Monday, September 22, 2008

Photokina 2008 Announcements: The K2000, Ring Flash, and New Lenses

With all the ballyhoo of camera announcements at Photokina in Germany, Pentax was sure to say something, and, even though it's not a huge line update, Pentax has got something new to show. Welcome the K2000! This camera was rumored to be called the KM in the U.S. (however, anyone with a memory and access to Google knew there already was a KM back in the '70s, so that's the name for Europe only - I will refer to it as K2000 in this blog). Now that it's official, we can see that it really intends to be Pentax's heir to the K1000. It's like Pentax is saying to consumers, we have this much faith in the product that we hope you'll love and trust it as much as the good old K1000. Well, this is mostly a branding issue, because the camera specs already look very familiar. However, I think it's a good decision to attach the "K2000" or K-M name in the run up to the holidays because certain naming schemes have issues if your camera sounds too much like competitors' models (K200 vs. D200, etc), and it looks like Pentax is doing some honing in order to differentiate better.

The camera itself is not a paradigm leap in technology. In fact, there's nothing new to report, except in terms body design. But that's enough: this camera is tiny. DP Review has a preview rundown, here.

Here's what Pentax is saying about the K2000:

Features on the newest digital K2000 SLR body include a 10.2 megapixel CCD, a 2.7 inch, 230,000 dot high resolution, wide-view LCD panel, and an ultra compact design that facilitates one handed operation. The body also features the same PENTAX developed Shake Reduction technology found on more advanced K series digital SLRs. PENTAX Shake Reduction is compatible with more than 25 million PENTAX lenses to deliver sharp images even when handheld at slower shutter speeds. The K2000 also features the powerful PENTAX developed Auto Picture Mode, which selects from Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Action, and Night Portrait modes to tailor the camera settings for any photographic situation. The camera also has a comprehensive Dust Removal system to help keep images spotless. A dedicated programmable help button clearly explains current camera settings to guide and teach the user about digital SLR photography.
This means it's just the old K10D/K200D shrunk down a bit more in scale and features to make it even lighter and more ergonomic, and entry-level. They even dropped the D from the name to completely jettison all unnecessary ballast. Ha. But really, the top LCD is gone, baby, gone. As is any weather sealing. And 6 of the AF points (we're down to 5 again at the entry level). But they did keep a user favorite feature that confounds some critics: the ability to use AA lithium and NiMH batteries. I can't remember how many times I've read some clueless write up that berates the entry-level Pentax cameras for using the world's most popular standardized battery. Frankly, when you travel, this is the smartest, most affordable option. It adds a bit of bulk, yes, but it's easy to replace batteries. Cheers to Pentax for not dropping it just to slim down the camera size. However, the aggressive battery + energy saving features mean that the flash guide number is a little less, now, too. Aside: losing light, was that meant to make the camera lighter or darker? Kidding.

Some extra good news is that ISO 3200 is finally back and that at 3.5fps the camera is speedier than the K200D. Pair this camera with a DA pancake lens and it should travel really well for tourists.

Between Olympus, Panasonic, Nikon, and Canon, there's a really tight race for small SLR-type cameras. I say "type" because the recently announced Panasonic Micro Four Thirds G-1 is optimized for live view and no longer requires a reflex mirror. Live view is suddenly the must have option. This is the biggest uphill battle for Pentax in the seasonal camera war. The K2000 doesn't have the increasingly popular live view mode. I can justify why I don't need it, but bell and whistle mongers at Best Buy and Ritz Camera will cry crocodile tears of frustration. Whatever. It will come when it comes, and I'm sure Pentax wishes they could implement it right now on every camera, not just the K20D, but it's not time yet.

The K2000 is mean to be sold as a system bundle, and you're going to get at least one lens, which is the DA L 18-55mm, and the AF200G auto flash. Another bundle includes a second lens, the telephoto zoom DA L 50-200mm.

