Ricoh’s track record with Pentax

When Ricoh took the Pentax brand, staff and patents from Hoya, who themselves had acquired them only a few years earlier, they took on a brand that was behind in several key areas that were well known to and voiced by customers. One by one, Ricoh has apparently rallied resources to remedy these problems:

  • Finished the long-awaited 1.4x weather-sealed teleconverter (engineering flourish: using only three elements)
  • Delivered a long tele lens (560mm, i.e. 840mm EFL; engineering flourish: telescope design for weight reduction)
  • Introduced a major innovation in the flagship model, the K-3 (anti-aliasing filter simulation) as well as beginning to adapt Ricoh technologies for use in Pentax models – first clear sign of long-term commitment to the brand; too many other key innovations were implemented in the K-3 for me to mention here, but improvements were made in all areas – metering, autofocus, flash, and, importantly, Wi-Fi support and a smartphone app for remote control and preview (aka wireless tethering)
  • Filled further gaps in the line-up such as the 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom
  • Launched first model with fully articulated display (engineering flourish: weather-sealed)
  • Launched shortest DSLR zoom lens and smallest weather-sealed DSLR with fully articulated display

Ricoh have clearly capitalised on core Pentax strengths: bright and large 100% view pentaprisms, compactness, and weather-sealing. They’ve also kept to the strategy of offering more than the competition at the same price-point. Having done all this, they dropped the bomb:

K-Mount digital SLR camera with a large, 35mm full-frame image sensor […] under development for market launch by the end of 2015 (source)

Within days, nearly every Pentax user ever active on any forum was online to comment on the matter. While giving hardly any product details, Ricoh has stolen everyone’s attention for CP+ – in spite of major announcements from Olympus and Canon. Ricoh then set up a topic on its own forums to collect feedback. This fits a general pattern of being customer-centric, and within less than three years, Ricoh has wiped nearly everything off Pentaxians’ wishlists. I don’t think any other photography brand has equalled this within the same time-frame. Less than nine months from now, it will be clear whether Ricoh can keep the momentum of this consolidation phase, and start to innovate the heck out of the CaSoNikons, with features that customers really need.

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