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10-25-2007, 07:39 PM   #1
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Paris, Ben, and "those" rumours;)

Sorry its taken me a while to report back from the Salon de Photo in Paris, which was a very interesting event for many reasons. I spent a subsequent week touring Provence and then have been worked off my feet since coming home.

Anyway, whereas I have nothing new to add to the rumours I can reiterate some of the positive vibes around the Pentax camp. Firstly, Hoya have made a good impression on the Pentax management and they are looking very upbeat. Far from treating the camera division as some lame duck they have been busy trying to shorten the supply chain, improve component supplies (like lens blanks) and basically help Pentax improve both quality and efficiency.

I have also heard from some of my friends in the A&M business that Hoya are determined to set a benchmark in Japan for a successful takeover. This is no bunch of asset strippers. Pentax is far safer with Hoya than they were with Sparx. They are very aware of the "mistakes" many companies make when buying out smaller firms - messing with their brand image, imposing the wrong management structures and pissing off the original staff so they all leave. Instead they are very cognisant of what the Pentax camera brand means in Japan and I think they all take it as matter of personal honour to nurture it and ensure its survival. They are a craftly and competent bunch at Hoya, and I am also making an educated guess but I think they have got rid of some of the stuffy old conservatives and given some of the more imaginative and "in touch" managers and engineers a lot more freedom.

There is also a tangible air of excitement about the new cameras to be announced in the new year. Its true the new cams were delayed, but primarily because they were given the go ahead to make improvements. They have also had a good chance to evaluate the opposition, and I suspect this has lead to some of the desire to make a few last minute changes but I cant confirm that (the D80 definately altered some of the plans for the K10D). Questions I asked were met with polite smiles and "you are going to be VERY pleasantly surprised" but that was it However I can confirm its not using a Sony sensor*! I can also confirm that they have largely sorted out production and supply issues on lenses, and the factory is coming up to full speed (dont know if Hoya helped there but apparently a lot of problems were with suppliers so you never know). There are also a lot of new lens design proposals NOT on the roadmap so I am hopeful for some longer tele lenses. Much will probably depend on the success of the near term strategy. Next year will be a big year for Pentax, possibly even more so than 2006, and Hoya have given their full blessing to the strategy so for now, Pentax fans, time to relax and look forward to the future.

(*I also had a chat this week with a local dealer (who is now a Pentax pro dealer as well as Nikon) and we were musing about the source of sensors. His suspicion is that Nikon may need to look for other markets for their new sensors to offset the cost but I am leaning more towards the new sensor being a Pentax design manufactured by someone else (probably the same people that make Nikons custom sensors). My money is on Sanyo who already make all of Pentax's and Nikon's small digicams (and just about everyone elses too apart from Sony, Canon and Fuji). Whoever they are, if they are supplied with the masks, its relatively simple to make multiple sensors on the same line provided they use the same blanks. In fact the more the merrier).

I did get the chance to play with some other cameras. The D300 is impressive - it feels for all the world like a D200 but IQ is supposedly far better especially at high ISO. Yes, more MP and lower noise is possible and then some. Target was the 5D apparently. God is this thing fast though. You could fill up a 4GB card in a minute or two with no problems! In fact it may indeed be the replacement for the D200 but believe me it smokes the D2X as well. I did not get the chance to pick up the D3 - I could not get near it for the crush! In fact the Nikon stand was mobbed. The pendulum is definately swinging back Nikon's way.

By comparison, the Canon stand was pretty quiet. I had no problem playing with a 40D. Its quiet, fast and, er, exactly like a 30D except with a larger LCD and more FPS. I cant help feeling slightly underwhelmed by all the latest Canons. They are just like the previous ones and improvements only really exist in terms of small numerical increments. The only thing that strikes me as a real benefit of the 40D over the 30D is the extended highlight range, which is actually pretty useful, but thats about it IQ wise.

