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Author Topic: Viability of Pentax?  (Read 9765 times)
lattiboy
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« on: November 25, 2009, 01:58:02 AM »
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Hi all,

I'm looking at the K-x or the K-7 to replace my LX3. I have owned multiple Sony dSLRs (A200, A700, A900) and a few Nikon bodies (D50, D90), but decided to focus on basics and use the LX3 exclusively. I've enjoyed it, but I really miss the DoF and feel of an SLR. I'd get a Sony, but they haven't updated the A700, and none of their cams offer video capture (which is as important as anything to me). The k-x seems like an excellent value ($600 with kit online) and the K-7 seems like a very solid mid-level SLR at a reasonable price ($1050 with kit lens). I really like the ability to use all the older glass, the video capture, the built-in IS, and the weather sealing.

Obviously I'm not afraid of non-CanNikon stuff, but I've run into a lot of trouble finding a Pentax dealer locally. I live in Seattle and there are a lot of camera shops but all of them (ALL OF THEM!) tell me the same thing when I call to ask about Pentax display units: "Pentax is probably going to go under soon, we literally can't get a rep on the phone, and the units don't sell." Three different stores (Talls, Kenmore, and Glazers) all said this same thing to me.

So, is Pentax (and their mount) going to go the way of the dodo? I don't need a huge stable of pro lenses, but I don't want to be left holding the bag on a $1000 investment into a dead system.


PS Not trying to troll here, I'm honestly confused about this.

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MarkBarbieri
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« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2009, 01:44:36 PM »
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Any answer that you get is going to be pure speculation.  Other than a few executives and members of the Hoya board, none of who will say anything publicly until the bitter end, no one really knows.  They were bought only a couple of years ago, so the buyer (Hoya) saw something in them.  On the other hand, all of the press releases related to the acquisition touted it as for the medical imaging technology they acquired rather than the traditional photography group.

What's the downside risk if they do go under?  I'd bet good money that Samsung will buy them in the same fashion that Sony bought Minolta.  They've already partnered on some cameras.  Of course, it might be different having a Korean company instead of another Japanese company.  

None of their existing lenses will quit working.  They have a pretty nice lineup of lenses going back for a very long time.  The main problem is that you'll miss out on new camera bodies if Samsung doesn't take them over.

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jimby
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« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2009, 05:09:33 PM »
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The interesting thing about Pentax is that their lens prices (including used lens prices) have only been going up as more people buy their DSLR bodies and the demand for Pentax glass increases.  With so many KA, KAF and KAF2 mount lenses already in photographers' hands, I would expect that even if Pentax restructured or otherwise stumbled, someone would be waiting in the wings to buy up the patents and tooling, and cater to the already established market.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2009, 06:43:49 PM »
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Quote from: jimby
The interesting thing about Pentax is that their lens prices (including used lens prices) have only been going up as more people buy their DSLR bodies and the demand for Pentax glass increases.  With so many KA, KAF and KAF2 mount lenses already in photographers' hands, I would expect that even if Pentax restructured or otherwise stumbled, someone would be waiting in the wings to buy up the patents and tooling, and cater to the already established market.

That doesn't seem to make any sense.  If the 'established market' isn't enough to support pentax why would it support anyone else.  The only possible company I can think of that would buy it is samsung and that is only if their corporate ego forces them to combat sony on the DSLR front.  (And that possibility assumes that Samsung isn't ditching DSLRs in favor of their m43 competitor.)
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jimby
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« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2009, 08:18:51 PM »
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Quote from: DarkPenguin
That doesn't seem to make any sense.  If the 'established market' isn't enough to support pentax why would it support anyone else.  The only possible company I can think of that would buy it is samsung and that is only if their corporate ego forces them to combat sony on the DSLR front.  (And that possibility assumes that Samsung isn't ditching DSLRs in favor of their m43 competitor.)

Because Pentax spends energy and resources in areas other than the amateur DSLR market.  It's well known that they have been pouring resources into MF digital camera development for years,  trying to capitalize on the market success they had with the 645 film line.  However, they have yet to release a product after many years of development.  This is an area where even Nikon and Canon don't go.  If Pentax restructured or if someone else picked them up, the MF digital camera would probably be the first project jettisoned.

