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09-13-2013, 10:36 AM - 4 Likes   #1
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Product expectations : market and cycle - why?

Ever since I got my K-30 and joined this forum, I have been very surprised to see so many people clamoring for additional Pentax branded products. Someone wants a FF, someone else wants a 20+ MP APS-C, someone else wants more lenses, etc. The expected time of release is ... yesterday! Now! Tomorrow and no later!

And if these products don't come out then, of course, Pentax is dooooooomed!

On the one hand, I am glad to see so many passionate enthusiasts and fans who want nothing but forward progress for the Pentax brand. Pentax has some great products even if they aren't plentiful compared to the competition. The products all rate high in reviews. Sample photos look great! When there's one good thing of something then its only natural to want more of the same so we would all have more of that one good thing. If I have $10 I sure do want $15 because I know what I can do with $10. Now I imagine what I can do with $15!

However, on the other hand, I think it's hard to not be satisfied with what Pentax offers today. I look around at what I can do with my proverbial $10 and it's plenty! So far I haven't exhausted that $10 and I would challenge the greater market (not just this forum) to do so. Pentax's product line looks tight, focused, and complete for the enthusiast, hobbyist, adventurer market. Just like Mazda doesn't market trucks and Chrysler doesn't market sports cars, Pentax isn't aiming for professionals, movie makers, or the high end of the socioeconomic scale. Let's accept that. Granted, this could change if that's what Ricoh chooses to do. We might see a blinged out K-something next year for the Hollywood elite to wear on their shoulder and for us here in the forum to bemoan. Products are released when the time is right and when the market is seemingly ready to accept it. Right now the market is in despair with sales falling off. Saturating the market with more expensive products (like a FF) would be dangerous. Would someone buy it? Sure. Would enough people buy it? Probably not.

I counted 11 major camera products in current production under the Pentax name. The list includes the Q10 but I don't know if it will be officially replaced with the Q7 and then retired. If that's the case then the list goes down to ten.
  1. 645D
  2. K5-II
  3. K-50
  4. K-500
  5. Q7
  6. Q10
  7. X-5
  8. MX-1
  9. WG-3 (GPS)
  10. WG-10
  11. Optio LS465
(I could see an argument where the Optio and WG-10 get dropped to reduce the product line up to nine, but that's a topic for a different thread.)

Canon has 28 Power Shot cameras and 12 EOS cameras for a total of 40 cameras. Ok, some are incremental changes over another just like we can say that the K-50 is a (big) increment over the K-500. Still, each product, whether its incremental or not, has to be maintained. There are webpages, data sheets, manuals, packaging, support pages, etc that all need to be created. Sustaining this size of a product line takes an enormous amount of resources and I didn't mention the engineering side of things where there are manufacturing, design, test, component sourcing, etc. With that said, I'm glad Pentax is not burdened with maintaining a huge product line. Their engineering and marketing teams should be focused on new products and developments more than sustaining old ones. Having products just to be "complete" and obtain whatever market entitlement they can get is a poor strategy.

Is it crucial that Pentax have yearly product releases or market splashes like Apple does with their iPhone and other redesigns? I think its wonderful that Pentax products are so good that they can last on the market for 12 months or more. It reminds me of how automobiles are released. They are released as generations that last somewhere around five years with minor updates before a major redesign takes place. I think the K-5 II was released in Oct 2012 using a sensor that has been used in the K-5 which came out in late 2010. We're marching on towards three years of a single design that has spawned into the K-01, the K-30, and the current K-5xx series. I think Pentax did great with that!

We may be due for another landmark design, whether its FF or a new APS, which can then go on to give birth to other unnamed products for the next three to five years. For as passionate as we may be, we have no control over that release. Like all things that can't be controlled, all we can do is track it. We guess, we postulate, we make plots and maps... but it's all for nothing probably. It doesn't change the fact that my 40 year old M42 lenses still focus and that my battery still needs charging. Water is wet. Grass is green. Cloudy days are gray. When I press the shutter release button I don't think to myself, "Damn, that photo is going to suck. Now, if I had that unnamed and unreleased Pentax product then all would have been well." I have seen people make beautiful photos with their camera phones and in some ways I'm more impressed with that than I am with what people do with very advanced DSLRs, MILCs, etc. It's like watching someone take out a simple pencil or piece of coal and scratch out a masterpiece!

So how about we just enjoy what we have and not worry about what comes out when? What we have now seems plenty good!

