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08-17-2012, 12:56 PM   #1
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Pentax competitiveness: Weather Resistance, <100mm primes, DNG, and kits.

The following is a letter I forwarded to Pentax. I thought to post it here and see how Pentaxians feel about the current and future state of Pentax. What makes the Pentax system different - and better? Where are the primes going? Is Weather Resistance (WR) the 'killer feature'? And of course, how could/would/should a Full Frame fit into the current and future Pentax system?



QuoteQuote:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Pentax,

I live in Western Colorado, a place known well for it`s natural beauty. Given that nature includes mud, rain, and dust, it was a natural choice for me to select the K30 kit with the 18-135 WR lens. I`ve since purchased the DA* 50mm f/1.4 for the weather sealing, fast aperture, great bokeh, and excellent sharpness.

Closer to civilization, our two kids (1.5 and 4 years) have been known to frequent splash parks, beaches, and snowy hillsides. Here too, the K30 with weather seals and 2 dial manual mode is well suited for capturing candid portraits and action scenes. Kids love the dirty, wet, frozen elements as much as the K30 it seems.

Given how well Pentax has understood the role of mud/dust/rain to make for `worry-free creativity` - and thus more unique `natural` photos - I`m at a loss to understand why there are no weather-sealed fast aperture primes at ultra-wide (~10mm?), 30mm, and 85mm. I'm not alone it seems - the Pentax forums have long-asked the same question.

Given that all but the UWA have a rich Pentax legacy of excellent primes, it would seem relatively straightforward to put some seals on the FA Limiteds and further enrich the photographer (and hence your stockholders).

With a utility zoom like the 18-135 or DA* 18-85, and a combination of weather sealed primes at ~10mm f/2.8, ~28 f/1.4, 50 f/1.4, and 77mm f/1.8 or FA* 85mm f/1.4, the photography world would find new ways to explore the natural elements and the way in which humans (big and small) interact with the landscape and cityscape.

As it is now, my wife and I only have a taste and whetted appetite for weather resistant photography. We are hungry for more WR lenses - preferably primes that are 2 stops faster than zooms. Here too there is potential for simple product segmentation that makes decision making easy for photographer and marketer alike: the primes @ 1.4 complement the da* zooms @ 2.8.

Nothing that I`ve mentioned in this email has not been expounded on greatly in online forums - which makes me even more baffled.

I should also note that all of the above prime focal lengths also have their place in the Full Frame equipment list and would thus enable a complimentary approach between cropped and uncropped camera bodies. The same lenses would serve 2 masters.

As to a particular product suggestion, I would think that Pentax would receive more recognition of the unique Pentax family if they would offer kits that would highlight the more competitive price and feature sets. I envision the following:

1. Immediately, a ~$1700 kit consisting of the K30, 18-135 WR, DA* 55, and Lightroom.

2. In the near future, the WR DA* 18-85 and 2 buyer's choice WR primes could be sold for ~$3000. (My kit pick would consist of an ultra-wide ~10-12mm f/2.8 for landscape, architecture, cityscape, and 55 f/1.4 for portraits). Imagine, a versatile <100mm WR kit for less than a full frame body - and something that you could carry in a very small daypack!

The 7 hills of Rome, or the 7,000 hills of Colorado, would yield to photographic genius before the wallet and back did.

These kits would highlight the compact, leg- and weather- friendly capability, an expanded prime family for the 'special' shots, and would also give reviewers a chance to rip on Nikon and Canon for not adopting DNG.

As an aside, regarding DNG, Lightroom should be bundled with every body and kit; as even the most loyal Canon/Nikon reviewers loathe the proprietary RAW formats that are forced on them. Perhaps Adobe would be happy to play ball on this front so as to get the same positive commentary of DNG?

In the near future, I could very well see my wife and I buying the roadmapped ~500mm prime and the DA* 18-85 (only if it`s at 2.8). We would surely buy those lenses with more enthusiasm if Pentax offered full frame bodies.

