Shortly before Christmas like Eve waving an apple under Adam's starving nose, Pentax started reducing the price of their flagship K3 DSLR camera with discounts and rebates. I'm not very good with temptation, in fact had I been in the garden of Eden I would probably have grown an orchard and started a cider press, so I finally gave in and purchased a Pentax K3. I have been savouring every second with this lovingly crafted piece of photographic apparatus the way one might savour the company of an incomparably beautiful muse.
It is the first time that I have ever owned Pentax's latest and greatest flagship DSLR camera. The K3 offers all the traditional attributes of Pentax SLR's - incomparable build quality, gorgeous handling that makes you feel as if the camera has been custom made for you and image quality that is class leading even against the Canon and Nikon heavyweights. Moreover if you're in a forest shooting a model as I was last week, with the sun already below the horizon and the light levels are falling fast, the K3's awesome new focussing engine will lock on target with a precision only prevously known to fighter pilots and weapons officers in charge of ballistic missile systems on the latest frigates. I shot over 300 pictures in appalling light levels and the K3 missed focus only once. By the end we had resorted to a paraffin lamp and moonlight and the K3 kept locking on, I was genuinely incredulous...
Twenty four megapixels is a heck of a lot of detail and since getting the K3 I have been continually astounded by the razor sharp focus I'm seeing on eyebrows, eyes and individual strands of hair during portrait shoots. I've spent over thirty years shooting high quality cameras and I've never seen quality like this coming off the page or screen. The K3 is quite simply the greatest non-medium format camera Pentax have ever made. It's probably the greatest APSC DSLR anyone has ever made. It seems fitting that the company that invented the single lens reflex, that has led so many of the key developments for the past sixty years in photography has a new crown prince.
It's instructive to compare the Pentax K3 against Canon's recently launched flagship DSLR - the EOS 7D Mk2. Let's leave aside the fact that the Canon costs almost twice as much as the Pentax and consider the sensor scores by independent testing lab DXO mark http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Canon-EOS-7D-Mark-II-versus-Pentax-K-3___977_914
DXO evaluate the raw image quality coming direct off the sensors in each camera and employ independent and rigorous laboratory testing techniques. In short the Pentax scores higher in colour depth, dynamic range and high ISO low light shooting. You can shoot in any light you like - bright sunlight, dark night, you can underexpose the shot and push your shadows up in post processing, you can shoot any subject anytime, anyplace but that Pentax is going to outgun the newly launched top of the line APSC DSLR Canon on every image quality parameter science can measure. I just know what I'm seeing with my eyes and the Pentax is simply blisteringly sharp and clean. It's better weathersealed too against ingress of sand, water, sleet, dust and rain. It will take every Pentax lens ever made, all 25 million of them and they include some of the greatest lenses designed since the dawn of photography. I've yet to track down a Pentax SMC FA 85mm F1.4, but one day I swear I will, because that lens has bokeh that looks like sunbeams in heaven and clarity that leaves even the most venerable Carl Zeiss designs trailing in its wake.
It was while considering the apex of engineering achievement that the K3 represents that I began to reflect on the journey I have taken in over thirty years of keen photography. My first camera was the Pentax ME Super with 50mm F1.7 lens and I still have it, indeed I still occasionally shoot with the 50mm and it's my go-to macro lens with a set of extension tubes. Here's mine:
I'm so very glad I still have my first camera and resisted the temptation to trade it in when upgrading. I took my first faltering steps as a photographer with it in 1981 and it made me a better photographer because the metering was always lousy, so I learned to use it fully manual and assess the exposure required myself pretty quickly. My first additions were a Velbon VGB-3 tripod (pictured) and later I bought a Tamron 80-200mm F3.8 lens for airshows and motorsport which I still have. Much later I added a Tamron 24mm F2.5 lens which eventually developed a focus ring problem. I well recall shooting Liverpool cathedral at night in 1983 and particularly enjoyed shooting my theatrical female cousin dressed as a gypsy in a poppyfield in Northampton back in the summer of 1985. I dropped the Pentax on a glacier in Alaska in 1986 (it survived unscathed) and I toured Japan with it later that same year.
