The Pentax K-01 is discontinued - What do Pentax do?


So the Pentax K-01 has been discontinued. It has already had a 50% price drop, but it seems still nobody wanted to buy it. It is I doubt much surprise to anyone. Probably one of the ugliest cameras ever made and with absolutely nothing special about it whatsoever. Yet another attempt by Pentax to 'do something different' which has failed yet again.

I write these 'whats up with Pentax' articles from time to time and it depresses me every time I do. It probably shouldn't bother me that they are now very much a peripheral camera manufacturer, but it does. And the reason for that is history. 

I post a fair number of film scans, and a great number of those were shot on Pentax cameras. My first film SLR was a Pentax ME Super, my last film SLR was a Pentax MZ-5 and all the 6x4.5 medium format scans I post were taken on a Pentax 645. So I've taken a lot of pictures with their cameras. And very good they were too. Its not true anymore but Pentax used to produce some of the best 35mm and MF lenses you could buy. There are still the limited lenses of course, the 31mm, 43mm and 77mm 35mm lenses being the best. But some of the small APS-C primes like the 15mm and 21mm aren't as good as they should be, though are still expensive. The Pentax kit zooms just aren't very good at all. Pretty cheap looking and feeling with soft results.  They can still make a decent camera as the K-5 series and the 645D shows, but apart from these fairly limited options there's not much that they offer these days that seems to excite people.

Pentax owners are very loyal and it seems to me try to 'talk up' the brand even when it seems the company itself are quite happily sabotaging any possible renaissance by producing multi-coloured 'junk' cameras that seem to appeal to very few. They used to have a wide range of options. 6x7, 6x4.5, 35mm professional and enthusiast ranges and those of us that have been around for a while, remember that at one time they were just as much a prestige brand as Nikon. I think many current photographers would find that difficult to understand. But they were indeed the makers of some classics, something that nobody would see them as doing these days.

The reasons? Too slow to respond to what people want is obvious. It took them ages to produce their first DSLR and their slowness in joining the mirrorless marketplace is well known. Add to this the fact that when they do respond, they come up with cameras like the K-01. So as well as taking longer than they should to attempt to compete, when they do get round to it they get it spectacularly wrong. Did they really think in a mirrorless market dominated by retro design, the K-01 would have an appeal?

The crazy thing is that Pentax have some of the most classic camera designs ever. 



Why couldn't we have one of these instead of the K-01?

Above all the problem is one of prevarication. All the talk year after year about will they / won't they make the 645D? In the end they did but it was closely followed by the Nikon D800 and D800E which chopped its legs from under it. They have been muttering about a 35mm sized sensor camera for at least a decade, but nothing has emerged and now Sony, Nikon and Canon are way ahead of them.

So what can they do? If anything. Pentax has moved already from Hoya, who didn't seem to know what to do with it, to Ricoh, who equally don't seem to have anything like a coherent strategy. In the meantime Pentax seem to be moving in one direction which is making them the Toys R Us branch of the camera industry and another which is still capable of making decent gear, but who seem to have little idea of how to price it for the current market and their position in it. The K-5 and its variants are just too expensive and more importantly the current lens range is seriously overpriced. The 15mm f/4 limited is close to £600 in the UK and considering Pentax's position thats just too much. Its not that great a lens either. 

My fear is that another of the classic camera makers will wither and eventually disappear and a brand I've had a close connection with ever since I started to take photography seriously will become history. David Bailey shot a lot of his groundbreaking fashion images on a Pentax and many other great photographers have used their cameras to create geat images with. 

The less choice we have and the more the marketplace is dominated by fewer and fewer brands the poorer we will be but I really don't have a lot of optimism that Pentax can reverse their decline. Sure Fuji did it and re-established themselves as a camera maker that creates a buzz with their new products but I'm not sure Pentax will do the same. I for one will be disappointed, but the sad fact is that I doubt that many others will be. 


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