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04-29-2010, 02:55 AM   #1
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Pentax strategy

Dear friends,

Please consider this post not as criticism towards our beloved optics provider, but rather as a collection of constructive thoughts that, however, may be tainted with slight worries about strategical questions and, of course, the future of this company in a competitive environment.

This might also fire some reflections among the concentrated intelligence of the brilliant members of this forum, leading to a better common understanding and consens. Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts on these matters!

One of the constraints a company such as Pentax has is the amount of R&D efforts she is able to invest. Obviously, Pentax is now a rather small player compared to, say, Sony. Thus each dollar spent should be carefully weighted against reasonable profit perspectives. R&D investments and allocation of production means should be highly rational. Sony might perhaps invest irrationally some billions by mistake -- this is not the case of Pentax.

1. Lens portfolio. Pentax offers today not less than 5 (five) isolated lens families. One may wonder. Does this correspond to 5 isolated teams within this company, competing one against the other? I have seen such situations in well-known world-class companies myself (I am a telecom engineer). Anyway, who can reasonably argue that you need both a 35mm and a 31mm? a 40mm and a 43mm? a 70mm and a 77mm? Etc. etc. Meanwhile, important gaps can be noticed in the portfolio. Who cares really about a 35mm being macro? We all know that macro prefers some longer lenses, 90mm and above. Of course, there is the D FA 100mm, but autofocus won't be very helpful in macro. These discussion matters appear everyday in Pentaxforums for good reason.

2. "Bling bling" syndrome. One has still to explain why one needs Weather Resistant lenses (or bodies). Durability? Please, show me these lenses and bodies in 40+ years (age of my K and M lenses, that are like new). Why do I need to spend real money for a feature that is not at all my (or anybody's) requirement? Same question, even more serious one, for SDM: why the heck spend top dollar for a feature that is already taken in charge by the body? This looks again like competing isolated teams developing redundant solutions for problems that don't exist. I prefer not to discuss the SDM disaster here, it has already been subject to many posts and initiatives elsewhere.

3. Bodies. Meanwhile, there are today only two bodies to choose from. Canon has nine, with at least two full frame cameras. Nikon has nine as well. I would say, the situation is serious! The line up needs to be enriched urgently. By what? A full frame, of course. Everything speaks for a reach towards high-end markets, since low and middle are already covered. Such a camera could have been developed a long time ago with the engineers of the WR and SDM teams -- at no further R&D expense.

This is all for now. I thank you in advance for your reactions, explanations and criticisms. Have a nice photographic day!


Last edited by danielausparis; 04-29-2010 at 06:29 AM.
04-29-2010, 03:01 AM   #2
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Fyi, moved this thread to another more appropriate forum as this is neither official Pentax news nor a Pentax rumour.

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04-29-2010, 03:03 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nass Quote
Fyi, moved this thread to another more appropriate forum as this is neither official Pentax news nor a Pentax rumour.

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Thanks!
04-29-2010, 04:19 AM   #4
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1. You can buy FA/D-FA (high/low end) and DA (high/low end). To me it looks like two active lens lines.

2. Pentax is going for a niche market that actually wants WR bodies. Also a lot of people on this board actually want this feature. Just because you do not see a need for it does not discount the feature nor does it mean that nobody wants this feature.

3.
QuoteQuote:
-- at no further R&D expense.
I cannot disagree with this more. I have worked in product development at different companies and saying including a parallel development path to include a "full-frame" sensor would not incurr extra cost is just naive. Using a different sensor package changes the ecosystem, software stack etc etc etc... System integration would be different, DVT would be different, it isn't a simple thing.

04-29-2010, 04:30 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
1. You can buy FA/D-FA (high/low end) and DA (high/low end). To me it looks like two active lens lines.
please have a look at the portfolio... DA*: 6 lenses, DA: 10 lenses, DA Ltd: 5 lenses, D FA: 3 lenses, FA: 4 lenses.

QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
2. Pentax is going for a niche market that actually wants WR bodies. Also a lot of people on this board actually want this feature. Just because you do not see a need for it does not discount the feature nor does it mean that nobody wants this feature.
Exactly! going for the niche market that wants WR stuff -- agreed. How much is this market compared to the market that wants simply serious, solid, high-quality cameras and lenses?

QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
3.