Same with the Sony stand (almost deserted). I had plenty of time to pick up the A700 and I have to say its easily the most comfortable camera I have ever held in my hands. The grip design is perfect and controls are very well placed. Build quality is very very nice. But having tested silent lenses all day (including on the Pentax stand) the Zeiss lens sounded like a dentists drill by comparison!!!! The 16-60 is a very nice lens! Still no-one has copied the K10D exposure modes or layout, and none of the cameras mentioned except the D3 have the same class of sealing so the K10D is still a quality act.

But the highlight of the day was finally meeting Ben and being invited into the "inner sanctum" of the Pentax stand for a coffee and a chat. I spent over an hour with him and would have loved to have stayed longer and chewed the fat but I was on a tight deadline to get round the show and meet some friends later on and he had a job to do for his sponsors.

So what was he like? You would not be in the least surprised by his enthusiasm and energy. I'm sure he won't mind me saying he's spring loaded, loves what he does with a passion and is as focused as a laser beam. I was expecting a real character (and he is very gregarious) but I was quite taken aback by his modesty and generosity. He made me feel incredibly welcome and at ease and we had a really interesting chat.

Unfortunately, he obeyed his NDA to the letter but he was practically bursting at the seams in the process He seems very happy in his new home, and very close to the head of Pentax France who I also met briefly. Ben also had a jealous look at my 43 and 77 ltd's and decided he wanted to get some for his own use. So far Pentax have been keen for him to use their new gear but I can tell he was itching to try out the 43!!

Of course many of his photos were hanging up there as well, and I can only say you have to see them in print to really appreciate them. I spend a lot of time in studios, but after looking at his work very closely and talking to him for a while about his style and approach I have to admit I am quite in awe of the guy. Its not just having the imagination to know what you want to achieve, the devil is in the detail and its the fine execution of the detail that makes the whole concept work and separates the masters from the wannabes. The biggest surprise is how much he uses the 12-24. That was a real eye opener.

Its all made me rethink a lot of the "conventional wisdom" I relied on in the studio and encouraged me to be a lot more creative and adventurous and - perhaps the most important thing - to have a vision of what I want and work backwards to develop techniques to achieve it, rather than relying on knowing what works and reproducing the same old stuff. I've also rethought the contents of my camera bag and approach somewhat. Wider lenses, portable strobes, coloured monolights, and more location stuff. Oh my poor credit card!

Thanks Ben - at least you convinced me I can break out of the rut even if you proved I have a mountain to climb

10-25-2007, 09:00 PM   #2
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Nice update - full of energy and optimism! (I was originally going to write "Thanks for the Article - it was a great read!")
10-25-2007, 09:26 PM   #3
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isteve, thanks for the nice write-up. Good things comes to those who wait.
10-25-2007, 09:53 PM   #4
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That's a great write-up Steve. Thanks for sharing with us.

It's good to see a balanced report of what the competition is doing. It's also good to hear things will be looking up for Pentax as well. Looking forward to visiting you again some time, but hopefully not in December again.

-E

10-26-2007, 12:41 AM   #5
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Great report, thanks

Thanks Steve, it is nice to get a well written and accurate report of what is really happening with Pentax. Appreciate the time you took to research and write the details for us.

Phil
10-26-2007, 03:05 AM   #6
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All that was an interesting read, Steve. However, since much of it seems to be revealing considerable inside information about both Pentax and Hoya, it would be worthwhile to know your sources. For example, where did you hear that "Hoya have made a good impression on the Pentax management"?" Or that "Hoya are determined to set a benchmark in Japan for a successful takeover?" Or that "Pentax is far safer with Hoya than they were with Sparx?" Or that Hoya is "very aware of the mistakes many companies make when buying out smaller firms?" Or that Hoya is "very cognisant of what the Pentax camera brand means in Japan?"

Likewise, where did you hear that new cameras were delayed "because they were given the go ahead to make improvements?" Or that a new camera will not be "using a Sony sensor?" Or that "they have largely sorted out production and supply issues on lenses?" Or that "the factory is coming up to full speed?" Or that "Hoya has given their full blessing" to anything at this point?

