Friday, September 19, 2008

Is There a Hybrid Camera in Pentax's Future?

Is There a Hybrid Camera in Pentax's Future?
Article by: Miserere

The best perfumes come in small containers. I'm not sure who coined this phrase, but it has been long used by petite women while wooing men. As if men needed help noticing women. I'm sure we will see this phrase in one form or another being used in the market campaigns for one of the new large-sensor compact cameras starting to appear on the market. As if photographers needed help being tempted by new equipment.

When Panasonic and Olympus announced the new micro 4/3 standard in the first week of August 2008, the internet was abuzz with speculation and ideas. As with all vapourware announcements, activity died down rapidly as attention shifted to items that we may actually see in our lifetime. Then, out of the blue, Panasonic announced the Lumix G1 some 5 weeks later. Whoah! When did developments start happening this quickly? And why am I talking about a Panasonic camera on a Pentax blog?

Shortly after the announcement of the micro 4/3 standard, Samsung announced their new hybrid digital camera system, which will feature a 14MP CMOS APS-C sensor (like that in the K20D) and a new lens mount. Like the micro 4/3 cameras, they will be compact, mirror-less cameras and feature EVFs (electronic viewfinders). And they will be small. Did I already say that?

No mention was made of Pentax, but with their ongoing partnership (Samsung produces sensors for Pentax digital cameras, Samsung’s DSLR’s are clones of Pentax’s models, featuring K-mounts, and their lenses are also Pentax clones), we have to wonder whether Pentax will be involved somehow. I would find it unlikely that an electronics giant like Samsung would jump, alone, into a new camera system (in a new market niche) where its competition will be Panasonic/Olympus, another electronics giant backed by (or leading) a well-established camera company.

I, for one, am hoping Pentax will be involved in the hybrid camera project, a type of camera that photographers have been clamouring for since large DSLRs became the norm. After all, Pentax holds the honour of having built the smallest DSLR system ever, the Pentax 110, so it is no stranger to miniaturisation. Pentax also prides itself in offering some of the smallest lenses on the market through their pancake line of primes.

This hybrid camera could use a smaller version of the K-mount, and without a mirror, would allow the distance between lens and sensor to be significantly reduced enabling the design of a much smaller body. Via an adapter, standard size Pentax lenses could still be used, which would undoubtedly attract many current Pentax shooters. It would make sense for Samsung to build on an existing user base, and they would be foolish not to use Pentax for that. Although it might not have the numbers of other systems like Canon or Nikon, Pentax users are loyal, and are often attracted to the system in the first place because they value compact cameras and lenses, which Pentax started offering when they introduced their M lens series.

Of course, the hybrid camera would be launched together with a system of lenses, probably a mixture of compact zooms and even compacter, faster primes. Samsung would need the help of a company like Pentax to produce these optics. No matter how good the camera might be, if the lenses are not of the highest quality the product will crumble and fail in the market.

I look forward to a line of small Samsung bodies with micro K-mount lenses. A camera I can take with me when the size and weight of the K10D make it impractical, but I still want better image quality than I get with my P&S. This wouldn’t be a substitute for my full-size DSLR, it would be a complement.

I could be completely wrong and Samsung has decided they are strong enough to develop their own mount, start a system from the ground up and earn followers from scratch. They could very well hire a third party lens company, like Tamron, Tokina or Cosina, to design and manufacture their lenses. But would this be the most efficient way to break into this emerging market?

The new camera is slated to hit the stores in Spring 2010. As such, it will lag some 15 months behind the micro 4/3 system’s first offering. If Samsung is serious about dominating this camera segment (as Executive Vice President Byung Woo Lee has stated), they must offer a much better product than Panasonic/Olympus, and do so in a relatively short amount of time. Can they accomplish this without Pentax…? We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime I’m left wondering…will a Pentax in any other size still click as sweet?
Thank you for reading and let us know your thoughts and comments,
Pentax DSLRs
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