Pentax to exit the fixed-lens camera market, says company president


posted Monday, July 16, 2012 at 5:43 PM EDT

Pentax's logo. Click here to visit the Pentax website!Last May, Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung told the Wall Street Journal that it was scaling back its participation in the compact, fixed-lens camera market. An article published last week by Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper sees one-time partner Pentax going a step further, as it's revealed that the brand is preparing to stop selling fixed-lens cameras altogether.

According to the article, cited by Japanese tech blog Digicam Info, Pentax Ricoh Imaging president Noboru Akahane told the Asahi Shimbun that the company--created last year through Ricoh's acquisition of Pentax Imaging Systems Co. from then-owner Hoya Corp.--has no plans to release any new Pentax-branded compact digital cameras. Instead, the Pentax brand will focus solely on interchangeable-lens cameras, be they SLR or mirrorless models. (Currently, the company offers both medium-format and APS-C digital SLRs, as well as APS-C and small-sensor mirrorless cameras.)

That's not to say that Pentax Ricoh will exit the fixed-lens compact market entirely, however. The company will apparently still offer fixed-lens cameras, but these will in future be sold only under the Ricoh name. 

Even though technically Pentax Ricoh will still offer compact models, the news is significant, because it makes Pentax the only consumer-oriented brand to be focused solely on interchangeable-lens cameras. All of its main rivals in the interchangeable-lens space offer at least some fixed-lens cameras under the same brand; you have to look to the medium-format market to find other brands offering only interchangeable-lens models.

It isn't yet clear whether the news will bring Pentax's long-standing Optio digital camera lineup to its end, or whether Ricoh itself may retain the Optio name to provide some link between the two brands. (Ricoh has already largely retired its own Caplio digital camera brand name, with only one current model still retaining the Caplio badge.) It's also not clear what the news means for Ricoh's unusual GXR digital camera, which features not interchangeable lenses per se, but interchangeable modules that combine both lens and sensor in a single unit.

As for Pentax, the article suggests that Pentax Ricoh's aim is to reinvigorate the brand with its new focus solely on higher-performance, interchangeable-lens cameras. According to the Asahi Shimbun article, combined market share for Pentax and Ricoh in Japan last year was just 6.5%, managing just eighth place in the companies' home market. Plans are to increase sales both at home and in emerging markets such as China, India, and Russia, with a goal of doubling combined sales for the Pentax and Ricoh brands in 2013 to some ¥700 billion.