Pentax, the venerable photography company that nearly disappeared before it got acquired by Ricoh in 2011, has a new plan to stand out in the camera market by adding what it sees as a key missing ingredient in today's cameras: color.
Not the color the camera captures, but the physical color of the camera. In two of its new models aimed at millennials Pentax is offering custom colors. Buyers can choose from 120 different color combinations for the new K-50 DSLR and the Q7 ultra-compact mirrorless camera, from conservative white-and-silver to daring pink-and-green.
The company also announced an entry-level DSLR, the K-500, but that one, like the Ford Model T, is only available in black. It also isn't water and dust resistant, but otherwise it has the same specs as the K-50: a 16-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, a 3-inch LCD and ISO that goes up to 51200.
At the same time it's playing more with colors, Pentax is effectively taking itself out of the "smart camera" space. Instead of creating its own app experience, Pentax has decided to instead better integrate its new cameras with Eye-Fi, which can pair with an app for iOS and Android. Of course, Eye-Fi cards are sold separately.
I got a little hands-on time with the cameras at an event in a fancy townhouse in New York City's Greenwich Village Wednesday afternoon. The Q7 is the clear highlight, mainly because it's truly remarkable that Pentax has created an interchangeable-lens camera that's smaller than most point-and-shoots and packs full manual controls. Sure, they technically already did that with the Q10, but kudos.
As you'd expect, the Q7 is extremely light, and its tiny size actually makes you hold it in different ways when you're not shooting. You're much more inclined to "scoop" it up, for example, holding it from the bottom with your fingertips, the insides of your knuckles against the LCD. The sensor is a 1/1.7-inch CMOS type, able to shoot pics up to 12.4 megapixels.
Shooting with the Q7 is more straightforward than some point-and-shoots. Buttons and dials are in the places you'd expect, and do the things that you want. The Q mount accommodates many different lenses, but with an adapter, it can even shoot with the larger K-Mount lenses, which actually looks more than a tad ridiculous on a camera this small.
I also played with the K-50 and K-500. Both are fairly bulky as affordable DSLRs in 2013 go, but in the K-50's case that has the effect of reminding you it's fairly rugged as well as water and dust resistant. The girth also ensures a good grip.
Snapping some pics of the townhouse we were in with the K-50, I was able to capture a few great pics, although that was probably thanks more to the pro lighting setups than the camera's inherent abilities (a sample is below). I liked that both cameras didn't overwhelm me with options (although it was unclear what a couple of the physical buttons did), and the in-body anti-shake tech really seems to work.
I have to ding Pentax for omitting a convenience I expect on modern cameras: a touchscreen LCD. Sure, Pentax's main market is serious photographers, but with these cheaper cameras it's specifically going after casual "millennials," the company says. Those customers are starting to expect that all screens are touchscreens.
The K-50 and K-500 will be available in July for $779 and $599, respectively. The Q7 is coming in September for $499.
How do you like Pentax's colorful new cameras? Let us know in the comments.
Images by Mashable, Emil Lendof