NEWS: Pentax’s New Compact Fixed-Lens Film Camera Embraces Tradition with Mechanical Film Advance Lever

By Molly Kate

Pentax’s second update on its new film camera project is here! Published in the form of a Youtube video, Takeo Suzuki talks to the photography community about the project’s progress. The Ricoh planning/design team member known as TKO, confirms the model for a new compact fixed-lens camera will feature a hand-wound lever-operating film advance mechanism.

When Pentax first announced its intention of starting a project to bring the world new film cameras in December 2022, the messaging was reservational in that the company didn’t want to make promises that couldn’t be kept. However, since then there has been a giant wave of support for the project team and it seems they are full steam ahead in the development of the project’s first camera design, a new model compact featuring a fixed lens and SLR-like winding mechanism.

In fact, we were surprised by this unexpected response. Many people from around the world expressed their support for this project. We’re very grateful for their support. – Takeo Suzuki, aka TKO, Ricoh Product Planning/Design team member

Current and retired engineers are contributing their expertise and perspectives as well as listening to the voice of the community which has been highly vocal. The team aims to create a new model that draws upon traditional elements to meet its goal of bringing the joys of an analogue camera to younger generations in a modern package.

Suzuki says in the video, “We are making comparative research on all aspects of this model, including the camera body and lens, and assessing the data and technologies that are available to us in order to finalize specifications.”

The hand-wound lever mechanism will offer photographers a tactile experience enhancing the process of working with an analogue medium. TKO mentions the team wants the film to be wound with the sound of a ratchet wheel, emphasizing this is the experience they want younger and new film shooters to have.

One benefit of designing an SLR-like advance lever on the compact camera is that it could also potentially be used for a future SLR.

It is designed to be almost identical to the mechanism installed in the film-format SLR cameras of the past…this gives us the possibility of installing the same mechanism in an SLR camera body when we decide to produce a film-format SLR in the future – TKO

Creating a compact film camera with a fixed lens and mechanical film advance mechanism will not be cheap. TKO explains how the decision has impacted the cost of the project, setting the community’s expectations on how affordable the camera might be.

He explains, “In spite of our strong desire to incorporate this mechanism, we discovered that it would need an enormous effort to incorporate this into a modern camera.”

Continuing to elaborate on how the designs were originally on paper, TKO says these had to be converted into modern 3D CAD software. Initially, the team didn’t understand the design and wanted to remove parts. After consulting the retired engineers who are more experienced with working on traditional film cameras, the team realized how all the pieces worked together.

With the film photography renaissance building momentum, the team’s approach strikes a chord with both seasoned film photographers and a new generation seeking a departure from the digital realm they were born into.

We will continue to work to hand down the film photography culture to future generations. We welcome your support and cooperation in achieving this goal. Let’s work together, and make it happen! – TKO

In an additional narrative video led by photographer Shiori Iwakura, the story is enhanced by Iwakura’s love for film cameras, her excitement about Pentax’s project, and her visit to the place where a lot of the design work is in progress. Her work can be found on her website here but is also shared on Instagram at @iwakurashiori.

All eyes are on Pentax as they continue to work through one of the most anticipated projects within the photography industry, especially for those who thrive creatively with the analogue medium. To catch up on the video updates and visual stories, visit the Pentax Film Project page here.

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About The Author

By Molly Kate
Photographer, writer, and CPA currently running a Youtube channel called Eclectachrome. I'm a huge fan of shiny new objects which makes writing news a perfect fit. Favorite cameras are often mechanical rangefinders, folders, and compacts and I love most film stocks. I enjoy developing and scanning my own film as well as printing in the darkroom when there's extra time!
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Comments

Huss on NEWS: Pentax’s New Compact Fixed-Lens Film Camera Embraces Tradition with Mechanical Film Advance Lever

Comment posted: 21/05/2023

They're right about it needing to have a manual film advance lever. I just love operating that. So much of the experience that you are using a physical medium.
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jason gold on NEWS: Pentax’s New Compact Fixed-Lens Film Camera Embraces Tradition with Mechanical Film Advance Lever

Comment posted: 18/05/2023

A basic point and shoot is stupid! A decent SLR makes sense. maybe more expensive, but Leica doing fine! Seen prices of decent older SLR? My personal feelings, a wasted endeavour. I use film, but less and less. I have heaps of 35mm SLR incl. Spotmatic, K1000, KM, ME, Canon Ae-1, Av, Ae-1P, Minoltas.. Facebook is easier to access with freaking Phone camera..
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Molly Kate replied:

Comment posted: 18/05/2023

Thanks for your thoughts Jason! The compacts are highly popular and especially so with new-to-film-photographer shooters, this is the target audience for Pentax so from their point of view, it makes sense to start with this kind of camera. They will have a difference audience from Leica, but Leica are doing well, that luxury market will typically stick around. Sounds like you have a great collection of SLRs!