The point&shoot market is another area where they could take a look. I have no idea what segments are profitable for Pentax, so maybe they make money on the P&S market, but I know that I almost never see Pentax P&S cameras out in the wild.

Also, if Pentax were sold eventually because of financial problems, the buyer of their assets would not be burdened with Pentax's amortized R&D and manufacturing costs.  A buyer could start with a clean slate and approach the established market fresh (and with a better marketing budget).
« Last Edit: November 25, 2009, 08:22:24 PM by jimby » Logged
stever
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« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2009, 09:09:24 PM »
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it really depends on what your photo priorities are and what size investment you're contemplating

i was a long time Pentax user until 1999.  i enjoyed using their relatively compact cameras and compact high quality lenses

then i decided to do some wildlife photography and decided the future was with Canon and made the switch  -- very glad i did

only Canon and Nikon (among present players) have a history of maintaining a high level of cameras and lenses over time.  Nikon's recent more competive offerings provide a viable alternative to Canon (depending on your priorities) and the competition should benefit photographers.  Competition from Sony may as well if they stay the course.  Panasonic and Olympus have innovative products that could fill substantial market niches.  i think this leaves Pentax nowhere.
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aaykay
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« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2009, 09:58:34 AM »
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Quote from: DarkPenguin
That doesn't seem to make any sense.  If the 'established market' isn't enough to support pentax why would it support anyone else.  The only possible company I can think of that would buy it is samsung and that is only if their corporate ego forces them to combat sony on the DSLR front.  (And that possibility assumes that Samsung isn't ditching DSLRs in favor of their m43 competitor.)

Samsung's purchasing of Pentax would have been a possibility, prior to the announcement of Samsung's upcoming micro-APS-C mirror-less "EVIL" format.  With the announcement of Samsung's forthcoming EVIL format (which being a fully electronic mount, plays to Samsung's - and Sony's and Panasonic's - core strengths),  Pentax dSLRs are on their own, by my reckoning.  I predict Hoya will ditch it sooner, rather than later but will continue to make positive noises till the last nail is struck.

One possibility that would enable Pentax to survive as a viable company, is if Pentax ties up with Samsung and does joint production/marketing of Samsung's new EVIL APS-C format, with sister EVIL models from either company (similar to the arrangement between Olympus and Panasonic in m-4/3).   Pentax would make most of their money from the sales of Pentax developed m-APS-C lenses.  The dSLR division will invariably get ditched but the Pentax name will live on, under such a scenario.  Without such a tie-up, Pentax will be gutted and Hoya will make some money by selling their lens manufacturing assets to an entity like Sony, who will need it to develop some critical mass in lens manufacturing capacity to ramp up their chase of Canon and Nikon.
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2009, 10:32:54 AM »
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Quote from: lattiboy
Hi all,

I'm looking at the K-x or the K-7 to replace my LX3. I have owned multiple Sony dSLRs (A200, A700, A900) and a few Nikon bodies (D50, D90), but decided to focus on basics and use the LX3 exclusively. I've enjoyed it, but I really miss the DoF and feel of an SLR. I'd get a Sony, but they haven't updated the A700, and none of their cams offer video capture (which is as important as anything to me). The k-x seems like an excellent value ($600 with kit online) and the K-7 seems like a very solid mid-level SLR at a reasonable price ($1050 with kit lens). I really like the ability to use all the older glass, the video capture, the built-in IS, and the weather sealing.

Obviously I'm not afraid of non-CanNikon stuff, but I've run into a lot of trouble finding a Pentax dealer locally. I live in Seattle and there are a lot of camera shops but all of them (ALL OF THEM!) tell me the same thing when I call to ask about Pentax display units: "Pentax is probably going to go under soon, we literally can't get a rep on the phone, and the units don't sell." Three different stores (Talls, Kenmore, and Glazers) all said this same thing to me.

So, is Pentax (and their mount) going to go the way of the dodo? I don't need a huge stable of pro lenses, but I don't want to be left holding the bag on a $1000 investment into a dead system.


