Creating new film cameras strikes many as odd. Why might the Pentax Film Camera Project be successful?
Film photography is becoming more popular
Pentax designer Takeo Suzuki states that they received many opinions and suggestions. From that, they were inspired to design completely new film camera models.
Suzuki also revealed that approximately 20% of people in Japan still use traditional film cameras, not including disposable or instant cameras.
That’s a substantial amount of the population.
Because of this, we’ve seen new film stocks. We’ve also seen the revival of once-discontinued films by manufacturers. Kodak has reintroduced its Ektachrome film. CineStill, Ilford, Wolfen and others have reintroduced film.
And they’re clearly not having any issues finding film labs to process their film either. In Japan and elsewhere, many people mail their film in to labs for processing.
Leica has begun manufacturing their M6 35mm film camera again. And many older film cameras have been steadily increasing in value.
Enter Pentax and their Film Camera Project and their promise to create new, affordable film cameras. In fact, they’ve already announced that they will release two compact film cameras in Spring 2024.
Pentax intends to remain a “very niche, niche company”
Pentax has operated in the margins. Indeed, some of my non-photography friends have never heard of Pentax.
This appears to be by design.
Yazid Belmadi, a promotions manager at Ricoh Imaging France, said, “Our strategy for quite a few years now has been to work with very, very niche products.” He added that they were doing quite well, stating that their management team relies on “surveys carried out among Japanese consumers, consumers of the brand, of course, but also beyond.”
In other words, there’s a difference between not releasing new mirrorless cameras because they are oblivious to the market and wanting to explore niche markets such as film cameras.
Pentax sales are very profitable
Ricoh, the parent company of Pentax, reported annual operating profits increased by 97%, in part driven by “ongoing profitability of camera business.” The reporting period ran from April 2022 through March 2023. This means that it did not include strong presales of the Pentax K-3 III Monochrome or the Ricoh GR III Diary Edition, and just two months of the Ricoh GR III Diary Edition Kit, all of which has sold extremely well for the company.
One huge reason younger people love film
Younger people’s love of film is not a fad. I believe it’s part of a larger need.
I have observed that many young people are attracted to manual and mechanical items. Young people seem to crave tactile things that older people took for granted growing up. In music, it’s younger people that are primarily attracted to patchbay and modular synthesizers, with their knobs, cables and sliders. It’s younger people that have largely driven up the sales of records for the past fifteen years. And younger people are also largely responsible for purchasing old film cameras. In fact, someone paid more for my Yashica T4 35mm point-and-shoot film camera than I initially paid for it.
I discussed my theory for this during our Nightaxians YouTube podcast #15 a while ago when we also discussed Pentax’s announcement to release film cameras.
Innovative features forthcoming?
Given the innovations and amazing functions that Pentax regularly puts in their cameras, I have a feeling that we might see some surprisingly innovative features in their film cameras going forward. After all, this is the company that also puts Astrotracer for tracking stars, built-in time-lapse mode for in-camera stacking, body illumination, Night Vision LCD, and other features. I discuss some of these in the article Seven reasons I now use a Pentax K-1 camera.
What sort of features would you want to see in their film cameras? What features would you want to see if they ever release the K-1 Mk III? Leave your suggestions and thoughts in the comments below!