Your "friends in the A&M business" would certainly not be that aware of this level of inside information about these two companies. I doubt anyone outside of Pentax Japan would know all this, and then not even all at Pentax Japan would.

stewart
10-26-2007, 07:15 AM   #7
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From one old show observer to another

Steve,
Thank you very much for your report. As one old show dog to another I appreciate how hard it is to make contact with everybody and glean little jewels from as many sources as possible so that an accurate picture can be seen. Many of the things you comment have been reported from various source I have read on the internet so it seems to me you have done a masterful job of corroborating these sources.

The fact that Hoya would like to be perceived as the optimum benchmark for Japaness takeovers is, IMO, the most important news we have heard. I was not aware that Sanyo makes the Nikon and Pentax digicam sensors. It would seem reasonable to assume they are also making some of the Nikon DSLR sensors, possibly the D2X sensor. If that is the case I am sure Sanyo would be more than happy to modify it for Pentax.

It all sounds very positive. Now where is that small travel body that will use all my old glass? No, I won't hold my breath waiting for it.

Thanks,

Ken
10-26-2007, 07:17 AM   #8
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Original Poster
QuoteOriginally posted by stewart_photo Quote
All that was an interesting read, Steve. However, since much of it seems to be revealing considerable inside information about both Pentax and Hoya, it would be worthwhile to know your sources. For example, where did you hear that "Hoya have made a good impression on the Pentax management"?" Or that "Hoya are determined to set a benchmark in Japan for a successful takeover?" Or that "Pentax is far safer with Hoya than they were with Sparx?" Or that Hoya is "very aware of the mistakes many companies make when buying out smaller firms?" Or that Hoya is "very cognisant of what the Pentax camera brand means in Japan?"

Likewise, where did you hear that new cameras were delayed "because they were given the go ahead to make improvements?" Or that a new camera will not be "using a Sony sensor?" Or that "they have largely sorted out production and supply issues on lenses?" Or that "the factory is coming up to full speed?" Or that "Hoya has given their full blessing" to anything at this point?

Your "friends in the A&M business" would certainly not be that aware of this level of inside information about these two companies. I doubt anyone outside of Pentax Japan would know all this, and then not even all at Pentax Japan would.

stewart
I have contacts within Pentax UK, I met the head of Pentax France, plus I spent a long time talking to Ben. All were very upbeat about the relationship with Hoya and I cant believe all of them were faking it. There is a real buzz at Pentax these days (probably relief as much as anything). The fact that Pentax are continuing to ship cameras and lenses tells you as much as you need to know. The other stuff about sensors you have heard before but it has been confirmed in several conversations. Nor did I say for sure that the delays were to add new features, all I said was it seemed possible given the delays to the K10D.

Regarding the merger, I used to work for Ernst and Young's A&M advisory team. Its a small tight knit community and some of my friends at Deutsche Bank have a lot of experience with Japanese firms (I worked on three Japanese takeovers of UK firms). None of my ex colleagues were directly involved but looking at the press releases and reading between the lines, they dont think it was likely that Hoya would have bought Pentax only to spin off the camera division (50% of the company). Since it is out of debt and indicators are pointing in the right direction (upwards) there would be a lot more mileage in running it as a profitable subsidiary and seeing how it goes. Nor would they have taken on the risk if they intended to sell it since they would almost certainly have made a substantial loss, as they would if it fails to make a profit. Nor is it certain that you could cleanly divide Imaging from the other divisions because they shared all their intellectual property which is worth a lot to Hoya, but Pentax without access to its patents would be worthless to a buyer. This is a very common issue with high tech takeovers.

