It may seem to be all flashing lights and quirky looks, but underneath its modern skin the Pentax K-S1 is a serious camera. Richard Sibley finds out just what it can do
Pentax K-S1 Review – Performance
Viewfinder, LCD, live view and video
Once I got used to the slightly fiddly main control of the K-S1, I had only one other slight complaint, which was the lack of articulation or tilt on the rear screen. It isn’t a big concern – after all, we all used to crawl around on the floor looking through viewfinders.
Impressively for a camera of this level, and price, the viewfinder is a pentaprism rather than a pentamirror. This offers excellent contrast and brightness, and all in a 100% field of view, meaning no stray objects will creep into the edges of your image.
The 3in, 921,000-dot screen of the K-S1 is good. It is bright enough to cope with all but the strongest sunlight and the colours and contrast produced give a good impression of how your images will appear when viewed on a computer screen. A press of the button on the top left of the rear of the camera switches the camera into live view mode, which does make it easier when shooting at low or high angles, and it is obviously necessary for video capture.
Video is recorded at up to 1920x1080p resolution at 30, 25 or 24fps. Audio is recorded in stereo via two microphones on either side of the camera’s prism.
Despite the deceptive whirr of the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, the K-S1 is extremely snappy. Even the supplied kit lens snaps quickly into focus, particularly the centre nine of the 11 AF points. Using a Pentax 60-250mm f/4 SDM lens is just as quick, and thanks to the SDM feature it is also a lot quieter. The speed is helped by the fact that the centre points are the more sensitive cross-type sensors, and they offer the K-S1 the same AF speed that you would expect from a Canon or Nikon camera of this level.
A large switch on the side of the K-S1, near to the lens mount, makes it easy to switch between manual and autofocus, while the 11 AF points can be individually selected using the rear directional control. With just 11 AF points, it is fairly fast to switch between points; however, to switch between using the directional controls for AF point selection or as shortcut buttons does require you to hold down the centre OK button for a second or so. Nevertheless, it is an intuitive way of switching between the two button function options.
Anyone who has used a Pentax camera will know what to expect from the K-S1’s evaluative metering system. Indeed, the K-S1 preserves highlight detail – though to the inexperienced user this will simply look as if images are underexposed.
If you wish to get images that are more ‘print ready’, I would suggest adding around 0.3-0.6EV via use of the exposure compensation button, which sits on the camera’s top-plate. Obviously, for those who shoot raw images, the underexposure isn’t an issue, and should result in very little, if any burnt-out highlights.