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PENTAX NEWS, 3 NEW CAMERAS ON THE HORIZON??!!
There is a lot of potential for growth and some bright minds working their mighty hands through the whirlpool of change that is the world of film these days. With new lenses, 3-d printed bodies and backs, new film stocks, and more repackaged and rebranded films being thrown on the market. The end of certain films and the rise in the price of many others, the development of new flash units and ways to print or scan your film, and new bags for traveling with your precious babies safely packed in style. All that’s happening along with a very recent faint whisper of what’s to come riding on a breeze just beside the current hubbub on the WWW.
News of the now 65 + year old, and still current, Asahi/Pentax company mentioning via video that they are working towards three new models of film-specific cameras has taken the community by storm! I am a bit late on this, I started this article about 2 weeks ago after seeing the video and then lost steam drastically. This is not to say that I am not excited, because I am, I just don’t always have the words.
First things first though, when I mentioned still current, I should’ve said under the Pentax name. Asahi was dropped long ago at least for camera branding, it is still used on surveying instruments, yet Pentax (who is now owned by Ricoh since 2011) is still a great and reliable company with years (obviously), of experience and exciting film and digital camera manufacturing prowess. This kind of announcement doesn’t come so often these days, at least not in the fashion of the fabulously fashionable and well-made. There are a lot of things that watching the youtube specific statement made me feel, but no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to let go of the one part of the video that caused flashbacks to a little camera that was in the works not too long ago, known as the REFLEX SLR.
From video released by Pentax, link to full video at end of article.
Reflex camera was another company, a new company, a short-lived company at that, that got only a little way passed their Kickstarter campaign, and had a few fazes of success and failure, yet they pushed on, but eventually stopped altogether. They raised about $132,000 with the support of 464 backers who never saw even a speck of what their $458 should have gotten them in 2018. Now Reflex was promising a lot, features I don’t give 3 hoots about, but they seemed to catch the eyes of many others; even still the fire dimmed and died. Now Reflex hasn’t been the only recent startup that has conceptualized, raised funds, promised, and faded out with a lot of potential and money raised. There were the ‘Original Meyer Optik Gorlitz’ reboots in 2010, ‘Triggertrap’, and the competing ‘Nero Camera Trigger’, later rebranded as ‘MIOPS’. Triggertrap is another product I wouldn’t have been too interested in, yet for others, it was something worth investing over $500,000 into through yep you guessed it, another Kickstarter campaign flop. Triggertrap also began to blossom and expand with their initial idea, beginning to promise more and more to backers and the film community as a whole. They had a list of projects in the works, ‘Triggertrap mobile’/’Redsnap’ later renamed ‘ADA’, which promised to be modular and INFINITELY expandable. I just have to point something out real quick, saying something you haven’t manufactured yet is going to be infinitely anything, at least to me, is either shooting yourself in the foot due to overhead costs and unknown expenses throughout the whole of a products life or creating lots of room for projects and product growth; in this case, it quickly became neither. The reason they gave as to why they would be halting operation on this product and why they also wouldn’t be sending out any products to backers as promised was that “they underestimated costs of developing and manufacturing the new trigger.” Reflex also stated something similar having to halt operations due to not yet finding an Investor to help float the project. Along with costs of manufacturing, hiccups in production, and so on and so on.
Other current projects in the works and leaning into the cash abyss of Kickstarter are the POD mini, an adaptable macro lighting unit, having raised over $33,000. You have the Maven color-coded magnetic filters which have raised almost $430,000 and the HEIPI 3-in-1 tripod for traveling, which has raised almost $650,000. Now with the current projects that are out there and hopefully getting started to deliver to the people what they’d promised; I have been looking at some older ones such as the Trioplan 50 lens by ‘net SE/Meyer Optik Gorlitz’ having raised $683,801 before being snuffed out and adding it to the other dollar amounts of failed campaigns. Some great ideas have come and gone and some have truly stuck and for the better. But from the few I have found and that have inevitably failed even with the help of excited and enthusiastic camera users all over, (and mind you that I am not adding to these numbers the 3 current campaigns listed) there has been around $1,315,801 invested in efforts, failed ideas and nothingness.
I’m sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg too. It is a sloppy, crowded, and busy world and I do not think for one second that it is any one of the investors or backers’ fault for having hope that these useful and fun tools will come to be, but it is a big red flag to me and sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are not areas I will ever put money into. I know these things will continue to happen and I hope that in some not-too-distant future, people will be rewarded for supporting ideas and dreams and have something to show for their efforts, for all efforts; because the truth is, we want what we want. Just a quick little aside, I don’t mean to point the finger at any one company or group that has had a campaign that failed and say “they were pulling one over on anyone investing just to get money, with no intention of producing the promised end” but it is hard not to think that way sometimes.
