Friday, September 26, 2008

Miserere's Musings on Pentax's New Releases

Hi Pentax friends,
Today, Friday September 26, 2008, Miserere gives his opinion of the new Pentax releases and his future expectations. Give us your opinion in the comment section. However, any bashing will be removed as we want this site to remain friendly. We need constructive comments and, by-the-way, Pentax USA do read this blog regularly.
Yvon Bourque
Like it says on the can, this week I’m going to give you my opinion on the new equipment Pentax announced at the Photokina 2008 held in Cologne, Germany during 23-28 September. I won’t delve deeply into technical specifications as that is not the object of the article. For specs, please read Yvon’s thorough post earlier this week.

K-m/K2000 DSLR + DA L 18-55mm and 50-200mm Kit Lenses

This is Pentax’s first true entry-level DSLR offering ever. Let me start off by saying that I’m bored of reading people’s comments about this camera complaining that it doesn’t have a top LCD, or that it only has 5 AF points, or that (are you ready for this?) it is too small. Seriously, enough already. Pentax has had a problem with its previous entry-level cameras (like the K100D and the K200D) because, although they were priced similarly to the competition’s entry-level offerings, the Pentaxes were higher spec’d and of higher general build quality. While this is great for advanced amateurs migrating from film cameras and the braver P&S enthusiasts, I feel many people looked at the K100/200D and thought “that’s too professional for me, I won’t know how to use it” and bought a simpler camera from the competition. With the K-m/K2000 Pentax now has an undaunting camera to offer those moving up from their P&S. This will bring more people into the Pentax system, and more money into the Pentax pockets, which will translate into more products for all of us down the line. If this camera is simple it is because it is not meant for advanced users! Let’s not criticise the camera for being too basic, because that was the goal all along.

I’ve also read complaints about the new DA L lenses because they sport plastic mounts. Again, I don’t see a problem with this. They will only be sold as a kit with the K-m/K2000 and the target demographic is unlikely to be changing lenses all that often. If it cuts costs and increases Pentax’s profit margin, I’m all for it. If Pentax wins, we all do. Props also to Pentax for including an external flash in the kit.

DA* 60-250mm f/4

This lens was announced just before the Moon landings and Pentaxians everywhere got very excited. Now it’s being announced again, and we’re told this time it’s for real. In case we didn’t believe them, the MRSP has been set to $1,500. I really hope this translates to something like $1,200 street price, although even then I think Pentax have shot themselves in the foot. Faced with the decision of buying an f/4 zoom (which is not fast on an APS-C camera) for this price, or an f/2.8 zoom in the 70-200mm range for $700-800 from Tamron or Sigma, I believe many will choose the latter. I am aware many people thought this lens would be around $800-900, and I was one of them. I’m sorry, Pentax, but I don’t understand this price. If anyone can explain to me how they justify it, please leave your theory in the comment section. For those that still want it, you have until November or so to save up the cash.

Please understand that I am not complaining just for the sake of it. There were so many people waiting years (literally) for this lens that have been let down by its exorbitant price, that I truly believe Pentax is going to lose a lot of money in missed sales because of it. Even at $900 it would’ve flown off the shelves.

DA* 55mm f/1.4

Continuing Pentax’s crusade to reproduce all the classic 35mm focal lengths they have released an 84mm f/2 equivalent in the form of an SDM, weather-sealed 55mm f/1.4. I am hoping the quoted price of $800 becomes $600 when it hits the streets. Although it might seem high, when you consider this is a top-quality lens, and Pentax’s first SDM short prime, it isn’t that high, especially if the image quality is as good as we’ve been promised. I am looking forward to receiving a copy on loan from some kind soul so I can review it on this blog (seriously, you’ll get at least 5,000 Karma points for lending me the lens). I use my FA 50mm f/1.4 extensively for portraits and low-light photography and would love to compare these two lenses.

Will a DA 90mm f/2 be next...? (A guy can dream, can’t he?)

AF160FC Auto Ring Flash

This came out of nowhere! Nobody was expecting a ring flash for the macrophiles, but it makes sense to release it shortly after the introduction of the 35mm Ltd macro. I am very glad for this announcement as it proves Pentax is moving forward and thinking like it is staying around a while. A ring flash is not an item you release when your company is in crisis, so I see it as a good omen.

DA 15mm f/4 Ltd

There was much speculation as to which way Pentax would go with this lens since they announced their new 15mm a few months back. I think the consensus was “we don’t want another huge lens like the DA 14mm f/2.8”, and Pentax delivered. This is a Limited lens that continues the tradition of compactness that characterises the line and which appears to be no larger than the 35mm Ltd macro. While the lens is still under glass at the Photokina, I believe it should be on shelves next Spring. No indication of price yet, but if it is priced similar to the 35mm Ltd, I doubt Pentax will be able to manufacture them quick enough to meet demand.

DA 1.4x Teleconverter

Finally! The last time Pentax introduced a 1.4x TC was for the A series lenses back in 1984. I’ll do the math for you: that was 24 years ago! Pentax has never had a teleconverter that would drive auto-focus lenses (the 1.7x AF TC was a compromise), so users had to rely on third party TCs. Some of these have become so coveted (like the Tamron MC4 1.4x TC) that they sell for several hundred dollars on eBay because they are no longer manufactured.

Again, I am happy that Pentax is releasing this TC (and I’m hoping a 2x will follow) as it shows a commitment to offering a full lens system. It is also under glass at the Photokina and no pricing has been announced, but my guess would be around $300. It should be out in the Spring, just in time for the good weather in the Northern hemisphere. I can imagine there will be many DA* 300mm lenses out roaming the parks with this TC attached.


Maybe the biggest star of the Pentax Photokina rollout was the missing camera: the K30D. The second photo in this sample gallery is made up of 17.4 million pixels; it grabbed Pentaxians’ attention when somebody noticed the size and got the rumour mills working overtime (interestingly enough, the full size photo no longer seems to be available). Many saw it as proof that the K30D, with a 17.4MP sensor, would be announced at the Photokina, while others speculated that it heralded the arrival of the much-awaited Pentax full-frame flagship (even though the images were allegedly taken with the APS-C-only 35mm Ltd lens). Some are claiming that the image was simply uprezzed from a standard K20D file, but Pentax isn’t doing anything to clear the fog.

While I can understand the appeal of a new top-of-the-range camera, we should remember that the K20D only started shipping around March/April this year. It is much too early to be releasing a new flagship now. If the successor of the K20D is in the works, then it will be announced at the PMA in March 2009, although I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard nothing until later in the year.

Pentax USA Releases

On the local front (for those living in the USA), Pentax will release a leather hand strap and a case for the Limited lenses. Not owning 3 Limiteds, I am more interested in the strap, as I often wrap the neck strap around my wrist in several loops when walking around with the camera, all the while wishing I had a better system. This might be it.

These have been my opinions; some good, some bad, but all mine and not necessarily shared by anyone else on this blog. What did you like from the new stuff? What didn’t you like? Let us know in the comments section. Just remember to keep it civil. After all, Photography is just a hobby, right?

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