All-in-all, it seems like a simple logical approach - by my analysis anyway. So, will Pentax offer more along the lines that has been requested so long by the Pentax enthusiasts - and even short-timers such as myself?

Pentax has a HQ location on the 16th Street mall in Denver. From there, a bystander can see tall buildings, street performers, and distant mountains. However, I question what Pentax sees, or doesn't see...perhaps a bit of focus adjustment is in order?
Regarding current lens compatibility with FF: RiceHigh's Pentax Blog: Compatibility of DA Lenses on Full Frame

Pentax Forums: Lack of weather resistant primes <100mm


Last edited by dmytty; 08-17-2012 at 01:00 PM. Reason: links
08-17-2012, 03:49 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Sounds more like your personal wishlist than anything that would be practical or profitable for a manufacturer. DA*55 and Lightroom in the bundle? * lenses don't get bundled, and as great as that lens is, must buyers wouldn't go for it. And Lightroom is probably even more unnecessary. It could be a lot of work for Pentax to arrange this agreement with Adobe, but it's questionable whether it would add any sales at all.

Also, has anyone ever produced a constant f/2.8 lens with that broad a zoom range (18-85mm)? I'd love to be wrong, but I don't think it can be done in a practical manner. f/3.5 to f/4 sounds more realistic, with f/3.2 being the best surprise one could hope for.

Some faster wide-angle lenses is a good idea, though. It looks as if Pentax is at least partly working on that.
08-17-2012, 04:59 PM   #3
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Very wide lenses with a max aperture of 2.8 is going to be very large and expensive.
08-17-2012, 06:49 PM   #4
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Pentax is in trouble...but there's hope!

QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
Sounds more like your personal wishlist than anything that would be practical or profitable for a manufacturer. DA*55 and Lightroom in the bundle?
I picked up my copy of Lightroom 4 for $50 on Newegg. Chances are, Pentax would pay even less as they are buying a few thousand seats, and are a 'native' DNG manufacturer.

QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
* lenses don't get bundled, and as great as that lens is, must buyers wouldn't go for it.
Then they can buy a different kit. DA* lenses don't get bought much at all, and I think this would be a great way to get more of them in front of consumers - not just prosumers to professionals. Product presentation is not always about selling the lens that day...but also getting the word out.

QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
And Lightroom is probably even more unnecessary. It could be a lot of work for Pentax to arrange this agreement with Adobe, but it's questionable whether it would add any sales at all.
A lot of work? Adobe already has these programs and legal contracts in place. Pentax would just have to negotiate for a few terms and sign on the dotted line. I'd be surprised if it would cost Pentax more than $25 per activated copy. Beyond the DNG public relations coup, Adobe would have the potential to upsell the user a Photoshop license.

QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
Also, has anyone ever produced a constant f/2.8 lens with that broad a zoom range (18-85mm)? I'd love to be wrong, but I don't think it can be done in a practical manner. f/3.5 to f/4 sounds more realistic, with f/3.2 being the best surprise one could hope for.
Well Canon introduced the weather-sealed L series 24-70 f/2.8 in 2002 - and that's a very well regarded 3x zoom lens for full frame (at a retail launch price of about $2k). Computerized lens design programs have come a long way in the last 10 years as the computational power has increased exponentially. If the lens was restricted to cropped frame only, or even sacrificed full frame performance in the borders, the ~18-85 4.5x lens would be very doable at a $1k retail price point. In a kit of course, some margin is sacrificed. Pentax needs volume now before it becomes too marginal a brand.

QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
Some faster wide-angle lenses is a good idea, though. It looks as if Pentax is at least partly working on that.
They've been doing a lot of stuff 'partly'. Time for them to live up to their legacy. I understand Hoya was a neglectful parent company, but I think Pentax has only a couple year window to get things right...otherwise it's bye-bye.

