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

Features:9/10
Build/Handling:10/10
Metering:9/10
Autofocus:8/10
AWB Colour:8/10
Dynamic Range:9/10
Image quality:9/10
LCD viewfinder:8/10

Pros:

  • - 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

Cons:

  • - 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

Product:

Pentax K-1 review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1,599.00 (Body only)

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Pentax K-1 review: Performance

Level indicators on both the horizontal and vertical axes are displayed in the viewfinder, which makes precise framing possible

Level indicators on both the horizontal and vertical axes are displayed in the viewfinder, which makes precise framing possible

The camera’s sensor-based shake-reduction system promises a maximum 5-stop advantage over non-stabilised systems, although what’s achievable in practice depends on factors such as focal length, subject distance and so on. I generally found a 3-stop advantage at the wideangle end of the 24-70mm optic (which, at 1/3sec, is sufficient for capturing blurred movement against static subjects handheld), and 4 stops more readily achievable at telephoto settings. It is possible to achieve images with around 5 stops of correction, but with less frequency.

The camera’s default Bright setting appears to deliver pleasingly colourful but accurate images, although there is a Natural option, too, if you prefer things a little more faithful and with less contrast. Both the auto white balance and multi auto white balance systems appear to do a good job under both natural and artificial sources, although on a handful of occasions I noticed that images taken literally a second apart from each other in certain lighting conditions sometimes bore different casts. The K-1 is not alone in behaving like this, but it may be worth using a suitable white-balance preset when you find this happening.

Shot 1

These two images were taken a second apart from each other, but the auto white balance system has interpreted the scene very differently

These two images were taken a second apart from each other, but the auto white balance system has interpreted the scene very differently

Previous Pentax DSLRs have been characterised by a tendency towards underexposure, and I found this to be the case here too (but not overwhelmingly so). The default evaluative metering pattern does generally get it right, but I occasionally felt the need to
 either dial in +1⁄3EV or +2⁄3EV of correction, or to fix this later on in raw processing. The position of the exposure-compensation function and the ease with which this can be changed with the rear dial makes this process painless.

It’s pleasing to see a broad range of raw-processing options on hand, from exposure, white balance and noise reduction to more novelty filter options. Ricoh has made it easy to check results and create a number of different versions of the same image quickly, and you can save in the TIFF format as well as JPEG.

Although many photographers are put off by HDR images, using the camera’s HDR mode on its default settings can actually produce pleasingly natural results. I found this particularly useful when capturing images containing clouds, which would naturally lose detail when these didn’t make up too large a part of the image.

I also found the in-camera aberration corrections to be effective and worth keeping turned on. While the 24-70mm proved to be a satisfactory lens to use with the K-1, I found the distortion and vignetting corrections made a positive difference at wideangle and 
large apertures respectively.

Portrait

The camera’s Pixel Shift Resolution system makes a noticeable improvement to the level of detail in images, although close examination shows a fine grate-like pattern over certain areas. This appeared in both raw and JPEG images, both with and without the Motion Correction feature activated. At least in the conditions under which this was tested, I found a gentle sharpening of raw images captured on default settings a more pleasing result.

While 4K video may not be available, those keen on using the camera’s full HD option are likely to be satisfied. Footage appears pleasingly natural and free of artefacts, and sound quality is perfectly decent from the pair of on-board microphones. The Shake Reduction system also does well to keep things stable as the camera is panned across a scene, aided by the availability of roll correction that’s simply not possible with lens-based, optical stabilisation systems.

  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.