Pentax, Nikon, and Sony

Started Sep 17, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Richard Murdey
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Pentax, Nikon, and Sony
Sep 17, 2012

Ricoh has the best of intentions, Pentax has on the face of it a solid product portfolio, but I fear hard times ahead.

1. People have little use for compact cameras anymore, it's a smartphone world. Unless they have a large sensor. Pentax has no answer for 2/3" - 1" compact cameras, either interchangeable or fixed lens design. And moreover has burnt many of its bridges here by not jumping in early enough.

2. Sony have come back from the dark days where their dSLRs were so bad they didn't even get reviewed by dpreview. The OLED EVF technology, together with the translucent mirror, works[1]: large finder image, full heads up information display, wicked-fast AF and burst mode, class-leading video. And now full frame. With the RX100, RX1, and the many excellent NEX models to fill out the roster. They are rocking.

3. Speaking of full frame, the floodgates are about to open. The RX1 and D600 are the first crests in what will be wave after wave of smaller, cheaper, full-frame digital cameras. Soon you will be able to buy a D600 for about $1800. A used D700 for perhaps $1000. The K-5ii will be a tough sell, as will any "premium" traditional APS-C dSLR.

3. The Pentax Q was cute but, lets be frank, not much more than a vanity product. To pay that much for a 1/2.3" sensor-based camera is just leaving better products on the table. The K-01, well, that's more debatable, what's not debatable is the poor reviews .. and poor sales.

So, that leaves Ricoh-Pentax with the K-30, K5ii, the GR Digital, and I suppose the GRX as the four "mainstay" products. The latter two are most definitely "niche", always have been, and have lost a lot of market recently I think to the Fuji X models. The K5ii is a sensible point upgrade on a very successful, and very good, dSLR. Good, but it's the K-30 where I have the greatest concern. Pentax fans lapped this up, and with good reason: basically a plastic K5, with echoes of the past glories in the K100D and K200D. Okay, great. But its a Hail Mary play, a last ditch effort to bring in sales from a dying segment. Put against the Sony a65 if feels sluggish, and the optical finder surprisingly small and empty. Against any kind of mirrorless, the NEX6 especially, the body+kit lens combo seems irredeemably large. Despite the racy sportscar styling and color options, the package screams "last gen tech". It's good for another 12-16 months maybe, but next round just moving up to 24 MP and announcing another iteration in the AF engine is not going to cut it. And sooner or later that goes for the K5 too.

In 2014 there will be no market for a midrange traditional dSLR. In 2015 there will be no market for a high-end APS-C dSLR, either. And that leaves Pentax in serious trouble in the medium term unless it innovates far more radically than it has shown itself capable of doing this year.

[1] I'm a total traditionalist. Love my OVF. Hated every EVF implementation I've seen. But the OLED finder on the a77 is amazing. Blew me away.

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Nikon D40 Pentax K10D Nikon 1 V1 Nikon D600 Pentax smc FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited +6 more
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