Pentax reveals more details of new flagship camera

Today, Ricoh is expected to reveal more details of the upcoming Pentax APS-C flagship camera, the first proper APS-C flagship for Pentax since the K-3 II of 2015. I originally live-covered the event, but have now re-edited the page for those who want to read the story from top to bottom. Enjoy!

new_pentax_apsc_2020_front
Prototype as it was last year

What was known previously:

  • The camera will have a new name, so it will not be a K-3 III; some Pentaxians are currently dubbing it the “K new” or variations thereof.
  • The camera body has been comprehensively redesigned, a departure from the very continuous design of the K-7, K-5, K-5 II, K-3 and K-3 II.

pentaxComposite

  • The optical viewfinder has been significantly redesigned to be more compact, have a greater magnification of 1.05, and now uses “special glass”
  • It will be the first digital Pentax to feature a joystick and eye sensor
  • It will have a top plate LCD as well as the rear one
  • Dials on top are similar to K-1 and KP, but the modal dial has gone, possibly replaced by a modal “S.Fn” button that is placed at the center of the controls on top
  • The graphical user interface (GUI) has been described as redesigned
  • Image quality (sensor and processor) has been improved
  • Autofocus performance has been improved, particularly in the area of tracking
  • It will be released this year, rumoured to be in September.
new_pentax_apsc_2020_back
Prototype as of last year
  • There is a 16-50mm f/2.8 APS-C zoom lens coming that is a new design taking advantage of a new faster and quieter focus motor (“PLM” in Pentax terminology for “pulse motor”) as well as the new HD coating that reduces flare and ghosting. The lens was on track for a release in 2021, but there have been hints Ricoh will try to get this DA* (i.e. “professional”) lens co-released with the camera. The lens may not be talked about today.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 90

What we’ve learnt today:

In the presentation, Mr. Wakashiro from product planning is answering interview questions from photographer Mr. Sasaki.

Mr. Sasaki exclaims in surprise, describes the viewfinder as clearer, larger and broader.

The eyepiece is the same size as on the KP.

The glass used for the pentaprism is high-refraction glass – “exceptionally high refractions”; design started in 2017, specifications are even older. The material has never before been used in a camera, according to Mr. Wakashiro, creating the highest viewfinder magnification of any Pentax APS-C format cameras, of 1.05 times.

The viewfinder is also “nearly 10% brighter” than in the KP.

Distortion of the viewfinder has also been reduced.

Mr. Sasaki says the camera is smaller than he expected. Looking at both cameras side by side on the table, the K-new looks only slightly taller and with a bulkier grip than the KP.

Screen Shot 2020-07-22 at 13.42.45crop
KP at the front, K-new at the back

According to Mr. Wakashiro, the K-new may be slimmer from lens mount to display (difficult to interpret his words exactly) than the KP. Also describes the body as “sturdy”.

Mr. Sasaki compliments the grip, says it fits well into his hands which he says are large, says the grip feels familiar and the shutter position is “natural”.

knewfrontLighterToShowGripAnd ContourSmall

Following corporate tradition, Pentax/Ricoh aimed to design a compact body and used a clay mock-up to model the grip. The final version of the grip, according to Mr. Wakashiro, has “the right shape and size for hands of different sizes”

rearview
Note the “mystery button”, now labelled with a lock symbol.

As expected, the joystick is for selecting focus points – “focus point lever”. Its position minimises interference with adjacent controls on the compact body, says Mr. Wakashiro.

joystickComparo
The joystick is now textured (right) rather than smooth (left, older prototype)

 

knewhousingbuttons2
As you’re holding the camera, the buttons to the left of the mirror box are now labelled “SR”, “RAW”, and “AF MODE”, with a two-way AF lever for AF/MF switching at the bottom of the set.

Many controls are now larger than on previous models.

KPvsKnewSizes
Top view: KP on left, K-new on the right

On the subject of the shutter, the video displays “newly developed smooth-action shutter unit”.

Mr. Sasaki is wowed by the sensation of the shutter button releasing, appears lost for words. “Very little pressure […] goes down so smoothly”. It’s a leaf switch shutter release mechanism, previously used in the K-1 and 645Z. This helps stabilise the camera, but is larger. This required an internal redesign of the camera to accommodate the larger mechanism.

The mirror mechanism is a redesign for less vibration from mirror swing-back; this is mostly relevant to continuous drive shooting.

Mr. Sasaki comments that autofocusing is faster.

Mr. Sasaki comments on the “secondary LCD panel” being rather large, apparently referring to the top plate LCD. Mr. Wakashiro calls it “LCD status panel” and says he cannot comment on details.

There seems to be something lost in translation as it becomes unclear whether Mr. Sasaki is also saying the rear display is larger than on the KP and K-1. After talking about the top display, he was saying it’s bigger than on the KP, but the KP has no top display at all!

Apparently the top display is easier to read than on previous models, according to photographer, Mr. Sasaki. He talks about aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation, so those may be details displayed on the top LCD.