Here it is with my Tamron 80-210mm F3.8:
I shot a lot of airshows and aeroplanes with this combination over the years (now an airline pilot I am a huge aviation fanatic and there's not much that sends shivers up my spine better than the sound of a Merlin or crackle of a jet engine)
By 1995 after fourteen years dependable service I decided the time had come to move to a more modern camera design and so purchased a Pentax MZ-5n. The sophistication of its metering was a huge improvement on the ME Super and this model could be relied on to shoot accurate automatic exposures. It also offered motor drive and autofocus built in and I shot extensively with it and enjoyed utilising both my existing lenses and a new Sigma 24-70mm F3.5-5.6 standard zoom that I purchased new. I can only presume that cost prevented me from buying a Pentax standard zoom lens with the camera but I never much cared for the build quality of the Sigma, it was rather plastic although optically reasonable. I don't even know if I still have it, it might conceivably still be in a loft somewhere and with the likely launch of a Pentax full frame DSLR in 2015 might actually be useful!
I got some great shots of Paris in 1996 with this combination plus my wedding and honeymoon in Thailand in 2000 as well as New York, Mexico, Florida and then Monument Valley Utah in 2004. In 1998 I had added the Tokina 80-400mm F4-5.6 telephoto autofocus zoom to my armoury while in Australia on a mission to shoot kangaroos in the bush. As a lens it performed admirably on a range of airshow targets and is still in occasional use when I need very significant reach. My favourite portrait of myself was taken in Paris with this camera by my then girlfriend Caroline and looking back it's amusing and faintly depressing to reflect on how handsome and young I look leaning nonchalently against the balcony of the Concorde St Lazare Hotel at Gare du Nord in Paris. Judging by the fact my mother still has a framed print of this in her hall I suspect she thinks I look at my best too (oh to be 26 again!)
Here's my MZ-5n with the Tokina 80-400 AT-X fitted:
I eventually decided with the birth of my first child in 2005 that the time had come to move to a digital camera and so around 2005 I purchased my first DSLR, the Pentax Ist DS. The MZ-5n which was my last film camera had served admirably for some ten years. The Ist DS had six megapixels, great handling and the ability to work with all my existing Pentax lenses and I purchased it with the really rather good Pentax 18-55 DA F3.5-5.6 lens combination. I loved this camera and have in fact enlarged prints to 30x20 inches from it and achieved impressive quality. My wife took a favourite picture of my daughter and I holding hands and gazing out across one of the Lake District's many lakes and it still hangs framed on our landing. This camera served us well as a family until I decided to upgrade to the Pentax K5, principally to enable me to shoot video and stills with one device. It had become a chore carrying both a video camera and SLR system on holiday. Sadly I part-exchanged my Pentax Ist DS against the K5 in March 2013 and so it is the only camera from my whole camera history that is no longer in my posession. I regret that, if only for completeness.
March 2013 and in rolled the Pentax K5 on a tsunami of technology. I approached my purchase with a very open mind and in fact considered a switch of system to the Nikon D7000. I had always had something of a hankering for a Nikon camera, in part because of their professional credentials (Nikon and Canon had risen to become the two most common pro choices at this time) and so I actually walked into the camera shop and asked to see the Nikon D7000 before any Pentax. The Nikon was a very well received camera with great image quality but felt very plastic in my hands and rather lightweight. I asked if they had a Canon EOS 50D I could try and while better this still seemed a rather lightweight although very comfortably shaped camera. My gut reation was that I simply didn't love either of them. Next I tried the Pentax K5 and the second I picked it up I was shocked, it felt dense, heavy, serious and dramatically cold to the touch (because it's all metal unlike the others). I couldn't believe the difference, the Pentax oozed quality and it was like comparing the build quality of a Mercedes Benz to that of a Kia, there was simply no comparison. The cold Pentax felt like something created on another planet not merely another factory, almost like something salvaged from Area 51 and I utterly fell in love with it. My one attempt to leave Pentax was foiled by the sheer class and quality of the product.
This camera complete with Pentax 18-55 DA WR water resistant lens was a big step up from all that had gone before. It was my first pro-level camera and was the departing flagship DSLR from Pentax and available at a very compelling price because its successor had just been launched. As a result the professional build quality with weather-sealing and a solid magnesium body gave this camera a serious heft that all my previous cameras lacked. It was also the first one I purchased a grip for. My only complaint with Pentax over the years was that their bodies were rather small for a man with hands resembling those of a gorilla! The grip instantly improved the handling, battery life and overall feel. I was in love with this camera and its arrival led to me becoming rather more serious about my photography again. A few months later I missed having an ultra wide angle lens and so decided to add the hugely impressive Pentax 12-24mm F4 lens to my arsenal. It's an incredibly flexible and high quality lens and a delight to use especially for landscape and architectural work.
Here's my K5, now relegated to back-up body duties:
It's a formidable camera, even by today's standards and I've shot many thousands of fine pictures with it. During 2014 I started jonathangorsephotography.com as a means of storing and exhibiting my work. It also enabled me to provide secure access for any shoots I do with models or for family and friends. In terms of lenses I added the Pentax DA 17-70 F4 SDM lens for portraiture and the Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 for fast telephoto work and the latter in particular really is a blisteringly sharp and fast lens. The K5 proved an able professional camera and all my initial model shoots and commissions were undertaken with it until the K3 arrived at the end of 2014. There truly is little that this camera can't do and it is a professional grade workhorse with excellent image quality and sublime handling. It only had two limitations in my view: firstly the autofocus system could very occasionally miss focus and secondly it shot video at awesome quality in a format called 'motion jpeg' which frankly is the best quality format possible on a DSLR, but the file sizes are gargantuan. For my meagre family holiday needs such quality is frankly unnecessary and I prefer the smaller file sizes of the slightly lower quality Pentax K3 video format which followed it.
So that leads me back full circle to the Pentax K3 which is currently my main professional body. It's faster, cleaner, slightly better ergonomically and put simply is an awesome photographic instrument I am proud to use.
Thirty four years of photography encompassed in five cameras and my life spent taking pictures since the age of eleven. Thank-you to Pentax for being there on burning tropical beaches in far flung places, for travelling with me faster than a bullet on Concorde at Mach 2, for faithfully recording sunsets and sunrises, the birth of our child, her first steps, my engagement and mine and other's wedding days. Thank-you for enduring tropical monsoons in Thailand, for being dropped on glaciers in the arctic circle and surviving, for shooting freezing moonlit cathedrals and for not succumbing during snowstorms on the summits of mountains. In short for always enabling me to capture amazing pictures and memories from my life no matter wherever in the world I have been or how extreme the conditions.
Like an old friend you never let me down...
The Hollycombe School Christmas Fair is an event we have attended for many years and thoroughly enjoyed although this was our first year as an exhibitor to promote my photography. We had an amazing time and a lot of interest in arranging shoots for the coming year including a range of whole family, children only and equestrian shoots.
The event was very well attended and raised over £2500 for the school, we'd like to send our congratulations to all the winners but especially Sarah Sear and her family who won the photo shoot we offered in the silent auction. We're really looking forward to shooting Sarah and her lovely family in the New Year.
Here's some pictures from the event:
Thanks to everyone who came to see us, it was great catching up with friends old and new. We worked very hard in the weeks leading up to the event to create a highly professional stand which was both eyecatching and reflected the professionalism with of Jonathan Gorse Photography in all aspects of its operation.
Here's a final picture before we opened giving a better view of the stand - catch you next time, Jonathan
As a music lover all my life I've shot pictures at various concerts over the years but I've always been in the position of having to smuggle cameras in to photograph a gig purely for my own pleasure. This week was different though - I was delighted to be shooting a music festival as the official photographer and what a fabulous experience it was!! I have four main passions/hobbies - photography, flying, music and watching great movies.