If Hoya was owned by private equity then it may have been different but its very bad form for Japanese companies to destroy well known domestic brands to make a quick profit, plus there is no reason to sell it if Pentax can meet their profitability targets (10% profit by 2012 seems entirely reasonable and realistic given the growth in the overall camera market and the rapidly shrinking costs of components). Given Hoya's considerable financial and business acumen, they are probably more likely to make Pentax successful than almost anyone else. Had they not intervened it seems likely Pentax would have ceased to exist within a few years because of competition in the medical imaging market (ironically).

Plus I believe Hoya have gone on record as saying firstly that they are very aware of the importance of the camera business in terms of the brand and its heritage, and that they are determined to set a benchmark for successful takeovers. That does not mean Hoya will haemorrage their own company to keep Pentax alive, but

1. The have allowed Pentax Imaging to stay intact as a subsidiary to minimise the impact of the merger on current activities and to keep the core of the engineering and management team in place which is good for morale.

2. Since they are a major supplier to Pentax and also have many complimentary relationships with other suppliers there is a lot they can do in a material sense to reduce Pentax's operating costs.
In fact, the one area of the industry that is still heavily cost laden is lens manufacturing because of the relatively high component and labour costs. Here is an area where Hoya can actually make a huge contribution to Pentax but shortening their supply chain and reducing component costs.

3. They have reviewed Pentax's strategy and have more or less allowed them to continue on in the same vein, or even encouraged them to be bolder.

Reading between the lines it does appear that they will provide the Pentax subsidiary with every opportunity to deliver the required returns. Speculation for sure, but educated speculation at that. It does not mean they will go head to head with Nikon and Canon - in fact they will leave that to Sony I suspect. There is plenty of room in the SLR market for quality, niche value-add products which is where Pentax probably need to go. That is also speculation on my part, but if you are expecting Pentax to release a $5000 FF SLR, you will probably be disappointed.


Last edited by *isteve; 10-26-2007 at 07:27 AM.
10-26-2007, 07:23 AM   #9
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Very interesting commentary, Steve! Thanks for posting
10-26-2007, 07:26 AM   #10
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Yeah, Ben is incredibly talented.

When the Hoya-Pentax merger was first announced I was able to take a look at Hoya since it's public. I posted my comments on this forum. I was quite impressed with Hoya managements' accomplishments. My conclusions about Hoya's management and their strategy towards the camera division are exactly what Steve is saying.

Pentax's single biggest problem was that it was capital constrained which meant it had to move slowly in developing its logistics/distribution, manufacturing and intellectual property/R&D portfolio. (Pentax was public and this was my conclusion). The merger with Hoya, which is ungeared and spinning off cash, addresses this.

From purely a Pentax user's perspective, I'm glad to see this post lines up with my conclusions. Thanks Steve!
10-26-2007, 11:05 AM   #11
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Pentax vs. Nikon / Canon

QuoteOriginally posted by *isteve Quote
... It does not mean they will go head to head with Nikon and Canon - in fact they will leave that to Sony I suspect. There is plenty of room in the SLR market for quality, niche value-add products which is where Pentax probably need to go. That is also speculation on my part, but if you are expecting Pentax to release a $5000 FF SLR, you will probably be disappointed.
Has Pentax EVER really competed head-to-head with Nikon and Canon, for the top-end market? When I bought my Spotmatic new in 1967, it seemed to me then, that Pentax made cameras and lenses that could produce images every bit as good as C & N, but they were still not competing.

When I compared the Spotmatic to the Nikon F, I decided that the F was made for a professional photographer, probably a photojournalist, who needed a camera that could shoot 20 or 30 rolls of film every day; that could be worn around the neck with three other cameras as the photog jumped out of a Huey helicopter in Vietnam; needed removable back, viewfinders, MLU. But mostly a camera that could be literally thrown and banged around and still work.

Pentax, on the other hand, was built more for the serious amatuer, who wanted high-quality glass and a sturdy body, but didn't need quite the ruggedness or flexibility of the Nikon system (or the correspondingly higher price). The F (with the Photomic meter) sold for almost twice as much as my SP and didn't offer much more, in terms of features. You were paying for the basis of a much more extensive system (Nikon) than Pentax offered.

