Ricoh, the imaging company behind the Pentax brand, is moving towards the sale or withdrawal of a number of businesses in order to improve profitability – and there is a sense in the industry that this could spell the end of its camera division.
Ricoh has steadfastly – some would say stubbornly, even foolishly – stuck to DSLR development and shunned the mirrorless movement, even stating that DSLRs will make a comeback. While still producing traditional cameras like the Pentax K3 Mark III, the company is also behind beloved compacts like the Ricoh GR III as well as great 360 cameras like the Ricoh Theta X.
Still, a dying DSLR market and success in uber niche specialist camera sectors may not be enough to keep the photographic division afloat. Ricoh has some 30 businesses under its umbrella, and financial performance is such that, "The time has come for us to choose which businesses to choose," according to chief financial officer, Shun Kawaguchi.
"Ricoh, which is shifting from a multifunction machine to a digital service company against the background of the rapid progress of paperless, will introduce an in-house company system in April 2021 and emphasize return on invested capital ( ROIC )," writes Japanese outlet Newswitch (an arm of business and industry newspaper Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun).
"In addition to profitability and investment efficiency based on ROIC, the business portfolio will be evaluated from three perspectives: market position and suitability for digital services."
Obviously, market position isn't one of Ricoh or Pentax' strong suits in photography. It doesn't help that the company earnestly refuses to embrace mirrorless – with an executive famously saying in 2019 that mirrorless users will come back to DSLRs, and estimating that the DSLR market would grow by 2022.
With Olympus selling off its camera business in 2021, and constant rumblings that Panasonic looking to make similar moves, it feels like there is a real possibility that Ricoh might sell or shutter its imaging division. Which would be a loss to the industry, as Ricoh and Pentax cameras – while not the most fashionable – are some of the most capable on the market.
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