Pentax is an odd duck, for sure. They’ve held onto DSLRs with a death grip against the onslaught of DSLRs, which could potentially become their undoing in a few years. Now, though, it seems that instead of taking a step towards the future, they’re taking one into the past. But it’s not a backwards step! Film’s resurgence over the last decade or so is no secret. New film brands seem to be popping up regularly and even Kodak is struggling to keep up with demand.
It’s a trend that has not gone unnoticed by Pentax, who have always been a more familiar brand amongst film shooters than digital. So now, they’ve launched a new Film Camera Project. In a press release, the company said the project entails research and developing new Pentax brand “film camera products”, bringing together both veteran and younger engineers to take advantage of both old and new tech.
It’s certainly an interesting change of direction for Pentax to go. Given that there aren’t really any big names producing new film cameras anymore – except for the occasional Leica reissue – this could potentially be the niche that helps them survive in a world where DSLRs are disappearing. It would also take them back to their roots, producing the types of cameras they’re more famously known for. Cameras like the Pentax 67 are legendary amongst film photographers, and almost everybody who shoots one immediately tends to fall in love with it.
Whether or not we’ll see a new medium format camera remains to be seen, but I think a 35mm body would certainly be on the way. That they’re working with their older and more experienced engineers as well as younger engineers with newer perspectives and familiarity with more modern technology suggests that we might be seeing a more modern, higher-end take on film cameras, similar to that left off by companies like Nikon and Canon when they finally made the complete switch to Digital.
As well as developing new cameras, though, the Film Camera Project also aims to work together with camera enthusiasts. Pentax plans to have various online and offline events to help promote the project, as well as social media, to bring film photographers together and hear their comments and suggestions about product development. They say they are also working on a way to “communicate effectively about the project’s development” to users and work closely with them.
The reasons for the new initiative include the growing popularity in shooting film and in a Ricoh/Pentax survey of 3,000 photographers in Japan, approximately 20% own a film camera (not including disposable or instant cameras). Older generations are getting back into it and many young photographers are just discovering analogue photography for the first time. It’s a fascinating process that’s very different to shooting digital. And if you’re developing yourself, it’s an almost therapeutic process. The shooting process itself can also often help us to calm and slow down and unwind from the chaos of our digital daily lives.
In January 2022, we declared the rebirth of Ricoh Imaging. We affirmed that, starting with Japan, we would more carefully listen to the voices of our users through stronger digital online communications with users by submitting our products to crowdfunding websites and founding a PENTAX clubhouse. All of this was done with the goal of developing and marketing new products that can fully satisfy user needs. We have taken on exciting new challenges, some of which push beyond the boundaries of conventional wisdom. We also are selling new products which were only made possible by our unique technologies and craftsmanship, such as the worldwide marketing of special-edition, limited-quantity models.
One of the new challenges we have taken on is the development of PENTAX-brand film cameras. We feel this will provide camera fans with a joy of photography totally different from what they experience in the digital format. I want to stress that this announcement does not mean we will release new film cameras. Instead, it’s an ongoing project based on the assumption that, as long as photographers remain obsessed with the ambiance of light and environment, there will also be some who will want to use film cameras as their tool of choice in capturing unique images. But we also know how difficult it will be to restart the production of film cameras long after production was terminated. In fact, we’re only at the starting line right now.
We will make even greater efforts to be able to hear the genuine voices of film camera fans through various events and digital communications while also providing as many updates on the project’s development as we can. We welcome your support and critical thoughts as part of this co-creation project. It’s a great pleasure to have you join us and work together with us on the challenges of this new film camera project.
– Noboru Akahane, President and CEO of Ricoh Imaging Compant, Ltd.
The whole idea does sound very intriguing, particularly when just about everybody else has abandoned film cameras and is all aboard the mirrorless train. I have to admit, I never expected Pentax would pop back up on my radar when it comes to buying cameras for myself, but as somebody who also still shoots film as well as digital, it might just happen – especially if it’s a medium format camera. I mean, if I’m going to have to buy new lenses, go big or go home, right?
There’s not a lot there yet besides the two videos above, but for more information, keep an eye on the Pentax Film Project page on the Ricoh website.