It is sad day for photography. Pentax and Ricoh cameras and lenses will no longer be made industrially. Aficionados of either brand will still be able to acquire their favorite gear as assembled in very low volume by craftsmen, thus making it easy for them to personalize their gear. This is as close to closing down as it comes. A sad day, I tell you.
So what caused the downfall of two respected brands?
Ricoh was never a mainline manufacturer of large-sensor cameras. After the collapse of their sales of small-sensor so-called compact cameras, along with everybody else’s, they were left with one fixed-lens APS/C device, the GR, in its successive iterations. It was, as such, a very well respected device. Even a class leader for those who wanted the best possible IQ out of a diminutively sized device, especially for street and landscape photography.
Pentax, however, is almost the opposite. While it is a storied name, and was a major player in film days, with many achievements to its credit, in particular under the Asahi Pentax name, including the Spotmatic cameras, the 67 medium format film body, very well-loved lenses like the Super Takumar and the Limited series, by now its gear lineup of APS/C, FF and MF DSLRs is no longer up to snuff compared to the offerings of Canikony. It was not always like that. I once drooled over the Pentax 645D, an affordable CCD MF camera that could, under the right circs, deliver whopping IQ, well beyond its cost. And its successor, the CMOS-sensored 645Z, again a competitive predecessor to Fuji MF cameras, a mouth-watering image-maker.
So, what went wrong? Basically volume. When you own 3% of the domestic Japanese DSLR market, and the worlwide market leader, Canon, finds the situation so bad that it calls it quits for DSLRs, you can imagine how dire things were for Pentax. This very small market share meant less money for investment, and less ability to keep up with rivals. In particular, Pentax cameras in the digital age were not renowned for the performance of their AF, a most desirable feature today. Similarly, they did not turn early to video or mirrorless, where they might have found less troubled waters. And, astonishingly, Pentax were the only Japanese manufacturer to have a line-up in APS/C and FF and MF. Which only spread their limited resources thinner, and streched them even more.
And while, in many ways, their releasing affordable digital MF DSLRs was prescient and class-leading, they did not have the money or the market presence to make a commercial success of these highly desirable cameras.
Ultimately, it was inevitable that some manufacturers would fold. How might that not happen when the overall market is down 90% from its peak. So it is with a feeling of sadness, but not of injustice that we bid adieu to Pentax and Ricoh.
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A sad day indeed.
As a young man I moved from a rangefinder Yashica to a Pentax Slll and then in 1968 to a Spotmatic with a fresnel focusing screen. It had everything one needed then and, dare I say it in our digital world, all we really need now for most genres – even wildlife and sports.
The lenses were world class and while my Minolta toting rival and I yearned for Nikon F, both of us produced very satisfactory shots with our more affordable gear.
The ads of the day summed it up perfectly for me ….”Just hold a Pentax”
That said it all.
Indeed. I can’t help feeling this is exactly like the loss of biodiversity. Alpha males have prevailed, and killed off the smaller animals. And we will all be worse off for it. Cheers
Wait, am I missing something? According to Imaging-Resource on Friday, the announcement only applied to the Japan market: “According to a statement from Ricoh Imaging North America, their distribution in North America is not changing, and Ricoh is still continuing mass production of their imaging products.”
( https://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2022/01/21/ricoh-imaging-announces-significant-restructuring )
If the mass production is continuing, then why the gloom?
Just nostalgia for lost youth and lost brands. If you’ve ever held a Pentax Spotmatic you’ll empathise 🙂
I hope you’re right Scintilla. But, having read the page you link to and the statement, I see nothing to be optimistic about, sadly. The fewer active brands we have, the more we get locked into the stereotypical type of camera served by the alpha males of the market and that really only appeal to a tiny fraction of it (hence a 90% decline in favour of far more pleasant to use phones).
But let’s stay hopeful 🙂
You and Phillipe may be correct, but PhotoRumors carried an update from Ricoh USA saying they were not closing mass production (what ever that means for them), but they are changing from a mass distribution model to a more direct to customer sales model. Time will tell what really happens.
Indeed. Still dire news. Closing your n°1 market, and serving others on a reduced basis (probably only to fulfill existing contracts) isn’t very encouraging. That cash shortage Philippe mentions means neither company can afford to innovate or even “cacth” up, so this largely quantitative market will not be kind to what are otherwise very interesting cameras. I still think it’s sad news 😉
Yes, it is a sad situation. Though, they probably need to do something different in order to try to survive.
