Pentax is bringing back film cameras — and that makes perfect sense
Pentax has made some of the best film cameras ever — and now the classic brand can make a comeback thanks to a new film camera project launched by parent company, Ricoh.
Ricoh has launched a new “film camera project” that will involve “research and development of new Pentax-branded film camera products”. If you’ve spent your years of formative photography with the Pentax K1000 (above), or just plain dabbled with the tactile joys of 35mm film, this is probably very exciting news indeed.
Before you start building a darkroom in your hut, there are a few caveats. Firstly, the project is currently in a toe-dipping phase and Rico’s statements are a bit contradictory. For example, Ricoh President and CEO Noboru Akahana says, “I want to stress that this announcement does not mean that we are going to launch new film cameras.”
Fortunately, this seems to be more of a note of caution about the project’s difficulty than lack of ambition. In a launch video (below), Ricoh producer Takeo Suzuki lays out a roadmap for his film camera project. “We plan to market not one but a series of film cameras,” he says.
“First, we’ll develop a compact film camera. Then while we review a range of technologies, we’ll move on to developing a high-end compact model, an SLR model, and finally, I hope, a fully mechanical SLR,” Suzuki adds. While the latter may be away for a little while, the aim of the first camera will be to produce a film model with a “solid warranty” that “comes at an affordable price for younger users.”
This earlier note of caution, then, is simply because the company is still in the early stages of figuring out just how effective its new film cameras will be. As Akhan explains: “We also know how difficult it can be to reproduce film cameras long after production has finished. In fact, we’re only at the starting line now.”
However, the intent is very clear — Ricoh and Pentax will begin “research into developing new products for Pentax-brand film cameras.” This could lead to a new film camera and aftercare services. but why? The project is more than a misguided exercise in nostalgia — given the recent resurgence in film photography, it makes sense for several reasons.
on a roll
First, film cameras have seen a resurgence in recent years. The evidence for this is more anecdotal and cultural than statistical, since there is very little data on global film camera sales today. But the effect can be seen in the skyrocketing cost of buying the film itself — a package of Kodak Portra 400, for example, now costs more than twice as much as it did three years ago, a similar story for Fujifilm’s color film.
In part, this is because Kodak and Fujifilm underestimated future demand, creating shortages exacerbated by supply chain issues. But independent factories are now on the rise to fill in the gaps, and when the Pentax Film Project is out of the way, the picture should (hopefully) be a little truer.
Film cameras themselves are also growing in popularity, as Ricoh and Pentax point out in their project. According to Rico, this is true “especially among the younger generations, who” take pictures with film cameras, develop the film, and then upload the pictures in digital form to social media without making final copies.
But the problem with old film cameras is that they are outdated. This means that mechanical parts such as the shutter can break, or that they need servicing from a dwindling number of specialized technicians. While it’s still very early days, this new project promises to make owning film cameras a much smoother experience, including after-sales service.
The final reason the Ricoh and Pentax project makes sense is that there is no real competition, especially from any brands with a Pentax heritage. The company has been at the center of Japanese film camera innovation since the 1950s, introducing pioneers such as the Pentax Spotmatic in 1960, which introduced TTL (through the lens) metering for the first time so you didn’t have to carry around a separate device. light meter.
While it’s unclear if we could finally see a revamped version of the much-loved Pentax K1000 SLR, the ‘Film Camera Project’ is definitely one to watch if you’re keen to join the resurgence of 35mm film cameras.