Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pentax - Terminator, or terminated?

Just like the Terminator movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger always returns with “I’ll be back”. So just when almost everyone has written off Pentax, they’re back with (gasp!) a medium format digital camera!

I suspect many readers are not familiar with Pentax’s history, so here’s a short jaunt down memory lane. Pentax was a big brand in the past, and it had glorious cameras including iconic medium-format ones such as the Pentax 645 and Pentax 67. Pentax then has a history of doing things differently, because while most brands designed their cameras to have interchangeable film backs, Pentax alone decided that users should not be allowed to change films.

As made evident by history, this decision did not resonate well with photographers. So I’m befuddled when Pentax decided to wade into the medium format digital camera market – which is highly saturated, extremely competitive and limited in size. What aghast me even more – is the decision to incorporate a non-interchangeable digital back! There are a few arguments against such an arrangement – you can’t clean the sensor easily unlike interchangeable digital backs. The Pentax 645D has ultrasonic dust cleaning function, but we all know some spots cannot be removed that easily. Secondly, you cannot upgrade the sensor without throwing away the entire camera. Or if the camera jams on you during a shoot, you cannot change the back onto another working camera body. And finally, you cannot use the expensive digital sensor on another camera (such as another brand or even on a large format camera), which most of the other interchangeable digital backs allow you to do so.

So why on earth did Pentax come to this decision to design a non-interchangeable back? I suspect pride and ego contributes greatly to this folly, although I think they rather call it heritage and consistency.  Pentax also claims that the P645D is extremely durable and dependable with this body construction, as well as offering superior weather sealing. Nice, but I’d rather have the flexibility of having interchangeable backs. I guess they’ll be selling a lot of the P645Ds to National Geographic then.

The Pentax 645D features a 40MP medium format digital sensor, and it also accepts the legacy Pentax P645 lenses (might as well… I suspect existing P645 users are the only ones who will buy this camera… and they number in the hundreds). I usually like to root for the underdog, but this is one puppy that’s not a top dog for sure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At 1/2 the price of the nearest competitor, it there's a problem, you could replace the ENTIRE camera to keep shooting...

I suspect more than existing P645 user will be interested in this camera, and I suspect you underestimate this underdog. ;-)