Ricoh has announced a brand new camera project "involving the research and development of new Pentax-brand film camera products."
Recently there has been a huge boom in film photography, with the price of film and vintage cameras skyrocketing, as well as repair costs, which hasn't gone unnoticed by Ricoh (the parent company of Pentax).
In response, Ricoh has announced its brand-new film camera project – though the details are a little contradictory. The company states that it will "provide camera enthusiasts around the world with new film camera products. We will be developing and launching new products and providing aftercare services so that experienced film camera users and younger photographers who want to try these cameras for the first time can fully enjoy the experience of film photography."
However, somehow this does not necessarily mean that Ricoh will develop a new film camera. "I want to stress that this announcement does not mean we will release new film cameras," said president and CEO, Noboru Akahane.
"Instead, it’s an ongoing project based on the assumption that, as long as photographers remain obsessed with the ambiance of light and environment, there will also be some who will want to use film cameras as their tool of choice in capturing unique images. But we also know how difficult it will be to restart the production of film cameras long after production was terminated. In fact, we’re only at the starting line right now."
Mixed messages from Ricoh, then, but we still might see the rebirth of Pentax film cameras. The company has released the following film, which gives a much stronger impression that new film cameras might be on the horizon:
Again, Ricoh has not announced any camera specifically, so there is no telling quite what this film project will entail. But we can speculate. If Ricoh does decide to make a Pentax-branded camera, will this will be an entirely new camera, or if it will be a re-released model from its extensive back catalog?
Pentax has a stable of legendary cameras. The Pentax K1000 is the film camera that an entire generation learned to shoot on, and with its affordability, simplicity, and longevity it is a camera that is still beloved by many. Pentax also has stellar automatic models, with the excellent Pentax ME Super offering aperture priority and dependable automatic control with excellent metering.
With repairs to old cameras becoming more expensive, and qualified repair shops disappearing, Ricoh states that one of the main focuses for this new film project – should it actually make a camera – would be to provide a new camera with a solid warranty and parts for repairs going into the future.
Unfortunately, there is no mention of whether Ricoh plans to make or use parts that would be compatible with older cameras, or make repairs easier by operating a network of engineers that owners of classic cameras could use. But either of these would be a huge boost for any vintage Pentax shooters out there.
Ricoh plans to develop this camera alongside "camera enthusiasts" by listening to comments and feedback during the development cycle, as well as at events that Ricoh plans to organize specifically around the launch of this project. In a recent survey of 3,000 Japanese users, Ricoh found that 20% still used a film camera, so it is keen to tap into this significant user base.
So, we are really none the wiser about what, if anything, Ricoh actually has planned for this project. However, as lovers of film photography who are frequently frustrated by how hard it is becoming to use the medium, we are excited about more camera manufacturers thinking about taking film photography seriously once again.
You can find out more about film photography and read our guides to the best film cameras, the best 35mm films, and the best film scanners.