The K-1 has the honour of being the first full-frame Pentax DSLR. Matt Golowczynski takes a closer look at this impressively specified camera in this Pentax K-1 review

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Pentax K-1

AWB Colour:8/10
Dynamic Range:9/10
Image quality:9/10
LCD viewfinder:8/10


  • - Excellent image quality; superb resolution and dynamic range
  • - High features-to-price ratio
  • - Excellent handling with many physical controls
  • - One of the most flexible LCD displays around


  • - Occasional auto white balance inconsistencies
  • - Video options not as comprehensive as those on other cameras
  • - Artefacts visible in certain Pixel Shift Resolution images
  • - Continuous focus doesn’t track quite as well as other systems


Pentax K-1 review


Price as reviewed:

£1,599.00 (Body only)

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Pentax K-1 review: Viewfinder and screen


Physically, the camera’s LCD is its most unconventional feature. It’s mounted on a hinge, which itself is attached to the camera via four arms; this allows the display to be pulled out and tilted upwards and downwards, moved sidewards when held conventionally and even slightly rotated. This is welcome given that the majority of full-frame cameras do not offer tiltable screens of any kind.

I found it to be particularly useful when capturing ground-level shots in the portrait orientation, as the screen could be adjusted in a similar manner to tiltable screens when used in a landscape orientation. This ease of framing is complemented by a sprightly live-view focusing system, which is fast enough to be usable outdoors in good lighting, with just a slight slowdown in darker conditions.

The screen itself measures 3.2in and has a 1.037-million-dot resolution. It’s clear and colourful, and displays very good clarity in everyday conditions. One new feature is the ‘outdoor view’ setting, conveniently accessed through the down button on the rear menu pad. It offers five separate levels of brightness so you can quickly give it a boost if you find the screen difficult to see in bright light.

The ability to tilt the screen while shooting in a portrait orientation makes capturing ground-level images like this far easier than on other cameras

The ability to tilt the screen while shooting in a portrait orientation makes capturing ground-level images like this far easier than on other cameras

The LCD is also backed by four LED lights to illuminate the rear controls when used in darker conditions, and these can be adjusted over two levels of brightness. Owing to a shallow spread of light, I only found this useful on the higher of the two settings when the screen was tilted to a particular position. I imagine that after the user has become familiar with the position of the rear controls, this would be called upon at fewer times.

The pentaprism viewfinder offers near-100% coverage of the scene, with a frame in the centre to show the crop area when using APS-C lenses. As with the active focusing point, you can set this to be illuminated always or only when the camera senses it’s dark enough to be required. The viewfinder itself displays the scene perfectly well in good light, although a comparison with a similarly specified rival camera will show it as not being quite as bright and as bearing a slight yellow cast. Its eyecup isn’t particularly deep, either, which means you’ll naturally have your face pressed closer to the camera (particularly in harsh light). This in itself isn’t a big issue, but as the rear display is unusually positioned very slightly further away from the body than the viewfinder’s eyepiece, it’s easy to smudge the LCD with your face.

  1. 1. Pentax K-1 review: Introduction
  2. 2. Pentax K-1 review: Features
  3. 3. Pentax K-1 review: Pixel Shift Resolution system
  4. 4. Pentax K-1 review: Viewfinder and screen
  5. 5. Pentax K-1 review: Build and handling
  6. 6. Pentax K-1 review: Focusing
  7. 7. Pentax K-1 review: Performance
  8. 8. Pentax K-1 review: Dynamic range, resolution and noise
  9. 9. Pentax K-1 review: Verdict
  10. 10. Pentax K-1 review: (Original hands-on first look)
  11. 11. Pentax K-1 review: Full specification
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  • entoman

    Excellent! I wish Ricoh the best of luck with this new Pentax. It won’t convert anyone from Nikon or Canon, but it will provide a great upgrade path to users of Pentax crop cameras.

    The extra “mode dial” is a really good idea. The camera looks very solid and that will inspire confidence in use.

    A few negative points: I’m not keen on the weird tilting monitor.By far the best design is the fully articulating Canon/Panasonic type. Also disappointing is the AF with only 33 focus points which lags a long way behind Canon and Nikon so won’t appeal to sports photographers.

    Bottom line: Is the Pentax as good as a Nikon D810 or a Canon 5DS ? – very nearly, but the severe shortage of modern high performance glass is a killer.

  • Jens Rueckert

    It looks like a real, serious camera. With its edges and clear structures. A great refreshing difference to the smoothly designed soft-looking competitor’s bodies. Let’s see what it feels like. I think technically it seems to compete easily. All the best for Penatx! Great. Used an APS-C once , now a FXNikon and would like to switch back to Pentax.

  • Nick Randall-Smith

    Really looking forward to getting my hands on this bit of kit, I like the backwards compatibility with the APS-C lenses most existing digital Pentax users will already have invested in. A*

  • Richard Jackson

    An improved SR system but again it’s not used in video. Come on Pentax, it’s essentially the same video offering from 2012.

  • Arn

    It looks like a excellent camera, less sport oriented than Canikon counterparts, but very well equiped for hi-res photography, in tough body.
    Well done Pentax.