The New Film Camera from Pentax is a Half Frame Compact – Details!

The New Film Camera from Pentax is a Half Frame Compact – Details!

1002 561 James Tocchio

Ricoh imaging has just announced that the first camera in their Pentax Film Project will be a half-frame 35mm film camera. The camera will feature automatic and manual functions, zone focus, a lens inspired by the well-regarded Pentax Espio and IQ series of point-and-shoot-cameras from the 1990s and 2000s, and a manual film rewind function.

In a video released to the Pentax Film Project’s YouTube channel, Product Planner Takeo Suzuki (TKO) goes into further details of the camera and offers insight into why these design choices were made.

They wanted to start their film camera project lineup with a camera that would be easy to use, affordable, and appeal to a younger generation of film photographers.

This all seems to align with what we’ve known for years now, regarding Pentax’s film camera plans and roadmap.

In 2022, Pentax and Ricoh released a video announcing their intention to create a range of brand new film cameras. In that video, Product Planner Takeo Suzuki said that Pentax’s plan was to start by developing a compact camera “affordable for young people,” followed by “a high end compact,” then an “SLR camera,” and finally a “fully mechanical SLR.”

Since then, public information on the project has been scarce, with only subtle hints and few official updates. Today’s announcement is the latest and most specific information that Pentax has yet released about what to expect from the first model in their new range of film cameras.

My Take on the New Pentax Film Camera

I’ve been positive about the news that Pentax would release a new film camera since I first heard about it a few years ago. I wrote my thoughts about it here, and they remain largely unchanged.

That a major camera manufacturer is jumping into film camera production post-2020 is a big deal for people who like film. The fact that they announced their intention to develop four new cameras is incredible, ensuring that eventually there will be a model type for every sort of photographer.

This first new camera doesn’t necessarily sound like my dream camera. But then again, this is all going according to plan, so far. Remember that Pentax said they’d make an affordable entry level camera for newcomers, and follow that up with the type of cameras I like best.

As far as a cheap half frame camera goes, they’re fine. Just not my favorite. It may be a slightly unfair comparison (in fact, it is, since I’ve not yet seen Pentax’s new camera myself) but I reviewed the Kodak / RETO Ektar H35, a compact and affordable half frame film point and shoot not long ago, and came away fairly unimpressed.

From the official Pentax info releases and conversations I’ve had elsewhere, I believe Pentax’s first new film camera will be quite a bit better than that (a better lens, more solid construction, not cheap and flimsy like the Kodak). I’m envisioning something more like an Olympus XA 2, except half frame. And that would be lovely indeed.

But just because, on paper, this first new film camera in Pentax’s Film Project may not be necessarily my dream camera, it’s still a new film camera from one of the most storied and respected bunch of people in the industry! This is huge news, super exciting, and I can’t wait to see what they’ve come up with.

And I also look forward to a future of Pentax film cameras, after this first half frame camera has made them some money and confirmed their suspicion that the film market is strong enough to warrant the investment in R&D that more “serious” cameras will demand.

At the end of the day, I can’t wait to get my hands on whatever camera Pentax creates. Stay tuned for that.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • Then can we revive Kodachrome as what’s the point. I’m awaiting your Nikon Zf review and can Nikon put in Kodachrome on their simulation

    • Coming soon!

    • Adam Ruzzamenti March 1, 2024 at 9:14 am

      Curious for those who want a return of Kodachrome (which isn’t gonna happen). Are you currently shooting Ektachrome or Provia and supporting current slide film manufacturers in general? How could Kodachrome ever make a possible return if we don’t support what Kodak is doing now?

  • I don’t think it’s quite fair to compare this to the Kodak H35. We had one of those and it fell apart after a few rolls. Focus-free, exposure-free… it had huge limits to work around. The camera that popped into my mind was the Olympus XA2, a zone-focus compact camera with auto-exposure. This would be half-frame, obviously. I could see being interested in something like that—especially if you can manually set ISO. I’m about ready for a film camera with a warranty.