Here are some other links to today's press about the K2000:
- Image samples from Pentax Japan
- Pop Photo: Pentax K2000: First Look
- Gizmodo: Pentax's Entry-Level K2000 DLSR, aka Km, Now Official
- Cnet Crave UK: Pentax K-m: 10-megapixel dSLR with cashback
- Engadget: Pentax's 10.2 megapixel compact K2000 for first time reflexers

Are the new bundled lenses which are designated "DA L" anything new? Well, not really. They have the same optics and similar construction as the previously produced standard DA lenses. They have a silver decorative ring, matching the new decorative silver line on the K2000, instead of the previous green ring, and are a few grams lighter, but that's nothing to make you crave replacing your original DA 18-55 II. The differentiation is that the L stands for "light," as in low weight, not to be confused with Limited. However, this is one naming scheme change that might be a bit confounding to the public who may know the Limited lenses or Canon's L series of lenses, which are top tier quality lenses, where as with Pentax they are the entry level. Mind you, I don't think Canon would make a bundle with L series of glass for under $700, though.

Two new lenses that are top tier (designated * or "star") were announced, too: PENTAX DA* 60-250mm f/4 ED[IF] SDM (sug. ret $1499.95) and PENTAX DA* 55mm f/1.4 SDM (sug. ret. $799.95). These are super multi coated with all the bells and whistles, and the latest innovation (from a marketing perspective) Aero Bright, which helps light transmission. The DA* 55mm strikes me as the most interesting, as this is a lens that would normally have been released with "Limited" in the name, but it's not there. Still, this should be a terrific portrait lens no matter what they call it. It'll be neat to see how it compares to the old 50mm F1.4 lenses of yesteryear.

Also, from the bag of goodies we get the updated PENTAX AF160FC Auto Macro Ring Flash. Okay, I love ring flashes, so I'll admit that the suggested retail price of $499.95 just about knocked me down. That's a lot more expensive than they used to be. But the old ones never had P-TTL support, which is what just about every Pentax digital camera (except the *ist and *ist DS) require. Though you can get similar solutions without any truly auto features, the AF160FC is going to make it easier for photos of bugs, small objects, and close portraits to have perfectly even lighting using just one flash. This is on my wish list already, although, based on recent developments I will not be trying to reproduce Jill Greenberg work (not that you could with a small ring flash anyway).

Link for more info about the flash at

That's not all at Photokina: Pentax is also previewing two spring 2009 lens releases, the PENTAX DA15mm f/4 ED AL (a super-wide angle) and the PENTAX DA 1.4X SDM Rear Converter (with SDM - finally!), which should be top notch for macro and telephoto enthusiasts. No prices have been announced for these yet.

Here's a link to some info about the two new lenses at Let's Go Digital.

Summary Facts:

PENTAX K2000 Fact Sheet
Compact, lightweight body for enhanced portability and maneuverability
Despite the large image sensor (23.5mm by 15.7mm), the PENTAX K2000 offers a compact, lightweight body to assure remarkable portability and maneuverability. The design incorporates a high-rigidity stainless-steel chassis, a more compact Shake Reduction mechanism and circuit boards, and the latest in high-density body component assembly to ensure efficient positioning and layout of various parts, including the repositioning of the battery compartment, to maximize ergonomics. The camera grip has also been redesigned for a firm, comfortable hold of the camera body.

Simplified ergonomics with dedicated Help button
The PENTAX K2000 features a newly designed control system that positions most of the buttons and dials on the camera’s grip side making it easier to operate the camera with one hand. Additionally, a dedicated reprogrammable Help button displays camera functions on the camera’s LCD screen. This built-in user’s manual is ideal for those who are unfamiliar with digital SLR cameras.

PENTAX original Shake Reduction mechanism for sharp, blur-free images
The PENTAX K2000 comes equipped with the PENTAX developed Shake Reduction (SR) * mechanism to reduce
camera shake for sharp, blur-free images even under demanding shooting conditions - such as with telephoto
lenses, in low light, at night without supplementary flash illumination and for extended exposures in sunset scenes. This innovative SR mechanism shifts the position of the image sensor vertically and horizontally at high speed using magnetic force, while adjusting the shifting speed in exact proportion to the amount of camera shake detected by a built-in sensor. SR offers an outstanding compensation effect up to the equivalent of approximately four shutter steps. As a result, the body does not require special anti-shake lenses and may be used with almost all existing PENTAX interchangeable lenses.
* Lenses compatible with this mechanism are: the PENTAX K-, KA-, KAF-, KAF2-, and KAF3-mount lenses; screw-mount lenses (with an adapter); and 645- and 67-system lenses (with an adapter). Some functions may not be applicable with certain lenses.

