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07-18-2013, 02:18 PM   #1
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Pentax and the Foveon sensor ... Why not?

I am aware of the average to below average results (in some fields) Sigma cameras with Foveon X3 are providing but wouldn't it be possible Pentax (or Ricoh) engineers would be capable of making a great processing unit with some great results from Foveon sensor? So, is Sony sensor - whichever it might be, the APS-C or FF, really the only option for Pentax? And there are rumors Foveon might introduce the FF sensor this year.

And one more hypothetical question - how can we be sure Pentax will make another segment leading camera regarding IQ - be it APS-C or FF. As the K-5 was an exceptional case and now, after almost three years on the market, many newer models from Nikon or Canon provide better results. So, maybe we just shouldn't take exceptional IQ from Pentax as granted ... It wasn't like this till K-5 came.

07-18-2013, 02:29 PM   #2
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Sony is the only company that has "played nice" with Pentax. Everyone else, has taken advantage of Pentax and then moved on.

Nikon calls the shots with Sony, and Pentax has to wait pre-determined amounts of time before they can use the same sensor, but it's all we have to work with.

Reality. Sad, but true.
07-18-2013, 02:31 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sagi Quote
wouldn't it be possible Pentax (or Ricoh) engineers would be capable of making a great processing unit with some great results from Foveon sensor?
It would be possible, but highly unlikely. For one, Sigma owns Foveon now, so Pentax would have to go through them. It would be a strange relationship. Second, the Foveon sensor is very much a niche product. It can't really do video, it's years behind in low-light performance, and the cameras that use it are all very slow. The detail it can achieve at low-ISO is unmatched, but its dynamic range is merely average. Most people are unwilling to make all those trade-offs.

QuoteOriginally posted by Sagi Quote
And there are rumors Foveon might introduce the FF sensor this year.
Yes, there are always rumors. Do they mean anything? Probably not. The original Foveon sensor introduced in 2002 wasn't replaced until 2011.

QuoteOriginally posted by Sagi Quote
And one more hypothetical question - how can we be sure Pentax will make another segment leading camera regarding IQ - be it APS-C or FF. As the K-5 was an exceptional case and now, after almost three years on the market, many newer models from Nikon or Canon provide better results. So, maybe we just shouldn't take exceptional IQ from Pentax as granted ... It wasn't like this till K-5 came.
I'm not sure what you're saying here. People have loved the IQ of Pentax cameras right from the beginning. People are still singing the praises of the *ist D, Pentax's first DSLR. See here: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/220644-istd-10th-a...y-tribute.html. There are quite a few people still using the K10D, which is almost as old.
07-18-2013, 02:36 PM   #4
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From the dawn of the digital age, here are some of the joint efforts that Pentax got burned over.

HP - The first Pentax Digital cameras came from a joint effort with HP. The two cameras that made it to market were not very successful and expensive

Phillips - Provided the sensor for the canceled MZ-D, and pretty much sunk Contax because of it

Samsung - Gave us the underperforming sensor of the K7

Kodak - Gave us the sensor for the 645D, but now they are gone.

Sony is the only company that has delivered since the *ist-D.

07-18-2013, 02:46 PM   #5
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I don't understand why Pentax haven't released a 16MP B&W only camera. The Bayer filter tosses 2/3 of the light so the DR and ISO abilities would be pretty spectacular even using the current 16MP sensor without the filter. A camera like that could most definitely be styled along the lines of a rangefinder or Spotmatic... they'd make a killing.
07-18-2013, 03:47 PM   #6
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Some say Pentax might go with Aptina instead of Sony. But I kind of doubt it.
Foveon is an interesting sensor and it can produce some spectacular photos, but there are many bad sides to it. It consumes a lot of power, it records huge files, which also means the photo processing and writing take longer..
It would be an interesting product, but very niche.
07-18-2013, 05:16 PM   #7
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Here's a left field suggestion: collaborate with Fuji in respect of the X-Trans sensor technology. Fuji don't make DSLRs so a supply to Pentax licenced solely for use in DSLRs notionally at least is not competing with the Fuji X series, and would give some useful volume expansion to Fuji, lowering per unit costs for them. Pentax gains a technology unique among DLSRs to distinguish them from Canikons and provide a marketing edge. So, commercially, it would potentially make some sense for both parties. Putting aside the early lack of RAW converter options for the X-Trans files, the X-Trans sensor seems to be pretty well received.
07-18-2013, 05:50 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by bossa Quote
I don't understand why Pentax haven't released a 16MP B&W only camera.
It is possible to modify an existing bayer equipped sensor, removing the Bayer filter array by literally scraping away a few microns off the surface of the sensor - but the American company that does this is already swamped by customers, to the best of my knowledge they have a two year waiting list.

