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2012.06.03

There are lots of rumors about what Pentax will release next and how they will follow up on the K-5. Just last week, they launched the K-30, a follow up to the K-r but filled with pro features including a 100% coverage viewfinder, dual control-dials and weather-sealed body which is also freezeproof to -10C. It also comes with automatic horizon correction, 6 FPS continuous drive, an improved autofocus sensor and support for both Lithium-Ion and standard AA batteries. By any measure, for under $900 USD, this is an awesome product.

Pentax K-30

The Pentax K-5 is a highly-acclaimed digital camera which has received the best DxO Mark score ever for an APS-C DSLR. It is a real professional tool which delivers superb image quality in the most durable cropped-sensor DSLR body with extremely ergonomic design, second only the the K20D before it. Just like professionals expect, the K-5 has a 100% coverage viewfinder, dual control-dials, a weather-sealed body and plenty of external controls. This one is also freezeproof to -10C and features automatic horizon correction.

Pentax is an old name in the photography industry and one which is widely recognized. Yet, in the modern professional world, Pentax is overshadowed by Canon and Nikon, similarly to the fame of Leica and Zeiss which would not be recognized by most non-photographers but without the ultra-expensive high-end products. Brand recognition takes time but is largely influenced by sales. Until Pentax sells much more, they will struggle to get more recognition without resorting to an over-the-top global advertising campaign at least!

Pentax has an uphill battle because while people review cameras, the majority of professionals buy systems. As a smaller player, they  lack the production capacity to create a large and complete system. DSLRs require lenses and the Pentax lineup is one of the smallest of the industry, similar to that of Sony which has more brand-recognition but a small foothold in the professional market. While the Pentax lens lineup has some extremely high-quality lens and some unique offerings, it is lacking in some specialized areas. In particular, both ultra-wide and super telephotos are missing and they have exactly zero tilt-shift lenses.

While Sony which has the capacity to produce two lens lineups, one for its Alpha DSLRs and SLDs, plus another for its NEX SLDs, Pentax is having a hard time doing so. They already have introduced a set of five mostly low-quality lenses for their Q but when it came to introduce a high-quality SLD, they stuck with the K-mount used by their SLRs.  This makes it very difficult to sell the poorly ergonomic K-01 because it misses the one selling point of mirrorless ILCs, size. This means that if they want to grow their DSLRs significantly, it will be done at the expense of their SLDs.

Pentax can do a few things to grab more high-end market. The first, obviously, it to keep adding to their lens lineup, even if they have to tap additional designers and production facilities. The second is to keep increasing the unique aspects of their cameras. They have the only freezeproof DSLRs on the market, so it would be good to push their limits further and so how tough they can make them. Also, Pentax cameras offer high-end features in more compact bodies than competitors. While the size of DSLRs should probably be not be made smaller as it would compromise comfort, they can work at making the system smaller. This means integrating things like wireless radio flash-triggers, GPS receivers including star-tracking and even a WiFi connection to offer remote-control and viewing from a cell-phone or other Android-based devices. There are certainly plenty of possibilities!

As for the Pentax K-3 or K-1, as some people would guess. It has to improve on the K-5 and gain features not found on the new K-30 in order to leap forward. It is widely expected to use a 24 megapixels sensor, similar to the Nikon D3200 or other recent DSLR with a Sony APS-C sensor. The rest is hard to guess. Could it get 3 control-dials? Maybe. It would be a cool first for a DSLR. Faster autofocus speeds are probably most desirable, followed by fast continuous shooting speed. With an all-electronic shutter they could get ultra-high Flash-Sync and super fast shutter-speeds too. Hopefully, we will know soon! By Photokina this coming September something should at least be announced.

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