Pentax Still Hanging onto DSLRs

While Canon and Nikon continue their wind-down of DSLRs, Pentax, meanwhile, continues to chug along on a few remaining lumps of coal and has once again iterated their APS-C flagship, the K-3 III.

In terms of specifications, the K-3 III now goes to the head of the APS-C class: 26mp image sensor, sensor-based stabilization, 12 fps burst rate, a bigger brighter viewfinder, USB charging (and USB-C), and much more. Wouldn’t a Nikon D500 user want to see a D580 with those stats, or a Canon 7D Mark II user see a similar 7D Mark III? I think so.

Of course, Pentax has been lagging on autofocus performance for a long time now. The K-3 III does have a new AF system that seems to have all the right stats to it, and Pentax talks about subject recognition AI helping, so let’s hope it does. But until I can test it, I don’t know if they’ve even gotten to D500-level performance yet. So there’s that.

Still, it’s nice to see Pentax iterating this DSLR. I don’t know how big the market will be for the K-3 III, but it’s clear that Pentax is no longer chasing after lots of new customers, just trying to satisfy their existing ones (see previous article about Canon ;~). 

Total new DSLR count in 2021: 1. 

Meanwhile, Canon...

Earlier this week I published a general article on DSLR expectations for Canon and Nikon in 2021. Today I need to point out that Canon is probably making a mistake. 

The reason is that EF lenses are disappearing from availability. Recent reports point out that the 40mm f/2.8 STM, 60mm f/2.8 EF-S, 70-200mm f/4L IS II, 85mm f/1.2L, and 200mm f/2L have all been discontinued in the last two months. Any remaining inventory in the dealer chains is now “last call.” 

Update: the following lenses are claimed by Canon Rumors to be discontinued by Canon:

  • 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 EF-S USM
  • 14mm f/2.8L USM II
  • 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS EF-S USM
  • 17-55mm f/2.8 IS EF-S USM
  • 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S IS USM
  • 24-70mm f/4L IS USM
  • 35mm f/2 IS USM
  • 35mm f/2.8 EF-S IS STM Macro
  • 40mm f/2.8 STM
  • 55-250mm f/4-5.6 EF-S IS STM
  • 60mm f/2.8 EF-S Macro USM
  • 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
  • 70-200mm f/4L USM II
  • 85mm f/1.8 USM
  • 135mm f/2L USM
  • 180mm f/3.5L USM
  • 200mm f/2L IS USM
  • 300mm f/2.8L IS USM II
  • 300mm f/4L IS USM
  • 400mm f/4 DO IS USM II
  • 500mm f/4L IS USM II
  • 800mm f/5.6L IS USM

Three problems with this:

  1. It sends a fairly clear “your Canon DSLR is dead” signal. Three of these were popular lenses, and the other two well received. And this isn’t the first set of discontinuations. I’m guessing we’ll see more in 2021. So, get your EF and EF-S lenses while you can, because it seems likely that only the used market will be available to you in the future.
  2. M users are also impacted, as they can’t use RF lenses, they can only use M lenses (very limited number available) or EF/EF-S lenses on an adapter (going away). M users, too, will be dumped into the used market.
  3. Only two of those five discontinued lenses have RF equivalents. So just selling your Canon DSLR gear and replacing it with Canon RF gear isn’t a slam dunk. Sure, you can use an adapter on your RF camera and use your existing EF/EF-S lenses, but that’s not 100% optimal. 

Okay, so this seems to say Canon is going to stop making DSLRs and DSLR lenses. Canon obviously wants you to convert to mirrorless. In essence, Canon is going to force its users to mirrorless. 

But the problem is that Canon mirrorless isn’t those users’ only choice. If you’re going to use an EF/EF-S lens on a mirrorless camera via adapter, it turns out that those work pretty well with the proper adapter on a Sony Alpha or Nikon Z camera! Thus, Canon’s going to lose some customers in this transition, and because Canon showed them little or no respect. 

Canon DSLR users can’t plan right now. They don’t even know if a lens they were going to pick up later is still going to be available when they can afford it. 

On top of all this, a lot of folk just put off camera and lens purchases during the pandemic, for obvious reasons. As the pandemic eases and people return more to their pastimes, Canon DSLR users are going to find that, during the pandemic, Canon decided to leave them behind. 

The camera business is pretty much now about holding onto your loyal customers and encouraging them to update and iterate with you. Canon is sending the wrong signals to a big group of users, and those folk are not going to be happy, even if they do begrudgingly move along to RF. 

I wrote it earlier, I’ll repeat it: clear communication to customers and a path—even if it is a smaller, narrower path—for them continue as customers are what is needed. 

Canon should have said:

  • We’re winding down DSLRs and concentrating on RF mirrorless and video.
  • We’ll be reducing the DSLR lineups considerably; here is the one APS-C and two full frame DSLRs we will continue make and potentially upgrade during the next three years, and here’s the lenses we’ll keep in the portfolio during that time.
  • We’ll do everything to help you transition from EF/EF-S to RF, as well.
  • We’ll give you warning well in advance of changes to the above. 

Of course, Canon has tons of DSLRs in their current lineup still, so announcing a winnowing would make most of those models pull in less cash as they go on fire sale. So what? It’s not like they’re going to pull in full value as it is, and it’s far better to keep the customer than collect the one-time cash. 

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