A conversation with Ben, the landlord of my local - the Rising Sun Pub www.risingsunmilland.com led to the opportunity to shoot their annual music festival 'Millfest' which has been building a large audience over the past five or so years. Last year over 2000 people attended this superb event and enjoyed music by several great bands but Ben was determined this year's event would be even bigger and better.
I had some T shirts and polo shirts printed up with my logo just in time and am really glad I did because if you're pushing past people at a concert or even just photographing them, having some official clothing on certainly avoids people getting annoyed when you point a camera at them...
I knew that because the concert went on deep into the night that I would need very fast lenses indeed to cope with the low light levels. I already have an excellent Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 but decided to purchase a Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 for this gig as well to give me a very fast and ultra-sharp standard zoom (I normally use a pentax 17-70mm USM DA at F4.0). Benjamin Kanarek the top-line fashion photographer who shoots covers for Tatler, Vogue and Conde Nast uses the very same Tamron lens so I knew it would be superb and he's very much an idol of mine because of his stunning work. I can only say how glad I was during the night that I bought one!!
Events started around 4pm, it was boiling hot and a sizeable audience was building, you could feel the sense of anticipation in the air. All of the artists were provided by the Alex and Phil management company www.alexandphil.com and they had provided a stunning line-up culminating in Alex Katsi and his band International Naughty Boy. In the event we got something even better when members of some of the other bands playing earlier in the day joined them on stage and supplemented their line-up!! I had been asked by the organisers to get plenty of candid pictures of people attending so I spent quite a lot of time while the light was good doing just that - it was as pilots say a 'target rich environment'! There were lots of attractive people in funky clothing having a great time and that's always a good start! I also captured some great pictures of the earlier artists on stage before the venue became too crowded - it was a great buzz to be shooting while hearing superb live music. In a way it was just like flying airliners - it was so enjoyable it didn't feel like work! I also elected to shoot some panoramic pictures of the event by shooting blocks of three or four pictures which could later be joined to produce a 180 degree panorama of the festival and these worked very well.
As the darkness fell and light faded the concert built to a crescendo as International Naughty Boy and Brando took the stage. It always amazes me how a great band can really take the energy at a concert to another level and that's exactly what happened. The crowd were going wild, the band were on fire and I reflected that this is what it must have been like if you'd seen Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band in the 1970's when they were young and hungry for success. I kept shooting throughout the whole nine hours of the festival and by the end of the night had over 1300 shots on the camera. At one point I decided to try and shoot from behind the band on stage and their security and sound engineer let me on and I achieved another lifetime ambition - to be on stage in the middle of a rip-roaring set with a rock band in full flow!! What a great band and what a great bunch of guys!! While watching International Naughty Boy I was struck by their lead singer Alex Katsi who has a similar stage presence to Freddie Mercury - the same kind of way of holding himself erect like a Greek God, the same panther like grace about the stage - I feel I captured some of that essence.
To say I'm thrilled with the results is an understatement - I think there are some great images here! I was pushing the Pentax right to its limits, shooting wide open on my very fastest lenses, pushing the ISO sensitivity right up at one point as high as 6400 and all the time battling with shutter speeds which were dangerously near the redline where camera-shake is an ever-present danger. That extra stop to F2.8 though made all the difference and meant I could carry on shooting where lesser camera-lens combinations would have rendered blur. I'm really pleased with the resulting pictures of an awesome band in full flow and best of all I think they capture the interplay between musicians on stage, their energy, style and emotion. I'm also genuinely thrilled to have found a new genre that combines my love of music with photography and I would definitely love to do a lot more concert and band-related work as part of my photography. So if you're a band member, manager or promoter get in touch!!
Here's some more pictures from Millfest 2014 enjoy and let me know what you think on my guestbook.
