
- New autofocus module, SAFOX IX (K-7 had SAFOX VIII).
- Standard ISO range: of 100-12,800, expandable to 80-51,200 (K-7 was 100-12,800). Currently the APS-C DSLR with highest ISO available!
- 7 FPS (K-7 was 5.2 FPS).
- 77-segment multi-pattern metering system.
- AF adjustment for individual lenses.
- AF assist lamp.
- 3 inch 921k LCD screen (K-x is 2.7 inch 230k).
- Automatic compensation of distortion and lateral chromatic aberration (available only with DA-,DFA- and FA Limited-series lenses).
- Dark frame subtraction can be turned off for exposures longer than 30s (you couldn’t on the K-7). Anecdotal evidence
- Price: US$1,600 body only (likely to come down quickly given competition by the Nikon D7000).
Pentax DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 WR
Pentax’s rebadged version of Tamron’s 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 (currently $300 on B&H!) proved to be quite popular with enthusiasts who wanted do-it-all walk-around lens for when changing lenses isn’t desireable or practical. Pentax discontinued the lens recently and some speculated a WR (Weather Resistant) version would be forthcoming. Well, it hasn’t shown up, but instead Pentax have announced a WR 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 that will be available as a kit lens with the new K-5. The reduced focal length range should make it lighter, smaller, and a better performer optically, although the aforementioned 18-250mm has a solid reputation for a superzoom.
Of note in this new Pentax lens is the optical design which, for the first time as far as I’m aware, places the focus lens group at the rear of the lens and the zoom group at the front. Other lens makers, like Nikon, have been using this type of design for years but Pentax never had. This has implications for the arrangement of the rings; now the ring closest to the camera controls focusing while the one furthest away is for zooming. This design cuts down on the distance the focus group has to travel, which should theoretically make autofocusing faster (or use less battery juice at the same speed). And speaking of autofocusing, this lens is also the first time we see the term ‘DC’ applied to the in-lens focusing motor. Up until know pentax called their in-lens focusing system ‘SDM’ (Silent Drive Motor). There have been complaints from Pentax users about failing SDM in certain lenses—Pentax have remained silent on the matter so far. Is this DC designation a cheaper SDM version or an updated (read: improved) in-lens motor system? From the press release:
Extra-smooth SDM autofocus operation
A DC motor built into the lens’ AF (autofocus) unit assures extra-smooth autofocus operation. It features a rotation-free mechanism to keep the focus ring stationary during autofocus operation. The user can hold the lens in exactly the same way as when using it in the manual-focus mode.
Note that all SDM lenses feature focus rings that don’t turn when the lens autofocuses. Furthermore, the Pentax 17-70mm f/4 is also an SDM lens yet it has distance markings on its focus ring, something the 18-135mm lacks, which makes me wonder if it’s intended for absolute beginners who have no need nor use for distance markings. But then this lens features 7 rounded diaphragm blades, which are usually found in upper end lenses… Pentax, I’m confused!
And What Else?
This is where we run into problems: There is nothing else. A mirrorless camera has been in the rumour mill for a few months, people are desperate for teleconverters, many want to know about future plans for a full-frame DSLR… Yet silence is all they found.
The next big fair is the PMA, which has now moved to Septermber (it used to be in March), so I wouldn’t expect anything new from Pentax until then. Why? Because anything to be launched early to the middle of next year should at least be available as a mock up if not a working beta unit right now (see the Fuji X100, not scheduled for release for another 6 months yet shown at Photokina). I could, and hope to be, wrong.
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- Review – Pentax K-5, Part 2
Tags: Cameras, DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6, DSLR, Lenses, Pentax, Pentax K-5, Photography, Photokina 2010