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10-12-2012, 01:00 AM   #1
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Pentax lens prices: a 25% cut is urgently needed

At a recent internet auction in the UK a used Pentax FA77mm sold for $662 (at $1.6 to the ). Clearly there is demand for this lens, but there were only seven bidders at a price point I’d consider only just reasonable fora brand new version.

Currently a new 77mm costs around $1,200 in the UK, and $800 in the US. To me these prices are way too high. It’s a great lens especially for its size and is clearly a classic. However, I’m not going to buy it. Why? Because for the same amount of money in the UK I can buy all three of the following lenses:

1. Brand new Sigma 70mm (or slightly cheaper new Tamron 90mm)
2. Takumar 85mm 1.8 or 1.9 (or slightly more expensive SMC Pentax 85mm 1.8)
3. Helios 44-2 (or a Pentax M50mm 1.7, if I find a good deal)

What a combination! Unfortunately, not a penny goes to Pentax. Yes, I’d rather like one small new 77mm to carry around, to take AF photos of my loved ones indoors and out, with flash if necessary ….but…I can always justify my non-ownership: CA, and the Pentax AF is not that wonderful indoors and neither is the flash. So why not accept the major opportunity cost of buying one 77mm, and go for three lenses; a seriously good new lens, plus a Takumar classic of near-equal standing to the 77mm, plus another highly entertaining, cheap and fast MF?

And what’s more, the famous three FA limited lenses combined cost a whopping $4,000 in the UK. I hear non-Pentaxians say, “gosh, if you’ve got to spend $4,000 in the UK on just those three lenses, why on earth would you do that, rather than go down another route”? Sadly they do have a point.

This gets me thinking. How many new 77mm do the on-line retailers actually sell these days? The information is not available to ordinary people, but one way of getting a feeling of how sales are going is to look at the numbers of customer reviews appearing on on-line retailer’s websites. Here are three US sites, showing the total number of reviews for the 77mm, plus the number of reviews for the K-5 and K20D cameras:

B&H: 62 reviews for the 77mm, and 312 for the cameras
Amazon.com: 10reviews for the 77mm, and 209 for the cameras
Adorama: 11reviews for 77mm, and 60 for the cameras (K-5 only)

The more competitively priced (until-recently) FA50mm 1.4 has 129 reviews on B&H, and 89 on Amazon.com. There a strong argument that if the 77mm price went down 25% to $590 it would sell many, many more lenses. And if the three FA limited lenses were re-calibrated with lens mounts for other brands (like Sigma and Tamron do) they could potentially sell loads and loads. Pentax’s unilateral high price-fix strategyhas been discussed on this forum many times before, but their self-cannibalising price points need to be discussed again…and again!

Why haven’t Pentax tried a real price reduction strategy – aside from the rebate/vouchers (coupled with the enforced price rises!!)? Well actually, they have, or at least two UK on-line retailers have. Last year I purchased a DA35mm macro limited for $450. This was 25% less than all other retailers’ sales prices. I called the retailer and asked: is somethingwrong with you/the lens/Pentax? They said, “No, we’ve been asked to try this price”. It must have worked, because the retailer quickly sold out of the lenses. The price went up again after that and the retailer currently sells the same lens for $600. It’s a good lens but not worth $600 versus the alternatives IMHO.

Another major UK retailer clearly had a big row with Pentax a few years ago. They failed to honour my order for a new Pentax zoom lens at what looked like a good “discount price”, and then told mePentax had not delivered the stock to meet the additional demand. Was Pentax cross at the price discount? The retailer’s head office was definitely crosswith Pentax and told me that they were not going to sell Pentax any more. (As a matter of goodwill, they sent me abetter non-Pentax lens at the same price instead, and in fact now stock Pentax again).

So what isgoing on? (1) Perhaps Pentax cannot produce enough of these older lenses at a low enough unit cost to justify a 25% cut in prices. (2) Perhaps they think it’s better to sell only a few 77mm lenses as “snob goods” (even though their cameras are not positioned as high-priced snob goods) while manufacturing more, higher-margin DA 70s. (3) Perhaps their marketing and distribution strategy sucks.

I’m inclined to think a bit of all three, but leaning towards number three, given their old fashioned approach to new on-line distribution channels and the ridiculously large differential in prices between continents. Pentax manufacture lenses in Vietnam (for instance) and distribute them aroundthe world. Why is the 77mm priced so differently around our shrinking world? It can’t all be taxes and currencies. Even if it is, other manufacturers cross-subsidize prices to create and leverage their global brand. Even tiny eBay merchants can do that.