As other than the large online retailers I do not know of anyplace where you can order, let alone handle a new Pentax camera. Ricoh cameras appear to be a different case, as both of my local stores show that the GRIII and GRIIIx are in stock.
I used to own a few PENTAX film cameras, from medium format to 24X36mm, and they were a sight to behold and a joy to use. Currently I use only one PENTAX, the K-1, and only in the studio for technical tasks, as handheld in the field it is unable to produce an unshaken image. An absolutely moronic screen suspended on four stems that wouldn’t survive the first encounter with a gust of desert wind carrying sand particles along with it. It would kill that arrangement by making it stuck in the four ruts for those ingenious stems to slide along. Twenty of fifty dials and buttons all working in ways requiring from the user a PHD in psychiatry to comprehend their logic, are covering the body. But… As always, my PENTAX has a feature or two – hidden well in the meandering menu system utterly convoluted and incomprehensible for anyone other than a daily user – my K-1 has modes no other camera can boast, and that is why I still tolerate the chubby beast, the lump, the pinnacle of obsolecense that it is. I love hating my K-1. Designing the K-1 the PENTAX engineers could have had a clip-on hot shoe-mountable EVF for it, to give the aged DSLR concept a breath of fresh air. The camera would have been unique based on that feature alone. But, alas. They couldn’t produce an EVF even for the GR series. PENTAX is dead. We will always remember what it once was.
That sounds a lot like my X1D, Dmitri. Many defects but so many qualities that more than make up for them. And that’s what makes me fear a similar fate for Hasselblad. But, as you say,we will always remember those fantastic brands for what they once were. They brought far more to photography than they are given credit for. Cheers
Pascal I can see why silence makes you nervous.
Olympus – Ricoh – Pentax . . .
Then bad news on Nikon’s market share, which is making me very nervous – I’d never be able to replace what I have with comparable gear from one of the others. Anyway the choice of Nikon was made because I like them. I’d rather stay with Nik than use the others, even if I could afford them.
Doesn’t seem to me that the industry is doing itself any flavours!
They just seem to be causing more people to switch to cellphones – which are quite useless for a lot of my work.
P.S. thank you all for your kind thoughts – the op was successful, but I’m still in pain – and Monday I’m being transferred to one of their other hospitals for a fortnight in rehab, being terrorised by physios
Heeeeeyy! So good to have you back, Pete ! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 The physio is your friend. You’ll hate that friend, but he’s your best friend for the couple of weeks to come. I’m super glad the op went well.
Don’t worry too muuch about Nikon. They missed many boats but appear strong enough to weather that and the Z9 is now touted by several experts as the best photo/video camera out there, bar none. Not that you want one, but it means Nikon have made a great technological comeback. I used to love my D801 to bits, far more than any of the Sony bodies that succeeded it, which I only kept for the benefits of short flanges and EVFs for adapted lenses. I understand your infatuation with the brand.
Cheers. Looking forward to hearing from you out of rehab.
Thanks for your kind thoughts.
I’ve loved physics since I was 8 and a physio “gave” me – literally! – 3 hours of her time, 3 days a week, for months on end, to get me out of my bed & back on my feet, when I was recovering from polio.
When I get back on my feet after this one, I have a couple of things in mind for DS. I’ll submit them to the Editor in Chief in due course!
Looking forward to it 🙂
Welcome back, Pete.
Wishing you all success in progressing and securing your independence and mobility, post-op.
Retired Physiotherapist, Sean.
Out of the flying pan into the fryer Sean. I love physios – without your help I would probably have been crippled by polio in 1950 and might never have been able to walk again.
The spinal surgery seems to have been successful and today I transferred to another campus. Rehab starts tomorrow – referred pain permitting. I’m lying here nervously waiting, hoping I can wing it on painkillers. This afternoon wasn’t encouraging
Well – I feel Pascal’s pain – I am committed to Nikon and some are expressing concern at it’s future.
My conclusion – I have TWO bodies that both have 200,000 shutter clicks & at this age, I’m never going to live long enough to take that many photos.
I have the lenses & other gear I want.
I’ll support Nikon wherever I can.
And my Christmas present just arrived – the “repro” Zfc, complete with the new Z-mount 105 Macro and the L-bracket some other firm makes for it!
Cool – just in time to capture some bees, chasing nectar on my crepe myrtle, when they send me home from hosp next week. Hope recent hot weather hasn’t done for all the flowers!