Photokina Pentax Interview Transcript

All the questions and all the answers, plus our commentary!

By PF Staff in Photokina 2012 on Sep 27, 2012
Photokina Pentax Interview Transcript

Today's we're happy to be posting the full transcript from our interview with André Dierickx, Shigeru Wakashiro and Genichiro Takaoka of Pentax Ricoh Imaging at Photokina 2012

Photo above: Dierickx and Wakashiro's reaction or our cartoon (below) about a Pentax full-frame.  The cartoon proved to be a big hit, and it will be heading over to Japan along with Wakashiro.

Pentax Full-Frame Cartoon

Now, without further ado, here is the transcript. Note that the responses are paraphrased as they were originally given in Japanese.  You can also watch the full video of the interview.

Interview Transcript

[Oest, Cruz] Brief introduction.

#1. Two weeks ago, Pentax announced a host of new products, including lenses, cameras, and the new HD coating. In your opinion, which of these announcements was the most important for consumers and for Pentax?

[Wakashiro] To start, for Pentax, every product is a very important product of course. Based on user opinions, we launched something new in every product category (K-mount, Q-mount, and 645-mount). Our coatings are a big selling point, and we are particularly happy to be launching our HD coating and would like to increase the number of HD coated lenses in the future.

#2. Compared to the original K-5, what has been improved in the K-5 II?

First of all, we understand that the K-5, our previous model, was very successful in the market and users were happy with it. At the same time, some users claimed there were issues with the AF sensor. Based on the voice of the users, we developed a new AF module, so this is a brand new system in the K-5 II.

We are focused on outdoor shooting, which is why we weather-sealed the K-5. Some users said that it was somewhat difficult to see the K-5's LCD in daylight, however, so that's another thing we improved on the K-5 II.

#3. Compared to the original Q, what has been improved in the Q10?

As for the Q10, we adapted a new sensor, a CMOS sensor. This is the biggest change. Thanks to this new CMOS sensor, we not only improved the low-light noise but also the high-ISO resolution.

Also, we improved the battery life so the user can take more photos. Finally, we improved autofocus algorithms in the Q10.

#4. In what area has the new SAFOX X autofocus system of the K-5 II seen the most improvement (accuracy, speed, or latency)? Are there any plans to add more AF points?

SAFOX X can now make measurements in -3EV (before it was -1EV). That's the biggest change.

That means that it's good for shooting in the dark as it can make measurements in low light.

We changed the optical components in the AF module to some extent, which will result in more accurate autofocus as well.

Right now there are 11 autofocus points, but we are thinking of increasing the number of points in the future.

#5. Why does the Pentax K-5 II not use the latest-generation prime M processor? Does this mean that the K-30 will be more responsive in some areas than the new Pentax flagship?

The sensor in the K-5 II is a lower-noise sensor than the sensor in the K-30. We judged that to best handle this different sensor, PRIME II was better than PRIME M.

In some ways, for example for movies, the K-30 is better than the K-5 II. But as our focus with the K-5 II is the still image, we choose the PRIME II for the K-5 II.

#6. How will the image quality of the Pentax K-5 II and IIs differ?

(Shows internal Pentax Ricoh test photos illustrating the difference)

Between these two photos you can see the difference very clearly. You can see an image that you were never able to capture before with the K-5.

During our internal testing, we were sometimes surprised how well the K-5 IIs could capture images. You might even discover new wrinkles on faces when shooting with the K-5 IIs!

#7. Tell us about the Pentax HD coating- what makes it unique? Will Pentax continue producing lenses with the SMC coating?

We used to have the ABC (Aero Bright Coating) [in addition to SMC], but it has one key weakness: the surface can easily be scratched.

But HD coating has much more durability in this respect.

(Shows charts comparing reflectance of ABC, HDC, and SMC).

Compared to SMC, HD's coating cuts the reflectance by roughly half.

[Dierickx] After the interview we can take you to the front stand where we have a demonstration- maybe you've seen it?

[Oest] We did, and we actually made a post about it. The difference is very clear.

[Wakashiro] You can see that the reflectance is mostly cut in half, and actually, the SMC's performance depended greatly on wavelength, while HD coating has much more consistent performance.

(Shows chart with the strengths and weaknesses of each coating)

Here is a comparison with the previous lens coatings, with HD, SMC and ABC.

The reflectance and wavelength dependance of ABC is best. As for the cost and durability, HDC has an advantage over ABC. In future lens lineups, depending on the price category, we will choose between HD and ABC. It depends on the price and purpose of each lens.

As for the new 645 90mm macro, we are using both coatings- HDC and ABC.

We don't think we will stop the SMC coating, but we would like to enlarge the HD-coated lens lineup. Right now, we can't say which future lenses will use which coatings.

#8. In the press release for the 560mm, you said that the lens has a finish unique to the “HD lens series.” Is this the start of a new lens series which will differ from DA, D-FA, and FA lenses?

So as I said, we are going to be replacing SMC coatings, using HD in future lenses, so HD will make its way into the lens lineups. It is not a lens series as such.