You could argue that all Pentax price-cut experiments will fail because Pentax simply doesn’t have the presence in the market to sell sufficient volumes, to give their distributors/retailers sufficient margin to want to focus on Pentax. But doesn’t the internet allow Pentax to achieve economies of scale in both large and small markets? How hard is it for on-line retailers to include Pentax on their web-site?

Most importantly, these prime lenses are demand-pull, not demand-push products e.g. a lot of knowledgeable buyers waiting for the right price. Not unaware people who need to be sold the idea of buying the lens. You can see this from the two UK on-line retailer examples above, when demand exceeded supply at lower prices. So the stats from B&H should really be: 312 reviewing the cameras, 100 or so reviewing the77mm they buy at $590, instead of 62 at $790. That’s a net gain of $10,020, if my math is right. Potentially, Pentax could sell thousands more lenses at this new price – they are excellent products, and this increases revenues by millions. But nagging at the back of my mind is a voice that says: Pentax really don’t want to sell thousands more lenses like the 77mm. Despite the latent demand, it’s not worth the effort. Too many things to do at too many stages of the supply chain…”we’d be better off trying to build market share with a sexy new product (in sexy colors) in a new sexy area” etc… Ugh, I’ve seen so many businesses in the UK get into this mind-set, and the ending is hardly ever good.

So Pentax, why not try something old please before more of your market considers the 3-for-1 opportunity cost option and elopes to a non-Pentax partner? 25% off the 77mm in time for Christmas, and the second generation K-5s on the shelves would be just perfect. Sure we all agree! Otherwise, to return to the start of this post, we’ll be seeing a lot more used FA 77mm lenses on the internet soon, as owners sell out and move on before second hand prices drop.


Last edited by utak; 10-12-2012 at 04:29 AM. Reason: Terrible formating, paragraphs and keyboard pointed out by victordeamorin
10-12-2012, 02:04 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I don't mean to be rude, but from this post I learned:
1) that you'd like to buy a FA77
2) that you think the price is too high
3) that there are alternatives but not as appealing to you
4) the space key is defective on your keyboard
So you will either:
1) get a FA77 anyway
2) wait for the prices to drop
3) buy an alternative and not be completely satisfied
4) get a new keyboard
But 2) and 3) might lead back to 1) later down the road... The logical conclusion of all this, since you care enough to write a post this long, is you're eventually going to get a FA77, even if you don't know it yet.
If you ask if I would prefer the prices to be lower? Hell yeah I would! But are people buying Limited lenses anyway... I know I do.
10-12-2012, 02:51 AM   #3
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Original Poster
Thank you for your response - you made me laugh! You are 100% right, except for three key points: (1) the alternatives are VERY appealing and that's what concerns me as a 30 year Pentax user, (2) not enough people can afford the limiteds at these prices, and (3) my keyboard is fine. I just don't know how to post properly, this being my first post (outside introduction).

AT LEAST ITS NOT ALL IN CAPS

Last edited by utak; 10-12-2012 at 06:20 AM. Reason: typo, problem sorted
10-12-2012, 03:13 AM   #4
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I think the price for the FA 77 isn't too bad, at least in the United States. I just checked B and H and it is 780. Now, comparing it to Nikon's 85mm lenses (obviously not exactly the same focal length), it is priced right between their two offerings. The 85mm f1.8 sells for 500 dollars, while the 85mm f1.4 sells for a thousand dollars. Even the Sigma 85mm f1.4 lens is priced at about a thousand dollars in the US.

The Sigma you mention is over a stop slower and is a macro lens, quite a different animal, although, certainly if it meets your needs, you should look at it. The other two lenses are manual focus lenses and if you are comfortable with that, another option would be the Samyang/Bower 85mm which looks pretty nice.

Finally, used prices on the marketplace here are less than you mention. I know they go here for 650 used and not certain if it would be worth it to you to import a used one based on the new prices there.

10-12-2012, 04:08 AM   #5
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I live in Sweden and the 77 would cost me about $1250 here. And that is despite exchange rates being very favourable for us at the moment. I'd love one but there's no way I'd pay that much. The same goes for just about every Limited and * Pentax lens.

I have the 15mm Limited but only because I could get that one as grey import from the US, at a mere $750 instead of the regular asking price $1100. Apart from that I've gone the route described by utak and gone for cheap but great old Pentax M and A lenses.

