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PENTAX K-3 Mark III Designer Story

PENTAX K-3 Mark III Designer Story

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Long before there was any official anouncemengt of a successor to the PENTAX K-3 Mark II, Pentax photographers were already wishing for a further development, and there was much discussion about it in the forums.
There were many voices and opinions on how the new model should look and how it should be equipped. The product designers had to reconcile these wishes with the specifications and product concept they had created themselves in order to create a camera that is unique and carries on the tradition of the PENTAX brand.

One of the leading product developers of the new PENTAX APS-C top model, Shigeru Wakashiro, who has been working in camera development at Pentax for more than 15 years, has already been talking in the closet before the official product launch, and provides insights into the lengthy development process with this K-3 Mark III Designer Story.

Product philosophy and concept

At a time when rangefinder cameras were at their peak, Pentax recognised the potential of SLR technology and was the first manufacturer to focus on this form of camera. Today, Pentax still carries the pentaprism at the heart of its brand name, and will continue to see this technology as the core of its product philosophy.

 In a short video clip responsible managers of the Pentax management take a position on the future direction of the product policy:

As a pioneer of SLR technology, the path of the optical viewfinder is consistently pursued and all other technical developments are subordinated to this goal. For Pentax, photography is more than just creating image files. The process of taking a picture should be an experience and always a pleasure, and it should inspire joy, from looking through the viewfinder to the unique sound of the mechanical shutter:

"You see the image with your eyes and feel it with your heart".

What may sound pretentious and lofty is the essence that is reflected in the 5 basic principles for PENTAX SLR cameras:
1) We design new cameras with great dedication.
2) We aim to make cameras that allow direct communication with the subject when shooting.
3) We design cameras that allow our photographers to enjoy photography with all the processes involved, and to do so with passion.
4) We ensure a level of quality and performance that cannot be expressed in measured values alone.
5) We respect and value the photographic experience of our users and consider it an invaluable asset.

Photography has many faces. It is used, for example, to capture moments or to create a service. But photography is also a great passion. As many applications as there are for photography, just as many different technical possibilities there are for creating image files.
But if photography is more than the simple creation of photo files, and much more a passion, if the fascination with perfect technology outweighs the joy of electronics, and if it is the process of shooting that excites photographers, then you should always pick up an SLR camera and enjoy pioneering developments and inventions for which PENTAX, as the first Japanese SLR camera manufacturer, has been a pioneer since 1957 and is still defining the adventure of SLR photography today.

For the product designers, for whom Shigeru Wakashiro speaks in this Designer Story, the design of a camera is an important part of photography, because a good design can make photography more pleasant and exciting for the photographer.
And the process of taking photographs starts when the photographer takes out the camera. This is the first step in stimulating and realising photographic interest and creative ideas. Besides the practical design features of the camera, such as the grip to hold it comfortably and the ease of use, it is also important that the camera has an attractive design to express the feeling of quality and the pleasure of owning it."


The pentaprism

Pentax K-3 MIII Prismfinder

The prism housing of the PENTAX K-3 Mark III is the most striking design element of a PENTAX SLR camera and corresponds in shape to the glass pentaprism concealed within. This design concept was already implemented in the PENTAX K-1 and has been adapted to thePENTAX K-3 Mark III. It expresses energy and liveliness and suggests action and dynamism with a line rising towards the rear. 

In earlier models, space was needed in the front part of the prism housing for technical components. But the bigger it got, the greater the risk that it would affect the operation of the lenses. Therefore, we had to change the design of some cameras, which resulted in the PENTAX logo being placed further away from the bayonet mount than we originally wanted.

With the PENTAX K-3 Mark III, we decided to simplify the construction of the prism housing to minimise the protrusion. This also meant that we could bring the PENTAX logo closer to the lens mount again. 
This design change not only resulted in a very compact product design, but also gives the PENTAX K-3 Mark III a robust and classic look."

Product designer Shigeru Wakashiro shares more thoughts on the basic design of the camera on the camera development process blog ...

Sturdy housing construction

magnesium chassis K-3 III

The magnesium alloy used is a lightweight and rigid metallic material that is highly resistant to deformation. It makes it possible to develop a high-strength and stable camera housing while reducing the product mass to a minimum. The many positive characteristics combined with the excellent feel were the reasons for choosing this material for the top, bottom, front and rear panels of the PENTAX K-3 Mark III in order to design a compact, robust and high-quality camera body for our new top-of-the-range APS-C model.

We hope our customers will appreciate the use of these high quality manufacturing materials. And have a sense of security by protecting the high-precision internal mechanisms, while at the same time giving a valuable impression through the characteristic metallic look.

We are confident that PENTAX fans will enjoy capturing images with the new PENTAX K-3 Mark III and will cherish the camera for many years to come. We have designed it to be a compact, robust and high-quality camera that will give its owner the joy of ownership and the fun and excitement of great photographic experiences.

