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July 16, 2012

Pentax will stop making fixed lens digicams (Ricoh will continue)

UPDATE 7/17/12 at 1:53pm NYC time: Pentax told dpreview today that this is only an option and a final decision has NOT been made. [update: NOT has been added to the previous sentence on 7/19/12 at 3:36am ET. It was accidentally forgotten in the previous update].

The president of Pentax+Ricoh told Japanese newspapers that there will be no more new fixed-lens digital cameras under the Pentax brand. P&S cameras will continue under the Ricoh brand. Details via Imaging Resource.

The big questions that the future will answer are:
1) what about the GXR system?
2) what about the Pentax P&S cameras, current and future designs? Will they move or get absorbed by the Ricoh line-up, or are they gone gone?
3) what about the Ricoh fixed lens cameras line-up?

A not-brief Primer on Pentax and Ricoh P&S fixed lens Cameras

As you may recall recalling, Pentax tried their hand with fixed lens digital cameras with the Optio line, almost all of them would be what some serious photographers would call "digicams" in a passive-aggressive dismissive kind of way. The Optio 750 was quite possibly the closest attempt in the modern era to make a more interesting fixed-lens compact. To their credit, they tried some crazy ideas, but apart from the waterproof/elementproofs, nothing really stood out the last few years.

On the Ricoh fixed lens front, the company has/had two sub-lines of compacts-with-RAW, the GR-D primes and the GX-series zooms. The most recent GR-D model, the GRD IV was announced in September 2011 [reviews], while the most recent GX-series model was announced in June 2008, and most likely it has been replaced by the GXR system (there was already the S10 GXR module with a similar sensor size and lens).

The rest of the Ricoh fixed lens cameras fall into two categories: the industrial strength elementproofs that are actually designed for industrial work environments and situations (mostly released in Japan) and the mass-market P&S models. The mass-market P&S models include the CX-series of compact-zooms, and the PX-series of waterproofs with one model, the PX, which was launched in June 2011.

If our new cameras lists are accurate [see Reference action in right sidebar], the last time Ricoh announced a basic/entry-level P&S digital camera was in 2008. The CX-line of compact-zooms got started in 2009. So Ricoh was already long out of the entry-level, and were exploring the nebulous middle of the fixed lens camera market.

Ricoh is not very well known outside Japan for their cameras in the eyes of the mythical average consumer. If you ask a random person off the street, you will likely get this type of an answer: "wait, you are talking about copy machines, right?" So it would be rather strange if they were to market mass-market consumer digital cameras outside Japan under a brand that is not as recognizable as Pentax by consumers. And it's not like the Pentax P&S cameras were popular or famous.

So perhaps they are heading towards more nichification, both line-up wise and geography-wise, focus on perhaps the GR-D, the elementproof/waterproofs (industrial and/or consumer), and perhaps the compact-zooms?

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