Moving on to other known news, other companies that have recently released some new cameras are Kodak and Ilford. Putting out into the world some plastic toy cameras, which are great fun, but not necessarily something to write home about or even write a whole article about.
There are so many reasons why the film community needs new cameras, and not only new but well made, and not only well made but affordable yet uncompromising in their quality. I believe that this could do much more than just benefit the film community, but creative people around the world! I know..I know…a bold statement, but looking at what the future may hold and what can be made to elicit positive growth and curiosity within an art form and for a group of people, new film cameras made with the high standards and consistency of a company like Pentax could be a very great thing. Making more tools to record the world unfolding inside us, and beyond where our minds have dared to go would be exciting. Pentax mentions in the video that they aim to cater to younger and newer film users, at least with one of the cameras they’d manufacture, which would hopefully give way to a creative bloom among them.
Maybe leading to an introspective search and longing for knowledge of the old, current, and the new; and in turn harboring more experimentation, making boundary-breaking moves in the art of photography. Just maybe this spark in film shooters would push more companies to take notice and start investing more time, energy, skill, and money in producing more well-made, budget-friendly cameras and gear in the future.
Having a company like Pentax move towards making something at a time too many people are throwing money at things they want and that they see aiding them in their path; only to be left waiting for the faint ping of an update letting them know that nothing will be gracing their doorstep any time soon, could be very beneficial to all parties. It could be quite an exciting uplift in spirits as well.
Photography isn’t the oldest of art forms, talking film photography being only about 134 years old, it is however an art form nonetheless. It uses wonderful magical tools and processes, and to have more up-to-date, modern bits and pieces being manufactured and certain people, and companies having the desire to continue to make these for the public to use and use confidently would be outstanding.
Now, let us get into the “new” Leica M6 as an example of what has been done and what could be done differently. As most of us know, Leica is a very upheld, quality company that produces some of the most well-made photography and scientific equipment in the world. They have made some of the most popular cameras ever made, almost all of those, selling for well over a grand. Photographers, the world over finding out about the release of a new M6 created a roar from the smooth bases of all Leica M6s previously purchased being slid across the many desks and shelves of photographers to make room for the new one. When I found out about this, my first reaction was, “oh great another overly priced camera that no one has access to!” I know that this statement isn’t true, and I am not upset about the remake of the M6, it just doesn’t do much for the greater film community in my opinion. It builds a certain momentum in the sense of, what will come next…but Leica has been producing film cameras way out of people's leagues and far from their wallets for years. They should see the potential in making, yet again, a camera like the CL, but perhaps made of a little less plastic and with a few upgrades, while trying to consider not only their costs but the costs of future customers and what such a move by a favored company could mean in the long run.
This is to say, I don’t see that happening and I don’t believe Leica to be the company to do that. Pentax swooping in now is a huge move, a smart move, and hopefully a good move all around for everyone involved. If Pentax can pull this off, and not only pull it off but benefit themselves and the people investing in these new cameras, that just might give other companies more cause to leap into the game yet again and leave us seeing more and more great cameras and lenses in the future.
With all that being said, one thing that makes me a bit less apprehensive to be excited about the future releases of these Pentax branded cameras is that they are an established company, using an established brand. Ricoh makes some very nice cameras and seems to know how to listen to their users. It is also nice how they are being pretty transparent in the video, stating that all the older techs are gone or near gone and they will mostly be relying on blueprints and old notes to form concrete ideas and plans for future production, using older models as platforms to leap from, which makes me a little nervous, but why not have a little faith? In the end, be it 2 years, 5 years, or 15 years down the road, I cannot begin to guess what will happen, but I will continue to be hopeful for the growth of all photographic endeavors, especially film, and for now, this Pentax news is so exciting and refreshing.
Is this the beginning of a great new era in film history? Even with companies vying for a spot and enough financial growth to sustain their practices, such as film prices booming due to the cost of production and needed material for film manufacturing. Camera resellers and film resellers jacking up prices endlessly and the cool kids that uphold these price hikes by continuing to purchase those same “grail” cameras and make videos about them. Outside of all that mess, I see this as a beneficial and beautiful move. I can’t wait to see what is produced down the line and how it comes to affect film photography’s greater history, a history that is still in the making!
Link to Pentax News: