Ricoh’s New Challenge – New PENTAX film cameras
There’s a good chance that almost everyone within the film photography community has used, at one point or another, a Pentax 35mm SLR. Whether it’s a dusty old Spotmatic or a weatherworn K1000 in your High School photography course, the name Pentax and affordable cameras often go hand in hand. At least until recently (have you seen the prices of K1000s recently)? Initially founded in 1919, Asahi Kogaku Kogyo G.K. produced optical lenses for glasses. A switch to precision lenses for binoculars, other optics, and camera lenses were soon to follow. The more familiar name of Asahi Optical Co was adopted in 1938. They would produce the first 35mm SLR in Japan with 1952’s Asahiflex. This would start a broad range of cameras from the tiny Pentax Auto 110 to the monster Pentax 6×7. PENTAX started appearing on cameras in 1957, a name purchased from Zeiss Ikon. And the equally iconic K-Mount hit markets in 1975. The name PENTAX was officially adopted in 2002, a merger with Hoya in 2007, and then a sale to Ricoh in 2011. Ricoh is no slouch, having produced many different cameras under its name and continues to produce digital cameras under its own and the PENTAX brand. So in light of the earlier announcement that the Leica M6 was returning to production, Stephen Dowling mentioned that his money was on PENTAX to be the next one to bring back a film camera.
So today’s announcement, first posted on the official Ricoh Imaging website and then picked up by Pentax Rumors, Kosmo Foto and Japan Camera Hunter, hits with some wonderful news during the Holiday Season. The news release puts the choice to begin the development of new cameras on the rise of popularity among the younger market segment of film photography and their love of working with vintage equipment. Because of this, they also promise to work with the film photography community to help guide what they want in a new film camera. And while the official press release is fairly easy to read, the real details are in a companion video featuring their chief designer.
The video itself is in Japanese, but the subtitles are excellent. The video, in short, talks about the exciting new challenge being taken on by Ricoh and PENTAX and how exciting this challenge is to bring not just one film camera to market but a series of cameras. It has been almost twenty years since the last PENTAX film camera (2003’s *ist) came to market. But there is also a need for these new cameras as the cost of repairing vintage gear is becoming high, along with the lack of skilled repair technicians and spare parts. The goal is to develop an affordable camera that anyone can use without worry and build on the legacy of quality and warranty support from the original manufacturer. To achieve this, PENTAX has dug up all their original designs and plans and brought back some of their engineers who worked on film cameras to meet with the current engineering and design staff. This means that meetings are already taking place and work is being done. The goal is to produce a pair of compact 35mm cameras, a mid-tier and a high-end version, then move into the SLR range with the ultimate goal being a mechanical SLR. And while things are still a long way off, we will be watching this news with bated breath to hear how things are going and wish the folks in the team all the best.