PF Interview with Ricoh Imaging at Photokina 2014
Ricoh has big plans for the future via product line expansion
By PF Staff in Photokina 2014 on Sep 16, 2014
We were met with great enthusiasm when we joined Mr. Hiraku Kawauchi and Mr. Kazunobu Saiki at Photokina today (Sep. 16) for our formal interview about Ricoh Imaging products.
Despite a global declining trend in camera sales, Ricoh Imaging has been gaining market share over the course of the past two years. Thus, the primary focus of our interview today was future direction and changes necessary to adapt to the state of the camera market. We learned from the interview that some of the recently-announced Pentax cameras are part of a new "innovation" line, which will be maintained parallel to the core K-mount and Q-mount lineup. Thus, the gamut of Pentax and Ricoh camera products will slowly expand. We also learned that Ricoh is engaged in the development of a full-frame camera, though the potential launch of such a camera will depend on the market situation.
When we compare the existing Ricoh Imaging product lineup to that of 2012, we see a remarkable improvement. The total number of current cameras has nearly doubled, new technologies have been incorporated, and numerous gaps have been filled in the K-mount and Q-mount lens lineups. While Ricoh made no new camera announcements at this year's show, plenty of exciting products were released earlier this year, such as the Pentax 645Z and DA 1.4x teleconverter. Also, the 2014 Ricoh / Pentax booth at Photokina is more elegant and more accessible this year, and we think this reflects the many positive changes that have been happening behind the scenes (stay tuned for an overview of the booth itself).
Without further ado, let's move on to the interview itself:
Below is a paraphrasing of the answers:
#1. Speaking of the new 18-85mm lens that's on display: do you know what kind of user will it be targeted at?
This new lens has been designed with compactness in mind, and it is easy to use, so our main target is users who are not satisfied with the kit lens only.
#2. What is the design philosophy behind the Pentax K-S1 interface, and what are its features?
We meant the K-S1 as the start of a new lineup as part of an innovation line. For this we wanted to create a new user interface which could be easily adapted by gadget-oriented people, such as smartphone users. The new user interface can tell you what is the mode of operation and better communicates between the device and the user.
#3. Is there a special significance to the "1" or the "S" in the name of the Q-S1, K-S1, WG-M1, XG-1?
The S stands for “super” or “superior”; something special. The “1” is of course means that this is the first product in the innovation line.
#4. Tell us a little bit about the Prime M II in the K-S1
So, we have equipped the Prime MII with the K-S1, this is in order to make the video recording smoother (to upgrade it). Also, the new engine can make quite nice pictures at high ISO settings.
#5. Of all the products you've recently launched, is there a product you would like to highlight or a technology that you are particularly proud of?
We are of course proud of all of our lineups and products, but especially of the medium format 645z, which is our flagship model.
#6. How would you describe the response to the 645Z, surely one of Ricoh Imaging's most impressive cameras?
For serious amateurs / Pentax fans, the demand for the 645Z is more than what we had expected, so I am afraid to say that a new user still has to wait 2-3 weeks for delivery, so we consider the launch successful. Users of the 645Z are enjoying really high-quality images.
There was a high demand from studio photographers as well, mainly due to the quick reaction (fast performance) of this camera.
#7. Sales of digital still cameras have seen a sharp decline in the past year. Do you think this decline will continue, will interest shift to different product categories, or will the demand for various types of advanced cameras recover?
Our industry is faced with a sharp declining trend, and we expect this trend to continue, not at the same speed, but we cannot escape from this trend.
At the same time, a lot of young people / a wider range of customer is getting accustomed to taking pictures daily. Therefore we believe that these gadget-oriented people will join the high-quality image industry as well.
We say that our digital cameras will attract new customers and new generations from now on as well.
#8. Has the change in the market had a significant effect on Ricoh Imaging's product strategy? Have your primary audiences changed?
To be honest, there is the effect, but we are still on track to be improving. So yes, everybody will get the effect of the market trend, but because we want to be a characteristic brand instead of an all-round brand, so our idea of being a characteristic manufacturer can respond to this change in the market.
