Some time ago, Pentax released a firmware update for its K-01 mirrorless system camera – a camera, if you recall, that can use all of Pentax’ legacy lenses as well as current K mount models. The update drastically improved the camera’s autofocus speed by eliminating unnecessary lens element travel during focusing.
However, because Pentax did not release the firmware upgrade as an entirely new camera model, the camera was not re-reviewed by the technical press in light of the improvements made.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, and we get a camera, the K-50, that is a K-30 in all but the outer shell and some very minor details, featuring ISO 51200, which was assumed by most to be a simple firmware upgrade relative to the K-30.
So in the earlier case, Pentax does right by the customer, allowing existing owners to take advantage of firmware improvements, and gets largely ignored by the tech press for it. So, faced with the same dilemma a second time, they decide to force the upgrade on the customer. Sure, there could be a whole raft of other explanations – maybe they weren’t happy with the K-30’s body, which got mixed reviews, or the K-01 firmware improvement cropped up rather unexpectedly, and given then-current sales figures, was judged to be already late in the production cycle, Pentax panicked and just released it without thinking. Maybe there was reluctance to either give up the body that much money was presumably spent designing, or to sell a K-02 in an identical body.
Maybe Pentax didn’t really hold back ISO 51200 on the K-30 to reduce the effect on K-5 sales, or to have an easy upgrade available with the K-50 (no additional technical R&D, just change the surface of the body, take the handbrake off the firmware and there you go). If anybody ever does decide to hack the Pentax K series firmware, there’s a chance we’ll know.
But I do think that the tech press should have put more fanfare on the AF firmware improvement on the K-01, to give customers a chance to further incentivise the earlier noble behaviour on Pentax’ part.