#9. Your new 560mm looks very impressive! What types of users have you designed it for? What cameras are appropriate for the 560mm lens?

We are thinking that it's good for landscape and animal shooting, also because it's fully weather-sealed.

So, as I said these lenses are sealed, so the body should be sealed as well. K-5, K-5 II and sometimes K-30 users will be using this lens.

#10. Considering that this is a professional-grade lens, can we expect a professional-grade K-series DSLR to accompany it in the near future? It's clear that this lens is designed for purposes for which the 645D system is not. Is it a full-frame lens?

In the future, we are thinking that we need to launch K-mount cameras for professionals.

(Misunderstands question) This lens is not useful for the 645D, and because it's a DA, it's designed for digital cameras.

So, of course are using the same K-mount so you can put this lens on a film camera, but we can't guarantee perfect performance on film cameras.

#11. We believe that the small improvements in the K-5 II and the Pentax Q10 will not be enough to get many current K-5 and Q users to upgrade. In other words, it seems to us that these new cameras are targeted at newcomers rather than current Pentax camera owners. Are there plans of releasing any models with higher specifications for current Pentax users?

[Dierickx] I will reply to that one. First of all, we consider that the improvements are quite important improvements, not so minor because they touch on very essential parts of the camera, because they touch on very important aspects of the camera, like the focusing, low-light conditions, or the sensor [resolution], so in that sense we consider that these are not small improvements, we simply consider that why make a totally new camera when we have a quite-good one, very appreciated, and where we only needed to have some improvement to make it a real good product. Therefore, we don't consider these to be not suitable for replacement of existing cameras. As far as the question about development goes, it's clear that the Pentax Ricoh direction taken is very clearly to develop further the DSLR range, in all directions one might say, so in that sense yes I can say that we will develop further cameras for Pentax users for sure.

#12. At CP+, we saw a mysterious lens with a protrusion extending inside the mirror box. Do you know anything about its whereabouts?

[Wakashiro, Takaoka] At CP+ we like to get comments from the market/the users- that is out purpose to present those lenses at CP+.

Thanks to the mirrorless structure, this kind of lens would be use for the K-01. We expected some big response from the market, but currently there isn't so much demand in the market.

#13. Were were quite impressed by the technology found in the Ricoh GXR, as we noted that the camera was very responsive and focused quickly. Are there plans to make use of this technology in future Pentax-branded cameras, or even allowing the use of Pentax lenses on the GXR?

Ricoh and Pentax used to be 2 companies, now there's Pentax Ricoh Imaging Company, one company. Engineers are coming from Ricoh already, and technologies are being exchanged.

Ricoh's engineers already participate in the development of Pentax cameras.

We are thinking that you will see both technologies implemented in one camera (technologies from Ricoh and from Pentax).

So among the engineers, there have been ideas such as the Q-mount module or K-mount module for the GXR. However, we have many things to develop for the future modules, so as of today, we don't have any clear plans to go for this kind of module.

#14. Are there any plans of “de-crippling” the Pentax K mount so that lenses with aperture rings can be used outside of M mode, without having to stop down? In other words, will the aperture flange ever find its way onto a Pentax DSLR?

It used to be that aperture was adjusted by aperture rings, but technologies have been development, and we think that aperture rings now have less importance to the user.

However, we understand also the importance of adjusting the aperture by the aperture ring. If the number of “voices” about this increases, we will plan to develop such a product.

#15. How has the Q system evolved since its introduction last year?

So last year we launched the Pentax Q, and we were lacking some telephoto/zoom lenses. That was a disadvantage of the whole Q system.

But today we launched our 06 telephoto zoom lens, and we are going forward with the Q lens system.

We also launched the adapter Q for K-mount lenses, and when using a K-mount lens with this adapter, the magnification is 5.5 times, and you can't get that kind of magnification with competitors' products.

(Shows example tele/macro photos)

With a DA* 300mm the user can take great photos of the moon, and also super-macro pictures with the DA 100mm.

[Cruz, Dierick, Oest] Wow!

[Wakashiro, Takaoka] The Q has a lot of potential with this adapter, and also the new 06 lens.

[Dierick] Calculating with the new 560mm lens and the new adapter, you can get more than a 2,500mm lens!

#16. The Pentax Q's shutter system allows it to synchronize flash at up to 1/2000s. Will this technology be used on other Pentax cameras?

[Wakashiro, Takaoka] We have to clear up one point- the Pentax Q body doesn't have a shutter, the shutter is in the lens, which is why we can achieve that kind of flash synchronization. But K-mount cameras do have a shutter inside the body, so that's the biggest difference.

If K-mount lenses had a shutter, technologically and logically speaking we could achieve that concept.

#17. At our CP+ interview, you told us a lot about the (then new) K-01. Now that the camera has been available for some time, how well has it been received by customers?

