The Pentax KP is loaded with features, but does it do enough to stand out from the big guns in the enthusiast DSLR market? Michael Topham put it through its paces
Pentax KP review – Features
The KP incorporates a new-generation APS-C size CMOS image sensor with a 24.3-million-pixel resolution. By pairing this new sensor with the company’s latest PRIME IV imaging engine, the same processor as used within the flagship K-1, it has enabled the upper limit of the sensitivity range to reach new heights. The camera operates over a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-819,200, and by forgoing an optical anti-aliasing filter should match or exceed its competitors in terms of the level of detail it resolves. To minimise the risk of imaging artefacts such as aliasing, false colour and moiré, the KP is equipped with the same AA-filter simulator as found on the K-1 and K-70. This works with the in-body shake-reduction system to eliminate adverse effects by slightly blurring the image, emulating the role of a conventional anti-aliasing filter.
Unlike its Canon and Nikon rivals, which both rely on in-lens stabilisation, the KP’s in-body image stabilisation is much more sophisticated and compensates for types of shake a photographer’s skills alone cannot correct. The Shake Reduction II (SR II) five-axis mechanism not only compensates for common camera shake caused by pitch and yaw, but also for blur caused by horizontal and vertical shift as well as that caused by roll, which is impossible to correct by lens-installed stabilisation systems.
The other great benefit is that it can correct for shake with any lens, including fast primes and wideangle zooms that don’t often feature optical stabilisation. The benefit of the KP’s in-body IS system doesn’t end here either – it allows users to create super-high resolution images by shifting the image sensor by a single pixel for four shots before synthesising them into a single composite image. In addition, the IS unit can make tiny rotational adjustments to the image sensor to compensate for skewed horizons when the Auto Horizon Correction function is enabled, and when the KP is used with the optional O-GPS1 GPS unit the camera can move the sensor to keep track of star movements during long-exposure shots of the night sky.
Sensor and stabilisation aside, the KP offers a compelling set of additional features. Its SAFOX 11 AF sensor module has received an update to its autofocus algorithm that promises faster response, and you get a 27-point AF system that includes 25 cross-type points towards the centre that are sensitive to horizontal and vertical detail for greater accuracy. The working range of the AF system (-3EV-18EV) falls in line with its Canon and Nikon peers.
The KP provides a choice of mechanical and electronic shutter modes. In electronic mode the shutter produces very little noise and vibration during shutter-curtain operation, making it ideal for shooting at locations where silence is required. Since this mode provides a top shutter speed of 1/24,000sec – considerably higher than the mechanical shutter’s 1/6,000sec limit, it also comes in handy when you’d like to use a wide aperture in bright, sunny conditions. It’s worth noting that the shake reduction (SR) mechanism and the AA filter simulator are inoperable in the electronic shutter mode. Keeping on the subject of speed, the KP reaches a top speed of 7fps like the Canon EOS 80D, but also lets you choose from two slower frame rates (0.8fps and 3fps).
As is expected on a camera of the KP’s pedigree you get a whole array of features, such as in-camera raw conversion, digital filters, button customisation and live view capture tools that includes a new extract edge function that emphasises the focused section of a subject’s outline for speedy manual-focus operation.
At the rear there’s a large, bright pentaprism viewfinder offering 0.95x magnification and 100% coverage, while just below it you’ll find a 3:2 aspect ratio 3in, 921k-dot tiltable LCD monitor.
Those interested in movie recording will find that the KR can capture full HD footage at 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p and it has a 3.5mm port for attaching an external microphone. It enables the use of continuous AF (AF.C), the shake reduction (SR) mechanism and image-capture tools whilst recording video, but the lack of a touchscreen means that it can’t offer features such as touch focus.
To be expected, the KP incorporates a Wi-Fi module to support wireless operations between the camera and smartphones or tablets. You do need to download the free Image Sync app that’s available for iOS and Android first, but once done you can browse captured images, transmit them to your mobile device or remotely control camera operations such as exposure and focus, in addition to the shutter release.