09-13-2013, 10:58 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Fascinating view and summary. I've been reading this forum for about 5 years and have to say that clearly many of us want 1) Pentax to survive, 2) continue to grow, 3) wish Pentax would do what WE want them too, and 4) are never satisfied with what we get to choose from and want more. I consider those all healthy viewpoints on a brand specific forum like this. Hopefully in between times when we are out creating great images with our Pentax gear and in this I hope we spend more time shooting than wanting.
09-13-2013, 11:03 AM   #3
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all excellent points!!! but we have all gotten use to technology changing fast...as soon as you buy it, something better is already out there...reminds me of the commercial with the cell phone company...don't remember the name but i remember the commercial and the guy is happily smiling with his phone as he goes down the escalator until he see the other person going up with a new cell phone..then he's unhappy..
we used to buy a car knowing we would keep it forever...now some people just lease or keep a car for a few years...got to have the biggest and the best or at least we think we do...
this is the time of the year when new products come out (2014) and everyone is looking for that new thing that will make them happier...at least until the next new thing comes out or the price drops or.....it is the way we are now...doesn't matter whether it is pentax or mazda...if i decide i want x and mazda doesn't make it then i am going to keep looking until i find another manufacturer...
pentax will never be number 1...we know that...they make a solid product and i am still amazed when i look back at some of the pictures i took with my k200 10mp but now i have the k5iis 16mp and if something better comes out i will consider it...
i justify it to myself that i work hard and i'm doing my part to help the economy ...at some point i will have to be satisfied with what i have but for the moment i am doing my best to make sure my kids don't get any of my money... i really don't think this is just a pentax thing...this forum could be about anything and we would want something new to come out to get excited about...
09-13-2013, 11:16 AM   #4
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Really nice piece - you certainly put things in perspective. I think wishlists of new models and lenses are part and parcel of the hobby we called photography.

Compared to Canon, Pentax will never match the numbers but I suspect most of us are secretly glad. From my point of view the Pentax range of lenses is comprehensive and my finances are the reasons I'm not buying all their lenses rather than lack of choice. I really love that interspersed within the normal lenses are 'quirky' focal lengths. I also love that many of us are talking about the results we achieve with lenses dating back 40+ years on a modern camera.

09-13-2013, 01:27 PM   #5
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I have to add that, secretly, when I'm out on a group shoot with other photogs, I very often find myself as the lone Pentax shooter (in a forest of canikons) and I kinda like that. When I slap on a DA 15 Limited I get a few puzzled looks from that same group with their one kit lens or combo zoom. Gear aside, what being the only one in a group also has done for me is made me learn my cameras since usually there is no one around to help me with the in's and out's of my gear, and in doing so, I know a lotta stuff the typical canikon amateur doesn't have a clue about. That too has made me a better photog.
09-13-2013, 03:20 PM - 1 Like   #6
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Classics and why we may be losing them in the future

Thanks for all the kind replies to my post!

The constant turn over of new products, the ever decreasing product life cycle, and the enormous size of some product portfolios poses a potential danger to the art of design. I think society may start losing the idea of what we would today call a "classic". Instead of hearing the word "classic", we hear "obsolete". That's becoming more and more prevalent. Ask the average person what "obsolete" means and they may say something like "old" or "outdated". Personally, I think of something becoming "obsolete" as that object being rendered "irrelevant" or "useless". Let me explore the idea with some simple examples.

When I want to measure something I use a ruler. Rulers are "old" and "outdated" because there are many other measurement devices which are newer and more accurate. However, rulers are used every day all over the world by young and old alike. The wooden ruler with its 1/16th or 1mm markings is a classic. It was designed once, made many times, and used even more times and there's no end in sight for its continued use. The ruler will remain relevant and useful for a long, long time. It's instantly identifiable and instructions on its use are hardly necessary. I consider the wooden ruler a classic for non-industrial uses and a metal ruler is a classic design for the industrial side of things.

The IBM PC introduced in 1981 is considered to be "obsolete". When it came out the machine was big, bulky, loud, and ugly. It was hard to use back then and it's even harder to use today considering how much technology has advanced. The PC of 1981 cannot be used today in a way that meets a user's modern expectation of electronic engagement. People cannot use it to connect to the internet, edit photos, or create music. There is no viable software that can be used by the masses. Despite being perfectly functional (but "frozen in time"), the IBM PC is obsolete. It was designed once, made a few times, used a little bit, and then abandoned. The design cues from its packaging lasted a short time when considering the grand scheme of life. Designers look at it today as a symbol of what not to build.

I consider the Pentax K-mount a classic design. Introduced in 1975, it is actively supported in the present day by Pentax and third party vendors. It has undergone updates as time passed but whatever fit in 1975 will fit in 2013. I cannot count the number of adapters I have seen for different camera systems which allow for mounting K-mount lenses on non-K-mount bodies. Could it be argued that the K-mount is the most adapted lens mount after M42? I applaud Pentax for never abandoning the K-mount. They could have taken the easy way out and start a whole new mounting system when they introduced their DSLRs. Even with the introduction of the Q mount the K-mount reigns strong. Through continued support from Pentax, the K-mount is a classic. It was designed once, updated a few times, built many times, and used even more. Everyone knows of the red dot. Those who don't can figure out it out. My kids have no problem with aligning a lens to a body. It would not surprise me if the K-mount is the second most ubiquitous mount after M42. Pentax created a classic that could outlast another generation of users.

Apple is said to make beautiful products, from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad. The sleek aluminum bodies with highly polished hard glass do indeed carry some sort of intrinsic beauty. They appeal to our visual senses. Yet, I would not consider Apple products as classic. Their form shifts and sways and their relevance is limited as support for physical connectors, software interfaces, and firmware wanes over time. The designs could certainly be considered "landmark", "influential", and "stylish" but I would strongly hesitate to label them as classic.