I cannot disagree with this more. I have worked in product development at different companies and saying including a parallel development path to include a "full-frame" sensor would not incurr extra cost is just naive. Using a different sensor package changes the ecosystem, software stack etc etc etc... System integration would be different, DVT would be different, it isn't a simple thing.
Agreed, it is not for free. I was just hinting that they could have taken the redundant and "bling-bling" features-related staff to fill a real gap in the Pentax line up.

Last edited by danielausparis; 04-29-2010 at 04:36 AM.
04-29-2010, 04:44 AM   #6
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To answer your questions, the FA lenses are hold overs from the past. They are faster lenses (in general) and the limiteds have amazing image quality. At the same time, Pentax has gone out and designed new lenses for the focal lengths that fit crop frame sensors, making them as small as possible and marketing them (more cheaply) under the DA line. While the FAs are still sold, their cost is very high as well.

To answer your second question, Pentax needs something that sets it apart from the other camera companies out there. Canon/Nikon/Sony can make a camera to every price point. Pentax is limited in that respect and so they need something special -- cheap weather sealing seems to be the answer. As to the question of the in lens motors, every current new lens marketed by both Nikon and Canon has an in lens motor (Canon's have since they changed their lens mount to the EOS). SDM may not be very durable, but Pentax needs an answer to quiet, fast focusing lenses of their competitors.

As to your final question, I think that Pentax customers benefit from having a smaller line up. Pentax doesn't feel like they need to disable features on their lower end cameras in order to protect upper end cameras as Canon does with the Rebel versus the xxD line ups. The kx is a full featured camera that compares fairly well (other than its build) with cameras that cost quite a bit more. What benefit is there really to having 8 or 9 different camera bodies sold concurrently other than confusing the customer? None as far as I can tell. I think that the best Pentax could do would be a four body line up -- entry level, semi pro crop frame, semi pro full frame and medium format. Anything more would not increase their market share, but only steal from themselves.
04-29-2010, 05:05 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
To answer your second question, Pentax needs something that sets it apart from the other camera companies out there. Canon/Nikon/Sony can make a camera to every price point. Pentax is limited in that respect and so they need something special -- cheap weather sealing seems to be the answer. As to the question of the in lens motors, every current new lens marketed by both Nikon and Canon has an in lens motor (Canon's have since they changed their lens mount to the EOS). SDM may not be very durable, but Pentax needs an answer to quiet, fast focusing lenses of their competitors.
Rondec, thank you for this idea. However, strangely enough, only DA* lenses and one DA have SDM. The nice DA Ltd's don't, and no one ever complained

QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
As to your final question, I think that Pentax customers benefit from having a smaller line up. Pentax doesn't feel like they need to disable features on their lower end cameras in order to protect upper end cameras as Canon does with the Rebel versus the xxD line ups. The kx is a full featured camera that compares fairly well (other than its build) with cameras that cost quite a bit more. What benefit is there really to having 8 or 9 different camera bodies sold concurrently other than confusing the customer? None as far as I can tell. I think that the best Pentax could do would be a four body line up -- entry level, semi pro crop frame, semi pro full frame and medium format. Anything more would not increase their market share, but only steal from themselves.
I couln't say it better, yes. Your argument needs to be applied to the Pentax lens line up
04-29-2010, 06:28 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis:
please have a look at the portfolio... DA*: 6 lenses, DA: 10 lenses, DA Ltd: 5 lenses, D FA: 3 lenses, FA: 4 lenses.
Again, I view the lines as two as DA encompasses *, ltd and normal. Same with the FA. It is like saying that Honda has 3 levels of Accord. One chassis that applies to the car just differing levels.

QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis:
Exactly! going for the niche market that wants WR stuff -- agreed. How much is this market compared to the market that wants simply serious, solid, high-quality cameras and lenses?
So the K-7 nor the K-X qualify as a solid high quality cameras? The feature set has been there since the K10 wrt WR and sealing. What features do you think would have been gained if WR was sacrificed?


QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis:
Agreed, it is not for free. I was just hinting that they could have taken the redundant and "bling-bling" features-related staff to fill a real gap in the Pentax line up.
Which features do you feel are redundant? Pentax didn't go the FF route because they went for the MF route.


Good spirited discussions here.

04-29-2010, 06:43 AM   #9
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Daniel, you are making a fundamental mistake: you are confusing your own needs with the needs of others. That is, you are taking your own egocentric position as universal. The best cure for that is to look around you at all the great things people are doing with the Pentax gear you find useless.

QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
Pentax offers today not less than 5 (five) isolated lens families.
No they don't. They have two families: k-mount and 645. And even they are not isolated since an adapter fits allows you to fit 645 to K.

QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
Anyway, who can reasonably argue that you need both a 35mm and a 31mm? a 40mm and a 43mm? a 70mm and a 77mm?
They suit different needs. They have different capabilities. They have evolved over time.

QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
Who cares really about a 35mm being macro? We all know that macro prefers some longer lenses, 90mm and above.
What you mean is that you don't care. Many others do. It is an excellent lens and no crazier than a 50mm macro on film. In fact, I think it is a sign of Pentax vision that they made one prime lens of excellent quality that does so many things well.

Besides a moment ago you were wondering why Pentax has "both a 35mm and a 31mm" and now you are complaining about one of their distinguishing features.

QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
Of course, there is the D FA 100mm, but autofocus won't be very helpful in macro.
Huh? If you don't want AF don't use it. I know much of the time I don't! Are you suggesting that Pentax remove the AF from this lens to have a better line-up?

QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
These discussion matters appear everyday in Pentaxforums for good reason.
Yes, because people can't think. And love rehashing the same tediously limited perspectives over and over.

QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
One has still to explain why one needs Weather Resistant lenses (or bodies).
Er, no, one doesn't. Explain it to people shooting in the desert, in the rain, or anywhere outside, really. WR is one of the big selling features for Pentax and they are wisely releasing more lenses with WR (55mm and 100mm macro more recently).

QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
Why do I need to spend real money for a feature that is not at all my (or anybody's) requirement?
You don't. You never need to spend money, you know. It's your choice.

QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
Same question, even more serious one, for SDM: why the heck spend top dollar for a feature that is already taken in charge by the body?
Anyone who buys top lenses from Canon or Nikon for one. So I guess the answer would be "the vast majority of people".

QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
Meanwhile, there are today only two bodies to choose from. Canon has nine, with at least two full frame cameras. Nikon has nine as well. I would say, the situation is serious!
I would rather Pentax had one good body than six crap Rebels. Canikon only produce all those bodies to make enormous profit as they sucker people into upgrading from poor system to mediocre system to good system. With Pentax you get a good solid camera from the start. That's why I went with Pentax; they seem like decent honest folk in comparison with the competition.

QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
The line up needs to be enriched urgently. By what? A full frame, of course.
Oh crap, not another full frame rant? Is that all you're on about? Just buy a D700 and get over it!
04-29-2010, 06:52 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
Again, I view the lines as two as DA encompasses *, ltd and normal. Same with the FA. It is like saying that Honda has 3 levels of Accord. One chassis that applies to the car just differing levels.
Why not... however Pentax clearly presents them in 5 differentiated sets. This reflects in price points as well. Anyway, if you see them in two lines only then the redundancies are even worse...

QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
So the K-7 nor the K-X qualify as a solid high quality cameras? The feature set has been there since the K10 wrt WR and sealing. What features do you think would have been gained if WR was sacrificed?
Oh yes they do qualify. But please note that the K-X isn't WR. In my first post I was tending to dream that a more rational lens line up and lens/camera feature layout would have permitted to gain not more features for existing items, but a whole third camera body. This might have been exxagerated, as Rondec suggests.

QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
Which features do you feel are redundant? Pentax didn't go the FF route because they went for the MF route.
I think the lens line up is highly redundant. SDM is redundant with camera body autofocus. WR is not redundant but its real value is questionable to me.

QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
Good spirited discussions here.
Thank you very much
04-29-2010, 07:30 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
Daniel, you are making a fundamental mistake: you are confusing your own needs with the needs of others. That is, you are taking your own egocentric position as universal. The best cure for that is to look around you at all the great things people are doing with the Pentax gear you find useless.
Dear Robin, thank you for your input! However please consider that I tried to my best (which failed, I see that now) to put these remarks from a 'neutral' perspective. My own needs are not the matter here.

QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
No they don't. They have two families: k-mount and 645. And even they are not isolated since an adapter fits allows you to fit 645 to K.
Please have a look at the current offer -- 645 isn't even mentioned on the website. And yes, looking at the DA's, FA's etc. it seems they have been developed by entirely different teams, with different objectives in mind etc. Even the physical look-and-feel is entirely different among these five families. Of course, I may be wrong since I have no clue of Pentax internal organization etc., however this is how things are presented to the customer.

QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
What you mean is that you don't care. Many others do. It is an excellent lens and no crazier than a 50mm macro on film. In fact, I think it is a sign of Pentax vision that they made one prime lens of excellent quality that does so many things well.

Besides a moment ago you were wondering why Pentax has "both a 35mm and a 31mm" and now you are complaining about one of their distinguishing features.
Exactly! I complain, because you have a redundancy there. I'm not saying that these lenses aren't excellent!


QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
Er, no, one doesn't. Explain it to people shooting in the desert, in the rain, or anywhere outside, really. WR is one of the big selling features for Pentax and they are wisely releasing more lenses with WR (55mm and 100mm macro more recently).
You may be correct that for some people WR might be a decision-making feature. Of course, it goes at a cost, either supported by the customer, or supported by sacrificing other features. Let me tell a small anecdote . From the 1960's to 1990's, the french carmaker CitroŽn had a super strong selling feature with its super-sophisticated hydraulic suspensions. Since they would'nt sell their cars for much more $$ than the 'ordinary' competition, they had to sacrifice other things, like engine (they were very low-powered) and chassis (thin metal). They stopped this strategy just before going bankrupt, being bought by competitor Peugeot who dumped all these extraordinary super strong selling features and put out some serious (admittedly less sophisticated), reasonable, solid cars for a reasonable price.

QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
I would rather Pentax had one good body than six crap Rebels. Canikon only produce all those bodies to make enormous profit as they sucker people into upgrading from poor system to mediocre system to good system. With Pentax you get a good solid camera from the start. That's why I went with Pentax; they seem like decent honest folk in comparison with the competition.
I agree completely!

QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
Oh crap, not another full frame rant? Is that all you're on about? Just buy a D700 and get over it!
Robin I was just reflecting on optimizing the current product offer. And yes, extending this offer towards the high end market would mean, in my view, to propose a full frame. But of course, Pentax could decide to not meet the high end market, as they have done so far.
04-29-2010, 07:52 AM   #12
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QuoteQuote:
Exactly! I complain, because you have a redundancy there. I'm not saying that these lenses aren't excellent!
Do you really think a macro lens and a fast lens are redundant?
In the "old" FA* line up, Pentax had a FA*200 f4 macro and a FA*200 f2,8. Is this redundancy?
04-29-2010, 08:07 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Zav Quote
Do you really think a macro lens and a fast lens are redundant?
In the "old" FA* line up, Pentax had a FA*200 f4 macro and a FA*200 f2,8. Is this redundancy?
Clearly not! Different usages and budgets. And if a company can afford to produce both a 35 macro and a fast 31, and a 40mm together with a large catalogue of many lenses, this is perfect! I was only wondering what is the cost of this strategy in terms of lenses not having been produced, given the limited industrial means of this company, that may have enriched significantly the line up.
04-29-2010, 08:19 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
Clearly not! Different usages and budgets. And if a company can afford to produce both a 35 macro and a fast 31, and a 40mm together with a large catalogue of many lenses, this is perfect! I was only wondering what is the cost of this strategy in terms of lenses not having been produced, given the limited industrial means of this company, that may have enriched significantly the line up.
Lens not having been produced? Like the DA* 28 f1,4?
The real lacks we have today, imho of course, are two fast primes like a 50 f1,7 and a 30-35 f2 (hey I think we had them a couple of years ago) and a long tele.
04-29-2010, 08:39 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by danielausparis Quote
Clearly not! Different usages and budgets. And if a company can afford to produce both a 35 macro and a fast 31, and a 40mm together with a large catalogue of many lenses, this is perfect! I was only wondering what is the cost of this strategy in terms of lenses not having been produced, given the limited industrial means of this company, that may have enriched significantly the line up.
I don't quite follow your logic here. The FA Limited lens design was done some years ago, and because of the precision in the lens design, they can only make so many per year. Meanwhile, the demand for these lens are still there worldwide. The R&D on these lenses have been spent years ago. Should Pentax stop the production of these FA limited lenses just because there is another lens similar to these? or should they stop make DA limited 35 macro (which is a new design) and get out of the business completely.

The logic you imply is that if they don't follow the two leaders in the market, they will be doomed - I think not. It is important that their strategy continue to "be interesting" and appeals to people who know the good from the average. Just look the K-7 body design alone, how many C-models that share more or less the bodies... 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 7D and 5D... and counting....
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