My opinion of Pentax has never changed. While Pentax build quality has always been excellent and some of their glass is second to none, Nikon has always beaten them hands down on professional features, most of which are way more than an amatuer will ever need.

That includes the situation today. The K10D is, in many ways, every bit as good as a D200, but the Nikon has many features that a pro really needs, but an amatuer doesn't, like faster frame rates. With Nikon, you pay for those features, and all the ones you can add on, whether you ever use them or not.

When you look at Nikon and Canon's prosumer cameras, like the D70 and so on, even back in the film days, the Pentax offerings outstrip Nikon's, yet cost less. I believe that the D70 buyer is paying a premium for the Nikon name, based on its pro-camera reputation, when that quality isn't there in the less expensive camera.

I've used my brother's D200 and it is fabulous, but I'm never going to use all the features it has. I don't need the titanium body. The K10D costs about a third as much as a D200, although that seems to be changing, now that the D300 and D3 have been announced.

Paul Noble
10-26-2007, 11:24 AM   #12
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Thanks for the update. I like to hear things like this. I often get all gloom & doom without any news from the Pentax Camp. Looking forward to 2008.
10-26-2007, 11:35 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by noblepa Quote
Has Pentax EVER really competed head-to-head with Nikon and Canon, for the top-end market? When I bought my Spotmatic new in 1967, it seemed to me then, that Pentax made cameras and lenses that could produce images every bit as good as C & N, but they were still not competing.
This is true. Pentax HAS always been competitive with Nikon and Canon, but it was in their cameras' image making abilities, not necessarily their cameras' feature set.
10-26-2007, 11:43 AM   #14
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Duuuuuuuuuddddddeeeeeee!!!!!!!!

QuoteOriginally posted by *isteve Quote
Sorry its taken me a while to report back from the Salon de Photo in Paris, which was a very interesting event for many reasons. I spent a subsequent week touring Provence and then have been worked off my feet since coming home.

Anyway, whereas I have nothing new to add to the rumours I can reiterate some of the positive vibes around the Pentax camp. Firstly, Hoya have made a good impression on the Pentax management and they are looking very upbeat. Far from treating the camera division as some lame duck they have been busy trying to shorten the supply chain, improve component supplies (like lens blanks) and basically help Pentax improve both quality and efficiency.

I have also heard from some of my friends in the A&M business that Hoya are determined to set a benchmark in Japan for a successful takeover. This is no bunch of asset strippers. Pentax is far safer with Hoya than they were with Sparx. They are very aware of the "mistakes" many companies make when buying out smaller firms - messing with their brand image, imposing the wrong management structures and pissing off the original staff so they all leave. Instead they are very cognisant of what the Pentax camera brand means in Japan and I think they all take it as matter of personal honour to nurture it and ensure its survival. They are a craftly and competent bunch at Hoya, and I am also making an educated guess but I think they have got rid of some of the stuffy old conservatives and given some of the more imaginative and "in touch" managers and engineers a lot more freedom.

There is also a tangible air of excitement about the new cameras to be announced in the new year. Its true the new cams were delayed, but primarily because they were given the go ahead to make improvements. They have also had a good chance to evaluate the opposition, and I suspect this has lead to some of the desire to make a few last minute changes but I cant confirm that (the D80 definately altered some of the plans for the K10D). Questions I asked were met with polite smiles and "you are going to be VERY pleasantly surprised" but that was it However I can confirm its not using a Sony sensor*! I can also confirm that they have largely sorted out production and supply issues on lenses, and the factory is coming up to full speed (dont know if Hoya helped there but apparently a lot of problems were with suppliers so you never know). There are also a lot of new lens design proposals NOT on the roadmap so I am hopeful for some longer tele lenses. Much will probably depend on the success of the near term strategy. Next year will be a big year for Pentax, possibly even more so than 2006, and Hoya have given their full blessing to the strategy so for now, Pentax fans, time to relax and look forward to the future.