[Dierickx] As you know, the K-01 was a totally new direction for a camera maker, this means using a designer to develop the camera. We had 2 different types of reactions, we had the reaction of let's say “design freaks” who were actually the first ones who bought the camera. For “photo freaks”, they first had to understand the value of the product beyond the outlook of the product before buying it. It took some time because many people were at first surprised, and there was a question of taste, because some people liked and others disliked the product. In other words, the first ones who bought it were not photographers, at all, and the photographers came to it only afterward. So we had a first peak of interest of customers, then it went down step by step, and now we have a regain of this kind of interest for people who understand the advantage of the product. So we will keep selling this product for quite some time, and now we have a regain of interest in the product, an increase in sales, if I can say though.

#18. To conclude, we would like to ask, on behalf the members of both our of forums, if there have been any developments concerning the Pentax full-frame since your letter to us, especially considering the fact that other major brands have just announced “enthusiast” full-frame DSLRs?

Ok, well you know the letter was telling you that although we did not have specific plans of development, we were following and analyzing the possibilities to use full-frame. I would say that we even analyze this more now. But I still cannot tell you about any concrete plan, but definitely it's of course something which is "in the air for the moment", I would say.

#19. Finally, is there anything else you'd like to say to the Pentax community?

[Wakashiro, Takaoka] First, we would like to thank you very much for the survey you conducted on the forum, and the comments [you gave us] from the users. Based on the comments from our fans, we would like to launch an attractive product for all of them.

...but not just based on the response form the market...we'd like to surprise you sometime!

[Dierickx] A change that has happened with the acquisition of Pentax by Ricoh is that the system of product development, let's say RD, in Ricoh (the company as a whole, not just the camera division), is very much based on users' feedback. I would say much more than even Pentax was before, because Pentax had enthusiast engineers already, but let's say the Ricoh system of getting information back from the market, but the market in terms of users, not from the dealers or resellers only, because from the final single individual user is very much developed in the Ricoh system. So we really do even more appreciate your contribution to this, because so far, we could just welcome it, transfer it, and pray for having some return on this. We know that in the Ricoh system, the feedback from the enthusiast users is a full part off the development of the products, it's totally a part of the system, I would say. I hope that we will keep and develop further the contact between us!

[All] Thank you very much!

Pentax eBooks


We were able to take a way a lot from this review- much more than just facts about current and future products.  What impressed us the most was Pentax's willingness to speak to us, their careful review of the user surveys and suggestions we submitted to them (before the taped interview), and their vow to take individual user feedback into serious consideration in the future.  They took all of the materials we gave them with them, expressing great satisfaction.  It also surprised us that they had prepared a number of technical documents (that weren't part of any press kit) for the interview.  Not all of these documents are visible in the interview video.

Among the first things we were shown was a comparison of the K-5 II and K-5 IIs's image quality.  The removal of the AA filter seemed to have a tremendous effect on resolution, despite our initial concern that not much more could be done with this 16MP sensor.

Transparent Pentax K-5 II

Another positive surprise was that they seemed to be looking forward to deliver exciting new products aimed specifically at enthusiasts and loyal users.

We found the information about the new HD coating to be the most interesting of all the technical things that we were told.  Here's a table (which we were shown) that summarizes the performance of each coating:

Reflectance Sensitivity to Different
Cost Durability
Aero Bright ++ ++ - -
HD Coating + + + ++
SMC - - ++ +

Legend ++ (Best) + (Good) - (Worst)

Essentially, this means that each coating has its pros and cons, and that we can expect to see all three of them in use depending on lens class.  We can expect future 645 lenses to now use both HD and Aero Bright coatings in order to get the absolute best optical characteristics (only the outermost elements likely have HD coating).  We suspect that most premium K-mount lenses will use the HD coating, while kit and consumer zoom lenses will stick to SMC. On a side note, it should be noted that other manufacturers have technologies similar to the HD coating (i.e. Nikon's Nano coating), and that this isn't an industry first.  It just means that in the future, we can expect Pentax lenses to exhibit even less flare than before!

We also learned a number of other interesting things, including:

  • Pentax plans on making professional K-mount DSLRs
  • Pentax plans on increasing the number of AF points in their cameras
  • The Pentax Q10 does in fact have a new sensor, so we can expect better image quality
  • Ricoh's engineers are already working together with the old Pentax engineers
  • A K- or Q-mount GXR module has been considered, but isn't a proprity compared to other product lines
  • The K-01 is now doing better in terms of sales, although there wasn't enough interest in it to warrant a dedicated mirrorless lens
  • Pentax wants to surprise us in the near future!
  • Pentax may consider bringing back full aperture ring compatibility for manual lenses
  • More likely than not, Pentax will some day produce a full-frame DSLR (though we were told after the formal interview takes at least 18-24 months to develop a new product from scratch, so we would not see a full-frame at CP+)

Regarding the full-frame rumor, we will let you draw your own conclusions.  The representatives' reaction to our cartoon, however, almost gave us the impression that they knew they were going to close the gap soon.

We welcome any comments you might have about the interview in the comments field below!  We'd once again like to thank Pentax for speaking with us and dedicating us so much of their time.

For those who haven't seen it, here is the video interview again, now fully subtitled:

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