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: Dynamic range, resolution and noise

One thing that’s certain is the K-1 has an excellent sensor at its heart, which captures images with superb detail and a wide dynamic range. In some ways, its performance is as expected for a 36MP full-frame sensor, but comparing its results to those of some of its rivals shows it to have some advantages, too. Considering that the only cameras that currently beat it for resolution are far pricier than the K-1, these really are noteworthy results. One slight oddity is the broad ISO range on offer; while noise is well controlled throughout much of the range, the level of noise at the highest two settings explains why other manufacturers cap sensitivity more modestly with similar sensors.

Dynamic range

For a camera with a sensor of its type, the K-1 does an excellent job with dynamic range, particularly at its lower settings. At its base ISO 100 sensitivity it records a brilliant 13.8EV in our Applied Imaging tests, and manages to stay above 13EV until ISO 800, where it drops down to a still very respectable 12.5EV. At its middle settings, it manages a performance that’s as good as – if not slightly better than – a number of other full-frame rivals, and it’s only really outdone by the Sony Alpha 7S II.

Pentax-K-1-DR-graph

Resolution

Without the AA filter option enabled, the K-1 can resolve 4,800l/ph at its base sensitivity of ISO 100. This is a highly impressive result; it is somewhat expected for a camera with such a sensor and matched elsewhere by others, but is impressive nonetheless. Just as pleasing to see is how steadily this falls with each increase in sensitivity, with results at ISO 1,600 recording a still excellent 4,400l/ph. Only at ISO 51,200 does this fall below 4,000l/ph. The target does, however, show some false colour and maze patterning; this is successfully eliminated with the Type 2 Anti-Aliasing filter simulator enabled, although resolution then drops down to a still impressive 4,400l/ph at ISO 100. Overall, a very strong set of results.

RAW ISO 100

RAW ISO 100

RAW ISO 800

RAW ISO 800

RAW ISO 3,200

RAW ISO 3,200

RAW ISO 12,800

RAW ISO 12,800

RAW ISO 51,200

RAW ISO 51,200

RAW ISO 204,800

RAW ISO 204,800

Noise

For a model fitted with a 36MP full-frame sensor, the K-1 offers a surprisingly broad ISO range, from ISO 100 all the way up to ISO 204,800. Up to ISO 3,200, images maintain their detail well, with noise becoming increasingly visible in the range but only in small increments. After this point, images start to degrade further and further, with those captured at ISO 25,600 being usable and those at 51,200 usable only at a push. It’s difficult to see how the highest two options could be usable; detail suffers greatly in images captured at ISO 102,400, and can barely be made out in anything captured at ISO 204,800. Sadly, it appears as if Ricoh hasn’t found a successful formula to warrant including the latter two options. Rival bodies with similar sensors cut off sensitivity at between ISO 25,600 and ISO 102,400, and this really should have been the case here, too.

JPEG ISO 100

JPEG ISO 100

JPEG ISO 800

JPEG ISO 800

JPEG ISO 3,200

JPEG ISO 3,200

JPEG ISO 12,800

JPEG ISO 12,800

51,200

JPEG ISO 51,200

JPEG ISO 204,800

JPEG ISO 204,800

  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.