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10-24-2015, 05:13 AM - 22 Likes   #1
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Some medium format "news" from PhotoPlus Expo

I was there in NYC on Thursday, and stopped by the Ricoh-Pentax booth. They were not even there last year, so that's a good sign in and of itself. Almost everything was under glass, including the very interesting new FF camera---a highly developed mock-up, probably nearly final on the outside by the looks of it.

What was not under glass was a very prominently displayed 645Z and 3 lenses, on its own platform by itself and with at least one rep/manager with it at all times doing the explanations and interface with show attendees. Very good. Also good were their shirts, which were either t-shirts or polo shirts with Pentax Medium Format" printed or embroidered onto them. Just a small thing showing a bit of commitment on the part of Ricoh.

A number of things I talked about with one manager were off the record, as there was a journalist there, so I am sorry not to be able to identify the Pentax guy. But I can report some things he said. Please understand them as maybe more than a rumor, but maybe also let's wait and see. Nevertheless, it was very encouraging:
  • He confirmed that Z sales were not just beyond expectations, but way, way beyond. Ricoh was delighted.
  • He openly discussed Ricoh's commitment to the Pentax brand, and stated that the decision had been made to drop the Ricoh part of branding and stick with Pentax. The booth however had Ricoh on it...
  • He said that the worst damage was done under Hoya (no news there), but refined that by saying the worst of the damage was done in North America with the dismantling of the distribution networks, followed by the service centers. He said both are coming back: Ricoh understands the mistake and is committed to rebuilding both. I begged him to pass along what many of us feel about the Z, that the support may be its only major weak spot---it's ridiculous for the cameras to have to go to Japan and disappear from the user for months. He completely agreed, and said that they were going to bring back service in North America, although don't know when. Can't speak for the rest of the world, sorry.
  • Pentax remains a strong brand in Japan, and is doing ok in Europe. It's North America where it has hit rock bottom, but that may be turning around. They are very hopeful about the new FF camera, and I must say by the looks of it on the outside so am I. Check out the threads on it here at these forums. He claimed MSRP would be about $2400, street around $1900. That is a very sharp price point. 36mp, with some special features. That will be pretty doggone competitive. Pentax bodies have been well spec'd in APSC for a while. This looks better.
  • The most interesting tidbit: remember the speculation about a Sony medium format rangefinder style camera, from about 18 months to 2 years ago? It appeared on several rumor sites. Well, maybe that is moving over to Pentax! He said it is a "hope" on the reps and outside-of-Japan managers parts that this may happen. Apparently it has been discussed seriously, and that it has been discussed as a mirrorless camera, much smaller than the Z. Maybe a fixed lens camera.
  • Pursuant to the above, we briefly discussed mirrorless Pentax, and I got from him a strong impression that they would not be pursuing that avenue in the smaller formats (the Q was a throwback to the old 110, if any of you remember that little gadget from the '70's).
  • I asked about leaf shutter lenses, and got the impression none were planned. He pointed to Pentax's new "partnership" with Priolite. It was news to me that it was a "partnership". I mentioned that it was more of a studio solution, and he mentioned that there were now "several" portable strobe options available for HSS, with wireless, now available (which I'll have to investigate...). So my take-away was that the direction was going to be dealing with HSS on the flash side of things, not with new lenses.
Finally, there was on his part a lot of talk about how Pentax wanted to be a brand for those who are passionate about photography. He openly disdained some of the entry level offerings of other brands and a strategy of a "race to the bottom". He said the Theta was the camera they hoped would appeal to "the masses" (I am really not sure about that one, personally...), but it was prominently displayed at the booth.

But my take-away---and this is just me putting some pieces together in my own mind, is that it looked like Pentax was going to try to leverage its long-standing "difference" and legacy value in Japan, where it remains highly regarded by the photography faithful, to offer a line of serious photographic tools from apsc through medium format, and mostly do it through the more traditional dslr model, with mirrorless reserved ("hopefully" ! ) for the medium format segment where it would have no competition. They aren't too worried about Canon right now, or Nikon---seeing both as vulnerable, Nikon more so: Pentax has already hit their low and is now bouncing back, thanks to Ricoh's deep pockets and commitment to imaging for various reasons. And they are not interested in competing "directly" with Sony, which they see as a very different kind of company, not photographically centered but electronics centered (he was critical of Sony's best stuff as being insufficiently geared towards photographers . I disagree with him there, being on my 3rd Sony camera...but he has a minor point that is maybe correct).

