It is quite ironic how things turn out sometimes.
It was announced today that Ricoh have bought the Pentax camera business from Hoya, specifically the interchangeable lens part of the business. Other aspects will be retained by Hoya.
I have to say, my gut feeling is that this is probably the best news Pentax fans could have hoped for. I’m a big fan of the Pentax brand, and the company. The company were approachable and I could purchase all sorts of bits and bobs for legacy camera models from them, plus they had almost all (if not all) of their camera manuals available online in PDF format long before Nikon and Canon, both of which could learn from Pentax’s approach to customer service.
Not only that, but I learned more about photography from Pentax User groups than I did from photography magazines. They are a good bunch of photographers.
Pentax’s future was a bit ropey before they were bought by Hoya, even more so afterwards. Yes, Pentax have continued to improve their SLR’s and delivered the long promised 645D since the buy-out, but how much of that was already in place, and how much can be ascribed to Hoya’s management is up for debate. (I would say Hoya had little influence over those.) That said, the purchase seems to show that somewhere in Hoya’s management circles, they either didn’t have a long term plan for Pentax, or they didn’t really know what to do with it.
For me, Pentax couldn’t have found a better suitor than Ricoh. There is a history there, and it’s a good one. Ricoh’s line of SLR cameras used the Pentax K mount and some of them were better than those made by Pentax. Yes, both companies have made some dodgy decisions over the years, (Mirai anyone? SF-Series?), but Ricoh seem to have settled into the digital era nicely, carving themselves out a happy little niche. Ok, Pentax came late to the party and have struggled to find a seat ever since, but with the 645D, they’re carving their own little niche.
The fact that Ricoh now want to break out of their niche market spot is a good sign for the company, and if Pentax can be a part of that, then it’s a good sign for the future of Pentax too. Today’s news should certainly bolster both brands, if only to get people talking about them in a positive way again.
Interestingly, Hoya’s statement also indicated two further aspects of their roadmap, the second of which does look interesting. What Ricoh’s ‘value-added services’ will look like is anyone’s guess, but it will be probably be something cloudy. Personally, I’d like Ricoh to just concentrate on shoring up it’s line of camera’s, improve it’s channels and cement the roadmap for both brands. I’m not sure the value-added stuff will be that value-added, though I hope I’m wrong. I hope it is something a little different, that will actually wow everyone and draw more customers to the brands. I’m skeptical, but Ricoh are photographer oriented, so it could be something worthwhile.
But that’s all in the future. For now, that future looks pretty good.
Hoya’s statement can be found here…