Camera manufacturers need to do more to attract a broader demographic if they are to remain successful in the future. A new generation of photographers are turned off by the button-strewn black boxes that dominate the ranges of most brands. That’s the view expressed by Jonathan Martin, general manager of Ricoh Imaging UK, the company behind the Pentax brand.
‘The desire to express ourselves creatively and to share our own vision of the world is much more widespread with young people today than with previous generations, and photography is a major part of that,’ explained Martin, during an interview at the Photokina trade show in Cologne.
‘Photography is more popular than it has ever been, thanks partly to the easy availability of the technology to make that possible. Everyone is taking pictures on their phones, yet not enough of them are taking that step into a camera shop to buy a proper camera. We need to do more to tempt them by offering them cameras that not only provide that step-up in image quality but are more cool and stylish to look at, and easier to use.’
Martin was standing beneath the centerpiece of the Ricoh stand at Photokina, a huge display of 120 multi-coloured Pentax K-50 DSLRs suspended under a wall of running water, designed to demonstrate both the weather resistance of the camera as well as the unequalled range of colour combinations that it comes in.
‘The theme of our stand this year is colour,’ he added, in case it wasn’t clear. ‘People don’t have to settle for black; they can create a camera customised to their own tastes.
The main attraction on the Ricoh stand, however, was not the K-50 but the radically styled new Pentax K-S1 DSLR, a camera that demonstrates perfectly how the company is trying to woo a younger buyer. With its row of flashing LED lights built into the handgrip (green for stills shooting, red for video), its diminutive footprint and stylish backlit mode dial on the back it looks like nothing yet seen on a DSLR, and that’s the point.
Image: The Pentax K-S1, sporting a row of futuristic LEDs, was announced at the end of August
‘The K-S1 looks quite futuristic,’ says Martin, proudly. ‘It probably won’t appeal to the traditional AP reader but it might to their kids and grandchildren, who are probably taking more pictures than they are.’ Although you can buy the K-S1 in black if you want to, as well as 11 other colours (including denim, tweed and sunset) it’s the white version (pictured above) that has attracted the most attention so far, and which Martin expects to be the best seller.
But he is also at pains to point out that behind the colourful and stylish exteriors, Pentax also offers a higher specification for the money than its rivals. The entry-level K-S1, for example, offers a 20.1-million-pixel sensor with user-selectable AA filter simulator, 100% viewfinder, ISO 51,200 and 5.4fps – and Pentax is still the only DSLR brand to offer weather-proofing virtually throughout the range.
Ricoh also showed off its recently announced WG-M1 Action Cam, the company’s attempt to capture some of the huge and lucrative GoPro market, and also revealed two full-frame lenses, fuelling speculation that Ricoh is developing a full-frame DSLR.
Image: The Ricoh WG-M1 – a new direction for the firm