Till next time... Jonathan
I was tipped off about an excellent location for a shoot by a photographer friend who recommended Balcombe Viaduct in Sussex. It's a well known beauty spot and favoured location for photographers as we found out when we headed over there on a sunny Sunday afternoon for a picnic and photo session!! The weather held up rather too well and I could have done with a few more clouds for the landscape pics of the viaduct itself. The strong sun made little difference to the portrait photographs because I was using my new Yongnuo flash and portable soft box combination on wireless flash triggers for most of those anyway. I drafted in my usual two models - my wife and daughter although my wife hadn't expected to be part of the shoot and so didn't have much make-up with her!!
I think the truth is that my daughter with her unblemished youth can get away without much if any make-up at all but as people get older make-up can often help to cover skin blemishes and highlight the eyes which can add a little more quality to the finished result. It has prompted me to write a pre-shoot briefing for customers though making some recommendations on make-up, hair and clothes and that can only be a help when arranging future shoots.
The shoot went well and I am pleased there are some great pictures - the viaduct built in 1841 for the main London to Brighton line to cross the Ouse Valley makes a stunning backdrop for portrait pictures. The flash and softbox performed superbly and I was impressed that the Yongnuo 560 III with its guide number of 58 had enough power to match the strong sunlight that afternoon and offset the otherwise hard shadows that could result.
Rhiannon has achieved mastery of the pensive pose and I feel fortunate in having such an excellent model to work with! I wasn't initially keen on the dungarees but I think they give a suitably industrial feel to a location which so strongly reflects the industrial revolution and the coming of the railways.
In late May we ventured into London by car on a Sunday to see the David Bailey 'Stardust' exhibition at the National Portrait gallery in London. Bailey is in my view England's greatest living photographer and one of the true greats alongside Richard Avedon, Duffy, Cartier-Bresson and others who transformed photography and were crucial to its evolution.
Bailey emerged in the 1960's and within 18 months of setting up on his own was shooting for Vogue!! Perhaps even more significantly he, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy were the triumvirate who brought a completely new sense of movement and style into fashion photography. Traditionally photographers had been aristocrats who photographed debutantes and other aristocrats using large format cameras in static poses. Bailey, Donovan and Duffy dubbed the so called 'black trinity' were working class Londoner's who captured models in a much more candid style, often against a plain white background and in high contrast monochrome. These images have become iconic and have influenced the style of fashion, celebrity and advertising photography for all time.
Bailey had one other significant person with whom he conquered the world of fashion photography: Jean Shrimpton who went on to become the greatest supermodel of all time. Bailey discovered Shrimpton when he saw her working with another photographer and was instantly attracted to her. Her appeal I feel is that while she is staggeringly beautiful, hers wasn't the unattainable ice-maiden beauty or vampishness so common amongst models today but was a 'girl next door' prettyness that made her the fantasy of so many red blooded males both then and now. When I looked at her photographs in the gallery they were just mesmerising - the perfect coming together of a great photographer and an iconic muse.
In 1962 Bailey and Shrimpton headed over to New York for what became the most famous fashion shoot in history. He threw out the medium format camera he had been asked to use by Vogue and took out his Pentax Spotmatic S3 35mm camera and began to shoot candidly on the streets of New York city. This wasn't at all how Vogue wanted things done but it broke new ground entirely and Vogue were forced to concede that he had created a landmark photo shoot. Here's Shrimpton by Bailey in New York:
So having put Bailey in some context my impressions of the exhibition were that he is an even better photographer than I ever thought. He really does manage to get inside his subject and to reveal the character within.
Technically Bailey is an absolute master at studio lighting and the brilliance of his lighting set-ups took my breath away. A fellow photographic chum who came too and I spent ages staring at the catchlights in the eyes to try and figure out how he had lit the images! What particularly inspired me was the fact that I have a very small studio (12ftx10ft) at home and yet you could have shot 80% of Bailey's work in that space so I no longer feel that my studio is quite as limiting.
