Photokina 2012: Interview - John Carlson of Pentax

Pentax hasn't been idle in 2012, and just before the opening of Photokina, it refreshed its popular K-5 DSLR, releasing two new models, the K-5 II and the K-5 IIS, which lacks an anti-aliasing filter, for greater detail resolution. Barnaby Britton caught up with John Carlson, Sr. Manager of Sales & Marketing at Pentax Imaging USA, and asked him about the new DSLRs, the K-01, and the evolution of the Q. 


John, Pentax has just released new new models, why should someone choose Pentax over other brands?

The weather sealing, the image quality, they're the obvious ones, but then there's the heritage of the K-mount, which has been around for almost 30 years. So there's a huge legacy of lenses, whether people own them already or whether they pick them up on Ebay, they can use the lenses on any of our current DSLR bodies, and even the K-01. Or on the Q, with the new adapter. This is a huge advantage that most companies don't have. 

What are your biggest challenges in the enthusiast DSLR space, at the moment?

It's really that Pentax has a smaller market share, so we have a smaller voice and while we do have great products it's not as well-known. We've got to depend more on the fact that we have great products rather than just having a well-known name. So that's a big challenge, but overall, you look at the feature set [of the K5 II/S] and it's a very good offering.

What are your DSLR customers asking for?

They are asking for more lenses, I think also one thing that we've addressed in the K5 II/S compared to the K5 is we've added an improved autofocus system, which people have been asking for for years, saying that it's not good enough in certain situations. We made an effort with the K-5 II to make it perform in those conditions, especially focus in low light.

The K-5 IIs and the K-5 II are the two major new models at the stand this year. Both offer an upgraded AF-system (SAFOX X) that works in very low light levels. The 's' version comes without an anti-aliasing filter.

How will you be addressing the demands of your customers in the future?

I think Ricoh will probably invest a lot in the imaging side of Pentax and Ricoh as we work together, and I think they have a lot of important knowledge that they can bring to Pentax, whether that's in lenses, the cameras themselves, or the output, or connectivity. Ricoh brings a lot to Pentax.

How is the relationship with Ricoh working at the moment?

Pretty great. I think we're still in the phase of integrating the two companies, and we haven't yet seen the impact of what they have to offer yet, so I think we'll start to see that in the coming months.

Did Ricoh have much influence in the new cameras?

No, those cameras were already on the drawing board, and underway [when Ricoh and Pentax merged]

Is there room for a higher-end Pentax K-mount DSLR?

We have the 645D, and Pentax is dedicated to that system, but whether there's room between the K-5 cameras and the 645, I can't say.

Will there be a full-frame K-mount model in the future?

All I can say is that we're studying the market. 

What's the reaction been like to the K-01?

It's been very good in certain communities. In the design community, it is very well-accepted. You look at the name Mark Newsom, and in that community, among designers, people realize it's probably the least expensive Mark Newsom-designed product that you can buy! And it's got a lot of the technology of the K-5 in it, it's a great video tool, it's just not traditional in its layout, size and shape. The traditional photo community maybe doesn't quite understand it, but for the right customer it's a great offer, because it does shoot great stills, it does shoot great video, and it's got the style and the design…

The Pentax K-01 is one of two mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras in the company's lineup (the other being the tiny Q10) and features a lot of the same technology as the K-5 DSLR.

How are you planning on developing mirrorless in the future? Or is the K-01 a one-off?

I haven't seen any future roadmaps for that type of product.

Samsung told us that in the future the a non-'connected' camera will be meaningless. What do you think?

I think there's room for non-connected cameras but I won't deny the fact that connectivity is very important, whether it's via Eye-Fi cards, or natively in-camera, there are more and more solutions coming out every day. I think it's very important but I think also there are opportunities for non-connected cameras as well.

What is Pentax doing to meet the demand for connectivity in its cameras?

Right now we don't have anything other than Eye-Fi compatibility. But we're researching the technology.

Let's talk about the Pentax Q. What has the reaction to the Q been like in the market as a whole?

It's been interesting because a lot of Pentax's sales are online. And it's difficult in that kind of environment to really show the camera and the size of the camera, and the size of the system. Because that's the reaction we get when we show the Q at trade shows and retailers. When we show the Q people are really blown away by the size. So the way I like to see it, it's less a replacement for an SLR as a complement to an SLR. It's better than a compact, better than a cellphone, and you get DSLR-like features and functions.

The Q10 is Pentax Ricoh's newest addition to the Q-line of interchangeable lens compact cameras. It features an upgraded 12MP CMOS sensor and there's even an adapter to attach K-mount lenses (if you can live with the 5.5X crop factor)

A lot of the feedback that we got about the Pentax Q was about its price.

Yes, I think we recognized that rather too late. Once the camera started going on sale for $350-400, that's when we started to see sales, the new Q, the Q10 is $599 with a zoom lens, and that's probably what the original model should have been.

Will Pentax users start seeing more of your cameras in store shelves in future?

Yes. We're very actively going after the traditional photo specialty dealers. We had great success [in the US] with Target this year, with our waterproof compact camera, and that really helped, people seeing our name and our brand out there, but we're actively pursuing the photo specialty market.  

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Comments

Total comments: 152
12
onlooker
By onlooker (Sep 19, 2012)

Not one question about FF plans?

4 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Sep 19, 2012)

It was rolled into the question about a high-end K-mount DSLR (I edited my questions down a lot, since I thought you'd rather read the responses). The response, as you'd expect, to any question about future plans, is invariably 'no comment'. Sorry. I'll swing by the stand again tomorrow and see if I can get anything else out of him :)

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
9 upvotes
exdeejjjaaaa
By exdeejjjaaaa (Sep 19, 2012)

dpreview is not that cruel...

