Pentax is Back with Upcoming 35mm SLRs on the Horizon

Ricoh Imaging/PENTAX – Tokyo December 20, 2022

As a fan of film photography it’s always good to see new things on the market for photographers who enjoy shooting film. It’s always nice to see that the big companies that we rely on to able to enjoy this hobby still acknowledge our presence, that they even still seem to care.

We’ve always had our close friends, who stuck with us through thick and thin, like Ilford, thank goodness for them. Still, it’s a wonderful breath of fresh air when something new, or even newish gets announced for us. For example, when Kodak brought out a revised version of Ektachrome, or more recently when they added new(ish) 120 colour films to this catalogue. Or how Leica seems to have recognised the love that the M6 gets by resurrecting it. 

It would actually seem that the success of the M6 has inspired another venerable name in the photography world to give analogue another look. Pentax. The Pentax brand is now owned by Ricoh Imaging, and recently, on December 20, 2022 (could this be a Christmas gift?) announced that they are beginning on a journey that, according to Ricoh Imaging Product Planner Takeo Suzuki would result in us being able to pick up a brand new film Pentax, with warranty.

I love Pentax cameras. I’ve had a K1000, a Spotmatic, and an SL and loved them all dearly during my time with them. The idea of being able to walk into a store and pick a new camera off the shelf that carries that name is a very exciting one, I hope that they get it right.

Pentax Spotmatic
My beloved Pentax Spotmatic

What Pentax has Shared so far.

Unfortunately the details of the press announcement were pretty few.

Pentax placed a pretty heavy emphasis on the fact that they see a gap in the market for high quality and reliable analogue cameras, citing that many young photographers are getting into film photography, creating a growing interest around that hobby.

The market for film cameras is currently dominated by used cameras, which isn’t a bad thing per-se, I love vintage and antique cameras. However, there are decidedly few options should you decide you want to buy new. Pentax seems to be acknowledging this with their film camera project, promising new, very well made film cameras to come in the future. 

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For the moment they appear to be focusing their efforts on research. They were once masters in the art of making analogue cameras, but unsurprisingly much of this knowledge was set aside when digital took over in the early aughts.

I love that during the presentation Suzuki shared that Pentax is brining in some of their older engineers with film camera design experience to assist their current ones. A fusion of old and new, a mainstay of Japanese culture, I think it’s fantastic.

So far it’s been revealed that they are looking to bring a series of cameras onto the market, starting with a compact camera, followed by a high-end camera and eventually a top-spec mechanical camera. So far the focus seems to be on 35mm cameras, which is fine by me, but I think some photographers would love to see new generation of medium format Pentaxes.

My thoughts on the announcement.

I sincerely hope that Pentax follows through with their ambition, and take this project all the way through to completion. If anyone has a solid chance of pulling this off Pentax does. This project in my opinion seems to line up with the way that Ricoh is trying to position the Pentax brand; as a sort of old-fashioned company, an enduring maker of real DSLRs and hopefully SLRs soon too.

I think what we’re going to see first is an SLR likely not too different from the Pentax K1000. It’s supposed to budget oriented, or at least that’s how I understood it when Suzuki referred to a camera “affordable to young photographers”. I also think that aesthetic is going to play a role in the design in the camera. It’s meant to appeal to what “young photographers look for in a camera”, and a stylish camera you’d want to pose with would fit that bill.

I expect that Pentax are really going to take their time with this, that they are going to focus on doing it right. Which inferentially means that I also believe that if Pentax feels that they can’t pull it off they won’t. Although, I’m pretty convinced that they will.

I would say the earliest we can expect see the results of Pentax Film Camera Project is going to be late this year, say the fall of 2023, or early 2024; of course I’d be overjoyed if we saw something earlier.

In the meantime, Pentax has promised to keep us in the loop, and I look forward to what their next announcement on the project is going to reveal.

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