Mr. Sasaki highlights the benefits of a top display, saying it makes it easy to check settings just before lifting the camera to one’s eye – this is presumably a comparison to the KP, which he brought along.

Mr. Wakashiro mentions “improved components” including “image sensor, imaging engine and accelerator unit.” It was previously known the sensor and imaging engine would be improved, but it now appears the accelerator unit is improved as well. All “newly designed and developed for this camera”, gives more “resolving power” and better “high sensitivity photography”. “Brand-new” imaging engine. Unclear what is meant by resolving power as Mr. Wakashiro also hints that the megapixel count will be the same as on previous APS-C models (that would make it 24 megapixels, Ed.).

Mr. Wakashiro hints at same megapixel count as before, says image quality is improved particularly for low sensitivity, not so much ISO 800,000 (which presumably this camera will cover). The video overlay shows “improved image quality over the entire ISO sensitivity range”. Mr. Wakashiro specifically mentions ISO 100 will also be improved.

“Most advanced APS-C flagship model available today” in terms of image processing and quality, claims Mr. Wakashiro.

Mr. Wakashiro says he hopes this camera will “break [the] perception [that] APS-C format SLR cameras are inferior to full-frame SLR counterparts in term[s] of optical viewfinder and image quality”. BIG GOAL!

Mr. Wakashiro also mentions “design[ing] viewfinders that produce natural, true-to-life images [with] minimiz[ed] unwanted ghost images and excessive coloring”.

Mr. Sasaki mentions how distortion creates “uncertainty about the subject”, so the less distorted viewfinder should help with that, it’s implied.

End of flagship APS-C discussion, but there are 10 minutes left!

Soundbite Mr. Sasaki: “I really believe that I can intuitively sense what kind of camera it is the moment I first hold it in my hands. The moment I look into the viewfinder, I can sense the camera designers’ goals and focus.” Probably just means it feels balanced in the hand?

“NEW SILVER VERSIONS”! Now including Star series lenses. Shows a D FA* 50mm f/1.4 and 70-200mm D FA* in silver. The 85mm/1.4 will probably follow, Mr. Wakashiro says.

Screen Shot 2020-07-22 at 13.09.14small

The new silver versions use a paint designed to mimic the silver barrel of Limited lenses.

Silver Pentax K-1 II is also coming, and silver D FA 21mm lens. Apparently the silver K-1 II is open for pre-oders? Will be limited series, looks exactly the same as the silver K-1 classic except for the model name.

Silver K-new may also come, but no announcement on when.

Mr. Wakashiro: “This time we are working especially hard to launch the silver version alongside the black one.” Referring to the K-new.

Screen Shot 2020-07-22 at 13.21.57small2

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Mr. Wakashiro: “Some exterior designs still need to be refined” – so not yet ready for release, hence the uncertainty of whether the silver model will be released alongside the black.

SURPRISE REVEAL: DUAL CARD SLOTS on the K-new!! Revealing that was apparently not planned at this point, seems to have happened by accident (or Mr. Sasaki (and possibly Mr. Wakashiro) at least (a) half-decent actor(s) and this was a pre-planned “one more thing” moment).

Mr. Wakashiro mentions having dual card slots poses problems with miniaturisation. But apparently, they managed.

END OF PRESENTATION.

Four final comments from me – firstly, it sounded like Ricoh/Pentax does not want to release another full-frame camera very soon if they are saying that their hope is that APS-C will continue to challenge full frame in terms of image and viewfinder quality. It sounds like they see the K-new as THE flagship for the time being, not so much the K-1 II. Or maybe that’s just the way they’re presenting it because they want to sell the APS-C camera right now and hype it up.

It’s also always interesting what hasn’t been talked about. We’ve heard no details about either of the two displays in the camera, and nothing about software – maybe there is no substantially rehauled GUI, or maybe this is related to the rear display (touchscreen, as hinted by the presence of an eye sensor?) Also absent was any discussion of the 16-50mm f/2.8 lens, which might suggest it’s not on target for a co-release with the camera. On the other hand, it sounded at the end like they might stage another similar event to give more details nearer the launch, so nothing altogether certain should be assumed about the missing items at this point.

The dampened shutter button and dampened mirror mechanism could be hints of a high continuous shooting rate or a slightly higher megapixel count after all, on this camera – the phrasing was a little bit vague on that point and could mean anything from 24 to 32 megapixels, although that’s very theoretical as Pentax would probably not be interested in Canon’s 32MP sensor given Pentax’ historical reliance on Sony sensors and the generally lower dynamic range of Canon’s. And while Sony apparently has a 43 megapixel sensor in the works, Pentax may only be offered the 26 megapixel one.

Overall, I thought Mr. Sasaki was a very entertaining interviewer in this part, seemingly switching back and forth between effusive praise of the products and fairly targeted questions that he didn’t always get an answer for. I think as far as picking him as the presenter is concerned, it’s a plus for both Ricoh and the community.

Thanks everyone for watching/reading along. Have a great day.

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