Sunday, November 9, 2008

An Open Love Letter to Pentax

by Miserere

Dear Pentax,

I love you. No, wait, that's not a very good start, it's too forward and direct. Oh dammit, it's too late, it's out now; I might as well leave it there. It's not like I'm ashamed of it; when I cross paths with other photographers I proudly display my red-branded camera strap and flash my Ltd lens in their general direction.

I suppose I'm attracted to your quirkiness and unpredictability; your unique way of doing things. Like that one time, in the early 2000's, when you said you would stick to film cameras and then a few months later you released the *istD. Or when you created a line of high-quality Limited silver lenses but no camera body to match them. Or maybe I like your humility; while other brands are blowing their own horn and starting ad campaigns because their cameras can shoot 0.2 more fps than the competition, you sit quietly in a corner and don't tell anyone that the algorithm you use to deal with noise retains the most detail of all brands, or that when you created the K20D you improved the autofocus, even though you said you didn't.

I know that some people get impatient with your slow pace when it comes to releasing new lenses, but at least you have a public lens roadmap so we all know where you're headed and what we can expect. Of course, you've never had a camera roadmap... This is the reason why I decided to write you this letter. Because nobody knows what you're up to in your basement laboratory, I thought I could make a few requests for the upcoming cameras. I know I'm nobody important, and I know you've never noticed me and wouldn't recognise me if we crossed in the hallway on the way to the cafeteria, but as your secret admirer I dream that you might one day read this letter and nod your head in agreement. These are my suggestions for upcoming cameras:

  • Please give up the pixel race. You went from 10 to 14 MP by making the space between pixels smaller, thus not losing photons in the transition, but unless you can make the spaces even smaller, please don't come out with a 20MP APS-C camera. It's not that we don't want 20MP, it's that I'm happy with 14, or even 10. I would much rather you spend your valuable time on other things, for example...

  • Expand the ISO range. Everybody want ISO 6400, and I'm sure you can deliver that if you put your heart into it. But I also want ISO 50, and even 25. Could you do that? I can only imagine the depth of colours at sunset I could capture at ISO25... And what about those waterfalls? Or shooting at f/1.4 in broad daylight? I'd no longer need to carry a 0.6 ND filter with me all the time!

  • You know how your DSLRs with SR ask me what focal length I'm using every time I use a lens that doesn't communicate focal length? How about every time I connect a non-A series lens they ask me what the minimum and maximum apertures are? That way I would be able to use all my K and M lenses in all shooting modes, including my beloved TAv. And I would also have aperture values recorded in the EXIF. You could even create a little menu where I could input the details of all my manual lenses so every time I mount one the menu pops up and I can quickly scroll to the appropriate one and choose it. You could even allow AF adjustments for these lenses too; wouldn't that be great! As a side effect, there would be no further need for the green button, and you could make it a soft button the user can assign to whatever function he/she wants (like white balance!).

  • I'd like an AF assist lamp, like the guys from the other brands have. This is the only time I catch myself looking at other cameras. I love you, I've told you, but when I see those other cameras with their little lamps autofocusing away in the dark, I feel a little bit jealous. I know I can pop up the on-board flash and use it for this purpose, but after the camera has focused I have to push it back down or otherwise it will fire. Maybe a compromise would be to add a flash mode that uses it only as an AF assist lamp, what do you think? Relationships are all about compromises; that's what my dad has always told me.

  • For those times I'm shooting landscapes, I could really use a hyperfocal focus mode. I know this would only work with F, FA or DA lenses, but it's still worth including, and it would be so easy to implement for you. I can already imagine it...I have a DA 18-55mm attached to the camera and I set the hyperfocus mode on. I zoom out to 18mm and turn the aperture to f/8...then I hear the faint whir of the autofocus engine for a split second, and then the back LCD briefly lights up stating: "Hyperfocal distance: 2.04m. In-focus range: 1.02m - infinity".

