News: Pentax full-frame SLR in development – will this give sports photogs another option?

In interesting news for serious amateurs and professional photogs after affordable gear, Pentax has confirmed it is working on a full-frame (FF) sensor SLR, although it won’t be out until at least 2013.

Interviewed by Japanese publication Digicame Watch (link originally shared by Photo Rumors), Pentax Japan development unification section chief, Toshiyuki Kitazawa, said, “We are working on it [the FF camera] as a product proposal, so it will, without doubt, be released”.

However, he said, “we are developing with an eye to a 2013-or-later release”, so even though he also said Pentax was already in contact with sensor manufacturers, don’t get your hopes up just yet.

When it is released, it will be interesting to see what Pentax does with it. The interviewer pointed out that Pentax is known for its smaller- and lighter-than-usual designs, hoping to get confirmation this was where Pentax was heading, but Kitazawa-san seemed unsure whether this was enough.

“If we just make a slightly smaller and lighter full-frame camera than other companies, is there much point in investing in full-frame lenses?” he said.

Pentax has confirmed it is working on the K5-IIs and 645D successors, as well as its new full-frame camera

In the wide-ranging interview, Kitazawa-san also answered questions on mirrorless cameras, where he said APS-C would be as large as it went, given compactness was a category advantage (no-one seems to have told him about the Sony RX-1) and the 645D, where he confirmed a successor was in development. Kitazawa-san also said Pentax was developing a K5-II successor and looking to expand its APS-C range short-mid term.

All this (bar possibly the lack of a mirrorless full-frame) is great news. But looking at the FF news in particular, I find what Kitazawa-san said very interesting. Canon and Nikon have very clearly staked out the entry-level FF camera as a new battle ground in their ongoing sales war. And frankly, as a photographer, it is obvious full-frame is the way SLRs will go. Squeezed at both the entry- and now mid-level by Micro Four-Thirds and other mirrorless cameras, SLRs need a point of difference. Full-frame is it. But what will Pentax do with their full-frame?

Obviously, I’m as uncertain as the next person. Camera manufacturers back in the film days proved small lenses could offer fast apertures and light weight, but still be 35mm-compatible. Leica proves it today. At least up to medium-tele focal lengths. But whether this sort of size-reduction is enough to constitute the difference Pentax wants is another matter.

Maybe Pentax will go for a landscape-oriented camera instead. Their recent track record (the K5-IIs) says this is a possibility, and weather sealing is useful in many landscape shooting environments.

Whichever way Pentax goes, you can be assured it will be unique. If it does come out with a weather-sealed, compact full-frame SLR and a decent lens line-up, I’ll be first in line for one. Such a model range will undoubtedly be very appealing and steal a huge march on its rivals. The bane of many shooter’s lives these days is size and weight of equipment, so if I can save my back, I will. If it comes out with a landscape-oriented model, that may not be so useful to me or some others, but I don’t doubt it would be a great niche buy.

What do you think? Would you like to use a smaller, lighter 35mm body and lenses? Or do you like the bulk, and feeling of longevity current set-ups give? Would you even prefer a landscape-oriented, filter-less camera for non-sports-related work/play? What else could Pentax do to make its full-frame stand out? Let me know in the comments below.

(Note: I originally stated the camera would not be out until after 2013. This was a mistake in my translation. In my defence, I had been awake for about 18 hours by the time I read the original article, so mistakes were made. My apologies to anyone who was adversely affected by this error.)


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