Pentax began life as Asahi Optical Joint Stock Co. in 1919 where it became a leading supplier to Japanese camera and optical manufacturers due to brilliant lens polishing skills.
Asahi started to manufacture its own lenses for the movie industry in 1923, named AOCO lenses, which were the first of their kind in Japan. The company concentrated its efforts on making camera lenses in 1931, when Japan's first camera boom took hold.
Asahi first began looking into SLR camera manufacture in 1945, and in 1952, the company pioneered single lens reflex SLR camera development with the Asahiflex I, the first Japanese 35mm SLR camera. In 1954 the Pentax name first appeared, introducing the Asahiflex II camera which solved an issue of mirror blackout, leading the way for major development of SLR cameras. This Pentax model marked the first time a pentaprism had been used in the viewfinder of a Pentax camera.
In 1958 the Pentax K was unveiled, a model using a semi-automatic diaphragm and micro-prism viewfinder. The same year, products under the name Pentax became available in the US and in 1959, Pentax's first mass produced camera was launched - the H2.
Pentax received its first industry award in 1966, for the Spotmatic camera, featuring the first TTL metering system in a Pentax camera. The same year it reached a milestone in production - 1 million 35mm SLRs produced in just 14 years.
In 1969, just 3 years later, the 2 million SLR camera milestone was reached and the same year Pentax launched the 6x7 medium-format professional camera.
In 1976, Pentax launched the ME, the first camera to eliminate manual shutter speed control, which was revolutionary at the time.
1981 bought another huge milestone for the company, when they were the first camera manufacturer to produce 10 million SLR cameras.
The Super Program compact was launched in 1983, the first in a series of cameras with 6 modes to shoot from, including shutter priority, aperture priority, metered manual and programmed auto flash. The following year it was awarded European Compact Camera of the Year by EISA.
In 2011, Pentax Imaging Systems was transferred to Ricoh and Pentax Ricoh Imaging Company was formed in October of that year. In 2013 the name was changed to Pentax Ricoh Imaging Company.
To find out more about Pentax Ricoh, take a look at the Ricoh website