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Product Story

Takashi Arai (Product Strategy Department, Project Promotion Group)

The development concept for the PENTAX K-S1 (referred to as the “K-S1” below)

The K-S1 was planned based on a concept totally different from that of K series models up to now. Marketing research has indicated that there are an increasing number of customers who have gotten a taste of the fun of photography using their smartphones but who are looking to deepen their level of photography enjoyment by taking higher-quality photographs. So with the K-S1, we set out to create the kind of standard-type model that would become the preferred choice for people who have already come to enjoy playful picture taking and are now interested in an SLR. From this perspective, in development the K-S1 was positioned as a kind of new-line model that differs from the existing K-3 and K-50 cameras.

The ways that it differs from past models

First of all, there is the body design. An all-out effort was made to reduce the size, and we adopted an innovative external design that has a strong affinity with the digital IT tools usually used. In addition, we adopted a new interface that facilitates intuitive operation with LED indicator lamps and other features, and by concentrating most of all on achieving a high level of basic usability as a camera, we sought to create a model that would be readily accepted even by new users.
Specifically, while giving top priority to reducing size, we aimed for a design in which the camera body incorporates traditional SLR elements as well as elements that would be readily accepted by new users. The light path that carries the light to the image sensor and viewfinder is very much an orthodox SLR design, but for the grip and other parts of the camera body, we adopted a highly original design likely to attract people who enjoy using digital devices. The way I describe the process here, it may seem that the decisions were easily made, but in reality it took quite a long time. The fact that we were aiming for an unprecedented design meant there was a high degree of design freedom, and that led to an outpouring of highly diverse ideas. (Laughs) In the end, the design finally settled down partly thanks to the oversight of the highly regarded design consultant ziba tokyo Co., Ltd.

New interface with LED indicator lamps

We assigned a number of functions to the LEDs on the grip. For example, when shooting with the self-timer, the LEDs perform the countdown by turning off one by one beginning five seconds before the shot is taken. For use in shooting the selfie-style self-portraits that have been so popular recently, when face detection assist is turned on for Live View, it is possible to display up to five faces detected on the screen and confirm whether they are in the frame while you are shooting. Also, on the mode dial on the back of the body, the selected mode shines green while the other modes shine white. This does not just make it easy to see which mode is selected, it also makes it possible to quickly select another mode without turning on a light even when shooting in the dark before dawn. Intuitive judgments are also aided by the fact that while the main power switch glows green for still images, it switches to red the moment you selected movie shooting.

High level of functionality inherited from the K-3

The image sensor and image processor adopted for the K-S1 are both new. The image sensor uses the same low-pass filter-less specs as the K-5IIs and the K-3, and it can shoot high-definition images at the extremely high resolution level of 20.12 million effective pixels. The inclusion of the same leading-edge “low-pass selector” found on the K-3 means that the K-S1 can shoot a wide range of subjects at the optimum settings. The combination of the new sensor and the new PRIME MII image processor enable the K-S1 to handle extremely high sensitivity shooting at a maximum level of ISO51200, the same as on the K-3. In addition, as I touched upon when talking about the design concept, for the K-S1 particular emphasis was given to “light.” This emphasis was not limited to the communication of information by having the body LEDs shine. For people who have up to now only seen their shooting subjects on a monitor or electronic viewfinder, we wanted to provide the opportunity to experience the kind of shooting only possible with an optical viewfinder where the photographer can clearly engage directly with the actual subject, checking its true colors and changes of expression in real time. The K-S1 uses the same glass prism as the K-3, the current top-of-the-line model of the K series, and it has a field of view of approximately 100%, which is an extraordinary achievement for an SLR of this size . Photography is said to be an “art of light,” and so that many more people would be able to exercise personal control over light and create their own wonderful images, on the K-S1 we placed particular importance on the “visual flavor” of the optical viewfinder.

EFFECT mode added to the mode dial

Since we wanted this to be a model that would be used by people who enjoy the photo expression made possible by digital technology, we included modes for the creation of photographs that are distinctively creative as well as being high-quality images. There are a total of ten types of effects which can also be combined with traditional digital filters. The smart effects popular on the PENTAX Q series serve as the base for the K-S1 effect function, and new effects have been added, such as faded color, clear tone, and infrared filter. With the adoption of the effects on the K-S1, in some cases the names assigned are different from those used on the Q series. The K-S1 has the “vintage color” setting which is called “Auto110 mode” on Q series. Since the Q series themselves are reminiscent of the extremely small film-era SLR known as the Auto110, the “Auto110 mode” name was chosen because we wanted to communicate to new users the fact that several dozen years ago there was a camera based on the same concept as the Q series and because we wanted people familiar with that era to smile in recognition. For the K-S1, however, the name was changed to “vintage color” to indicate the actual effect obtained.

Both high functionality and small size achieved

With the K-S1, our highest priority was to increase portability by achieving a formidable level of compactness. For this reason, we decided not to use a dust and moisture resistant structure, but that was a truly painful decision. For the battery insertion direction, we changed to a horizontal orientation from the vertical orientation used on the K-30 and other models. Just changing from vertical to horizontal might seem like an easy thing, but it was, in fact, a very difficult task since we had to pretty much redesign the power supply circuit. We also combined the card slot and the battery cover and made various other changes as part of our detail-level rethinking of component positioning, and in the end we realized a significant reduction in size for the K-S1.

Message from the project personnel

The K-S1 design was a challenge, but we did not compromise on either the extreme compactness or the performance, and I think that the result is a camera worthy of the PENTAX name. This is a camera that will reward a close look even from advanced photographers so we hope that you will take it in hand and see for yourself.

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