(*I also had a chat this week with a local dealer (who is now a Pentax pro dealer as well as Nikon) and we were musing about the source of sensors. His suspicion is that Nikon may need to look for other markets for their new sensors to offset the cost but I am leaning more towards the new sensor being a Pentax design manufactured by someone else (probably the same people that make Nikons custom sensors). My money is on Sanyo who already make all of Pentax's and Nikon's small digicams (and just about everyone elses too apart from Sony, Canon and Fuji). Whoever they are, if they are supplied with the masks, its relatively simple to make multiple sensors on the same line provided they use the same blanks. In fact the more the merrier).

I did get the chance to play with some other cameras. The D300 is impressive - it feels for all the world like a D200 but IQ is supposedly far better especially at high ISO. Yes, more MP and lower noise is possible and then some. Target was the 5D apparently. God is this thing fast though. You could fill up a 4GB card in a minute or two with no problems! In fact it may indeed be the replacement for the D200 but believe me it smokes the D2X as well. I did not get the chance to pick up the D3 - I could not get near it for the crush! In fact the Nikon stand was mobbed. The pendulum is definately swinging back Nikon's way.

By comparison, the Canon stand was pretty quiet. I had no problem playing with a 40D. Its quiet, fast and, er, exactly like a 30D except with a larger LCD and more FPS. I cant help feeling slightly underwhelmed by all the latest Canons. They are just like the previous ones and improvements only really exist in terms of small numerical increments. The only thing that strikes me as a real benefit of the 40D over the 30D is the extended highlight range, which is actually pretty useful, but thats about it IQ wise.

Same with the Sony stand (almost deserted). I had plenty of time to pick up the A700 and I have to say its easily the most comfortable camera I have ever held in my hands. The grip design is perfect and controls are very well placed. Build quality is very very nice. But having tested silent lenses all day (including on the Pentax stand) the Zeiss lens sounded like a dentists drill by comparison!!!! The 16-60 is a very nice lens! Still no-one has copied the K10D exposure modes or layout, and none of the cameras mentioned except the D3 have the same class of sealing so the K10D is still a quality act.

But the highlight of the day was finally meeting Ben and being invited into the "inner sanctum" of the Pentax stand for a coffee and a chat. I spent over an hour with him and would have loved to have stayed longer and chewed the fat but I was on a tight deadline to get round the show and meet some friends later on and he had a job to do for his sponsors.

So what was he like? You would not be in the least surprised by his enthusiasm and energy. I'm sure he won't mind me saying he's spring loaded, loves what he does with a passion and is as focused as a laser beam. I was expecting a real character (and he is very gregarious) but I was quite taken aback by his modesty and generosity. He made me feel incredibly welcome and at ease and we had a really interesting chat.

Unfortunately, he obeyed his NDA to the letter but he was practically bursting at the seams in the process He seems very happy in his new home, and very close to the head of Pentax France who I also met briefly. Ben also had a jealous look at my 43 and 77 ltd's and decided he wanted to get some for his own use. So far Pentax have been keen for him to use their new gear but I can tell he was itching to try out the 43!!

Of course many of his photos were hanging up there as well, and I can only say you have to see them in print to really appreciate them. I spend a lot of time in studios, but after looking at his work very closely and talking to him for a while about his style and approach I have to admit I am quite in awe of the guy. Its not just having the imagination to know what you want to achieve, the devil is in the detail and its the fine execution of the detail that makes the whole concept work and separates the masters from the wannabes. The biggest surprise is how much he uses the 12-24. That was a real eye opener.

Its all made me rethink a lot of the "conventional wisdom" I relied on in the studio and encouraged me to be a lot more creative and adventurous and - perhaps the most important thing - to have a vision of what I want and work backwards to develop techniques to achieve it, rather than relying on knowing what works and reproducing the same old stuff. I've also rethought the contents of my camera bag and approach somewhat. Wider lenses, portable strobes, coloured monolights, and more location stuff. Oh my poor credit card!