Personally I found the exhibition awe inspiring, informative and fascinating. I have a much deeper appreciation for the man and his work and I would urge any of you to go and see his next exhibition because all of us can learn from a master of photography like David Bailey.
All images remain copyright of their respective owners.
I have been shooting Pentax cameras exclusively since 1981 when I bought my first camera, a Pentax ME Super. Since that time I have owned 4 of their SLR's including my current digital SLR the Pentax K5. All of these cameras have had five things in common:
1. They all take the Pentax K bayonet mount lenses and Pentax build (and have built) some truly outstanding lenses.
2. They all have a logical and intuitive user interface, something Pentax excel at.
3. They are better built than equivalently priced Nikon, Canon, Olympus etc cameras.
4. Heritage and engineering excellence.
5. Photo quality
Examining each of these points in turn:
The Pentax K bayonet mount remains perhaps the most famous camera lens mounting system in the world. Launched in 1975 it remains the one constant in a world of camera change. Crucially what this means is that you can buy the latest and greatest Pentax digital SLR in 2013 and use any K mount lens built since 1975 on it. This respect for heritage is unique amongst camera manufacturers - the majority of whom are delighted to change their lens mount system every few years in order to force their loyal customers to go out and purchase a whole new range of lenses. I like that and it's increasingly rare in a world where companies are run by bean counters who seek to maximise profit at the expense of consumers. As a result there is a thriving secondhand market for secondhand Pentax lenses and some outstanding bargains can be had on superb glass if you purchase secondhand.
Technically too the cameras support this by offering unique features such as 'in-body' shake reduction systems. Where Canon, Nikon etc fit their shake reduction systems in their lenses, Pentax fit them in the body to the sensor itself. What this means is that when you use an old 1981 Pentax 50mm F1.7 prime (optically stunning by the way) as I do, you get the benefit of shake reduction - indeed that system will be helping to keep your pictures sharp no matter what lens you fit.
The user interface on Pentax cameras remains one of the very best available - it's something they are very good at. Controls are clearly laid out, there are more function buttons on the camera and less settings that have to be changed by digging deep into software menus than most other cameras I have tried. What this means is I'm less likely to miss a shot because I'm fiddling about and the camera doesn't get in the way of taking pictures. Shutter speed is controlled by a wheel just in front of the shutter button, aperture by a wheel on the back plate where the thumb naturally rests. Mode selection is done by the command dial to the left, depth of field preview by a rotating ring around the shutter button. Everything falls nicely to hand and I can control all the prime functions on the camera with physical controls not menu settings. My experience with Canon is that they too tend to be pretty intuitive but Nikon seem to specialise in overly complex control systems - which is a shame because they build some lovely cameras...
Build quality. In my view this is an area where Pentax utterly dominate the market and you have to look at Leica or the professional Canon at Nikon cameras to come close. My Pentax K5 (now superseded by the £900 Pentax K3) is made entirely of magnesium alloy on a steel chassis. It is fully weather sealed from water, dust and cold via 77 special body seals and Pentax offers a full range of sealed lenses to match including even the standard kit lens that ships with the camera. Only the £5000 top of the pro line Nikon and Canon cameras get anywhere close to either this level of construction or sealing - so an EOS 1D at £5000 probably would equal the Pentax at around £900. Ask yourself how often it rains in the UK or how often you might want to use your camera on a canoeing, cycling, hill walking trip? Ask yourself how many times you've wanted to take pictures at a school sports day or gone for a walk and it's started to rain... I don't want to have to stop shooting just because the weather turns and I want to have confidence that my camera won't let me down.
When I bought my K5 I actually was thinking of switching system entirely to the Nikon D7000 which had rave reviews but just picking it up and feeling how plasticky it felt compared to the professional cold metal feel of the Pentax convinced me otherwise. If you want to see how tough Pentax DSLR's are watch this video of a soldier in Afghanistan pouring sand over his Pentax gear and then using the field shower to wash it off: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo61t5fH6Qw - it still makes me wince but it's a testament to engineering excellence.