PS Not trying to troll here, I'm honestly confused about this.

I owned a huge Pentax 35 mm system, all the way up to their behemoth (and optically fabulous) 600 mm f:4 lens. They made lots of great stuff for a time, especially their truly magical 85 mm f:1.4 lens; still the best piece of glass I've ever used. I still feel Pentax has the best SLR metering/exposure controls in the known universe. I really like the idea behind their compact prime lenses. There are also countless older manual focus used K-mount lenses out there to play with. If the K-7 really meets your needs, it might be worth picking one up along with all the prime lenses you're ever likely to need. Today I regret the fact that I completely liquidated my Pentax system to get into digital. I should have kept my beloved 85 f:1.4 and a singe MZ-S body; fantastic controls, build quality, compactness, ćsthetics...a delight just to play with even if you never shoot a frame of film.

However...I don't think there's a future in the Pentax system. Pentax SLR's still have noticeably inferior autofocus compared to CaNikon, and they're at least a generation behind in high ISO noise. It'll always be a much more limited system in terms of lens/flash/accessory options, with far less 3rd party support. You'll never see something like Pocket Wizard radio transmitters with TTL flash support for Pentax, for example. That might not matter to you today, but in a few years you never know what you'll want.
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Rob C
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« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2009, 11:43:27 AM »
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Pentax has ever been a strange company insofar as cameras go. It was great at the time Nikon was doing the original F and the Pentax Spotmatic was pretty good too.

However, I do recall that I spent much fruitless effort trying to locate their 6x7 stuff on any dealer's shelf. I eventually found a dealer who managed to get the Pentax representative to bring in his 6x7 body with a 165mm lens for me to try out. In the event, I did not buy. I tried again, years later, and took the chance of buying a new Mk 11 sight unseen.

The camera felt beautiful, looked the part and was very well finished. BUT, there was just too much shutter vibration and after some months of frustration it had to go. What I will say is that it was much better than the Bronica 6x7 I once had - lousy 50mm (if I remember the focal length correctly) - and the mirror-up didn't work from day one. However, as I bought in Scotland but lived in Spain, the solution wasn't east to find in those days and  the camera went as soon as I returned to visit the UK again.

So perhaps poor communication or display is nothing new - just how they do things at Pentax?

Rob C
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Vautour
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« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2009, 05:07:00 AM »
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I have a K10D based Pentax system and quite like it. It has it's difficulties (serious light mismetering in mostly green conditions (forests and the like (Madeira was quite "fun" in this regard ), auto focus which won't focus correctly with some lenses) but I've learned to handle those in most situations now and became quite good in guessing exposure. I would have sold the equipment if I had to use it professionally, yes, definitely. But I don't so I haven't as of yet.
I'm also wondering whether I should switch to another system. I now know my photographic needs and likes much better than when I originally invested in the system so I can be much more selective in my lens choices (meaning spending less (quantity-wise, not quality-wise) on the lenses in case of a switch).
Pentax (partly through Sigma) would fulfill those requirements and I thought, well, if the K7 is a good manufactured as my K10 than I'm sure the camera would last me quite a few years. With only two to three lenses on my "would like to have" lens list left I thought, well, keep Pentax and when the body dies and no replacement is in sight I'm not that heavily invested to lose that much when making the switch (I'm talking at least a 5 year span here).
But with the current Pentax price jump (in some case up 50% and more) I am wondering if this is still feasible. Yes, they have two new cameras but I'm somewhat disapointed from what I've read about the K7. Auto focus still seems to be problematic and the sensor could also do with a major upgrade (or back to Sony with their 12MP sensor, for example). The metering system seems to be quite promising but that I have to experience myself.
The major problem I have is that there seems to be no plan. The lens roadmap is empty, market share is on the decline, there's no model between the K-x and K7 that could compete with the 500D or D90, for example. I don't know where the journey is going with Pentax and I'm not the only one. Some clear statements regarding what is planned for the future (new lenses, accesories, cameras and so forth) would be very helpfull. The K7 seems to have revived interest in the brand and I hope Pentax will stay in the game (despite its failing I like my K10D especially how it handles) but some more direction would be nice.
Having said all that I seriously don't know if I would invest now in the Pentax system if I'd started anew. I'd probably choose Nikon because their control layout is similar to the Pentax layout. Canon's is ok, but having lend my father's 40D on several trips I didn't warm to its layout, but then again, one gets used to almost everything  I'm a hobbyist so I'd like to spend my money for the long term. And I'm also fully aware of such statements not being very helpfull to the future of Pentax and that more and more of such statements can provide for the beginning of some kind of self fullfilling prophecy.