Comprehensive Dust Detection and Removal system
The PENTAX K2000 features the user-friendly Dust Removal (DR) system to prevent dust from appearing on images. Applied to the CCD image sensor low pass filter surface through the vapor deposition process of a fluorine compound, the PENTAX developed original SP (Super Protect) coating effectively prevents dust from sticking to the sensor. For any stubborn dust that still remains on the surface, the SR system shifts the image sensor at high speed to shake off these particles. Finally, the dust that is shaken off the image sensor falls onto an adhesive sheet positioned at the bottom of the SR unit, eliminating any possibility of it returning to the image sensor surface. This DR system also offers a Dust Alert function, which allows the user to detect any placement of dust on the sensor in advance of cleaning operations.

Auto Picture and creative Scene modes
The PENTAX developed Auto Picture mode is programmed to automatically select the most appropriate shooting mode such as Portrait, Landscape, Action, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, and Macro for a given subject. Since all camera settings, including aperture, shutter speed, white balance, saturation, contrast and sharpness are then automatically adjusted by the camera for optimum results, users can concentrate on image composition rather than mode selection. For more unconventional subjects and environments, PENTAX also includes 10 creative scene modes. Combined, the K2000’s automatic modes offer users great flexibility as they explore digital SLR photography.

High-quality image
The PENTAX K2000 combines a large, 10.2 megapixel sensor with the sophisticated PENTAX Real Image Engine (PRIME) as the imaging engine. This combination produces beautiful, detailed images with subtle gradations. The K2000 also features a Custom Image function, which offers a choice of six processing presets to give photographers high quality image processing flexibility.

High-speed continuous shooting at 3.5 frames per second
The PENTAX K2000 allows users to shoot images up to approximately 3.5 frames per second (in the JPEG recording format), allowing photographers to capture fast action sequences with ease.

High-precision 5-point AF system
The PENTAX K2000 incorporates a five-point, wide-area AF system (SAFOX VIII with five cross-type sensors) for dependable, high-precision autofocusing. Using the five sensors positioned in a cross pattern over the image field, this system automatically selects the optimum focus sensor for a given subject. Additionally, Center Focusing allows the photographer to enable only the centermost focus sensor. PENTAX engineers were also able to improve the focus speed under poor lighting conditions for improved autofocus performance overall.

Auto sensitivity control up to ISO 3200
The PENTAX K2000’s auto sensitivity control function automatically sets the optimum sensitivity between ISO 100 and ISO 3200, based on such data as the subject brightness level and lens focal length. Since this allows the user to take advantage of faster shutter speeds in poor lighting situations (such as indoor sports events and night scenes), it helps the photographer to effectively reduce blur due to camera shake and subject movement.

Enhanced Dynamic Range and Shadow Adjustment Mode
The K2000’s Enhanced Dynamic Range function allows the user to extend the dynamic range to prevent clipping in the highlight areas of the image. Additionally, Shadow Adjustment mode brings out detail in the darkest parts of the image. Combined, these functions help the user to produce beautiful, detailed images when shooting high-contrast subjects.

Large, easy-to-view 2.7 inch LCD monitor
The PENTAX K2000 features a large 2.7 inch color LCD monitor with approximately 230,000 dots of resolution. This monitor’s wide-view design allows the photographer to check the on-screen image from approximately 160 degrees both vertically and horizontally and offers digital zooming of playback images up to 16X for easy confirmation of the image’s focus and subject details.

Bright, clear viewfinder
With a lightweight penta-mirror prism and the acclaimed Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen, the PENTAX K2000’s viewfinder delivers a large, bright image with an approximately 96 percent field of view and approximately 0.85X magnification.

