Pentax’s long-delayed SDM teleconverter arrives; 645D follow-up and lenses in development


posted Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:00 PM EDT


Pentaxians, the wait is finally over! We've seen some long-delayed products in our time, but Pentax's SDM-compatible, 1.4x rear converter takes the cake. Announced more than five years ago at the 2008 Photokina tradeshow, the teleconverter accessory fell off the company's lens roadmap some time later, but it was resurrected in early 2012, and promised for "2013 or later". Next month, it will finally arrive with a pricetag of US$600 or thereabouts.

In all that time, the design has undergone quite a few changes. For one thing, it's now weather-sealed, and interestingly (to us, anyway), that's indicated with "AW" branding, rather than the "WR" branding used on consumer lenses. To date, we've only seen AW branding on the company's 645 lenses, and on the whopping 560mm f/5.6 ED optic. The distinction, we're thinking, is that AW offers a higher degree of sealing than do the consumer-oriented WR optics.

Pentax's 1.4x all-weather rear converter, mounted on the K-3 digital SLR with 300mm lens.

The rear converter also sports the HD lens coating which debuted at Photokina 2012, which is said to be more durable than earlier coatings, and to yield improved color balance and better-controlled reflections. And of course, the converter also works with both body and lens-driven autofocus, so you'll be able to use SDM, DC, and screw-drive autofocus systems. The rear converter boosts the focal length by 1.4x, reduces maximum aperture by one stop, and measures just 0.8 inches (20mm) in length. It weighs 4.4 ounces (126g), features four elements in three groups, and comes bundled with soft case and body / lens mount caps.

Pentax's new rear converter will ship next month for US$600.

As well as announcing the new rear converter, Ricoh has also announced development of several other products under its Pentax brand. Key among these is a follow-up to the hugely impressive 645D medium format digital SLR. Slated to ship later this spring, the tentatively-named Pentax 645D 2014 will sport a brand-new, "super-high-resolution" CMOS image sensor, which immediately calls to mind the recent announcements of CMOS-based medium format cameras from Hasselblad and Phase One, both using a sensor the same size as that in the original 645D. Could this be the same sensor? We wait with interest to see! The Pentax 645D 2014 is also said to provide "high-speed response in a variety of photographic applications", and to feature a tilting LCD monitor, where the original camera had a fixed monitor.

The medium format Pentax 645D (current model shown here) is set for an upgrade later this year now with a CMOS sensor and increased speed and responsiveness.

Also on the way is a new ultra-wide angle lens for use with the 645D and "645D II," said to have newly-designed optics aimed specifically at digital imaging. And that's not all -- Ricoh is also developing a new high-performance series macro telephoto prime lens for the Pentax Q-mount, and the Pentax Film Duplicator, a flash-based device for converting your silver halide 35mm and medium format film to digital. Market launch for all of these products is still TBA, but reference versions will be on display at the CP+ tradeshow in Japan. It's shaping up to be quite a show for Pentaxians!