So, nevertheless, my advice at the moment (from a Pentax hobbyist user point of view who actually likes his camera), with kind of a heavy heart, is: Go another route, don't take Pentax. Maybe wait for the A700's successor. Shouldn't be too far ahead (although it'll most likely be positioned as competion for 7D and D300s and thus somewhat more pricey).
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MarkL
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« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2009, 09:34:44 AM »
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Pentax are a pretty strange company but they are the only cameras I have used where I feel like a photographer rather than an engineer has actually used and tested it. With their excellent lenses and cameras like their great 645 camera made in the past I really hope they sort themselves out and are still around for some time to come.

The problem is, is that there is no real compelling reason to buy their cameras. IQ is good but not outstanding, anti-shake in the body is also in sony cameras, good older lenses can also be used by nikon etc.

Sorry, this doesn't really help answer your question!
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Rob C
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« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2009, 01:12:27 PM »
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Quote from: MarkL
Pentax are a pretty strange company but they are the only cameras I have used where I feel like a photographer rather than an engineer has actually used and tested it.




But in the case of the 6x7, a photographer who never shot under a 250th of a second. Any other would have discovered the delightful shutter vibration effect.

But to be fair - had they developed a reasonable range of shuttered lenses, as did Hasselblad who started with focal plane shutters too and then went the other route, they would have cleaned up the market.

Rob C
« Last Edit: November 27, 2009, 01:15:28 PM by Rob C » Logged

Er1kksen
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« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2009, 04:58:31 PM »
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People have been preaching the death of Pentax since well before the advent of the internet. Regardless, it hasn't happened.


Pentax is not a huge company with a significant market presence. However, they have *a* market presence and they make enough money to stay comfortably afloat.

Once you get past the speculation (which there is a lot of) the actual picture is that there may be ups and downs, but Pentax and the K-mount aren't going anywhere soon. The finances aren't world-beating but they're certainly viable. With the K-7 and now the K-x (which is already a surprise hit), the trend may start heading in an upwards direction rather than maintaining its previous flat line.

Pentax gets a bad rap. For example, "behind a generation in ISO noise." The K10D used the same sensor as the D80. The D80 got the reputation for low high-ISO noise. Actual users found that in RAW the difference was negligible and the K10D was in fact cleaner at low ISO (and currently has a following for that characteristic). Similarly, the K20D got a reputation for being noisy, particularly from tests like dpreview's, which clearly showed a higher level of noise from the K20D but also much better detail retention, implying that it was simply using less NR. Nonetheless, in the absence of RAW testing at that time, the competition was declared superior in low light... until they threw K20D RAW files into the DPR tests of the newer K-7 and found that, in RAW, the K20D was cleaner than the next-generation Canon and Nikon semipro models that they praised so highly.

People claiming that Pentax cameras yield noisier images or sub-par overall IQ simply don't know what they're talking about. I owned and got a lot of use out of the highly regarded Canon 40D, and bought it expecting something special, but found the images consistently dissappointing compared to the output from my old K20D. I now own a K-x which trumps the 40D in all areas of image quality and is on par or better than the K20D in most.

Some criticisms do have a legitimate basis. The autofocus on my K20D, and the pentaxes that preceded it, was pretty dismal in terms of speed, relatively speaking. My 40D was light-years faster and worked better in low light. However, it got the job done, and AF performance on the latest models (K-m, K-7, K-x) is vastly improved. In most conditions there's no functional difference in AF performance between my K-x and the 40D. Both are fast and positive and can't track worth a darn.