Digital filters for unique visual expressions
The PENTAX K2000’s built-in digital filters allow users to effortlessly add creative and artistic touches to recorded images without the use of a PC. Users may select one of 14 different digital filters including the new Toy Camera and Retro filters to create the desired visual effect.

Additional Features
- Energy-efficient power supply, recording approximately 1,650 images with four AA-size lithium batteries (included)
- Status screen, displaying camera settings on the LCD monitor for at-a-glance confirmation
- Index function, for five different types of display and printing modes
- Choice of 16-segment multi-pattern metering, center-weighted metering and spot metering to accommodate various photographic applications
- Simultaneous recording of RAW and JPEG format images
- Compatibility with SD and SDHC memory cards
- In-body development of RAW images
- Compatibility with SDM autofocus lenses for quiet, smooth focus operation
- PENTAX PHOTO Laboratory 3 RAW data processing software and PENTAX PHOTO Browser 3 browser software included

SMC PENTAX-DA L 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL Lens
- A compact standard zoom lens with focal lengths from 27.5mm to 84.5mm (in the 35mm format) covering wide-angle to medium-telephoto ranges.
- Latest optical design featuring a high-performance aspherical lens element to minimize aberrations.

SMC PENTAX-DA L 50-200mm f/4-5.6 ED Lens
- A super-compact, ultra-lightweight telephoto zoom lens with focal lengths from 76.5mm to 307mm (in the 35mm format).
- ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass optical element to minimize chromatic aberrations over the entire zoom range and overall enhanced optical performance.

SMC PENTAX-DA* 60-250mm f/4 ED[IF] SDM Lens
- When mounted on a PENTAX digital SLR camera body, this zoom lens provides focal lengths from 92mm to 383mm in the 35mm format. The 4.2X zoom ratio covers a broad telephoto range, making it ideal for capturing sporting events and portraits.
- Two extra-low dispersion (ED) optical elements are incorporated into the lens to minimize chromatic aberrations. A unique nonlinear shifting system in the zoom mechanism effectively reduces field curvature aberrations and assures outstanding optical performance at all focal lengths.
- The large F4 maximum aperture is consistant over the entire zoom range for faster shutter speeds and flexible the depth of field control.
- An innovative hybrid AF system offers both extra-smooth, super-quiet SDM autofocus operation using a supersonic motor installed in the lens body, and conventional autofocus operation using a motor built into
the camera body.

SMC PENTAX-DA* 55mm f/1.4 SDM Lens
- When mounted on a PENTAX digital SLR camera body, this medium-telephoto lens offers a focal length of 80mm in the 35mm format. Coupled with its large F1.4 maximum aperture, it is ideal for portraiture applications.
- A newly developed Aero Bright Coating enhances lens performance by ef/fectively reducing reflections over a wider wavelength range. Compared to conventional multi-coatings, this new coating greatly improves light transmittance through the lens, while drastically reducing flare and ghosting that deteriorate image quality.
- Rounded diaphragm blades create a more circular aperture for smooth, beautiful bokeh at large aperture settings.
- The advanced SDM mechanism assures extra-smooth, super-quiet autofocus operation using a supersonic motor installed in the lens body. With an SDM exclusive autofocus system, the lens is designed to be quite compact, despite its large maximum aperture.


John said...

While these aren't particularly exciting announcements for hardcore Pentaxians (or just regular photographers), they indicate that Pentax is working on what matters most to a business: reinforcing their entry-level lineup to bring in more users and profits.

This is a good thing, because it means they are working hard to stay in the game. Pentax fans should appreciate this, even if there's nothing else they're excited about in today's announced products.

The DA*55 1.4 is definitely on -my- want list, though. :)

Of course, I just bought a used Pentax AF080C ringflash last week, so I'm both excited and bummed about the new ringflash. ;)

Peter said...

I doubt we'll ever see the K2000 (or any Pentax DSLR) at Best Buy :/. I guess the upside to that is that Pentax can design for a more discerning market :).

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I believe that Da*55 1.4 is SDM only.

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