But I wonder how well the price reflects the manufacturing cost? I truly have no idea but would love to know. If the 77 and others are very expensive to make it makes little sense in complaining of high prices. A hint might be that no dealers have the FA's in stock in Sweden, you can only get them on order.

As a side note, I have often - very often - wondered why you don't get weather sealing on the limiteds considering their very high retail prices.
10-12-2012, 04:12 AM   #6
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US market being bigger than the UK means higher volume and lower unit costs for Pentax, thus more room to price aggressively. In Japan, the lens lists at just over US$1500, with "street" ( an increasingly anachronistic term ... so alright Amazon Japan's ) price being closer to US$1000. That includes sales tax at 5%.

Don't forget the British pound has halved in value against the yen recently, and the impact of the UK's 20% sales tax !

Paul
10-12-2012, 04:32 AM   #7
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I agree that there is too much margin in many Pentax lenses, after the many price hikes.

When the FA 50/1.4 was available for US $199, it was very good value and I don't believe for a second that Pentax lost money with it back then. These were the days when I could recommend Pentax to anyone without reservation. Nowadays, there are a lot more "ifs and buts" involved despite the fact that Pentax bodies still represent the best value for money ratio.

I cannot help but think the repeated "The FA Limited lenses have been discontinued" notifications that appear about yearly, helped to make them sell despite their price tags.

I'm hoping that Ricoh will eventually find a pricing strategy that will work for everybody because right now I believe they are hurting themselves by pricing themselves out of too many pockets.
10-12-2012, 05:05 AM   #8
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It has been posted in other places that Pentax lens prices advertised, on the web or in print, may not reflect the actual price a seller is willing to sell for. Pentax established prices it wants all it's dealers to sell for, but if you call the dealer, many are willing to sell for less than the advertised price.

10-12-2012, 06:01 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tom S. Quote
It has been posted in other places that Pentax lens prices advertised, on the web or in print, may not reflect the actual price a seller is willing to sell for. Pentax established prices it wants all it's dealers to sell for, but if you call the dealer, many are willing to sell for less than the advertised price.
I think that is mainly for the DA * lenses. I think the FA limiteds weren't effected a whole lot by the price hikes and so there aren't significant back door deals to be had with them.
10-12-2012, 06:07 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
I think that is mainly for the DA * lenses. I think the FA limiteds weren't effected a whole lot by the price hikes and so there aren't significant back door deals to be had with them.
You could be right, since I'm not in the market (for a change) for a new lens, I didn't pay attention if it was aimed at the DA* lenses.
10-12-2012, 06:31 AM   #11
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It's actually fairly standard for the UK to be a rip off for electrical goods (I live in UK). I think you tend to find that companies use the same number and just change the currency symbol i.e. something that is $800 in the US will be 800 in the UK, meaning we are paying more. Fairly standard it seems to me.

For example a quick search on Amazon.com for a K5 body and it is $1,099. Amazon.co.uk standard price is 1049 which is about $1700 - although there is a sale on at the moment priced at 673 which is around $1080 so our sale price is now about the same as that standard retail price in the US.

Our houses are also smaller, fuel costs way more, portion sizes are smaller (although I see that as a positive as I always put on weight when I go there) and our trucks don't look as cool. The answer is to move to the US. We do have the Queen and Wombles though to counter all of that.
10-12-2012, 06:37 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by thechumpen Quote
It's actually fairly standard for the UK to be a rip off for electrical goods (I live in UK). I think you tend to find that companies use the same number and just change the currency symbol i.e. something that is $800 in the US will be 800 in the UK, meaning we are paying more. Fairly standard it seems to me.

For example a quick search on Amazon.com for a K5 body and it is $1,099. Amazon.co.uk standard price is 1049 which is about $1700 - although there is a sale on at the moment priced at 673 which is around $1080 so our sale price is now about the same as that standard retail price in the US.

Our houses are also smaller, fuel costs way more, portion sizes are smaller (although I see that as a positive as I always put on weight when I go there) and our trucks don't look as cool. The answer is to move to the US. We do have the Queen and Wombles though to counter all of that.
I live in the Netherlands, but ordered my last two lenses online from a UK online store, because the UK tends to be cheaper then the Netherlands... And we don't even have Wombles! (What are they anyway?)
10-12-2012, 07:42 AM   #13
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Wombles are an elusive burrowing creature that live on Wimbledon Common in London.
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