#9. For the first time ever, there are 5 different DSLRs in the current Pentax lineup. Do you plan to maintain such a wide offering, or are some of the current cameras (such as the K-500 and K-50) too similar to each other?
From the Q-S1 we started the so-called “innovation line”, which is on top of our core line like the K-3 and K-50's. So, we will now have two parallel lines, one to attract the Pentax core fans, and we want to change and continue the innovation lines to attract new generations of customers. So in that sense, our product assortment will get wider, but we will look at the positioning product-by-product, and thus control the product assortment.
#10. What is your view of the mirrorless ILC market, including cameras with Micro Four Thirds and APS-C sensors?
Our answer for mirrorless is the Q mount system, as we think that the basis of mirrorless is more with compactness than quality images, so at this moment with continue the Q series for mirrorless models, to provide bodies with compactness.
#11. Have you observed any changes in the Pentax user base since the last Photokina show, i.e. is there more interest in a certain type of camera?
As I stated before, we do believe we have really nice core fans for Pentax K-mount DSLR cameras. So we believe that our customer base is very varied, but on top of that after launching the innovation lineup, we will start to widen our customer base.
#12. Apart from the many impressive products that you have launched in the past several months, what other positive changes has the acquisition of Pentax Imaging by Ricoh brought so far?
2 years ago Pentax and Ricoh had been merged. After that, our engineers (ex-Pentax, ex-Ricoh) have jointly worked to develop the new products. Both technologies have synchronized as well. Just as an example, the new DSLRs have multi-pattern white balance, which is originally a Ricoh-sourced technology. On the other hand, the Ricoh GR has the TAv mode; this is originally from Pentax resources. So, technology-wise we've gotten many benefits. On top of that, from the sales organizations to the after-sales support, the two organizations have also been merged, and we now start to enjoy the effect.
#13. Many users do not find electronic video stabilization to be satisfactory. Do you have plans to bring back sensor-shift video SR like in the K-5, or possibly a different type of stabilization? Was there a reason you moved away from mechanical video SR?
The sensor-shift SR is one of our advantages, even for videos, but at this time we have had difficulties solving the problem of sounds of shifting (noise during recording). So it might take time to get a real solution to avoid this problem, and then we will consider how to do it.
#14. Raw/uncompressed video is being offered in an increasing number of HDSLRs. Is this something you have explored?
We do value the importance of video recording, but at the same time, as the brand Pentax/Ricoh, we value the still image rather than videos. So at this moment, we are not giving priority to this issue
#15. Can we expect to see the 645Z's convenient tilting display to make its way onto a Pentax K-mount camera?
I think it's a very nice suggestion, because the 645Z tilting LCD, as you know, is weather-sealed. This was one of the difficult engineering barriers that we have solved. So this is a good chance to expand this technology to adapt to other models.
#16. In the past year, numerous Limited lenses were re-launched with the Pentax HD coating. Do you have plans to update the DA* lineup as well?
Yeah, we do, step-by-step.
#17. Many Pentax Q users would like to see an electronic viewfinder or a high resolution LCD screen for easier composition. How would you respond to these suggestions?
I think it's a really nice suggestion, but we will consider those points when we consider the roadmaps.
#18. The K-3 is a remarkable DSLRs, but technology moves forward quickly. If you were to update the body, what areas would you focus on enhancing?
As you stated, the technology moves very fast, and what's the reason why we have a variety of choices about which areas we will going to upgrade or implement. So, please look forward to what will be the answer from Pentax.
#19. As you indicated in previous interviews, are you still considering expanding the K-mount camera system to use sensors larger than APS-C?
This is a question that we cannot disclose, but as I said in the 645Z questions, we think that the 645Z is one of our answers toward the high-end of customers.
At the same time, we know that the full-frame market is growing. So, our engineers are engaged in the development of full-frames, but with the question of when to launch/release the product, we will want to carefully study the market trend.
#20. Finally, do you have any closing thoughts to share with our community?
Firstly, we thank you for all the members who are joining Pentax Forums, because we do believe you give a good overview to our body of customers.
At the same time you are a really nice influence for our new customers. So, we see the forum as a nice platform to communicate the [philosophy] of Pentax, really thank you.