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 – Build and handling
You’ll notice the KP has a different look from previous Pentax DSLRs and has been designed to be more compact and less cumbersome than the K-3 II. To make sure it conforms to what the majority of users want, a camera that’s small, light and convenient to carry, Pentax has rethought the layout of buttons and dials to make the best use of available space. The first thing you notice at the front is the vertically mounted front control dial that’s found next to the AF assist beam. This may look slightly peculiar and doesn’t do much for the overall aesthetics, but it’s comfortable to use and offers good feedback when you’re adjusting shutter speed or cycling through images in playback mode.
The top-plate looks incredibly busy with its three dials and on/off switch. The mode dial is located hard up against the left edge of the viewfinder, and on the opposite side the KP inherits the function dial and setting dial from the K-1, which Pentax calls its ‘Smart Function’. The idea is that it takes away some of the hassle of finding what you need quickly from the main menu. Although it doesn’t offer a quick access to ten functions like the K-1, it does allow you to cycle through the KP’s metering modes, HDR capture modes and continuous shooting modes, with the option of assigning your most frequently used functions to three custom positions (C1 to C3). This is just one area where the KP offers excellent customisation.
In addition, there are five user mode settings, to each of which you can assign a selection of desired functions. There are also three customisable Fx buttons across the body, you can adapt the function of the AF/AE-L button, and you can even assign a different set of functions to the front and rear command dials for each exposure mode if you wish. The customisation possibilities are endless.
Something rather unusual about the KP is the way it allows you to tune the feel of the camera to your personal taste by unscrewing the grip and replacing it with another. There’s no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to the way a camera fits and feels in an individual’s hand, so it’s good to see Pentax trying to cater for everyone by offering interchangeable handgrips. There’s a large grip to accommodate heavy lenses, a medium grip that doesn’t protrude quite as far from the body and a small grip for those who’d like to keep it small when travelling or using it with lightweight primes.
I started by using the KP with smallest grip, which is adequate for casual shooting. When you attach slightly heavier and longer lenses you want a bit more to wrap your hand around and this is where the medium-size grip comes in. This offered better balance and stability with the supplied Pentax 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR HD DA lens. Replacing the medium grip for the large grip using the Allen key provided took less than 20 seconds and will be the preferred choice for those with medium to large sized hands. It’s convenient having the option to change the grip to a larger one or vice versa, particularly if the camera is going to be shared between two people with different sized hands. Each grip secured tightly and didn’t creak when squeezed. Out of the three, the largest handgrip was my favourite and became my go-to option.
The body of the KP is made from magnesium alloy and has no fewer than 67 weather seals to prevent intrusion of water and dust. Those who’d like to extend their shooting sessions between battery changes will be pleased to hear the optional D-BG7 battery grip is built to the same weather-resistant standard. During testing
I used the KP in an almighty downpour and experienced no issues or problems with performance. Pentax has built up an excellent reputation for making extremely robust DSLRs and I’m glad to report the KP continues this trend. The way it has been built to such solid standards gives you confidence that the camera will offer good service over a number of years. One criticism of its build is that the shutter button feels too spongy for my liking and doesn’t offer the level of feedback I expect when it is half depressed.