Dimitri Kroupski: Let's start with the DSLR model, the K-5 II (and IIs). Why do you call it mark II and not a completely new model like K-6, or why not K-7 II for example? How do you evaluate the position of these cameras?
Shigeru Wakashiro: At the moment of the change from the K-7 to the K-5 we had many claims from users about the K-7 who like to have a good image for the future products. We changed the name to K-5, and we had high satisfaction from the users, so we derive to keep the image of the K-5, and we like to evolve our products, that's why we call it K-5 II.
DK: But this model is actually a new model, the changes are quite big?
SW: We had a good reputation about the K-5, but we also have less satisfaction about the AF system on the K-5. So it was natural that we improved the AF sensor and called it a new model.
DK: Can you tell me what specific technical solutions are implemented in the new autofocus model?
SW: First, we had a bad reputation about the image quality on the K-7, and in the K-5 we changed the sensor, and the image quality is good, so from the K-5 to the K-5 II we improved the AF sensor with a high resolution, also at high ISO. In K-5, the major AF system was available from –1 EV, but in the K-5 II it's available from –3 EV. We think this is the best AF system in the DSLR cameras. And it's also faster.
DK: Do you have plans to make cameras with a full frame sensor, like the recent trend you see with D600 or 6D?
SW: In terms of the entry full frame models, this kind of categories we're thinking of. In the APS sensor, there are also possibilities to evaluate a good image quality, that's why we don't actually have plans to launch a very cheap kind of full frame cameras. We also understand that the number of users increased recently so we are building technologies for the future models.
DK: But no specific models at the moment?
DK: What do you think about cameras like Nikon D800, with a 36Mp full frame sensor, and you have a bigger camera 645D with a 40Mp sensor. Do you consider Nikon as a competitor, or is it much lower compared to 645D?
SW: As we said, we are thinking about the evolution of the technologies, so someday in the near future... The APS-C sensor has improved a lot, as full frame sensors has also evolved a lot. That's why the full frame sensors are coming in the image quality closer to medium cameras. We launched the 645D two or three years ago. If we use new technologies for the sensor, we would make the image quality much better than Nikon.
DK: You mean you have plans to replace this model?
SW: Yes, we are thinking of a successor of the 645D.
DK: Do you plan to make lenses with new motors instead of ultra-sonic motors, which would be faster, especially on bigger lenses?
SW: We have a possibility to use our product SDM in the future. As of today's situation, we're using the DC motor for the products, this is good for the performance and cost issues as well. We choose DC motors for the lenses these days, it's also very quiet and fast. To achieve a higher goal, we'd probably use a different kind of technologies. If we launch this kind of lenses, we will see the technology of the time and the market demand.
DK: Why don't you use tilting and rotating screens for DSLRs?
SW: First, if you adapt the swivelling LCD, the body would be much thicker than the current model. If you use the viewfinder, the user's nose hits the LCD monitor. We are thinking these are disadvantages of using swivelling LCDs.
DK: Okay, now some questions about the CSCs. It seems that both mirrorless concepts, Q and K-01 are quite unusual, and the models are like niche products, do you agree? Do you plan more usual types of CSCs?
SW: We prefer to say unique, not unusual. We like the original approach and an identity not like the others, that's why we like the Q and K-01 cameras. We think that the Q camera has a lot of potential for the future, so we'd like to focus on the Q system in the nearest future. We think that the K-01 is a kind of design proposal, its outlook is different from the other cameras. We don't want to make another mount for the K lenses, that's why we like to propose to the users a possibility to use the K mount lenses. If we launch mirrorless camera with a larger sensor, it means a new mount, and it's difficult to create one. If we launch a product with a larger sensor, we'd have to change the direction from the K mount to a different one. For example, Panasonic and Olympus moved to Micro Four Thirds.
DK: Your idea to make the K lenses compatible is great. I believe that K-01 has a unique design, but some people like me find it quite inconvenient. Don't you think that you sacrifice a part of the user interface for the design? To ask differently, did you decide that yes, it's not very convenient, but still many people would prefer this design, or do you disagree with me and say it's convenient after all?
SW: The project of the K-01 was made with very famous designers. Also, we'd like to have a new customer from the DSLR categories. Some DSLR users would complain about the ergonomics, but the others probably don't care.
DK: I have heard that you can make specifically designed lenses for the K-01, with back flange put inside the camera body, to minimize the overall dimensions of the body+lens system. Do you have a roadmap for such lenses?
SW: We showed this concept model at the show, we'd like to have some feedback from the users, but for now we don't have many. Currently, we don't plan to launch this kind of lenses for K-01. We don't want to eliminate the possibility, but for today we don't have much feedback. If it increases, of course there is a possibility to launch this kind of lenses.
DK: How do you see the future for DSLRs, CSCs and compact cameras, how do you think they will develop? You already said that the Pentax Q is very important. Do you think that the traditional DSLRs will die or become a geek product?
SW: We think that if you see the market globally, the mirrorless share is very limited, most of the markets have good percentage of the DSLR cameras. These tendencies will continue so we hope the DSLRs will not die. We think that in Russia, you have many rich people, so this kind of people want to have status cameras.
DK: I don't think that's a matter of being rich or poor, people just like optical viewfinder and other advantages of DSLR cameras. So please do not stop producing them.
SW: (laughs) Allright.
DK: How will the brands Pentax and Ricoh develop, will it be in parallel? For me, the Pentax brand is great, so will you stop making Ricoh compact cameras?
SW: It depends on the market situation in categories for both Pentax and Ricoh. For example, Ricoh cameras are well accepted on the Asian markets, such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, but not in Russia or European countries. We are still discussing what to do in the future.
DK: I have heard, I don't know if it's true or not, that last year was not very successful for Ricoh, I mean not in photography but in other fields. Do you still have the ambitious goals to reach a market share of 10% in 5-10 years as Ricoh said when they merged with Pentax. Can you comment on that?
SW: It's quite a difficult question because it's related to the entire business. But the direction of the management has not changed. By the way, the president of the Ricoh group is coming to the exhibition today.
DK: Can you tell me how some technical decisions are made? For example, in K-30 and K-5 II the special screen for switching the monitor modes appeared – I don't think it's very convenient, all the other manufacturers use a different approach – simply a consequitive presses of a single button. Why have you decided to implement it?
SW: Compared to the previous model, the number of screens is increased, that's why users have to press the button many times to avoid this kind of inconveniences. We chose this kind of menu, it's coming from the engineers. We accepted the engineers' proposal, although I agree that at first it may seem a bit inconvenient for people who are used to the previous way.
DK: Thank you for the interview, and good luck!