The K30 is #58 on the sales list in Japan (a market that's traditionally strong for Pentax). Pentax is in trouble. From an optics standpoint, they've been living off their past accomplishments for far too long. The DA* 55mm f/1.4 shows that the engineers can still get it done, but management just has to make the investment.


Last edited by dmytty; 08-17-2012 at 09:45 PM. Reason: link
08-17-2012, 06:55 PM   #5
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Lightroom would be better than SilkyPix by a lot. The K-30 got dinged in Pop Photo for how badly the default noise reduction in it degraded the photos.
08-17-2012, 07:00 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pål Jensen Quote
Very wide lenses with a max aperture of 2.8 is going to be very large and expensive.
The Canon L series 24-70 f/2.8 full frame specs are as follows:

Max. Diameter x Length, Weight 3.3" x 4.9", 2.1 lbs. / 83.2mm x 123.5mm, 950g

That's a 10 year old lens design for $2000. I would say 'large and expensive', but not 'very'.

Designed and produced today, all of those numbers can come down some - even more so if it's an APS-C optimized design. However, I think they slightly improve on those dimensions and still yield f/2.8 in the 18-85mm range.

Last edited by dmytty; 08-17-2012 at 08:25 PM.
08-17-2012, 07:04 PM   #7
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Your letter is very long. They probably didn't read it.
08-17-2012, 07:07 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by dmytty Quote
24-70 f/2.8
There's already a DA*16-50 2.8 (24-75 equivalent focal length). As others have said, there are no f2.8 extended zooms (17-70, 16-85 etc).

08-17-2012, 07:44 PM   #9
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the new DA* .... I hope it's at least f2.8 on the wide end.
08-17-2012, 08:13 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
Your letter is very long. They probably didn't read it.
I suppose it could have been made more concise...but hopefully it had substance.

There's an old marketing saying: "People buy the hole, not the drill". However, in my perusing of 3rd party reviews, the Pentax website, and a Pentax authorized retailer, I did not see a single image showing more than the 'wet tool' (ie water drops on K30). I didn't see a great picture taken of a kid from inside the splash park at Wet-'N-Wild, or a natural landscape from the Sahara with blowing sands, or someone dropping into a snow-filled bowl in Jackson Hole. Nope...just pictures of the wet camera. Huh? How about highlighting the pictures the camera can take...and in places where no other <$1000 camera can take them!

I also saw many reviewers commenting on how great the weather sealed K30 is, only to dismiss it by saying "Even if the weather seal is not required, it's nice". What? Probably 99% of Pentax Forum Marketplace lens listings will mention and photograph the amount of dust or fungus inside the lens. The inescapable conclusion is that dust and moisture resistance is a necessary part of image quality over the long term. How could Pentax marketing not have made the importance of the WR feature abundantly clear to the reviewers? (Yep, they'd have to eliminate the non-WR 18-55 kit, but that's what every reviewer already notes). More so, how come many Pentax owners don't even realize what WR does for them?

So you're right, Pentax marketing probably will not read that letter, much less take it seriously. They have more studio shots of a wet camera to line up (new color...orange!)...or they're busy contacting a silly industrial designer to remake the K01.

Last edited by dmytty; 08-17-2012 at 08:22 PM.
08-17-2012, 08:20 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
There's already a DA*16-50 2.8 (24-75 equivalent focal length). As others have said, there are no f2.8 extended zooms (17-70, 16-85 etc).
I'm not impressed. 10 years ago, that optical design would have been OK. Today, it's time for a 4.5x f/2.8 zoom. 18-85 is not a hard focal length to engineer f/2.8, at least in comparison to the 3x f/2.8 zooms in the 70-200mm range.

I really think that the only reason to continue the 16-50, 50-135 split is because some marketing honcho thinks it's a way to sell 2x more lens. Sorry, ain't happening. Pentax has to do more than Nikon and Canon if it wants to catch up - and that means a much better 18-85 zoom. Better means 18mm wide angle streetscape to a 85mm portrait (all focal lengths in 35mm) with nice bokeh and sharpness. Better means f/2.8.

