CP+ 2017 Pentax Interview: Part 1
Exciting new developments at Ricoh Imaging
Left to right: Hiraku Kawauchi, Shigeru Wakashiro, Keiji Ohkubo,Takashi Arai of Ricoh Imaging
We had the opportunity to sit down with Ricoh Imaging at this year's CP+ show and conduct our annual interview about Pentax and Ricoh camera systems. This marks the 6th Pentax Forums CP+ interview, and our 9th formal Pentax interview to date.
This year, our questions were met with unprecedented enthusiasm from the four (up from the usual two!) Ricoh representatives pictured above. It's evident that Ricoh Imaging is listening to customer feedback more than ever before, and some exciting updates to existing models and apps are on the horizon— most notably sensor-shift video stabilization (more below).
Ricoh Imaging and the Pentax brand have a lot to be proud of. Despite a declining DSLR market, the company has successfully kept the DSLR at the heart of its camera business. Last year's K-1 full frame pleased Pentax fans worldwide and continues to deliver exceptional value to photographers who crave high image quality. Ricoh's 360-degree Theta system became an Amazon best-seller and continues gaining traction worldwide. Simultaneously, other product lines such as the APS-C system and K-mount lens lineup are growing with the recent launch of the Pentax KP and 7 roadmapped lenses, at least one of which is due to release later this year.
Let's jump straight into the interview and gain some insight into the company's philosophy and future plans.
1. Recent releases from competitors as well as user trends continue to reshape the modern camera market. How do you see the future direction of Pentax/Ricoh cameras? Has the Theta helped offset declining demand for SLRs?
We plan to continue in a direction that allows us to fully utilize the strength of our products such as DSLR cameras and the THETA line. We expect a continued demand for THETA products due to a rapid expansion and adoption of the 360-degree imaging platform. Business to business is also expected to grow in fields such as travel and equipment management. We are receiving an increasing number of inquiries from a growing list of countries all over the world.
2. What prompted you to introduce a unique model like the Pentax KP into the DSLR lineup? What kinds of users are you targeting?
PENTAX has a long history of producing high performance yet compact and light-weight cameras. For example, the Limited lens line is a unique series that customers take great pleasure in owning. We wanted to produce a quality compact body that can be a good match for the Limited series lenses.
Target users include those who are looking for a K-1 alternative, those looking to step up from entry models, and those who have been hesitant to pick up a new camera due to its size factor so far.
3. Do you feel that there is still room for a flagship-level APS-C body, i.e. a K-3 II replacement, alongside the K-1?
Compactness and quickness are advantages of the APS-C format compared to full-frame. We feel that there is a need for an APS-C flagship model with these advantages.
A successor to the K-3 II is being researched.
4. Despite being strong in many other areas, Pentax cameras are falling farther and farther behind the competition in terms of video performance, which hasn't seen many changes in the past 5 years. Is there any specific video-related area that you'd like to focus on enhancing in the near future (i.e. stabilization, bitrate, focusing, 4K resolution, HDMI output)?
We recognize the importance of video features. We will study ways to improve video performance in all respects.
5. Would it be possible to bring back mechanical stabilization in video?
So far the sensor shift is disabled in movie mode in order not to record mechanical noise. In response to our users' requests, we are planning to supply a firmware update that enables mechanical SR (shake reduction) while recording video for the K-1 and KP.
6. Fuji and Hasselblad have changed the medium format landscape with new models under $10,000. What is your response to this; in what direction will you take the Pentax 645 system to allow it to stand out?
The medium format market used to be limited to only professional customers. The introduction of new products as well as the PENTAX 645D and 645Z may stimulate the consumer base and eventually the market can be more similar to that of full-frame DSLRs. PENTAX will continuously pursue the essence of photography and provide attractive products for those who share our philosophy. We will focus on the PENTAX way rather than imitating others. Competition is maybe necessary, but putting our philosophy into our products is more important than putting in something just because someone else is doing it.
Editor's note: two new zoom lenses are still present on the 645 lens roadmap.
7. How has the response been to the K-1? Has the camera successfully attracted new users?
The K-1 will be sold for a longer period (than other models). Current sales are as good as expected. The K-1 was targeted at experienced PENTAX customers and was designed based on an outdoor field shooting concept. We have received lots of customer testimonials for its high performance and unique features.
8. Ricoh Imaging recently conducted an extensive lens survey in Europe. Can you share any of the findings of this survey?
The full results of this survey are not ready yet. We cannot comment on it at the moment.
9. With the continued expansion of the Mirrorless market, has Ricoh reconsidered making a return to mirrorless (with 1" or APS-C sensors)?
We keep watching the trends in the mirrorless camera market, however there is no specific plan on our roadmap at the moment.
10. A lot of Pentax fans enjoy manual lenses. Have you considered developing an electronic viewfinder or hybrid viewfinder for precise manual focusing?
We are constantly researching ways to evolve the viewfinder. One of our ideas is a hybrid finder. We are also looking into ways to improve current optical viewfinders to that users can enjoy a better experience with manual lenses.
11. Are there plans to modernize Image Sync, i.e. to make the user interface more modern, similar to the Theta S app? Any plans for improved desktop software?
Although we cannot specify when, we are looking into making the Image Sync user interface easier to use.
As for the PC application software (Digital Camera Utility 5), users mainly pointed out speed (processing speed, operation speed) rather than the user interface. We would like to improve that.