  • I've told you how much I like TAv, but I still think it could be improved. I would like to see an option to set a threshold shutter speed or aperture. For example, I would set TAv to 1/50s and f/4; if light were low, then ISO would adjust automatically, but what happens if the light levels go up? Currently both shutter and aperture start blinking when ISO hits 100 and I need to change shooting mode if I don't want my shots to be overexposed. Ideally, I would set a preference for either shutter speed or aperture, such that in the above situation, when the ISO hit 100, the shutter speed or the aperture would change to achieve the correct exposure.

  • Make me a small camera! How I would love to have a compact DSLR to which I could attach a DA 40 pancake to roam the streets, taking photographs unnoticed... Do you remember the MX? Even the ME was quite small. Is there no chance you can produce a simple DSLR to satisfy my tiny desires? You could call it the MXD; isn't that a cool name? You could take out everything that was superfluous inside the body. I would even give up SR and screw-type auto-focus if you would build me this little gem (but you would have to release some SDM pancake lenses too).

  • My last request is easy: Could you use 5, or even 6 digits to name files? With the current 4 digits I can only shoot up to IMGP9999.PEF before going back to IMGP0000.PEF. After building these great cameras, do you expect me to resist taking more than 10,000 photos?

Oh I could sit here all day making requests, but I fear I would drive you away even further. There is a fine line between "secret admirer" and "stalker"; I do not wish to cross it.

I hope you understand that the above suggestions and requests come from a place of love. I want you to be the best you can be, to fulfill your great potential, to make the best cameras anyone has ever used! And I would like to feel I have helped you in some small way.

Then maybe one day, when we cross in the hallway, you'll smile at me...

A boy can only dream.

Yours forever,



Editor: Yvon Bourque said...

That's a very cool article Miserere. I like it a lot.

Paucal said...

Hi Miserere, I fully agree with your remarks, expect maybe:
-the 5 digits numbering which I'd find useless
-abandoning screw-type AF: it is a major plus for Pentax to have full retro compatibility with prior lenses. How would we succumb to LBA otherwise ;)

Anyway, I would also like a video feature. Those small films made with 5D are amazing, and I dream of playing with my lenses to make short films.

Miserere said...


I agree that one of the things that I really appreciate in Pentax is backwards compatibility for lenses, but I don't the screw-drive to be removed from every camera, I was just offering a suggestion to help make the MXD smaller :-)

Have you taken more than 10,000 pics yet ;-)

A lot of people seem to like video, so maybe you need to write your own love letter to Pentax telling them what you want in future cameras :-D

Sushil Kumar said...

Excellent list. Happy to know that there are people wanting Hyperfocal mode. I asked for it on K20D wishlist long time back in another forum. Another one I would like to add is increased Dynamic range in place of pixel race.

robin said...

A great article I cannot help agreeing with. In particular I have long wanted a smaller camera, but unlike the K-M it would have to be built for a professional, free of beginner modes no-one uses anyway, and without sacrificing useful features like the ability to set your AF point.

However I strongly disagree on one point... I would not want to give up SR.

Thanks for the good read!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Miserere, I'm a Pentaxist too, secret admirer, as you stated, in Italy. I completely agreed to your requests, all except one: for me, no tiny cameras.
There are already all sort of compact cameras, don't ask for small dSLR, because, the smaller the size, the lower the quality, expecially now, with the digital thing.

Besides that, congratulation for your article, it is written with the heart.

P.S.: To the guy requesting video... Let Canon have the video, and perhaps a sensor which, doing that, will survive half the time of the others. We really don't need video on our dSLRs.

P.P.S: Sorry for my english...!

Miserere said...

Luke, I want a small camera (like the old film MX), but with an APS-C sensor. Image quality would be the same as the current DSLRs, don't worry! :-D

Peter Barnes said...

So the small camera would have, say, the same sensor as the K10D, and the standard Pentax lens mount, so when you use your vey high quality Pentax pancake lenses the image quality would also be high. As the move to RAW gathers momentum I would also be happy to lose in-camera JPEG processing if that would help reduce size and cost.