Pentax does need to address the fact that autofocus with their top-drawer "SDM"-motor lenses is slower than their traditional screw-drive lenses, which is a shame since they're such fantastic optics.

QC is another issue: There were sensor issues with a lot of early K-7's, and us K-x early adopters are dealing with an irritating battery issue. Fortunately, Pentax is responsive in providing solutions to the problems that arise. It'd be nice if they didn't happen in the first place, though.

Third-party support is, indeed, more limited. Unless you have specialized needs, however, you should be able to find what you need.

I can think of a number of good reasons for Pentax. If you like the smaller form factor, the K-7 is on par with the competition's semipro models performance-wise (give a little, take a little) in a much more compact package that just happens to be the most rugged in its class. The K-x is a great little entry-level camera with a new sensor that turns out fantastic results from an even smaller and lighter package.

The lens line-up is made of some pretty strong optics and has some uniqueness as well, seen most clearly in the compact "limited" primes. Pentax glass used to be the most affordable on the market as well (the FA 50mm f1.4 went for not much more than the competition's 50mm f1.8s and performed admirably) but the changing values of the dollar vs. the yen and hoya's odd management practices have brought prices up a bit, to be a bit more level with the competition. There are a lot of truly fantastic barely-known lenses in Pentax's stable that get people hooked, and even when some of them buy into full-frame systems and the like they tend to hold on to at least one Pentax to mount their FA 43mm or FA* 85mm on. There's something magic about a lot of their lenses.

Unless you need specialist lenses or the sort of support networks Canon and Nikon have set up for pros, there's no reason not to give Pentax your serious consideration. They make excellent products that produce excellent images in the right hand and have both advantages and disadvantages against the competition. They are not going under anytime soon.

For the sake of disclosure, I am a fan of Pentax. I'm a fan because I've used their products and experienced how good they can be. I am also a fan of Canon, Nikon, Sony/Minolta, Olympus, Panasonic, and Fuji DSLRs and lenses. I would own and use all of them if I had the money and time. I have owned cameras from Olympus, Pentax, Canon, and a bunch of others from the film era. Anyone who tells you that any given brand is a bad idea (unless for a very specific reason) is either misguided or full of crock, in my opinion.
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Goodlistener
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« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2009, 10:11:27 PM »
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Lattiboy, doesn't the fact that you cannot find a Pentax DSLR in a retail store, and the fact that the store people tell you they cannot reach a Pentax rep tell you: "This aint gonna work"?
That said, sometimes people want to have something different, not the same thing every one else has.   Note: nobody here is criticizing Pentax, its just that availability in the here and now, on the ground and in the stores, is very limited. Speculation about the future is not required under those circumstances.
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ashley
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« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2009, 07:41:57 AM »
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My first SLR was a Pentax ME Super and they have made a valuable contribution to photography over the last few decades with some interesting cameras, so I would be sad to see them go but I can't say the name Pentax has even been on my radar as a choice of camera for many many years and they don't seem to be producing the kind of competitive cameras that raise interest in their products these days.

From a professional's perspective I can think of no good reason to buy a Pentax, especially given the lack of rental equipment available if you need something particular for just one or two assignments. Remembering the beautiful handling of the old Pentax 645 I would have seriously considered a digital medium format camera from Pentax but where is it?
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Er1kksen
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« Reply #15 on: November 28, 2009, 10:38:39 AM »
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Quote from: Goodlistener
Lattiboy, doesn't the fact that you cannot find a Pentax DSLR in a retail store, and the fact that the store people tell you they cannot reach a Pentax rep tell you: "This aint gonna work"?
That said, sometimes people want to have something different, not the same thing every one else has.   Note: nobody here is criticizing Pentax, its just that availability in the here and now, on the ground and in the stores, is very limited. Speculation about the future is not required under those circumstances.

Retail stores are not exactly a good place to go for information on the camera market.  Salespeople are all too often motivated by one thing, sales. The chain stores are the worst, where you can occasionally hear salespeople flat-out lying about certain cameras to customers to steer them either to a higher-commissioned product or the one that they're a personal fan of, but the independent stores often don't have a clue about pentax either. Pentax does have a noticeable distribution issue, but that's because they suck at distribution, not because they're failing as a company. They've been noted for poor distribution for a loooooooooooong time now, and there have been salespeople saying "my sources tell me Pentax is about to go under next week so I wouldn't recommend buying one" since way back in the film era. Of course, there are honest salespeople out there who know what they're talking about, but they're not the ones everyone comes on to forums to talk about.