    • This is wild! After reading some reactions on my post on Instagram I felt compelled to come here and update this article to better clarify my thoughts on the new camera RE: people being upset that it would be cheap and flimsy, like the Kodak.

      I added in a section mentioning the very same Olympus XA2! You’re right on the ball! I think a lot of the complainers would be happy with something like that, if they gave it a chance.

  • Victor Bezrukov, photographer March 1, 2024 at 10:42 am

    great news that they don’t stop this project and move forward but really – half frame???

  • Something that struck me about TKO’s explanation of their half-frame choice – that it’s a familiar orientation, now, because of cell phone photography – was just the thing that I realized when I got an Olympus Pen F. I was expecting to be disoriented by the change from landscape default to portrait, but I was not. A day or two later, I realized it’s because using a cell phone (that’s not really smaller in outline than the Pen) normalized that view. I bet this will be the case for folks who buy and use this new Pentax, just like he says

    • About five years ago I had a conversation with Josh, who writes for this site, about how we both suddenly realized that 80% of our photos were suddenly shot in portrait orientation. I do agree with you. I think cell phones changed the way we naturally visualize a scene. Portrait orientation just seems to make sense for me now. And I also agree with you that this Pentax will work really well for people whose first camera was a phone.

      • I realized something similar when first time looking at the photos from my new Minolta MD 20/2.8 where I expected something crazy wide: It somehow looked not too strange/unusual! I had seen this before when using my Pentax 6456 with a 35mm and 33-55mm lenses, but thought somehow the different image ratio influence it.
        But no: Cell phone cameras totally made us used to ultra-wide angle photos…

        I think with most of my cameras I still use more horizontal, but using my halfframe (Canon Demi EE17) which is in portrait orientation was definitely not strange.

    • One disadvantage of half frame cameras is for those of us who rely on a lab to develop and scan. It’s a lot more work for the lab and i feel guilty (unless they upcharge for half frame). Also it generally takes a perceived FOREVER to shoot 72 frames.

      • You could look at bulk loading, or even splitting a store-bought roll of film into two or three parts and splicing that onto an empty film roll.
        Beside the cost savings, I think being able to choose your number of frames is one of the best aspects of bulk loading.

  • I am looking forward to this new Pentax half-frame camera. It reminds me of the Canon Demi cameras which had film wind levers. The lens is based on the lens that the Pentax Espio Mini had which was a good performer despite having only three elements. I can see this camera being used by social media influencers, like Kpop stars, which could help sell more of these cameras.

  • I love my Canon Demi EE17, hope they take inspiration from it as well (full info viewfinder, manual and semi-auto exposure, great lens, lever wind)! And for me, in a half frame never a 36exp full, 24exp or short bulk loads, otherwise it gets to long…

  • zone focus booooo

    • For half frame good enough, roughly near/mid/far and you are good. On 35mm this is not more tricky, but still doable.
      The old folders until the 1950s used in most cases zone focus for medium format up to 6×9, I guess in this case you work just with f8 and smaller to get the focus right.

  • I’ve been looking forward to this since they announced they would be starting development a few years ago. This, coupled with the new Rollei camera that Mint is working on is exciting news for film shooters! Hope more players entering the game brings camera and film prices down.

  • There already is an excellent half frame camera that is being made – current production no less!
    It already offers what this Pentax offers (at least the inklings that we have heard) but also so much more.
    This half frame camera has auto exposure, zone focussing, can shoot in half frame format AND in full frame! Yes, there is a switch on the bottom of the camera that allows you to change that. It also comes with frame sets that allow it to shoot square images and more.
    What is this miracle camera that apparently everyone has forgotten about? The Lomo LC-W.
    I have one, and it is awesome. My favorite thing to do with it is to shoot continuous overlapping panos. The upcoming Pentax – from what we know so far – offers only a fraction of what this Lomo can do.

    Shot with square frame on Fuji Superia 400:

    Shot as a continuous half frame pano on Fuji Superia 400:

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio