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01-18-2014, 02:38 PM - 15 Likes   #1
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Ricoh Imaging Europe S.A.S. - Report of a meeting!

Last Wednesday, January 15th I had a meeting from 14 – 16 o’clock at Ricoh Europe in Amstelveen (the Netherlands). I talked with Thijs Ekelschot (European Marketing & Communication Manager working from Paris) and Michel Sangers (Sales Manager the Netherlands). This is a comprehensive report about that meeting.

For the Dutch Pentax forum users, Carel Dutch Pentaxforum, already had a meeting on Monday about Pentax camera users, forums and community – so this meeting focussed more on the business side of the camera market. There are developments going on with photography as a whole Ricoh has to deal with. They are very conscious of the changes in the current market… one of these changes is the use of mobile phones instead of real camera’s which had a huge effect on the total sales (for all types and brands) – it has been cut in half. In Holland Casio was the first to stop selling camera’s, because there simply wasn’t a market. While the sales of DSLR’s are still very good and the sales of lenses has reached an absolute peak, the market still isn’t stable now. The growth of mobile phones being more and more geared to photography will continue and new techniques and apps will keep creating more options. Mobile phones have now replaced a lot of Point and Shoot camera’s and the newest Sony Xperia Z1 can already be taken for a little dip in the water. The competition in this shrinking marketplace will mean more victims in the near future. It is impossible all camera companies can stay in business if the market continues to shrink by maybe one third in sales in the next two years.

Ricoh Imaging is still trying to integrate all parts of what used to be Pentax, into their total business. Not that it’s unfinished business, but as the only piece of consumer market focus in a untill now completely business to business oriented company, it has a different outlook in this field. It’s clear Ricoh has the ambition of making imaging a strong part of their business and they want to be a force all over the world. Pentax is now truly integrated in their R&D, production, distribution and sales channels that used to be very different for the Ricoh and Pentax camera businesses.

Last year in May I was able to borrow a Pentax 645D from Ricoh Imaging Europe. I showed some photo’s I made then: Aylin Yaren, she is a Freestyler, also playing in the German Bundesliga, freestyle-girl-aylin. Taken with the Pentax-FA*645 300mm/f4.

In 2012 I also had the opportunity to borrow a 645D from de Beukelaer, the Pentax distributor in Holland. I also made a report then: Pentax 645D – User review with 85 photo’s: Pentax 645D, userreview (85 foto's)

Well, however you look at it, the demand for a full frame camera is a fact. We really didn’t spend much time on this. The expectation is a FF camera will be presented, but both gentlemen weren’t allowed to make a statement about this (or maybe not in the loop). They only said it’s to be expected it is on the way. It is clear this isn’t a simple introduction. The market share for FF camera’s is below the 10% if you count all DSLR’s and mirrorless options (including the Sony compact FF) with all sensors like APS-C, 4/3th, 1-inch and the little Q from Pentax, having the smallest sensor. Because Pentax has only a small part of the total market, they can’t expect a Pentax full frame camera to be a resounding sales hit. It would mostly appeal to the current Pentax users, that want to step up a notch (if the price is right for them). As you probably could expect I brought up the subject for a camera with an APS-H sensor inside.

Ricoh Theta360:
They brought this new camera with them. A truly fun thing to use, with one button (or controlled with a smartphone) you can make a 360 degrees picture. It has 2 camera’s to be able to do this.

From left to right: Michel Sangers, Thijs Ekelschot and Ron Hendriks. In the foreground you see some of my work I was able to show and talk about, highlighting my work I make with my set of Pentax camera’s. My work as sports photographer and an exposition about women’s soccer in 2013 was already well known to Ricoh Imaging Europe: Infopage about the Photo Exhibition about womenssoccer
My other work with portraits, studio shoots, projects and webshop photography was not so well known to them. I enjoyed being able to show this too.
The original image can be found here: Original image made with the Theta360
It’s a truly fun camera, unfortunately not on sale in Holland at the time. There have been a few prototypes shown during Photokina in Cologne in 2012, but they looked different. In the end the current design is easy to use and handle. Photo’s from this camera look really good. Ricoh is trying to show their strenght in innovation, by bringing out this new type of product, not previously available in such a good quality.