Product designer Shigeru Wakashiro shares more thoughts on the body design on the camera design process blog

The body design

It is very important for us to produce cameras that deliver outstanding results, but at the same time we want to develop cameras that are fun and exciting to shoot. In doing so, the development of the new camera follows an idea shared by all previous top APS-C format models, starting with the PENTAX K-7: to design a compact, solid and functional body full of top performance.

Based on this concept, we are adding a wide range of advanced PENTAX technologies with the aim of creating a camera that our users will say is the best PENTAX APS-C format digital SLR ever.
We pay special attention to the optical viewfinder. We want to offer a view that captures the photographer's imagination, making it easy and simple to compose an image in all conditions, and fully dedicated to the shooting process.
With our previous models, we have always strived to create viewfinders that provide a comfortable view. That's why we've used pentaprism viewfinders even in our most affordable SLR models.

Viewfinder size plays a crucial role in photography. That's why our goal with the new APS-C camera has been to develop a viewfinder that is perceptually reminiscent of a 35mm full-frame camera. The difficult challenge of producing sharp, distortion-free images across the entire range could only be mastered by the development team working closely together in all areas and constantly scrutinising the entire production process and materials.
We were able to overcome this challenge due to the outstanding team effort, and with our new APS-C top model we can offer a viewfinder that, thanks to special glass materials, matches the viewing angle and visual result of the optical viewfinder of our PENTAX K-1 II.

More thoughts on the viewfinder design shared by product designer Shigeru Wakashiro on the camera development process blog

The large LCD monitor

screen Pentax K-3 Mark III

For the body design of our new flagship APS-C format model, we decided to prioritise the development of a compact, robust body and made this one of the most important issues in the product design. Although a large number of system and SLR cameras today have an adjustable LCD monitor with variable or tiltable angle, we decided to use a fixed LCD panel instead.

We had already gained experience with our PENTAX K-1 series models. Because we assumed that they would be used frequently in tripod photography, we equipped them with a flexible, tiltable monitor. Because of the sophisticated design required to perform horizontal, vertical and diagonal tilting, the monitor's body must have sufficient depth to accommodate a robust and durable tilting mechanism.

This depth of construction would not have been possible with the K-3 Mark III. We were able to reduce the depth of the camera between the lens mount and the LCD screen by optimising the PCB layout and reducing the size of the LCD components, but it would still have been too deep.

For our new top-of-the-line APS-C model, we also considered the options of using a tilt monitor with a one-way tilt mechanism, as used in the PENTAX KP, or the monitor included in the PENTAX K-70. However, these options would also require a greater housing depth, as too shallow a housing depth would have a negative effect on the stability of the moving components.
In addition, integrating an adjustable screen into a compact housing makes it difficult to use a larger LCD monitor. For us, however, it was important to use a monitor with 3.2 inches. The photographer should be able to create the image on as large a screen as possible, if necessary, without giving up the basic design concept of a compact, robust housing.
In order not to jeopardise the photographic experience and the compact dimensions by negative influences we finally agreed on the monitor in its current form.

Product designer Shigeru Wakashiro shares more thoughts on the design of the LCD on the camera development process blog

Ergonomic design

It was also important to us to design an ergonomic housing that allows intuitive operation. This includes the new eye sensor that dims the LCD monitor as soon as you look through the viewfinder.

Here we come to another detail that has an unconscious but significant influence on use. A narrow housing design is necessary to make the viewfinder view so that the nose does not constantly bump against the back wall by providing the appropriate distance.
Careful attention has been paid to every detail of the camera, including the easy-to-view optical viewfinder and excellent operability. Elements that are very important both for visual comfort and for handling the camera when shooting."

Product designer Shigeru Wakashiro shares more thoughts on ergonomics on the camera design process blog


Imaging technology

In developing the camera, we have always aimed to optimise the fun and experience of taking pictures. That is why we find a number of new and improved components in the new camera.

First of all, the image sensor, image processor and acceleration unit ensure high quality images throughout the sensitivity range from ISO100 to ISO1600000.
But also important is the Custom Image function, which gives the photographer the possibility to change the basic parameters of a shot, which is comparable to the film selection of analogue photography. Various basic settings are available here, the individual image parameters of which can be selected in even greater detail.

The operation

Pentax K-3 Mark III ergonomic

Pentax is known for its attention to detail. The history of photography owes a lot of innovations to Pentax, and not least Pentax is known for the very compact product design since the M-series. However, emphasis has always been placed on good handling and a secure grip when shooting, even with long focal lengths. Product design is also an important factor in offering perfect cameras for traditional photography.
Whether you like a product or not is often decided in the first few seconds when you pick it up. So it is also not insignificant whether a camera fits in the hand.

Like the viewfinder, the user interface is an important factor in the creative process. Whether and how the camera fits in the hand depends on various factors. The handgrip must not be too small, but not too big either, and the controls must be within easy reach without cramping the hand.

The middle finger plays the most important role when holding the camera. So much work was done on the design until its optimal position was determined. A lot of fine-tuning has been necessary until all the controls are accessible, the fingers do not interfere with each other and smooth operation with maximum holding comfort is guaranteed. After a lot of manual work, further optimisations are made with the help of the computer until the grip fits.