Over on Pentaxforums it's not uncommon for ordinary customers to get in touch with Pentax representatives for a variety of reasons. If a retailer were to actually try, they shouldn't have any trouble either.

Oh, and you CAN find pentax in retail stores... it tends to vary by region. For example, where I live (western tip of NYS) there are three different local shops that stock Pentax, which is where I first tried one out. It's actually a quite small store, but they also stock Nikon, Canon, and Olympus, as well as a lot of OEM and Sigma lenses.


Quote from: ashley
My first SLR was a Pentax ME Super and they have made a valuable contribution to photography over the last few decades with some interesting cameras, so I would be sad to see them go but I can't say the name Pentax has even been on my radar as a choice of camera for many many years and they don't seem to be producing the kind of competitive cameras that raise interest in their products these days.

From a professional's perspective I can think of no good reason to buy a Pentax, especially given the lack of rental equipment available if you need something particular for just one or two assignments. Remembering the beautiful handling of the old Pentax 645 I would have seriously considered a digital medium format camera from Pentax but where is it?

Watch that K-x for the "competitive camera to raise and interest in their products."  The K-7 has made a decent splash as well.

And that 645D... look for it in april.  The cover of the manual has been leaked already as well.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2009, 12:15:36 PM »
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Quote from: Er1kksen
And that 645D... look for it in april.  The cover of the manual has been leaked already as well.

I'll believe it when I see it.  Right now the 645D looks to be the Duke Nukem Forever of cameras.
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Er1kksen
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« Reply #17 on: November 28, 2009, 07:28:48 PM »
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Quote from: DarkPenguin
I'll believe it when I see it.

Well, I'll look forward to then and hope you'll be as excited about it as I will.  Even if I may not be able to afford one (it's supposed to be relatively low-price, but I'm on a serious budget) for about five years.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #18 on: November 29, 2009, 02:32:05 AM »
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Hi,

Tom Hogan's predictions may be worth a look: http://www.bythom.com/2010predictions.htm

Keep in mind that Tom's perspective is a Nikon perspective.

Erik


Quote from: lattiboy
Hi all,

I'm looking at the K-x or the K-7 to replace my LX3. I have owned multiple Sony dSLRs (A200, A700, A900) and a few Nikon bodies (D50, D90), but decided to focus on basics and use the LX3 exclusively. I've enjoyed it, but I really miss the DoF and feel of an SLR. I'd get a Sony, but they haven't updated the A700, and none of their cams offer video capture (which is as important as anything to me). The k-x seems like an excellent value ($600 with kit online) and the K-7 seems like a very solid mid-level SLR at a reasonable price ($1050 with kit lens). I really like the ability to use all the older glass, the video capture, the built-in IS, and the weather sealing.

Obviously I'm not afraid of non-CanNikon stuff, but I've run into a lot of trouble finding a Pentax dealer locally. I live in Seattle and there are a lot of camera shops but all of them (ALL OF THEM!) tell me the same thing when I call to ask about Pentax display units: "Pentax is probably going to go under soon, we literally can't get a rep on the phone, and the units don't sell." Three different stores (Talls, Kenmore, and Glazers) all said this same thing to me.

So, is Pentax (and their mount) going to go the way of the dodo? I don't need a huge stable of pro lenses, but I don't want to be left holding the bag on a $1000 investment into a dead system.


PS Not trying to troll here, I'm honestly confused about this.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2009, 02:33:06 AM by ErikKaffehr » Logged

CJL
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« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2009, 01:59:05 PM »
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Quote from: Er1kksen
And that 645D... look for it in april.  The cover of the manual has been leaked already as well.


April 1, perhaps?    

The only way I could see Pentax going ahead with the launch of the 645D is if they still have a warehouse full of unsold 645 lenses.
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