There have been rumours that Ricoh took the GXR out of production, with all it’s different modules. Until now there hasn’t been an official end of life statement form the head office, so the camera is still available. There haven’t been any new modules introduced in recent years and sales in the Netherlands are minimal. This doesn’t apply to all markets where this camera is sold, in Germany for instance this was a relative hit. The Ricoh GR surely is a popular camera that can stand up to other camera’s in it’s segment. It ‘s a compact camera with a large sensor (the GR has an APS-C sensor with 16 megapixels). Sales numbers are not astronomical, but that also has to do with the camera segment and pricing. In this part of the market Ricoh will surely introduce new models.

The Pentax K-3 is a sales hit and has been sold much better in Europe then was expected at the introduction. This caused a problem, because there have been weeks there was no stock available. Preordered camera’s were leaving stores faster then new stock was coming in. It’s too early to draw conclusions, because the K-3 has only been on the market a few months. Of the K-3 Silver edition there were only 2000 made and 600 have been sent to Europe. These have all been distributed to shops and sales have been great. In Holland only a few can be found, they will find there way to consumers. The Flucard has been specifically designed for Pentax so you can control the K-3 from a smartphone and send your photo’s by Wi-Fi and will be in stock soon. They had a technical challenge getting it to the stores in time for the K-3 introduction. A user review is soon to follow.

Camera sales through large franchises like Media Markt and Saturn will be difficult. In Holland somewhere from 20 to 25% of all sales is made in large stores (like Best Buy or Radio Shack in the US). Pentax would need a model these kind of stores would want to sell, and Ricoh should be able to make some money, otherwise such sales would be pointless. A model like the K-500 and kitlens would be an option, but it’s not clear now if this will happen. Buyers of such camera’s don’t tend to be brand loyal and won’t come back soon for other products like extra lenses or a body upgrade. This is the general picture for sales with other brands at rock bottom prices. A model like the K-50 might be to expensive to sell there. Other distribution channels to local and internet shops is well taken care of in Holland, seeing almost all shops are members of one of two large distributors. This makes it easy for Ricoh Imaging to get to consumers with their goods. Michel Sangers has been working for dozens of years in Pentax sales and has a wide network of contacts. In Belgium this is less organized, but both gentlemen had no knowledge of the status there.

The K-5II(s) is still in production. Kind of unique, because Pentax used to stop producing the model that was being replaced. This was partly due to the limited production facilities for an extra model. Demand for camera’s with a 16 megapixel sensor is falling drastically because of the rise in megapixels in smartphone camera’s. Something I personally deplore, because the sensor for a K-5/K-50/K-01 can make some pretty amazing pictures. But if the market demands >20 megapixels that’s something you can’t ignore.

One of the photo’s I showed them is this picture I made on the first day I got the K-3 Silver. This is the women’s professional soccer player Amber van der Heijde from Purmerend. She play's in the combined Dutch and Belgian women's pro-soccerleague beneleague. Taken with the Pentax FA*85mm/f1.4


Besides the DSLR range and the Q-line there are some compacts. The MX-1 sells reasonably well for it’s segment. The other compacts on sale in Holland are the WG-series, that you can take under water. A segment that is doing ok in the competition with smartphones, because you can take them snorkeling.

We also spent considerable time on market share growth and the feeling in the market about the Pentax brand under Ricoh Imaging. Something that hasn’t sunk in yet at Ricoh is if you have a camera line up you should use them within the company. In the past we’ve seen some commercial images for Pentax being shot with another brand of camera. If you would go through the Ricoh offices all over the world a lot of other brand camera’s will be found. Integration of Ricoh Imaging with other Ricoh divisions nothing to do with their photo activities will take some time and attention. Ricoh can learn something from Canon, where they are very strict about this. They directly replace other brands with Canon owned products (for instance after buying a new product line and adding this to the line up).

Visibility of photo’s made with Ricoh Imaging camera’s, the Pentaxes, is something that has a long way to go. Ricoh is investing in sports sponsorships, but because of the rules about photographing at such events, rarely you see a person with a Pentax camera. That is something Ricoh needs to embrace that they can use the sponsorship money to promote their own name and camera’s and not favour the competition. If photo’s and photographers with Ricoh Imaging camera’s become more visible that will lead to a better known and more accepted brand name.

Within Ricoh Imaging they are thinking about a concept to work with photographers that can promote the imaging division. There is no real plan now and they haven’t decided on a practical approach for this idea.

One of the photo’s I showed them is this picture I made on the first day I got the K-3 Silver. This is the women’s professional soccer player Amber van der Heijde from Purmerend. Taken with the Pentax DA*55mm/f1.4


The professional market for photography is rapidly changing. Press agencies make demands what camera’s can be used by photographers working for them. It becomes commonplace to have images made available by a commercial marketing agency and freelance photographers are not supported and are unable to do their job. Press accreditation is becoming rapidly more difficult to get. The number of photographers is growing absurdly because of the ease of using digital photography. Local council guides are filled with pictures made by residents from a town or village. The local bank starts a photo challenge to gather pictures for their yearbook. Newspapers have less and less money they can spend on photographs. Magazines are disappearing at an alarming rate. Internet news sites don’t pay at all, or maybe a little bit, for the images they use, or only use stock images and pictures from a single agency. Pictures of the family, kids or pets are made at home or you go to some friend that can shoot pictures. In Holland there now are tens of thousands of photographers registered with KvK (Chamber of Commerce) and they all try to earn money in the same marketplace and maybe get thirty or forty bucks for a shoot. The Photo Academy and other education tracks are ‘producing’ about 1.500 new professional photographers every year and they all hope to earn a salary. This is a market where Pentax is scarcely represented. A lot of them walk out the door with a full frame camera made by the competition. The market for these photographers is becoming so difficult that a lot of these photographers will not be able to buy a new camera if their camera is old and broken since they hardly make any money.

The steady stream of replacement camera’s is another issue. You can still make beautiful pictures with a first generation 6 megapixel camera from Pentax. The newer sensors that came to the market recently have brought a lot of enhancements in quality. When the K-5 arrived in 2010 a peak was reached with current technology in APS-C sensor quality. The K-3 is only a sideways improvement with it’s higher resolution, but you only really use it if prints are made in a really large format. The K-3 did bring a jump in quality for all the other electronic components and now puts this camera on the same level as other brand camera’s with comparable specs. A new and faster processor, better light measuring and white balance with the new auto focus module makes the K-3 a complete package. Only in professional sports photography it falls behind a few very expensive camera’s in the market (D4 and 1Dx). Replacements will follow the same timeframe as it used to be in the analog era, where camera’s would be used until they were really worn out. If the camera isn’t broken you don’t have to replace it to get better specs. Camera’s from the same generations as the K-3 will be able to make high quality pictures 10 years from now. The question is if there will be a market where the demands for higher quality photo’s will lead to a newer and far better version of the K-3. This also contributes to the shrinking market for DSLR camera’s. Sale of lenses has peaked because of al these new camera lines with new mounts, like the Q Pentax introduced. It will also shrink fast, because the consumers will not keep buying new lenses, the moment when we just use lenses is getting closer.

Ricoh is active in printing, but unfortunately doesn’t have a consumer (or semi professional photographer) oriented photo printer. That market for A3+ printers is very small and is now served by Canon and Epson. HP was active in the market, but they have pulled out, due to low sales of printers and cartridges. Epson is also seeing a strong decline of revenues. New photographers hardly print out photo’s and only make them for the internet and home use on their monitors. It’s a a good question why there is still a move to higher megapixel counts for camera’s, because sites like Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook really don’t need or use them. There is no indication Ricoh wants to serve this printingsection.

A project I have been running is a beautiful photo book. This will take some time, isn’t finished yet, but I’m still looking for partners that see the value in such a project: Jackie Groenen, Belgian soccerplayer in the German Bundesliga.


Ricoh Imaging Europe is a solid spoke in the wheel of the complete imaging company. With a market share of 30% in Europe of all products it sells this is a major part. This also explains why 600 of the total 2000 of Silver K-3’s were meant for Europe. Ricoh Imaging has the goal to grow and has made a nice start. In North America thousands of sales points have been added in recent years and in India the sales channel has been developing. In short their goal of conquering the world with the power of Ricoh behind them, that has a worldwide presence, is a strong bonus for the camera division. Ricoh Imaging Europe has the ambition to become the largest market for Ricoh camera’s, which is now still Japan.

We’re coming to the end of a solid conversation concerning Ricoh Imaging and their plans with the Pentax brand for the camera business. It is certain Ricoh has the intention to grow in this market and is developing the right products to be succesfull at it. In time a full frame model will be a logical step, but the timeframe is not yet clear. This will depend on trends in the market and the economy. Ricoh wants to be innovative and a high quality brand with their products and in user sentiment. For anyone concerned about the future of Pentax and the K-mount, rest asssured there is no threat on the horizon.

