Penta-X-Trans?

21 Feb

I previously wrote about how it might be interesting to have two of the more innovative but commercially less successful camera manufacturers pool their technologies, suggesting the Fujifilm and Panasonic could be two such candidates – fully aware, of course, that Panasonic already has a partnership with Leica as well as, separately, with Leica and Olympus (for Live MOS), which could complicate negotiations.

But Fujifilm is an interesting company. There was a time when they made DSLR bodies without having a lens line-up – they used Nikon’s F mount, which made a large number of lenses available to be used. At some point, Fuji gave up on this business, presumably because competition from Nikon was too fierce, and the idea of differently branded bodies and lenses confusing to customers. Since then, Fuji has released DSLR-styled bridge cameras – I assume as a replacement of sorts.

I suspect with SLR cameras being one of the more stable remaining segments in the market, Fuji may be interested in renewing its ambitions and getting a slice of that pie. Pentax has recently made great headway in the segment with releasing the K-5 IIs, which according to reports gives not only great sharpness, but also high colour fidelity. Again, it feels like something so bold and brazen that only an innovative underdog like Pentax could pull it off. But the truth, I think, goes deeper. Pentax had its back against the wall. They’d released the K-5 to great acclaim two years previously, and made a serious impression on anyone in the APS-C industry and market. They had to release an update, but there wasn’t a new sensor, either due to a lack of new negotiations amid the Ricoh take-over, or because the existing contract specified a minimum volume that hadn’t been met. Usually, you would want to release a higher-resolving sensor with an AA filter, so that resolving power could increase without adding moire or aliasing to an image. But Pentax, for one reason or another, hasn’t seemed to have that option. So now the bets are on for a next generation 24 megapixel sensor from Sony, but what if that’s all wrong?

What if Fujifilm’s X-Trans platform could be developed to a point where it’s competitive with Sony’s 16MP model? It’s clear that Fujifilm’s JPEG quality already beats Pentax’ platform with that Sony sensor. A question Pentax might ask is whether the next generation Sony sensor will get them ahead again, or if software support for Fujifilm’s photosite arrangement will have progressed far enough to make X-Trans the more attractive platform. All of this assumes, of course, that Fuji doesn’t have its own ambitions to get back into the SLR game.

Sony, meanwhile, is aware of the pressure, and is anticipated by some to release a whole range of Foveon-style sensors at some point in the near future, which would eliminate Sony’s disadvantage in the aliasing and moire department. It looks to me like the current full frame mania may just give Sony enough time to save its position as the provider-of-all-sensors.

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