**Disclaimer** I'm not an optical engineer by training, but I do know just enough to be dangerous. I have worked on several optical designs that might make it to market in different product categories.

Last edited by dmytty; 08-17-2012 at 08:26 PM.
08-17-2012, 08:31 PM   #12
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It is a silly letter full of half-baked fancy and factual errors. I lost interest after the mention of the non-existant DA*50 and DA*18-85 lenses....

Pentax has high-quality weather-proof zoom, prime and macro lenses covering focal lengths from 16mm to 300mm. I would humbly suggest you're pretty hard to please.
08-17-2012, 09:03 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sandy Hancock Quote
It is a silly letter full of half-baked fancy and factual errors. I lost interest after the mention of the non-existant DA*50 and DA*18-85 lenses....

Pentax has high-quality weather-proof zoom, prime and macro lenses covering focal lengths from 16mm to 300mm. I would humbly suggest you're pretty hard to please.
Your correction is noted, DA* 55mm f/1.4. I suppose that was a mental slip brought on by the fact that I consider that to be the traditional 50mm full frame class.

However, as to the other points, you are incorrect.

QuoteOriginally posted by Sandy Hancock Quote
non-existant DA*50 and DA*18-85 lenses....
The DA* 18-85 is on the officially released Pentax lens roadmap. At least it looks like a lens that would match the 18-85 lenses from Canon and Nikon.

QuoteOriginally posted by Sandy Hancock Quote
Pentax high-quality weather-proof zoom, prime and macro lenses covering focal lengths from 16mm to 300mm
At focal lengths <100mm, Pentax has only 1 weather sealed prime, the DA* 55. That lens is excellent. However, most other lenses are 20-30 years old, and show it. Materials and optics have come a long way since then...Pentax lenses have not. To be fair to Pentax, Canon and Nikon have been pretty moribund as well. In fact, the passive approach of Canon and Nikon is largely why Pentax is still alive, and why Panasonic, Sony and Olympus are eating the old 'Big 3 Glassmakers' for lunch.

QuoteOriginally posted by Sandy Hancock Quote
I would humbly suggest you're pretty hard to please.
You are very right there but I suspect you didn't feel so humble saying it. However, I never seek that which I do not think I will find. And if not found, that I will make.
08-17-2012, 09:14 PM   #14
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In my short time here at the Pentax forums, I'm reminded of the following:

QuoteQuote:
We must bear in mind, then, that there is nothing more difficult and dangerous, or more doubtful of success, than an attempt to introduce a new order of things in any state. For the innovator has for enemies all those who derived advantages from the old order of things while those who expect to be benefited by the new institutions will be but lukewarm defenders. [Prince, Chapter 6]
Of course, the loss of innovation at Pentax is a crime against all the great past Pentax lens designers and the current Pentax customers. Which leads me to the Latin:

QuoteQuote:
'Cui bono'...'to whose benefit'?
Who on this forum benefits from not having more DA* primes and f/2.8 lenses? Who would speak against better glass and bodies?

With that question, I'm looking at you Sandy...more specifically, your signature. I'm seeing that you already own a lot of Pentax lenses. Might that be why you don't want Pentax to release any 'newer and better' lenses? Might you not want to have your current assets denigrated?

For what it's worth, I value the holes, not the drills. If you make great photos, then who cares about the tool?

In my case, I'm the technician, and my wife is the photographer. She makes great photos with simple lenses. However, I'm still left to think 'but with better glass...'? You see, I'm just a simple tool sharpener, keeping things sharp in my wife's photography shed.

And if you think I'm hard to please...you should meet my wife.

Last edited by dmytty; 08-17-2012 at 09:25 PM.
08-17-2012, 09:59 PM   #15
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If it is possible to design a 5x zoom with fixed f/2.8 aperture, why has no one done it? To me that means it's not practical.
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