The Japanese company Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō Goshi-gaisha (Asahi Optical KG) first began manufacturing eyeglass lenses in 1919 and since the 1930’s, camera lenses. Until the end of World War II, the company concentrated on manufacturing optical equipment for military purposes, such as binoculars. After the war, the company also began to manufacture camera lenses for the brands Konica and Minolta. The company began producing SLR cameras in the 1950’s under the name “Asahi PENTAX.”
The camera manufacturer PENTAX reached its high point from the 60’s till the 80’s. In 1964, PENTAX created the Spotmatic, which was one of the first cameras in the world with light metering through the lens (TTL). This led to a breakthrough in SLR technology as well as the Japanese camera industry. Canon and Nikon, who both dominate the camera industry today, later began to take up more of the market share with their advancements in auto focus technology. In 2011, PENTAX was taken over by Ricoh Imaging Company, Ltd. SLR cameras, lenses, and system cameras with interchangeable lenses are still sold under the name PENTAX, while compact cameras are sold under the name Ricoh. The company also manufactures flash units and other accessories.
In 1997, the company created the PENTAX 645N, which was the first medium format SLR camera with automatic focusing. The corresponding 645 lens bayonet is still in the range of products today. In the 1970’s, PENTAX introduced the K-series and the K-bayonet with manual operation and light metering, which can still be used with current digital camera models on the market.
Currently, there are a wide variety of modern K-bayonet lenses available. In the higher end of the current PENTAX SLR lens product line, there are especially compact model ranges, the FA- & DA Limited, that are sealed against both moisture and dust and are equipped with a supersonic drive motor (SDM). Lenses labelled with “WR” are weather resistant. In 2011, the company began manufacturing the PENTAX Q-series, which includes mirror-less system cameras and fitting lenses with the Q-bayonet mount. Other lenses are not compatible with this mount.
PENTAX began manufacturing DSLR cameras in 2003. Unlike other manufacturers, until 2015 the company didn’t produce any cameras with full-frame image sensors. The company currently produces SLR models for beginners and advanced photographers (e.g. the PENTAX K-50 and K-500) as well as for professionals (e.g. the PENTAX K-5). A model that is especially small and light is the PENTAX K-S1. Many models are also capable of recording HD movies.