Thanks Ben - at least you convinced me I can break out of the rut even if you proved I have a mountain to climb
I am truly touched by your kind words.....

Thanks again and hope to see you again soon.

Ben
10-26-2007, 01:10 PM   #15
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Historical Notes

QuoteOriginally posted by noblepa Quote
Has Pentax EVER really competed head-to-head with Nikon and Canon, for the top-end market? When I bought my Spotmatic new in 1967, it seemed to me then, that Pentax made cameras and lenses that could produce images every bit as good as C & N, but they were still not competing.

When I compared the Spotmatic to the Nikon F, I decided that the F was made for a professional photographer, probably a photojournalist, who needed a camera that could shoot 20 or 30 rolls of film every day; that could be worn around the neck with three other cameras as the photog jumped out of a Huey helicopter in Vietnam; needed removable back, viewfinders, MLU. But mostly a camera that could be literally thrown and banged around and still work.
Keep in mind that the German manufacturers (Leica and Contax) dominated the 35mm film camera market before and immediately following WWII. (In the U.S., Kodak controlled the consumer film camera market with inexpensive cameras, film and processing.) Nikon and Canon were successful in entering the 35mm rangefinder camera market in the early '50s, and their products were popular with photo-journalists during the Korean War. AFAIK, Asahi never made 35mm rangefinder cameras or lenses. So it would be natural for Nikon to go after the photo-journalist market with their 35mm SLR system after their success with rangefinder lenses and camera for this market.

In the early days of the 35mm SLR cameras, the competitors remained the German brands, especially Carl Zeiss-Contax and its Eastern European decendants (Pentacon, Praktica, etc.) and of course the Exakta. Asahi used the 42mm x 1mm screw mount from German Praktica (East German Zeiss) cameras in their Spotmatic SLRs, and I think this shows who they viewed as the competition. But yes, the Spotmatic series was intended more for the serious amateur than the pros, and it would be a step up from the cheaper Kodak snapshot cameras in the U.S. and similar simple cameras in Europe and Asia.

Nikon dominated the pro 35mm SLR market with the F series in the '60s and Asahi was one of the biggest sellers in the advanced amateur market in the mid to late '60s with the Spotmatic series. Canon was in the SLR market from the early '50s with the Canonflex, and had all sorts of SLRs including the original F-1 pro level camera using the FD mount thereafter. AFAIK, Canon didn't have a really big hit SLR until they introduced the first "fully automatic" cameras (AE-1 and similar models) in the mid '70s. It was only recently with the EOS series that Canon became a dominant force in the professional photo-journalism market. And Olympus was very successful with the OM line of of compact, high performance cameras and lenses starting in the early '70s, but they were left behind with the compete lack of an auto-focus interchangable lens SLR until the 4/3 System was introduced.

I think the only time that Asahi/Pentax attempted to challenge Nikon in the 35mm film camera pro market was with the LX camera introduced in 1980. That camera had pro quality construction, a very complete line of accessories (finders, backs, motor drives, flashes, etc.) and the combined M and A lines of lenses offered a very complete selection of lenses including ultra-wides (15mm), fisheyes, super-telephotos, and even ultra-long mirror lenses. The LX holds its own against the competing Nikon F3, and is clearly superior in areas such as metering in low light and with TTL flash. But the LX never really made inroads into the pro market. And Pentax was slow to respond to the success of the new Minolta auto-focus system in the early '80s and even slower to enter the digital market.

The other "professional" camera market where Pentax has successfully competed is in medium format roll film SLRs, where the 645 and 6x7 cameras did quite well. But again, Pentax is slow to enter the medium format digital SLR market. However, it remains to be seen how this market will survive under pressure from smaller format, high-end cameras like the 21 MP Canon 1 DS Mk. III.

Last edited by GaryML; 10-26-2007 at 05:53 PM. Reason: Fixed some typos and added some information
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