Well, that's it for now. Not sure how interested any of you will be about this, probably less so than those on the other forums. Sort of a Medium Format thing, a breed apart :-}

10-24-2015, 05:46 AM   #2
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thanks for that Tex
10-24-2015, 06:04 AM - 1 Like   #3
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Interesting. Kinda contradicts some of the gloom and opinion that Pentax are a lot of benighted old fools.
QuoteOriginally posted by texandrews Quote
He claimed MSRP would be about $2400, street around $1900. That is a very sharp price point. 36mp, with some special features.
Wow! I can buy that camera without selling anything.
10-24-2015, 06:12 AM   #4
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well written and interesting.
thanks

10-24-2015, 06:32 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by texandrews Quote
..
  • The most interesting tidbit: remember the speculation about a Sony medium format rangefinder style camera, from about 18 months to 2 years ago? It appeared on several rumor sites. Well, maybe that is moving over to Pentax! He said it is a "hope" on the reps and outside-of-Japan managers parts that this may happen. Apparently it has been discussed seriously, and that it has been discussed as a mirrorless camera, much smaller than the Z. Maybe a fixed lens camera.

...
That's good! Digital Medium Format - if it is similar to the Mamiya7, then it is the future of DSLR photography! Pentax? Hope that's true.
10-24-2015, 06:46 AM   #6
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Great news if all this become true.
I was impressed when 645Z hit the shelves (though I have no budget or need to buy one).
This FF story seems to be boing now to right direction as well.
When the sales and service network improves in US, hopefully some improvement happen also here in SA.
There's no service center within the region, closest one being in Costa Rica.
So, if we have bad luck and get a dud lens or camera, it will be similar as for you in US, when you have to send your gear to Japan. Only even more risky.
10-24-2015, 07:10 AM   #7
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Thank you for taking your time and writing this. Very interesting points and thoughts.
10-24-2015, 08:18 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
Interesting. Kinda contradicts some of the gloom and opinion that Pentax are a lot of benighted old fools.
If nothing else, it reinforces Ricoh's commitment NOT to do what the doom and gloomers (and many others) demand: go into debt in a "Wal-Mart or bust" head-to-head battle with Canon, Sony, etc. in segments that those makers have already saturated with cheap options.


Last edited by THoog; 10-24-2015 at 09:23 AM.
10-24-2015, 08:45 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by texandrews Quote
  • He confirmed that Z sales were not just beyond expectations, but way, way beyond. Ricoh was delighted.
    have to investigate...). So my take-away was that the direction was going to be dealing with HSS on the flash side of things, not with new lenses.
Maybe that explains why Hasselblad is having financial trouble.

A fixed lens rangefinderstyle camera with the sensor of 645Z is nothing more then a larger sony fullframe camera. Nice, but expensive and for a small audience. Probably a large GR.
10-24-2015, 12:08 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by texandrews Quote
Well, that's it for now. Not sure how interested any of you will be about this, probably less so than those on the other forums. Sort of a Medium Format thing, a breed apart :-}
Thanks for sharing this Tex, some interesting news in all that, - even for those not in North America

QuoteOriginally posted by RonHendriks1966 Quote
Maybe that explains why Hasselblad is having financial trouble.
I think the 645Z at the price point, and remembering you can adapt Hasselblad lenses to it, will have put a huge dent in other MF camera makers sales. Hasselblad is expensive by comparison. Phase One have a new body now and a different approach with changeable backs (if you were invested in them you would probably stay with the system), and Leica of course is always expensive.

