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12-04-2013, 01:58 PM - 1 Like   #1
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Some Thoughts on the K-01 and Mirrorless From Pentax

I hope Adam won't mind this post - which is a development from a post I made in the "Why Mirrorless?" string. But I think the direction I'd like to take is different enough to warrant a separate entry. I own and still enjoy the K-01, which was an interesting experiment and valiant but misguided effort to produce a stylish, mirrorless camera that preserved the K-mount. Alas, the K-01 seems to have generally failed in the marketplace - at least at its original price point. But people scooped it up with the DA 40mm XS lens on closeout. Size didn't help the fate of The Brick, methinks. Nor did the styling, lack of a viewfinder and so-so auto-focus speed. But the K-01 did, in fact, have (and continues to have) a quirky appeal and delivers excellent image quality on par with a K-5 and K-30. And, frankly, the K-01 is fun. Just like the Q.

I hope, outside of the Q, that Pentax hasn't given up on mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras. Actually, after seeing what some other companies have done in the mirrorless APS-C space (Sony NEX, Fuji XE-1, X-M1 and X-A1), I think Pentax could rework the K-01 concept into something more compact and every bit as appealing as the competition - even while retaining the K-mount. Fuji's X-mount lenses - and Sony's E-mount glass, for that matter - are not what I'd consider tiny. So I don't think the K-mount is a problem: Consider the DA Limited primes. Or the new DA 20-40mm Limited zoom. Even the hoary, old DA 18-55mm and 55-200mm kit zooms. All are small and light enough for such a camera - and give good results. And the best part is, they're already in stock.

I'd love to see Pentax's unique take on the Fuji formula. It's something they could easily do with a lot of existing technology that they already have on the shelf. What's more, contrast-detection auto-focus has come quite a way (even for Pentax) since the K-01 first appeared. I think this concept would work in the marketplace, now that Pentax is fully integrated with Ricoh and has had a chance to see what others have done and what people are buying. But I'd want a viewfinder - either built-in or as an add-on option. Any thoughts? Do only Pentaxians who already own Pentax glass want such a camera? Would you be seriously interested in one? How much would you pay for it? Or am I deluding myself?

12-04-2013, 02:13 PM   #2
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Interesting post, your thoughts echo mine precisely. I like the idea of the K-01, but the size and lack of viewfinder put me off. I'd like a Fuji XE-2 style camera in k-mount. As you say, reasonably compact Pentax glass isn't a problem, but whether they can make a mirrorless K mount camera much smaller I don't know. If they can I'll buy two for hiking! I'm ok with K5 image quality so it doesn't even need the latest sensor. For my usage I'd take a new K-01 over the K3.
12-04-2013, 02:20 PM   #3
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We should see the K-01 reborn under the Ricoh brand and the re-tasked GXR engineers.
Because Ricoh doesn't have a rabid fan base like Pentax, I'm sure they are quietly working on the camera/design.
It's one of the benefits of no one really caring too much about "Ricoh" when it comes to cameras.
12-04-2013, 03:18 PM   #4
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When I look at Fuji's X-A1 or a Sony NEX5 or NEX6, I always think about what Pentax could do that those prices.

12-04-2013, 03:21 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I don't think Ricoh/Pentax is done with Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras, but when the next one comes out, it won't have anything to do with the K-01 (except possibly the brand and lack of a mirror, which would also make just as closely related to the Q).

The K-mount is a huge problem (literally). You can fit an awful lot of camera in a volume 20mm thick, and the K-mount requires more than twice that to be filled with nothing - nearly triple the Fuji's Flange Focal Distance. The SR chassis adds another 10mm block behind that (plus 3mm for the LCD), volume used by other cameras for their main board and tilty/flippy LCD. So, where a Fuji has 17.7mm + 20mm of "guts", the K-01 has 45.46mm + 13mm with the "guts" to the side, displacing the (large) battery forward. Something has to go. Lose the SR and big battery, and you could have a Fuji - but with a massive 'snoot'.

There have been rumblings about a new mount with a much shorter flange focal distance, with a K-mount adapter that only does AF for SDM lenses, similar to EOS-M. I wouldn't be surprised if it happened.
12-04-2013, 06:26 PM   #6
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The Zhongyi Lens Turbo is significantly shorter than the empty E/K adapter I use on my NEX6. I've often wondered if a shortened adapter could be whipped up that preserves the field of view.
12-04-2013, 07:05 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by THoog Quote
...when the next one comes out, it won't have anything to do with the K-01...
I think you're right. No way has Pentax given up on mirrorless! However, I think the Q points the way much more than the K-01 does.

QuoteQuote:
The K-mount is a huge problem (literally).
Eh...I'm not so convinced of this, having seen MX and ME full frame film cameras and the Limited lenses. I think it's a problem. Not sure how 'huge' it is.

QuoteQuote:
There have been rumblings about a new mount with a much shorter flange focal distance, with a K-mount adapter that only does AF for SDM lenses, similar to EOS-M. I wouldn't be surprised if it happened.
Honestly? I wouldn't be surprised, either. It's much easier to add flange distance in an adapter than to subtract it.
12-04-2013, 09:06 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by TaoMaas Quote
Eh...I'm not so convinced of this, having seen MX and ME full frame film cameras and the Limited lenses. I think it's a problem. Not sure how 'huge' it is.
Compared to a camera with a Flange Focal Distance of 17.7 or 18mm (Fuji or NEX, which were the cameras mentioned), it's huge - 27mm bigger, 150% bigger. This is why Sony/Fuji/Oly/Nikon/Canon all elected to go with new mounts in the 17-19mm range for MILCs.

