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12-08-2019, 05:51 AM - 14 Likes   #1

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Pentax 100 - Talk by the designer TKO

The final presentation I attended during the Pentax 100 years month was by TKO, the pseudonym of an in-house designer at Pentax. He works in the Smart Vision division of Ricoh, and works on design and product planning. I think a lot of forum members are aware he was involved in the K-30 and J Limited projects, but it seems he has been involved in much more. Basically, if there is a product’s design that was a bit out there and divided opinion, there’s pretty good chance he was involved!

He started by saying that current design consensus is that things should be as minimalist and simple and functional as possible, but that his opinion is a bit different. He elaborated on this a bit in the Q&A at the end. He told the story of getting his first camera, and how he cherished it - not just as a tool, but as a physical object to own. He seems saddened by current consumer behavior, where people are so quick to upgrade year after year and throw out the old cameras. He wants to make cameras that even when you have bought a newer model, you can’t face to part with.

During the presentation he showed the products he had worked on and I think they embody his philosophy quite clearly.

K10D special edition package
I wasn't a Pentax user at this time, so I wasn't aware of the special edition, but it seems the package he designed for it was rather special. Printed with special ink over silver coated paper, it looks very stylish. The ink was of a special ecological type that reduces water waste in productions and it might have been the first package to use this technology. The design of the package got some criticism because it did not show the camera body in its entirety. However, the packaging company that made it loved it and it ended up winning some kind of design award.

The camera was not designed by CAD but by old-fashioned sculpting, and some of the shapes are difficult to make using CAD. It seems that the design of this camera divided opinion in the company. Aside from the overall look, the Pentax logo on the K-30 is a bit flatter than the current official Pentax logo. There was some discussion about whether this was OK, but they went with it anyway.

WG series redesign
Although these days the WG series has had a lot of criticism for just iterating on the same design, that design was originally one of TKO’s. A slide he showed really highlighted how dull the waterproof cameras looked until he got involved.

I didn’t fully understand what he said about the MX-1, but it seems that there was some kind of delay to the product because of export regulations related to the brass/aluminium blend they used in the top/bottom plates of the camera. It also lost some features during development. The original plan was to make the camera with a hot shoe on the top. If you look at the camera they did release you can see a big blank space on the top where that would have gone, but it was a victim of cost cutting. In fact there was a bit more to it than that. They wanted to make the shoulders of the camera exactly the same height as the shoulders of the Pentax MX and the hot shoe would not have fitted. They also planned a removable ring on the lens, like on the GR, but it was removed.They showed the design concept on the screen, but I only had my phone with me to snap it so the image is not very clear.

This also has non-standard Pentax lettering on it. In addition, “I” is not a normal letter to use from product names, because it can be confused for the numeral 1. I this case they deliberately used that to evoke the Pentax 110.

Kore-janai robot models
This was a strange model based on a toy that was designed to teach kids that they can’t always get what they want by deliberately disappointing them. Kids in Japan often ask for Gundam robots and toys like that. “Kore janai” loosely translates as “That’s not the one I want!” It seems to have become a cult favorite. Because the Pentax designers really liked the concept they ended up doing a collaboration with the toy maker. They made 100 based on the Kx and they sold out in 3 minutes. Then they did it again with the Kr and sold out in 2 minutes that time. The robot face is painted on by hand by the toy maker, and it can wear off. If users bring it to a toy convention, the company will repaint it

Working with Marc Newson on the K-01
TKO seems to have been involved in the planning of the K-01 in some capacity. Marc Newson had always wanted to do a camera and took a major personal interest in the project. The original brief was just for the camera but he ended up designing the package, strap and DA 40mm XS lens at no extra cost to make it a better overall package. It’s sales were initially slow, but gradually picked up and by the end there were increasingly hearing calls to keep making it. I guess that’s why the blue model was released in Japan.

Redesign of Osaka Imaging Square
TKO was also involved in the design of the Osaka Ricoh Imaging Square. I’ve never been there, but pictures do look very nice.

??????????????? / ?????? | RICOH IMAGING

J Limited
I had always assumed that J was for Japan, since the camera has only gone on sale in Japan, but it seems it stands for the joker in a pack of cards. The J Limited logo has some meaning in it. I don’t understand some of the explanation, but the sword is supposed to represent workmanship because of the way swords are worked by blacksmiths. The flash cover obviously has the effect of changing the appearance, but it seems that the flash cover had another undisclosed function. It was also intended to conceal the AOCO logo on the prism. None of the publicity shots had shown that, and they wanted it to be a hidden surprise for purchasers. I think it was effective because the first I saw of it was on twitter after the camera was on sale.

To me the products and initiatives TKO has worked on are an important part of what makes Pentax unique. I think what he says about customers wanting to see their cameras as more than a mere tool has a lot of truth in it. I'm looking forward to the next camera he designs that we will be unable to part with.


By the way, this is the third and last of these reports. I think it was a really cool way to celebrate the anniversary and I know there are many here who like this sort of history but would not be able to go them. If you are interested and missed the two others, here are links to them.

About the FA Limiteds
The FA Limited Development Story (also a little DA Limited) -

About Pentax history in the 80s-90s
Pentax 100 - Little-known information about brand history -

Last edited by JPT; 12-08-2019 at 06:18 AM.
12-08-2019, 06:17 AM   #2

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Thank you for those reports JPT Great job on that
12-08-2019, 06:27 AM   #3
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You are not just giving us a treasure trove of largely untold stories about the Pentax and Ricoh brands, but you also make one itch for travelling to Japan, JPT.
12-08-2019, 09:23 AM   #4
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I lol'd when I looked up the kore-janai toy. poor kids.

12-08-2019, 09:28 AM   #5
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@JPT, thank you so much for your very interesting report. I always enjoy these stories from a designer's perspective.

- Craig
12-08-2019, 10:57 AM   #6
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Excellent report. It is always of interest to hear from the people directly involved behind the scenes.
12-08-2019, 11:13 AM   #7
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Nice to get some deep background like this.
12-08-2019, 12:01 PM   #8

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As a designer, I love these talks that really highlight the work that goes into design. I really felt that the MX-1 is one of the best compact cameras ever made, and I really wish that Ricoh would make a 1" sensor MX-1 or even a 1" sensor WG series. They now have access to 1" sensor fab because they put two of them in the Theta Z1.

12-08-2019, 01:09 PM   #9
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An interesting report. So much we just don't know!
12-08-2019, 02:42 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
The camera was not designed by CAD but by old-fashioned sculpting, and some of the shapes are difficult to make using CAD. It seems that the design of this camera divided opinion in the company. Aside from the overall look, the Pentax logo on the K-30 is a bit flatter than the current official Pentax logo. There was some discussion about whether this was OK, but they went with it anyway.
I only handled a K-30 once, but that once left a lasting impression. If not for the aperture control issue, I would have likely bought one used. I truly like the look and feel. Silky Green or Bordeaux please.

12-08-2019, 06:42 PM   #11
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Thanks for the great report!
12-08-2019, 10:37 PM   #12
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I really liked reading about the presentations - very enjoyable. It's all the little things that makes Pentax a bit different to folks.

12-08-2019, 11:54 PM   #13
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Thank you for the report! Interesting reading!
12-09-2019, 07:45 AM   #14
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Wonderful, thank for sharing.
12-09-2019, 12:28 PM   #15
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Really interesting report. I've always liked the K-30's design and this was an interesting little factoid about it.

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