Continuing with another Pentax example, I think the K1000 is a classic design. It's another product that was designed once, built many times over many years, and used a countless number of times by an innumerable number of people all over the world. That camera is hard to break, easy to use and maintain, and is extremely reliable. Press the shutter release and more often than not the mechanism will operate to expose celluloid film for a predetermined time. One word: classic.

I'm glad that Pentax is going slow with a limited number of smartly designed products. They aren't trying to be "the first", "the biggest", or "the best". Pentax is simply trying to be Pentax with their own unique identity and for what they are I think the designs are closer to a classic than other manufacturers. Some could argue that they made a mistake with the K-01. I honestly don't have an opinion on the K-01 because it hasn't been around enough to stand the test of time and patience. However, I can see what they are striving for in their design. I don't think Pentax engages in "spec-man-ship" (i.e. a war of specifications between products). The K-5 family of products stand a good chance of becoming classics when their design and performance is taken into account. Time will tell as our perspective matures with time. The products are still too fresh. Let's go as far back as we can in the Pentax DSLR history and consider the *ist family of digital cameras. Despite being released nearly ten years ago, these cameras are commanding respectable prices on places like eBay. People want them, people buy them, and people collect them. Personally, I think the *ist D is on its way toward becoming a "Pentax classic". Models with pentamirrors? Meh, not so much. Will the *ist D go beyond a "Pentax classic" and just become "classic"? Who knows?

So, my message to Pentax is take your time. Do it right and do it in the Pentax way because above all else I want a Pentax version of Pentax - not a Pentax version of a Nikon and not a Pentax version of Canon. I don't necessarily need to win the FF war or the megapixel war. Pentax cameras are suppose to make "whap! - click - whap!" sounds thanks to a beautiful OVF assembly with mirrors, motors, and springs. But, Pentax, be careful and don't take too much time. At some point the party does end and the lights in the hall turn off. You have to move on too.
09-13-2013, 03:28 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by blackcloudbrew Quote
I have to add that, secretly, when I'm out on a group shoot with other photogs, I very often find myself as the lone Pentax shooter (in a forest of canikons) and I kinda like that. When I slap on a DA 15 Limited I get a few puzzled looks from that same group with their one kit lens or combo zoom.
Try that with a K10D / Grip and a DA40 Limited - "Hey, what's that? I've never seen a lens like that."

Also, there is value to becoming familiar enough with gear that you develop muscle memory. Constantly churning bodies - even Pentax bodies - doesn't allow regular users to develop that. Pro's who actually shoot enough to wear out a shutter in a year or two, sure. But how many of us qualify for that? I'd actually be starting over with a K5 or K50.

I'm happy with a K10D and K-01. I know both very well.

Q is for goofing around, but lately I've gone back to my K-01.

(And then there's all those film cameras in my cabinet)
09-13-2013, 08:58 PM   #8
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That is exactly what I'm talking about. Know what you mean about muscle memory, it took me almost a year to adapt fully to my K5 and now when I pick up my K20, I can't figure out why it doesn't work like the K5!

09-13-2013, 09:24 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by blackcloudbrew Quote
That is exactly what I'm talking about. Know what you mean about muscle memory, it took me almost a year to adapt fully to my K5 and now when I pick up my K20, I can't figure out why it doesn't work like the K5!


The most frustrating thing about my K-01 is the rear AF button. I use my thumb to focus on my K10 - but that button has two functions on the K-01 -- AF/AE-L, so I half-press focus. Then when I use my K10 . . .
09-15-2013, 04:28 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by 6BQ5 Quote
So how about we just enjoy what we have and not worry about what comes out when?
Because it would doom the present world mass consumer economy, the international corporate elite and those who work for them including, perhaps, you and me.

Buy or die.
09-15-2013, 07:18 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote


The most frustrating thing about my K-01 is the rear AF button. I use my thumb to focus on my K10 - but that button has two functions on the K-01 -- AF/AE-L, so I half-press focus. Then when I use my K10 . . .
That is why I use 2 K10's,
09-16-2013, 06:15 AM   #12
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These days, and for some years now, being labeled a 'Subject Matter Expert' (SME) in the corporate world is very close to 'obsolete' and 'legacy'. A necessary evil, one who will not 'move us forward' and who essentially represents a future layoff. Boris, that came to me as I read your second post.
09-20-2013, 06:25 AM   #13
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I totally agree with you 6BQ5. It seems to me that there are a lot of malcontents on this site... but maybe this is where those discussions should be. For me, I'm quite happy that Pentax stays out of the FF market so they can concentrate on high quality APS-C. I made the commitment and bought a few lenses and I just upgraded from the K20 to the K5II. I might go FF if they were smaller. Why are they so big anyway? My (Pentax) 35mm SLR is smaller than my K5 and has a huge FOV - another reason I might go to FF - a pleasure to look through the viewer.

I listen to a lot of photography podcasts and I have a couple of pro photo buddies and they have moved or are moving from FF to APS-C and to Micro 4/3! At this point, it seems that they keep the FF for show (to clients)
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