As for the MX and ME bodies, their sensor thickness is essentially 0, and their main circuit board is about the size of a SD card. If you moved the nose forward several mm so that a SR-less main board with a sensor could go behind the shutter and across the back, put a battery on the side where the film takeup reel and clockwork are, and stuffed the AF motor, SD card reader, I/O jacks, and any other electronics in the film cavity (tight, but do-able), you'd basically have what I said - a Fuji with a big snoot, without in-body image stabilization.

12-05-2013, 08:12 AM   #9
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What would happen if Pentax kept the K mount for the next larger mirror less camera and simply moved the lens in closer? Would that still work from an optical perspective? I understand that image spot size and cropping may increase. But, would I still be able to focus?

Maybe Pentax will go with a new mirrorless mount in the future?
12-05-2013, 09:12 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by 6BQ5 Quote
What would happen if Pentax kept the K mount for the next larger mirror less camera and simply moved the lens in closer? Would that still work from an optical perspective? I understand that image spot size and cropping may increase. But, would I still be able to focus?
You wouldn't be able to focus - lenses are designed to focus at a certain point behind the mount, the Flange Focal Distance. Put it this way: if you could just move the lens closer to the body, then why are all the X-mount or NEX adapters for legacy glass (Minolta, Pentax, Nikon, Canon) so long? Why they aren't as small as possible? To move the lens closer to the focal plane than its FFD, there has to be some corrective optics between them - that's how adapters like the Lens Turbo or Metabones Speed Booster work.

QuoteOriginally posted by 6BQ5 Quote
Maybe Pentax will go with a new mirrorless mount in the future?
There have been rumors, but only rumors. Bear in mind, Pentax already DID go with a new mount for mirrorless: the Q mount. They just went further and in a different direction from the other camera makers, who stepped down from ~45mm FFD mounts to ~18mm.
12-05-2013, 12:34 PM   #11
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This is complicated.

Considering the relative size of the body and the lens, I believe the size advantage of smaller registration distance disappears soon after the registration distance is exceeded by the focal length of the lens. For instance, the combined size of the (70mm Limited and the body) is less than the size of the (18-55 and body). To me, the advantage of a smaller body diminishes as the FL gets longer and the problem of balance and stability predominate over pocketability. My Takumar 135mm measures 79.5 mm long. Add the 45mm K-01 registration distance + lens physical is less than the nominal FL.

As it is, the K-01 and 21mm Limited is barely pocketable, but the K-01 and 135mm is very well balanced.

With the addition of K-mount compatible lenses that cover the 15 to 55mm range without protrusion, the K-01 would be a killer format, even without an articulated LCD or OVF
12-05-2013, 06:40 PM   #12
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K-01 is THE machine for M42s

Maybe a small market - but maybe larger than many think. IMHO - a K-01 with native M42 not requiring an adapter, and supporting the old ES-type SMC interface, would sell enough at a premium price to more than justify it.

Slamming the K-mount is totally missing the point. If I wanted to use 'modern' garbage kit lenses. or 'quality' wallet-busters, or a point-and-shoot - I would be looking at something else anyway.
12-05-2013, 07:45 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by cahudson42 Quote
Slamming the K-mount is totally missing the point. If I wanted to use 'modern' garbage kit lenses. or 'quality' wallet-busters, or a point-and-shoot - I would be looking at something else anyway.
I don't think anyone is slamming the K-mount. We're all just wondering what Pentax/Ricoh could do for the next rev of their mirrorless camera. What if all they had to do was just make the body half the thickness while retaining the full K-mount flange and mount? Sony's NEX bodies are pretty thin with comparably large lenses. They seem to be doing just fine with that.
12-05-2013, 08:44 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by 6BQ5 Quote
I don't think anyone is slamming the K-mount. We're all just wondering what Pentax/Ricoh could do for the next rev of their mirrorless camera.
If anyone thought I was slamming the K-mount, that wasn't my intention - I've been shooting K (and only K) since the '80s. My point was: no other camera maker has attempted to make a mirrorless with a "legacy" lens mount. The one camera that did was slammed for being too big. I think the two are connected.

QuoteOriginally posted by 6BQ5 Quote
What if all they had to do was just make the body half the thickness while retaining the full K-mount flange and mount? Sony's NEX bodies are pretty thin with comparably large lenses. They seem to be doing just fine with that.
A NEX-like body (with a permanent K-mount adapter) is easy if you use a 40% smaller battery, and throw out shake reduction, aperture control, and screw-drive AF. If you add those features, size/weight/cost go back up. If it was easy to make the SR chassis or battery 50% smaller, I firmly believe they'd be doing it.
12-05-2013, 09:31 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by THoog Quote
A NEX-like body (with a permanent K-mount adapter) is easy if you use a 40% smaller battery, and throw out shake reduction, aperture control, and screw-drive AF. If you add those features, size/weight/cost go back up. If it was easy to make the SR chassis or battery 50% smaller, I firmly believe they'd be doing it.
I think they sort of did that. Or, at least the smaller mechanisms and battery... it's in the Q7.

Seriously though, I believe Pentax look at the K-01 and the Q line as platforms for continuous learning in design, manufacturing, technology development, etc that will be fed into future products. In that sense the K-01 was a roaring success if the lessons learned and gained fed into the Q7.
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