07-18-2013, 06:31 PM   #9
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I wouldn't put it past Pentax to go a unique route (K-01), but I would be perfectly content if they just kept the K5 line available.
I know they have to keep up with the market, but my K5 is leaps and bounds more of a camera than I need. I don't think I'm going anywhere else.
07-24-2013, 05:34 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sagi Quote
I am aware of the average to below average results (in some fields) Sigma cameras with Foveon X3 are providing but wouldn't it be possible Pentax (or Ricoh) engineers would be capable of making a great processing unit with some great results from Foveon sensor? So, is Sony sensor - whichever it might be, the APS-C or FF, really the only option for Pentax? And there are rumors Foveon might introduce the FF sensor this year.

Sigma's ownership of Foveon isn't as brilliant. How strongly they're pushing Foveon tech forward? It is a very niche product. Thus far, that sensor is almost unusable above ISO 400. I believe both Canon and Sony, who are working on their own implementation of a 3-layered pixel gathering sensor will come out with a better solution in not so distant future.

QuoteQuote:
And one more hypothetical question - how can we be sure Pentax will make another segment leading camera regarding IQ - be it APS-C or FF. As the K-5 was an exceptional case and now, after almost three years on the market, many newer models from Nikon or Canon provide better results. So, maybe we just shouldn't take exceptional IQ from Pentax as granted ... It wasn't like this till K-5 came.

Let's examine what cameras — FF cameras with latest FF sensors from Sony, yes. Nikon D800, RX1, etc. They sport brilliant new FF CMOS sensors.
APS-C cameras? K5 is still there in the very top. 24MP in Nikon D7100 offers more pixels yes, which can be perceived as "better" by some, but the sensor tech itself is on the same level.

Another interesting point: compare D800 with 645D. Apart from high ISO performance of the CMOS FF in Nikon, CCD KAF used in 645D in combination with 645D MF glass is actually a better image maker. Really better — the colour, the tone, resolving detail, control of DOF, etc. MF is a league of its own.

I suggest you not to write off Pentax as a serious image quality oriented company. I'm more than 99% certain that:

• the 645DMk2 will sport at least a 60MP sensor which still won't out-resolve those amazing MF lenses (which isn't the case with FF),
• there will be new APS-C bodies with 20+ MPs,
• and an FF (or two) with same or newer sensors from Sony.

Last edited by Uluru; 07-24-2013 at 05:43 PM.
07-25-2013, 12:10 PM   #11
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Interesting aspects, guys. Thanks for all the information.

Of course I wouldn't write off Pentax in any way, it's just that I was wondering, what if K-5 was more of a pne off product. I'm really enthusiastic about what the near future might bring, as I would really like to see an upgraded version of K-5 with better AF and some other upgrades. And a lack of AA filter is getting more and more inetersting for me as well, so hopefully there will be a wider choice of this kind in the future.
07-25-2013, 12:21 PM - 1 Like   #12
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Pentax probably can't afford to try anything too risky like a new sensor tech which isn't established like the ones from Sony. Which model would they put it a new sensor in? If the sensor works out great then that model will be a winner. Otherwise they have to discontinue the model and get rid of it. Canon and Nikon have huge lineups in comparison and they can probably afford to risk a model without damaging the brand name. By using Sony's sensor they may not be jumping over the competition but they do neutralize it.

Pentax is not an electronics company/subsidiary. They are an optics company first and foremost. Their focus is on glass and the overall camera package. They'll use whatever sensor tech they can find that works best for their designs.

Sony on the other hand is an electronics company first and foremost. Their focus is on silicon and whatever you find on a wafer. They'll use whatever glass they can find that works for their overall design.
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