Despite its 2008 merger with Hoya Corporation of Tokyo, Japan, Pentax remains one of the world's leading digital camera manufacturers. Pentax cameras long have been among the leaders in both film and digital SLR models and high-end lenses. Pentax also manufactures some point and shoot models, led by the Optio line of cameras. According to a Techno Systems Research report, Panasonic ranked 11th worldwide in number of units manufactured in 2007 with about 3.15 million cameras. Pentax's market share was 2.4%.
Pentax was founded in a suburb of Tokyo in 1919, called Asahi Kogaku Goshi Kausha. Two decades later, the company became Ashai Optical, and it manufactured cameras and lenses in the years before World War II. During the war, Ashai manufactured optical instruments for the Japanese war effort.
After World War II, the company was disbanded for a few years, before returning in 1948, when it began manufacturing binoculars, lenses, and cameras again. In 1952, Asahi released the Asahiflex camera, which was the first 35mm SLR camera created by a Japanese manufacturer.
Honeywell began importing Asahi photographic products in the 1950s, calling the products "Honeywell Pentax." Eventually, the Pentax brand name appeared on all of the company's products worldwide. The entire Asahi company was renamed Pentax in 2002. Pentax and Samsung began working together on digital SLR cameras and related products in 2005.
Hoya is a company that manufactures photographic filters, lasers, contact lenses, and art objects. Hoya was founded in 1941, beginning as an optical glass producer and as a manufacturer of crystal products. When the two companies merged, Pentax retained its brand name. Pentax Imaging is the American photography division of the company, and it remains headquartered in Golden, Colo.
Today's Pentax and Optio Offerings
Pentax has always been well known for its film cameras. For example, the Pentax K1000 is one of the world's best known film cameras, as it was manufactured from the mid-1970s until about 2000. Today, Pentax offers a mixture of DSLR and compact, beginner models.
- DSLR models. Pentax manufactures digital SLR cameras with the "K" designation. K model Pentax cameras offer interchangeable lenses and plenty of resolution. Look for K model cameras to cost between $700 and $1,500 for the camera body only.
- Waterproof models. Optio "W" models provide waterproof camera bodies, along with dust proof and weather proof technologies. W models carry about 10.0 megapixels of resolution and they cost $250-$300.
- Ultra thin models. The Pentax Optio "P" model cameras are the company's ultra-compact units, measuring a little more than 0.75 inches in thickness. Look for P model cameras to cost about $150-$200.
- Beginner models. Pentax's "E" model digital cameras are aimed at beginners, carrying about 10.0 megapixels of resolution and several easy-to-use features. You'll find E model cameras for about $100-$150.
- Related products. Pentax Imaging offers many types of camera accessories, including high-end lenses for SLR models. The company also makes many different types of external flash units, battery chargers, remote controls for cameras, focusing screens, and hot shoe adapters. Other divisions of Pentax offer binoculars, spotting scopes, surveying instruments, laser levels, prism units, and high-tech health-care systems.