At the close of this meeting I got a very nice gift, the yearbook for Pentax Ricoh. A book that’s been published in Japan for years and is geared to the Japanese users.

This put a last question on the table about the PPG, the Pentax Photo Galery. The yearbook is targeted at the Japanese and the PPG, while being used by European users, is still a part of Ricoh Imaging USA, so I was wondering about a European initiative. Something to look into later, I think….

Ron Hendriks
info@iamphotographer.nl

One off the reasons that there are so many womens soccer images is that I started as housephotographer for the Dutch womenssoccersite www.vrouwenvoetbalnederland.nl a few years ago. I still love to do that, but I'm only active at some events these days.

PS: Many thanks to Eric den Ouden for the translation into English.


Last edited by RonHendriks1966; 01-18-2014 at 05:21 PM.
01-18-2014, 03:06 PM   #2
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Thanks for the excellent report, Ron.

Jack
01-18-2014, 03:22 PM   #3
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Very informative and detailed report. Thank you for taking the time and effort to share the information Ron.

I really appreciate it. I also enjoyed your images.

Ross
01-18-2014, 04:01 PM   #4
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Thanks Ron for taking the time to do the interview, for sharing your work with Pentax Europe and for the detailed post on PentaxForums. I can sense your positive response to the conversation, which is the same way the USA Q Users Group felt last April when we spoke with Jim Malcolm by GoToMeeting. It is once again encouraging to hear (by inference) that Ricoh is committed to K-mount, Q and 645, and there is a Plan. Internally Ricoh does have ambition for the imaging division and for the Pentax brand and the things we want to see will likely eventually happen - but the market is changing so rapidly that implementation is a real challenge.

Thanks for sharing your photos with us here and over the years on PF - you and they are an inspiration!

01-18-2014, 04:07 PM   #5
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Her abs....
01-18-2014, 04:12 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Aristophanes Quote
Her abs....


oh and both images made with the K-3 from Amber van der Heijde are the full 24 megapixel resolution and no cropping in it.
01-18-2014, 04:19 PM   #7
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This was an excellent report - more information that what I have read about Pentax/Ricoh in quite a while.

I was very surprised that Ricoh internally was not using their own products. Rule number one - always eat your own dog food!!!!

I certainly understand that Ricoh is attempting to pull together an entire fully integrated Ricoh Imaging concept - which in my mind does not bode well for the name "Pentax". I saw that in the advertising and booth displays that were put up yesterday. I see them really pushing Ricoh. If they are really indeed serious about keeping "Pentax", then need to integrate that in to their overall plan. Personally, keeping the Pentax brand very active in front of the consumer is a positive in my mind. There is a very rich heritage there. If done right and with vigor, I believe it can really help. However, they - Ricoh need to really believe.

I am just going to go out and do some shooting. If I don't go now, then it will be too late to get in place as the sun goes down.

01-18-2014, 04:23 PM   #8
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Thank you, excellent work!

01-18-2014, 04:37 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by RonHendriks1966 Quote
One of the photo’s I showed them is this picture I made on the first day I got the K-3 Silver. This is the women’s professional soccer player Amber van der Heijde from Purmerend. She play's in the combined Dutch and Belgian...
And she can do all this with only one leg. Not even her shadow is showing a hint of the up-turned leg.
Am I too critical ?

Greetings
01-18-2014, 04:38 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Schraubstock Quote
And she can do all this with only one leg. Not even her shadow is showing a hint of the up-turned leg.
Am I too critical ?

Greetings
I even see this as one off the plusses in the image
01-18-2014, 04:47 PM   #11
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Very good report. Thank you Ron. And nice pictures

I only want to point that this very unclear story about FF development, with small differences , is already 2 years old. Very secretive are those Ricoh guys. Probably, one day before the launch they will say the same: ''we study the opportunity of a FF camera, because....''
01-18-2014, 05:14 PM   #12
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Thx for the report Ron!
01-18-2014, 05:17 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by JimmyDranox Quote
I only want to point that this very unclear story about FF development, with small differences , is already 2 years old. Very secretive are those Ricoh guys. Probably, one day before the launch they will say the same: ''we study the opportunity of a FF camera, because....''
I think they are telling the absolute truth. FF is coming, but they don't know when.
01-18-2014, 05:42 PM   #14
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Monochrome, I think you're right. Those guys from Holland don't know. They only read a script.
01-18-2014, 06:32 PM   #15
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Excellent report, Ron.
Some sensible points made too.
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