3 upvotes
Mr AB
By Mr AB (Sep 19, 2012)

Would be nice to know if Pentax stops K-01 or the mirrorless in general.
IMHO, there is a lot of room in Ricoh's GXR concept. Sometime I guess how could be a in camera sensor with a different possible mount (in a kind of "GXR style") like K-mount, m43, etc. . Legacy would be guaranteed for the pentaxian.

Enjoy Köln

0 upvotes
D1N0
By D1N0 (Sep 19, 2012)

it was just too easy to dance around the full frame issue. Fact is pentax did not put out a new flagship dslr, just an enhanced one. The AF improvements will have to prove them selves, but i'm sure it won't be Nikon D4 or Canon 1Dx level. It doesn't have to be but a significant improvement is in order. Hopefully 2013 will bring as a true new pentax K-3.

0 upvotes
Kaelis
By Kaelis (Sep 19, 2012)

AND WHAT ABOUT THE FF ><

"They are asking for more lenses" Hell no, I mean yes but before that throw us a real new body to work with !

4 upvotes
Kinematic Digit
By Kinematic Digit (Sep 19, 2012)

As much as it would be nice for a FF K series, the big problem is a large percentage of the lens lineup has been made for crop format.

If Pentax did come out with a FF K series, it would have to be released with a new lens that covers that sensor. Great for older K-mount users and lenses, but lousy for those that invested in this system for the past 6 years.

2 upvotes
Kaelis
By Kaelis (Sep 19, 2012)

I agree, there are no such lenses in Pentax current line-up, maybe they plan to launch a FF body with two or three FF lenses at the same time, or they also could consider the fact that Tamron/Sigma sell FF lenses for K-mount and launch a FF anyway, and then design some FF lenses.

But it's annoying how deaf they are about the ask for a Pentax FF, it's even more urgent now with the D600 and 6D, FF will be standard in 3 or 4 years. They can't miss that or they're dead.

6 upvotes
Anastigmat
By Anastigmat (Sep 19, 2012)

duh! saying that pentax users want more lenses is like saying that his mother is a woman. We all know that. We want to know when, if ever, Pentax will remove its head from the sand and hear the deafening chorus of Pentax users asking for a full frame DSLR.

6 upvotes
Pancolart
By Pancolart (Sep 19, 2012)

Nah, we just want the FF body :).

1 upvote
JNR
By JNR (Sep 19, 2012)

Barney, we know that we will get nothing about a FF, so don't hit your head against a brick wall. However, I can't believe that Carlson intended to give the impression that APSc mirrorless is dead for Pentax. That would be crazy-bad PR - kind of like blowing off 47% of the market. If you see him again, please ask for a clarification.

0 upvotes
Fotogeneticist
By Fotogeneticist (Sep 19, 2012)

So Ricoh did the worst thing they could've done... taken the Spartan industrial engineering of fine cameras like the Ricoh GR-X, GR-D, etc, and made them look Pentax ugly. The revolution of cameras is in SMALL BODY, BIG SENSOR... not UGLY BODY, SMALL SENSOR

3 upvotes
Fotogeneticist
By Fotogeneticist (Sep 19, 2012)

As far as the Pentax Q, get rid of the unecessary design elements trying to make it look as if it has a pentaprism. Rangefinder sexy is what we want. Try GRD with a larger sensor and an interchangeable mount. It's really that simple.

2 upvotes
Heie2
By Heie2 (Sep 19, 2012)

Speak for yourself - I want absolutely nothing to do with rangefinders. Your arrogance on how it's really that simple is irritating.

1 upvote
kavolis
By kavolis (Sep 19, 2012)

@Kaelis. FA31, FA43, FA77, DA 35 f2.4, DA50 f1.8, D-FA 100 macro, DA* 200 f2.8 and few others are FF covering lenses. So... it's not correct to say, that PENTAX lens line-up is not ready for FF.

1 upvote
Fotogeneticist
By Fotogeneticist (Sep 20, 2012)

Heie2, why add SLR design elements that serve no purpose in non-SLR cameras? That's what's irritating. I'm not talking about the existing SLR lineup. The K-01 is pointless, but as far as the Pentax Q, they had something with potential but failed to follow through because of aesthetics (and possibly sensor size). I'm sorry to say, but these latest Pentax cameras look UGLY and if I could help quantify why, it's because of unecessary SLR design elements, pentaprism housing shapes above the lens where there is no pentaprism. Just look at the latest wave of interchangeable lens system cameras--they look like rangefinders. I've been writing in the forums since 10 years ago about the desire for small, rangefinder style cameras with interchangeable lenses--the modern equivalents of the Contax G, Leica M, Minolta CLE but without parallax error in live view. If I am speaking for myself, the recent enthusiasm photographers have for rangefinder style cameras must just be my imagination.

1 upvote
Kaelis
By Kaelis (Sep 20, 2012)

@kavolis : Yes I'm very interested in that point, Pentax could release a FF and tell officially what lenses we could use on it, because for now these are informations you only read in forums.

I'd be glad to put the DA* 55 in front of a FF sensor !

0 upvotes
pixmedia
By pixmedia (Sep 22, 2012)

Sick to read that most of you talks about Pentax FF only but not photography. I bet most of you CANNOT shot decent photo with your current Dslr, and make no difference with FF dslr.What you guys expect to produce from FF compare to APS dslr? I do photography full time & started with K10, K20,& now K-01.I've made good money with Pentax APS for many years. And I started videography with K-01 three months ago & already earned about $15,000 in short period.All of the customers never ask for FF or APS but good images or video.Most of you fail to see this point but wasted time writing nonsense about your gears.In many assignments , I am the only one with weird brand camera but I don't bother or feel shame because I am making good money out of Pentax.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 152
12