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Canadian Pricing for Pentax 645D

October 17, 2010
Pentax 645D

Pentax 645D

A quick update on my previous post on the Pentax 645D. Initial pricing is now available in Canada. My favorite shop, Calgary-based The Camera Store, will have the 645D available from $10,499 CDN (body only). The availability date is still pending, but hopefully will be close to the expected date in the US.

This pricing is pretty much what I was expecting based on the announced US pricing, but it’s good to see confirmation here in the Great White North.

I was talking to some folks about this camera, this weekend. One question was why something with this kind of price tag was interesting to me. 🙂 For people used to spending in the range of $500 – $1,500 for a camera complete with at least one lens, the concept of a $10,500 camera that doesn’t even have a single lens for that price sounds like something bizarre.

Without getting too deep into the technical mumbo jumbo, the short answer is that image quality in digital photography is controlled by a few factors. One of those factors is the ability of the camera system (lens, sensor and electronics) to deliver a large chunk of resolution (image pixels) in the signal with very little corresponding noise. This concept is the same in audio, for example music recordings… or even just trying to listen to your dinner companions in a crowded restaurant. You’re trying to understand the signal — music or conversation, the information that you care about — and strip out the noise — everything from the environment and your audio systems that isn’t what you care about.

In a camera, the signal is light. A medium format camera like the 645D is simply designed to handle more light. The lenses, sensor and electronics transmit, record and process more light with higher resolution than nearly all smaller cameras, and do so in a way that have a natural advantage of more signal and less noise. This is great for producing large, highly detailed prints.

Those are technical aspects that make this camera interesting to me. But from a high-tech marketing & strategy view point (the kind of stuff I think about in my day job working in information technology), the Pentax 645D is also interesting because it is a potential game-changer based on the economics of medium format camera systems. It’s not just that the camera is much less expensive than other medium format cameras with which it competes — it’s also why it’s less expensive.

From the information available combined with some educated guesswork, it seems clear that Pentax’s strategy for this camera system appears to be based in part on borrowing technology from their consumer and pro-sumer camera systems that sell for much higher volumes & cheaper prices in turn. All other medium format cameras are custom designed systems that sell at low volumes and high-end price ranges. The economics of the initial R&D, manufacturing, distribution, sales and after-sale support are very different between low volume and high volume high-tech products.

We obviously don’t know internal information about how Pentax has developed the 645D, or how it relates to their other camera systems. But no other current medium format camera maker has the potential technical or economic leverage of a larger scale consumer or pro-sumer camera line in conjunction with their medium format camera line. If Pentax can drive some kind of effective marriage of their product lines, their strategy may rewrite part of the rule book in the medium format segment of the camera market.

I’m interested in your comments. Does anybody else find this camera system interesting? Why or why not?

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