Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pentax Full Frame Dreams

There seems to be a great deal of talk in Canon, Nikon, and Sony forums about the Canon 5D replacement, a new full frame Nikon camera probably called the D700, and a probable Sony A900 which is also full frame. By full frame I mean the sensor is the same size as the 135 film format we used for years which is 24mm by 36mm. The advantages of a full frame camera are increased depth of field, potentially lower high ISO noise, and better resolution and image quality. This doesn't mean that an APS-C sized (like all current Pentax digital SLRs) camera cannot do very well either.

It seems that the professional market has moved to full frame. Canon's newest 1Ds Mark III along with Nikon's D3 fill the top of this market. These cameras take different approaches. Canon is shooting for higher resolution while Nikon is going for maximum high ISO performance and quality. We will probably see a Nikon D3x at some point which will be higher resolution like the Canon offering.

That leaves Pentax and Olympus as major players who do not have a full frame offering. I think Olympus will be left out of this race. They have put all of their efforts into a completely different sensor size, the four thirds format. I have to admit, I really like the idea behind the four thirds format. You can have a smaller setup of equipment but yet still cover the same range of equivalent focal lengths. This is also something of the argument for Pentax although not quite as strong. Canon and Nikon do not seem to have focused on making small and compact lenses to any significant degree.

Pentax has focused on the DA and DA* lens lines. These lenses are only designed for the APS-C format, not 135 full frame. It seems that for a major player to stay in the market they really need to have a competitive offering in the 135 full frame space. Nikon only two years ago declared that it did not have any plans for the 135 full frame format but they have changed dramatically from that position.

Should Pentax bring out a K1D/K2D/K3D or whatever 135 full frame body? Absolutely! I am not going to speculate on its specifications although for it to make sense in the lineup, it would need to be at least 16 megapixels. It would be silly to have the K20D at 14 megapixels and then the higher end pro body at the same or something less. It is fortunate that Pentax is working with Samsung because they have the facilities to make this happen. It seems that most of the higher end bodies are now using CMOS sensors and this is the case for the K20D as well.

This would leave Pentax with a problem though. The only lenses that would officially work for full frame would be the DFA 50/2.8 Macro and DFA 100/2.8 Macro lenses. It is possible that some of the other lenses might work but I think that is unlikely. In the short term, Pentax should pull out the designs for the old FA* 80-200/2.8 and FA* 28-70/2.8 lenses and use the optical design while redesigning the lens body and focus system to be SDM-only. As we have seen with the DA 17-70/4 coming out shortly, further DA and DA* lenses will probably be SDM-only or the old-style focus system like the Limited lenses for size reasons.

Pentax has an excellent selection of old lens designs for film cameras. They could easily pull these out and start with them as the basis for a new DFA and DFA* lens line. I already mentioned the FA* 80-200/2.8 and FA* 28-70/2.8 lenses but Pentax could also bring out the FA 20-35/4, FA* 300/2.8, FA* 400/5.6, FA* 600/4, and FA* 250-600/5.6 lens designs. This could create a fairly quick significant lineup of good lenses. All of these lenses would be professional level.

Now what about new designs? For the APS-C format, I am looking forward to the DA 17-70/4 and DA* 60-250/4 lenses. An equivalent range in 135 full frame would be great. That would make a 24-105/4 lens and a 100-400/4 lens.

In order to be very competitive in the professional market, Pentax would need a lens lineup something like this. Professional level lenses in the f/2.8 range would include DFA* 24-70/2.8, DFA* 80-200/2.8, DFA* 300/2.8, and DFA* 400/2.8 lenses. Professional level lenses in the f/4 range would include DFA* 15-35/4, DFA* 24-105/4, DFA* 100-400/4, and DFA* 600/4 lenses. The DFA* 100-400/4 idea may be a little too optimistic. Some additional and alternative designs could be a DFA* 100-400/4-5.6, DFA* 200-400/4, and DFA* 250-600/5.6 lenses.

All of this is pure speculation and we will just have to wait and see. I hope Pentax comes out with a 135 full frame format CMOS sensor camera soon but only time will tell. Keep up the good work Pentax.


├╝le olev said...

All limited lenses (both FA and DA) fit full frame, and also DA* 300/4 and DA* 200/2,8 fit the full frame. So Pentax actually has lenses to fit full frame.

Anonymous said...

all pentax FA and F lenses are compatible with FF

Anonymous said...

FF sensors have narrower depth of field than APS-C, when using the same aperture. Cheers!