Good news for Pentax, not so good news for the other MF camera makers

---------- Post added 25-10-15 at 08:27 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by texandrews Quote
But my take-away---and this is just me putting some pieces together in my own mind, is that it looked like Pentax was going to try to leverage its long-standing "difference" and legacy value in Japan, where it remains highly regarded by the photography faithful, to offer a line of serious photographic tools from apsc through medium format, and mostly do it through the more traditional dslr model, with mirrorless reserved ("hopefully" ! ) for the medium format segment where it would have no competition. They aren't too worried about Canon right now, or Nikon---seeing both as vulnerable, Nikon more so: Pentax has already hit their low and is now bouncing back, thanks to Ricoh's deep pockets and commitment to imaging for various reasons. And they are not interested in competing "directly" with Sony, which they see as a very different kind of company, not photographically centered but electronics centered (he was critical of Sony's best stuff as being insufficiently geared towards photographers . I disagree with him there, being on my 3rd Sony camera...but he has a minor point that is maybe correct).
As I have noted other places on the forum my take on the current business environment is that Ricoh are in a reasonably good place, and if anyone is going to have problems it is Nikon, simply because so much of their total revenue comes from cameras, in a market that is contracting.

Thom Hogan has a recent article of camera company momentum. As usual he is very down on Pentax, so nothing new there. What is particularly interesting is his comments about Canon and Nikon - Canon having momentum, Nikon not. I agree with him about Nikon - they are in more trouble than most people realise. Not so much about Pentax, because I have a different view of Ricoh's strategy than him.

It will be very interesting to see what the playing field looks like by the end of 2016, I suspect it will have shifted again....
10-24-2015, 02:17 PM   #11
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Thank you very much for your all this text. The only thing that is really interesting me is which option would be there for HSS strobes. The only way to flash shorter than with 1/125 is with the priolites. Am I wrong? Even the new Pocket Wizards don't supoort Pentax Cameras and the Priolite-Stuff is simply not for professional use :/
10-24-2015, 05:09 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by texandrews Quote
But my take-away---and this is just me putting some pieces together in my own mind, is that it looked like Pentax was going to try to leverage its long-standing "difference" and legacy value in Japan, where it remains highly regarded by the photography faithful, to offer a line of serious photographic tools from apsc through medium format, and mostly do it through the more traditional dslr model
If you interpreted correctly what they said, it appears that they would be focusing on the segment of the market that has decreased the most, had the fewest potential customers to begin with, and has the stiffest competition from already established major brands namely Canon and Nikon? That seems like a rough road to travel to become profitable.

Any improvement in North American marketing and service would be a big improvement but they might also consider their pricing. Any time I have called the repair service, which is located only 15 miles from me, and asked about a repair, and none have been really major, the estimate is more than the camera is worth.
10-24-2015, 05:19 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by CWRailman Quote
If you interpreted correctly what they said, it appears that they would be focusing on the segment of the market that has decreased the most, had the fewest potential customers to begin with, and has the stiffest competition from already established major brands namely Canon and Nikon? That seems like a rough road to travel to become profitable.
That's definitely another valid observation. And although in part very true, it is also true that the core people who are left in the market are the ones who are truly serious about their photography, either as pros or amateurs. Everyone else is fickle to begin with. I remember vividly how all those original slr's started gathering dust on shelves once the first viable and decent AF point and shoot film cameras came out.

QuoteQuote:
Any improvement in North American marketing and service would be a big improvement but they might also consider their pricing. Any time I have called the repair service, which is located only 15 miles from me, and asked about a repair, and none have been really major, the estimate is more than the camera is worth.
I think re-thinking all of that is part of the mix.
10-24-2015, 05:28 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by texandrews Quote
I remember vividly how all those original slr's started gathering dust on shelves once the first viable and decent AF point and shoot film cameras came out.
A co-worker recently offered me a nearly-never-used FM3a for essentially nothing. He had almost immediately after buying it changed to digital.

If I had any Nikon lenses I might actually buy it.
10-24-2015, 05:36 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
If I had any Nikon lenses I might actually buy it.
Thinking outside the square again - once the Pentax FF is released Nikon is fully doomed .

So heaps of people will be unloading their Nikon gear to switch to Pentax or some other manufacturer. Some of the Nikkor's are very good lenses, so soon you should be able to get quality Nikon glass for a song. Worth thinking about with the FM3a offer
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