The Pentax 645D medium format camera
Earlier today, Ricoh announced that it was to acquire Pentax in a transaction valued at more than £77m. With this deal, Ricoh expects to boost its position in the interchangeable lens market - read our full report here.
Ricoh has a three-step plan to benefit from its acquisition of Pentax. First, the firm plans to "enhance its digital camera businesses (especially the interchangeable lens camera market which is expected to grow).
Second, it expects to "create value-added businesses for taken photographs (creation and development of value-added services that encourage seeing, storing and refinishing photographs and utilize photographs as communication tools)."
Finally, it is also looking to "expand to other fields (study of entry into the image archiving business using medium-format digital cameras and enhancement of security-related products)."
But while Pentax and Ricoh remain tight-lipped on how they will achieve these goal, BJP's technical expert Richard Kilpatrick takes a look at the current state of both manufacturers - asking whether the deal makes sense.
"In a move that seems almost opposite to Sony's acquisition of the Minolta camera business from Konica-Minolta in 2006, copier giant Ricoh's purchase of Pentax from optical firm Hoya makes little sense on the surface," he says. "Both firms have a strong range of compacts and both firms have met with limited success when pushing upmarket. The K-series DSLRs enjoy their success at the entry-level end of the market, whilst the 645D seems to have resulted in a camera with surprisingly good optics for the segment and price, let down by a consumer-market derived image pipeline."
He adds: "Pentax's Q system is almost a direct competitor to the GXR - albeit as a more logical solution than the expensive Ricoh, it nevertheless misses the GXR's unique selling points of a larger sensor option and sealed modules. Whilst Ricoh's intent appears to be to use the Pentax brand's recognition in the wider marketplace, Ricoh's brand equity at the high-end of that market is far from poor."
But, Pentax could benefit from Ricoh's interest for the medium format market, says Kilpatrick. "Ricoh is considerably larger than Hoya and should be in a position to invest heavily in the technology and pipeline behind the 40-megapixel sensor, particularly if the stated intention of pursing the 'archival image' market is to bear fruit. A [new version of the] 645D with better raw processing and 16-bit capture would be an intimidating product for the opposition at both the entry level medium format camera and high-end DSLR segments, and Ricoh has been quick to adopt new secondary technologies like SDXC and higher resolution displays."
As for Pentax's new Q system, from a commercial point of view, "[it's] a shortcut into compacts with interchangeable lenses; Ricoh's past history with getting excellent raw output from compact sensors may benefit Pentax," says Kilpatrick. "At a reported £77m cost, this could turn out to be a very expensive shortcut for Ricoh if their aim was to push their own brand to the forefront. With careful brand management evading a seismic shift in the marketplace, this partnership should address the refinements needed to push each firms' products to the top of their market segments."
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