Heritage and engineering excellence. Pentax can trace their history back through over 70 years of innovation and ground-breaking design:
1952 Asahiflex 1 First Japanese SLR camera and first to use 35mm film
1954 Asahiflex 2 World's first instant return mirror system eliminates mirror blackout when taking pictures
1957 Asahi Pentax introduces the fixed Pentaprism to enable eye level shooting through the lens
1957 Pentax Auto-Takumar lenses are the first lenses with automatic lens diaphragms controlled by internal signalling between body and lens to permit instantaneous stopdown and re-opening after shutter release
1960 Pentax Spotmatic Pentax pioneers world's first in pentaprism TTL metering system
1966 Pentax Nocta World's first infra-red focussing system enables focus confirmation in total darkness
1969 Pentax 6x7 world's first medium format camera with 35mm style handling and features
1971 Pentax ES World's first aperture priority mode with TTL metering
1971 Pentax invent multi-coating lens process for up to 9 layers of lens coating later licenced by Zeiss and everyone else. Even today Zeiss lenses use Pentax SMC coatings. Up to that point nobody had managed to put more than 4 layers of coating on a lens and many lenses still had no coatings or single layers.
1975 Pentax K mount launched
1976 Pentax MX World's smallest and lightest SLR camera
1979 Pentax ME Super World's first SLR with push-button control
1980 Pentax ME-F World's first autofocus SLR - a full 10 years before this became commonplace
1981 Pentax is the first manufacturer to produce 10 million SLR's
1985 Pentax D3000 First 35mm SLR camera with DX film sensing
1987 Pentax SF-7 World's first SLR with automatic pop up flash
1997 Pentax 645N World's first autofocus medium format camera
2003 Pentax Ist d, first digital Pentax SLR and smallest and lightest DSLR in the world
2006 Pentax Ist DL - First DSLR for less than £500
2006 K100D Pentax first body with in body stabilisation (no Nikon or Canon camera to date has ever had this feature because they build it into their lenses, but you pay extra for it everytime you buy a lens...)
2008 Pentax K20D First budget/prosumer DSLR with weather sealing
2010 Pentax 645 D first digital medium format camera with SLR like handling qualities
2011 Pentax Q Worlds smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera system launched
2011 Pentax 645D wins 'camera of the year' and voted best professional DSLR by TIPA
2013 Pentax K3 pioneer's world's first selectable anti-aliasing system, wins best DSLR of the year (TIPA)
2014 Pentax 645Z 51 megapixel medium format DSLR launched at a price point £7000 one third of its Hasselblad competitors. First medium format digital camera with on board video recording.
When I bought my Pentax K5 I evaluated lots of reviews of it one web and found DXO Mark - an independent testing laboratory who said the following:
In short the K5 is simply the best APS-C we have tested so far, sometimes able to compete even with very high-end full-frame cameras.
The overall score of the K5 puts it in the lead with 82 points — more than 9 points better than the D90 or the Alpha 55, and 16 points ahead of the Canon 7D or 60D. The K5 is literally the best APS-C performer for each segment, even in low ISO.
Wonderful Dynamic Range performance
Dynamic range is clearly where the K5 struts its stuff. The scores it reaches at ISO 80 are simply impressive: at 14.1 Ev (print mode), even the D3X’s full-frame sensor is not that good. Smoothing appears at ISO 3200 but does not impact the metrics.
Final thoughts. So in conclusion then Pentax have certainly made a very significant contribution to the development of photography. Little wonder then that when David Bailey shot Jean Shrimpton for Vogue in New York in the most important and revolutionary fashion shoot in history he threw his medium format camera away and picked up a Pentax SLR.
Today I too shall pick up my Pentax as countless millions of amateurs and professionals have done before me and I will thank those Pentax engineers down the years who have helped to give us all the incredible cameras we enjoy today whether they are a Pentax, a Nikon, a Canon or an Olympus.