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Ibraar Hussain on NEWS: Pentax’s New Compact Fixed-Lens Film Camera Embraces Tradition with Mechanical Film Advance Lever

Comment posted: 16/05/2023

Excellent news and well done Ricoh Pentax It seems as if they’re following the Leica model in many ways. Making niche products and sticking to them - such as concentrating on DSLR’s with large bright optical VF’s and now 35mm cameras - much like Leica with their focus on Rangefinders both film and digital (that’s apart from their other lines) So far this seems to be the making of a classic and amazing product - and I’m sure many people will flock to Pentax once they present the prototype
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Molly Kate replied:

Comment posted: 16/05/2023

Hey Ibraar! Yes, will be an exciting day when they first show a complete prototype! Hopefully, it won't be too long, but this is a project that they don't want to rush and seems like they are doing well with exploring all the tools and options available.

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Castelli Daniel on NEWS: Pentax’s New Compact Fixed-Lens Film Camera Embraces Tradition with Mechanical Film Advance Lever

Comment posted: 16/05/2023

Hi, I’m excited to read that someone, anyone is working toward a new film camera. But, why reinvent the wheel? There are existing examples of film-lever compact 35mm cameras. Just take one apart, or get a K1000 and copy the mechanism. In this day & age, CAD & CNC machines make a task much easier. Hamish had a Nikon F2 shutter curtain assembly fitted to a M3 by a local shop. Just a thought.
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Molly Kate replied:

Comment posted: 16/05/2023

Thanks for sharing your thought! It would definitely be easier and more cost effective (probably) to do it this way. The camera likely will share similar mechanisms of the past, but since they are targeting younger film shooters, perhaps they want to create something in part that they haven’t seen before or don’t have access to on the used market? If they did a copy of say the K1000, I wonder how many folks would want to buy it new or would they look to get the same camera cheaper used.

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Huss on NEWS: Pentax’s New Compact Fixed-Lens Film Camera Embraces Tradition with Mechanical Film Advance Lever

Comment posted: 16/05/2023

In the video he mentions the camera will be small, fixed lens, manual film advance lever. He basically described the Ricoh FF-1/FF-1s. (Who now own Pentax.) I highly recommend this camera - tiny, outstanding lens, fun to use. I like it so much I have two. I guess I don't understand why they just don't take one of those and just reproduce it. Take it completely apart so you see what you need to build!
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Molly Kate replied:

Comment posted: 16/05/2023

Great recommendation. Thoughts on the reproduction of an older product - perhaps the design team is thrilled with the prospect of creating something new and unique, that can't be found in history 100% or on the used market. When Leica announced the reproduction of the M6, it seemed like they were focused more on profits (of course) and there were many debates about should we buy new or used M6s because the used are still in amazing shape. Whereas I respect the Pentax design team wanting to push ahead and come up with something new and exciting.

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Huss replied:

Comment posted: 16/05/2023

Buy the older/used M6. I bought the new 2022 one and it scratches film. Mine is not a one-off either, long thread about it on leica forum. Leica used a whole batch of defective pressure plates, didn't keep track which cameras received them, won't issue a recall. Took me four months to get mine working properly - on a brand new stooopid expensive camera. Never again. Even $15 plastic disposable cameras don't scratch film! But Leica can't figure the most basic thing out.. Of course they ship all these camera with signed quality check cards, proclaiming the camera has been inspected multiple times to make sure it is perfect. Right.

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Don Goodman-Wilson on NEWS: Pentax’s New Compact Fixed-Lens Film Camera Embraces Tradition with Mechanical Film Advance Lever

Comment posted: 16/05/2023

I am ridiculously excited for this new camera.
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Molly Kate replied:

Comment posted: 16/05/2023

Woo!! Me too :)

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