Having been out of town for a few weeks, I am just catching up with some major news, so I decided to post some announcements that I consider to be newsworthy. In this particular case, it is the announcement of the Pentax K-3 II, which I believe deserves a spotlight for the innovation it brings. Sporting in-body image stabilization, high-resolution sensor shift mode, star tracking, anti-aliasing filter simulator, built-in GPS and durable construction, the K-3 II brings some great innovative features which we have never seen on a DSLR before. Looking at this powerful APS-C camera, I am excited to see what Pentax will do with its upcoming full-frame camera. And I hope that both Nikon and Canon are taking notes from Pentax, because such innovation is much needed in the DSLR market to keep it healthy, now that the mirrorless market is steadily growing.
Even though the new and upcoming full-frame Pentax DSLR camera will support existing brand lenses for APS-C sensor cameras, Ricoh realizes full and well that having a 35mm camera is only part of the package. Lenses are simply crucial to make such a system make any sense at all. That is why Ricoh-Pentax has announced two new lenses designed to cover the image circle of a full-frame sensor, the HD Pentax-D FA * 70-200mm f/2.8ED DC AW and HD Pentax-D FA 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6ED DC AW. It’s quite the mouthful, isn’t it? But I am focusing on the wrong things as both lenses, along with the upcoming full-frame camera, mark a new chapter in the history of the famous brand. Let’s take a closer look, then.
The ever-raging Canon vs Nikon debate might have you believing users of those particular systems are the most loyal to their brands. From what I’ve seen, though, neither Canon nor Nikon shooters have anything on those who shoot Pentax and swear by it. It’s a very niche system, that. No other DSLR manufacturer has such an array of competitive products priced so aggressively, that are also so compact and, when it comes to high-end models, so brilliantly rugged. No other DSLR manufacturer has such a great lineup of tiny, high quality autofocus prime lenses. And no other DSLR manufacturer has had so much trouble trying to find its identity. For a while now, Pentax has been experimenting with the narrowest of niches, launching boldly styled cameras, or boldly tiny interchangeable lens cameras with even smaller sensors. And yet those loyal to the brand always stuck by it. How happy they must be now that those who always ridiculed the brand will have their most valuable argument brushed away – “Pentax has no FF camera”. It’s true, there is no full-frame Pentax camera. But there will be, and rather soon. And for those who would rather avoid the pointless which-system-is-better debates, it means a new alternative to the best DSLR cameras on the market is soon to present itself.
Earlier this week, Ricoh Imaging introduced the Pentax 645Z, a high resolution 51.4 MP medium format DSLR camera. While Nikon has been relatively quiet on the resolution front with its now 2+ years old 36 MP D800/D800E models and Canon has not stepped up above 24 MP, Pentax is stepping in with a larger sensor that provides super high resolution 51.4 MP images. With its 43.8 x 32.8mm size sensor, the 645Z has a smaller version of the medium format (MF) sensor that is similar in size to the Leica S-System, although with a different aspect ratio of 4:3 vs 3:2. Compared to full-frame sensors, the physical size of the 645Z MF sensor is about 166% (or 1.66 times) larger, which is a huge difference. Enough of a difference to allow for relatively large pixel size of 5.3 microns – bigger than 4.8 microns on the Nikon D800/D800E. Why does this matter, you might ask? Well, that’s because the Pentax 645Z comes with a CMOS sensor, which is similar technology as we see on all modern DSLR cameras. Compared to traditional CCD sensors used on medium format cameras, a CMOS sensor is capable of yielding images with very little noise at high ISO sensitivity levels. As a result, the Pentax 645Z has an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 204,800, which is a mind-boggling number for a medium format camera.
A number of our readers have been asking our team about our recommendations on different mirrorless cameras. With so many different options on the market today, choosing a mirrorless camera can get very confusing. In the new series of articles, we will compare all the options on the market today starting from entry-level, mid-level to high-end. In this particular article, I would like to start off by comparing mirrorless camera systems that are available today from different manufacturers. This below charts will be updated periodically with new / updated information. Please note that the below comparisons are only for mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Discontinued systems such as Pentax K-01 and Ricoh GXR are not included. The list is sorted alphabetically and had to be split into two parts to fit. Also, please keep in mind that some of the benchmarks presented in this article are very subjective, based on our prior experience using the cameras.
Today, Pentax has released the replacement for its popular and highly-regarded K-5 (II) models. Being one of those manufacturers who know how to offer plenty of bang for your buck, the new Pentax K-3 offers a lot of improvements over the older model. This time, though, the headline feature is not a new sensor or improved AF system, but the AA filter that you can adjust on the go for more resolution or less moiré.
Along with the mirrorless Q7, Pentax has just announced the entry-level K-500 and a slightly more advanced K-50 DSLRs. The new DSLR cameras packs a very competitive APS-C sensor and a lot of tempting features into compact bodies. Both K-50 and K-500 offer a lot of the same specifications, but K-500 further knocks around $200 off K-50’s price and costs around $600 to purchase. Pentax has also revised two kit zoom lenses. Both 18-55mm and 50-200mm class lenses are weather sealed. Let’s see what the two cameras can offer in terms of specifications.
It’s not hard to see Pentax (now owned by Ricoh) as one of the “quirky”, bold camera companies, and mirrorless Pentax Q system is a great testimony to such a claim. While Sony, Olympus and other manufacturers busied themselves launching extremely competitive and, in a way, predictable compact system cameras, Pentax decided to take a risk and released the original Q back in 2011. A camera that was essentially an unconventional-looking compact point-and-shoot with interchangeable lenses never really caught on. Even so, Pentax today announced the latest member of the compact system – the Q7.
Today, Pentax-Ricoh announced a new high-end compact camera. Not someone you’d call a conventional camera manufacturer (neither Ricoh nor Pentax, for that matter), the new camera seems extremely tempting, especially considering its price. Ricoh GR features a 16.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and a fixed 18.3mm f/2.8 lens (equivalent to 28mm on a full-frame camera), and will set you back around $800. At least on paper, it seems to be targeting potential Fujifilm X100s buyers, only with a couple of features missing and at a considerably lower price. Another (even more) direct competitor is the Nikon Coolpix A, which is also much more expensive.