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Pentax's unnamed digital SLR.  Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Pentax cancels 6mpix SLR plans! (UPDATED)
(Wednesday, October 24, 2001 - 15:13 EDT)

The unnamed MZ-S-based 6 megapixel SLR which we showed you last PMA is no more...

Asahi Optical Co. Ltd, which sells its digital cameras under the Pentax brandname, has today officially announced that it has cancelled plans for its unnamed 6 megapixel SLR which we first told you about on September 14th 2000. We later showed you the camera in detail after a hands-on session at PMA last spring. Closely based on the MZ-S film camera, the digital model was to have featured a full 35mm-frame sized 6 megapixel CCD image sensor from Philips, which would have offered great wide-angle possibilities and reduced noise courtesy of a larger cell size.

The camera would have shared the MZ-S' KAF2 lens mount, and offered further lens choices with the use of Pentax 645- and 67-system adapters. It would also have accepted a range of accessories such as the BG-10 Battery Grip, CS-105 & CS-130 Cable Switches, TS-110 Release Timer Switch, and AF360FGZ Dedicated Flash Unit... Storage would have been via a Type-II PC Card and Type-II CompactFlash slot which could be used simultaneously, whilst FireWire connectivity would have provided for data transfer.

The official statement from Asahi Optical Co. Ltd headquarters in Japan translates as follows (apologies for any errors in our translation):
"'35mm full size CCD digital single-lens reflex camera'
Cancellation of Commercial Production

Asahi Optical Co. Ltd. (President: Urano Fumio), announces that it has decided to cancel commercialization of the '35mm full size CCD digital single-lens reflex camera' which was displayed at the 2000 Photokina show, and the 2001 PMA Photo Expo.

Since realizing the performance level our company aimed for would result in a very expensive price if it was produced commercially, it was judged that marketability would not be good.

Pentax will use the experience gained from the development process to create competitive and superior products in the future."
Our friends at the Digital Photography Review, who also looked at the Pentax Digital SLR at PMA, have a similar statement from Pentax UK Limited announcing the cancellation. We're currently seeking comment from Pentax USA, and will update this news item once we have an official statement.

UPDATED 2001-10-24 14:24ET: Comments from Dave: I'd heard this about a month ago in a private conversation with a representative of Pentax US. That individual asked me to not share the information publicly until such time as Pentax made their own public announcement. Now that Pentax UK / Japan have made an announcement in this area, I guess it's OK for us to acknowledge that we'd indeed heard this too.

The issue is apparently that the cost of the product would have been too high to be competitive. The Pentax SLR was widely rumored to be aimed for a $6K price point, but interestingly, that number was never confirmed to us by Pentax US. - Their reaction to the $6K price was "Where is everyone getting that price from?!" In light of that comment, and Pentax's decision to cancel the commercial rollout of the product, it seems likely that the 6MP SLR would have had to sell for a good bit higher price.

Reading between the lines, it's possible that the development cycle on the product was begun in the pre-D1x (and likely started even in the Pre-D1) days, with the assumption that a price more in the range of $7-9K would be supportable. Pentax US expressed some surprise (and dismay?) at the wide reporting of a $6K price point, so it's probable that their target was above that point.

With the D1x selling in the US at a street price of $5350 or so, even a $6K 6MP SLR from Pentax would have been a tough sell. (BTW, see our retail partner Ritz to get the $5350 price on the D1x, with free shipping and *no sales tax, regardless of state*.)

Considering this, the decision to abandon production, focus on consumer cameras, and possibly on future SLR developments makes a great deal of sense. (And no, we can't say anything about any future SLR plans at this time...)

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