A lot of attention is also paid to the resting place of the thumb. No sharp edges should interfere and the thumb must also be able to easily reach all the operating elements it was designed for.

A brand new feature is the joystick on the back of the camera for selecting the focus fields. This too must ensure comfortable operation and prevent the thumb from slipping. The shape of the button and the shape and position of the controls were optimised through a trial-and-error process that also took into account the physical differences, such as the size of the hand and the length and thickness of the fingers, of many users.

These components have been evaluated using rigorous standards, which aims to ensure that our users can fully enjoy the shooting process and that they can fully focus on and closely interact with the subject while taking photos without experiencing discomfort or distraction when operating the camera.
We believe that our mission is to provide Pentax photographers with cameras that are comfortable, flawless and reliable.

The shutter release

The incomparable "click" sound when the camera is released is the epitome of photography for many photographers. This sound is now generated by a sound generator on many image recording devices, and is often available as a selection option in various forms in the device menu.
For many photography enthusiasts, however, only the noise produced by the mirror and shutter is an indispensable part of their camera.
Since 1960, when with the ASAHI PENTAX SPOTMATIC PENTAX became the first Japanese SLR to incorporate the automatic swingback mirror into SLR cameras, our product engineers have paid special attention to this component. Precision and accuracy are essential for exposure control. And so an unprecedented amount of effort was put into the PENTAX K-3 Mark III. Which is reflected not least in a frame rate of up to 12 fps.

Product designer Shigeru Wakashiro shares more thoughts on the shutter release design on the camera development process blog

"Smart Function" for easy operation

pentax smart functionAs previously with the PENTAX K-1 and also with the PENTAX KP, the "Smart Function" plays an important role, and has been completely redesigned for the PENTAX K-3 Mark III.

As before, the function can be preselected via the "Smart Function" dial and then the function can be adjusted accordingly with the function dial. Whereas with the PENTAX KP there were three functions that could be individually programmed on the "Smart Function" dial, with the PENTAX K-3 Mark III there are up to 22 functions that can be assigned to the 5 different positions. A new feature is that the camera no longer needs to be removed from the eye, as these functions are controlled by pressing the S.Fn button in the viewfinder. This gives the photographer an intuitive operation that can be customised according to changing needs.

Product designer Shigeru Wakashiro shares more thoughts on the Smart Functions on the camera design process blog


The Hyper-Program Automatic

The user interface is of particular importance. The interests of photographers are very different, and everyone has their own requirements for the operation of their camera. For this reason, there are many ways to customise the controls. For example, different functions can be assigned to the dials.
They also play an important role when using the hyper-program automatic.
Since PENTAX first used the hyper-program with time or aperture shift with the Z-1 in 1991, it has established itself as a fixed component, not only in PENTAX cameras. With the K-3 Mark III this exposure control system has been completely revised and has a particularly wide range of uses. This means that time, aperture or ISO can be prioritised as desired while using the programme automatic, and the other values can be adjusted accordingly.

Product designer Shigeru Wakashiro shares more thoughts on the function of the hyper-program automatic on the camera development process blog


The lens mount

pentax lens line up

The DA series lenses are designed for use with the PENTAX K-3 Mark III. They reproduce an image circle corresponding to the shooting format (15.6 x 24 mm). However, the lenses of the DFA series can also be used, which are absolutely compatible and only map the larger image circle of 24 x 36 mm.
The earlier FA and F lens series are also designed for this format. They work fully with the camera (F-series lenses only have limitations in program control). But A-series lenses can also be used with manual focusing but otherwise with the automatic exposure functions. Whereas the K-series lenses have no automatic function, but can still be used.
Simply put, this means that all old lenses can be used in their original function.
And even lenses for the medium format system or with M42 mount can be used with an adapter. (And with all lenses the IBIS works).

The Pentax K bayonet has long been considered the most widely used camera mount. Not only Pentax produced a large number of lenses with this mount, but also many other camera brands used this universal lens mount. So today there is a large stock of many lenses that deliver a first-class image or a very special expressiveness.
Pentax friends have long known about the advantage of using lenses that are 40 years and older. Many of them have a special expressive power that many photographers use to create their very own style of images.
Owners of these lenses will find new features in the new PENTAX K3 Mark III that make using these "oIdtimers" a pleasure even in the most modern PENTAX body. For example, a stop-down function can also be used with old M or A lenses, and it is now even possible to shoot according to manual aperture setting, in Av and TAv modes.

Product designer Shigeru Wakashiro shares more thoughts on using older lenses on the camera design process blog


This excerpt from the Designe Story is based on a series of blog articles posted by Shigeru Wakashiro from the product design department on the manufacturer's website in Japan.
After joining Asahi Optical Co, Ltd, the predecessor of PENTAX, he was involved in the development of a new business, a three-dimensional measuring system, as an image processing researcher. After moving into the camera business in 2003, he devoted himself to product planning and is mainly responsible for interchangeable lens cameras.