New Canon 40mm Pancake - A Threat to Pentax?

Full-Frame EF 40mm STM lens for under $200

By PF Staff in Articles and Tips on Jun 8, 2012
New Canon 40mm Pancake - A Threat to Pentax?

Canon has just introduced its first 40mm F2.8 "pancake" lens together with a new Rebel (T4i) DSLR.  Could this launch have been inspired by Pentax's iconic lineup of "Limited" prime lenses? Up until now, Pentax was practically the only manufacturer that offered small pancake lenses for their DSLR cameras. 

Pentax Limited Pancakes

Pentax_DA_15mm.jpg SMC_Pentax-DA_21mm_F32_Limited.jpg 21730_DA35mmMacro.jpg SMC_Pentax_DA_Limited_40mm_Pancake.jpg pentax_da70mm.jpg
15mm (APS-C) 21mm (APS-C) 35mm Macro (APS-C) 40mm (Full-Frame*) 70mm (APS-C)

Canon's new 40mm lens features a built-in focusing motor, and despite this, it will only be slightly larger than the Pentax DA 40mm Limited.  Even more interestingly, it seems that this 40mm Canon lens will be targeted at the intro-level market, with a launch price of just $199.  If Canon were to develop more such lenses, they could pose a serious threat to the size advantage of the Pentax system, especially for beginner photographers.  This new Canon lens is cheaper than both of the corresponding Pentax lenses, as Pentax's 40mm Limited current retails for $499, while the slimmer XS version retails for $249.  While the Canon lens still significantly larger than the Pentax 40mm XS, there's no doubt that it will still be classified as a "pancake".  How big of a threat to Pentax is this recent development, combined with other recent Canon and Nikon announcements?  Read on for our thoughts!

This isn't a first time that Pentax's innovation has been adapted and/or improved upon by other brands, as we saw similar trends as early as when the film SLR was first introduced, when Nikon launched the Nikon F to compete with the Asahi Pentax.  After acquiring Pentax late last year, Ricoh vowed to aggressively compete with Canon and Nikon, but it seems that all the recent Canon and Nikon announcements are putting Pentax under more pressure than ever: Pentax still has no full-frame DSLR, their intro-level DSLR body (K-r) has been discontinued, and their aging high-end DSLR body (K-5) does not yet have a successor.  With the launch of the 5D Mark III, the older 5D Mark II has now turned into a rather affordable full-frame camera, and the launch of the 36-megapixel Nikon D800 is raising questions as to whether or not it's worth spending an extra $7,000 for the 40-megapixel Pentax 645D.  The Pentax K-01, which featured a unique design and was the first mirrorless camera to natively support DSLR lenses, wasn't as big of a hit as we had hoped for.  Furthermore, the Pentax Q, Pentax's other mirrorless camera, is still too expensive to appeal to micro-4/3 users or to compete with Sony's NEX system.  Lastly, the recent 15-90% price increase of all Pentax lenses has made the Pentax system much less affordable than before.

Pentax K-30

On the other hand, we think that the recently-announced Pentax K-30 will hold its ground well in the mid-range market, as no current DSLR in the same price range is both weather-sealed and offers the same feature set.  In addition, the availability of the Pentax 18-135mm WR at a discounted price of $350 will affordably turn the K-30 into an all-purpose weather-sealed camera.  We have high hopes that the Photokina trade show, which is coming up in September (and which we will be covering live), will bring exciting product announcements for both the K-mount and 645D product lines from Pentax.  In any case, one thing is clear: the Pentax lineup needs to be boosted with new and even more competitive products if Ricoh wishes to be a serious competitor in the consumer photo industry.

*unofficially

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