Camera Test: Pentax K-1

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July 21, 2016 at 4:00 pm  •  Posted in Gear & Reviews, New Products, Review by  •  0 Comments

The Pentax K-1

The Pentax K-1

The K-1 is the first full-frame-sensor digital SLR produced by Pentax. The 36-MP camera performed very well in our tests and has a lot of features, including image stabilizer, GPS, Wi-Fi and more.

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Just like the portrait, the standard test box shot had an enhanced magenta rate even in neutral tones, but the overall look of this image is very good.

Comments on Image Quality
Colour: The Pentax K-1 performed well in our colour tests. Like nearly all Pentax SLRs, the default setting for colours is “Bright,” so the camera creates highly saturated JPEG images. Our tests were done in default settings, so the Pentax reproduced the GretagMacbeth chart with a saturation of 107.8 percent and some exaggerated nuances like the dark blue or the red t-shirt in our portrait shot. These boosted colours are the reason for the slightly higher colour-error level, while all other colours are reproduced very well. Skin tones are particularly realistic.

The portrait shot done with the Pentax K-1 is a little under exposed. (The test images were taken in P mode.) The white-balance system did a good job: skin tones were reproduced well but had a slightly enhanced magenta rate. The red colour of the model's t-shirt is oversaturated.

The portrait shot done with the Pentax K-1 is a little under exposed. (The test images were taken in P mode.) The white-balance system did a good job: skin tones were reproduced well but had a slightly enhanced magenta rate. The red colour of the model’s t-shirt is oversaturated.

Sharpness: The camera performed excellently in our resolution tests. The very high sensor resolution results in visible image details. The test chart was reproduced with 4403 of 4912 lines per picture height, which is a very good result. (Note: Using the pixel-shift mode offered by the Pentax K-1, we got results that were 150 lines higher per picture height.)

The images have a sharp, crisp look. The camera assists with a little sharpness filtering, but the result chart has acceptable overshoot and undershoot levels (contrast lines exaggerated by image processing of the camera).

Noise: Up to ISO 6400 the Pentax showed a very good performance in our noise tests. The luminance noise (y-factor in result chart) stays below 1,0 percent and colour noise is very discreet. Starting with ISO 12800 mode the luminance and colour noise rise drastically. The highest ISO speed settings of the K-1 should be called or indicated as additional “High ISO modes” or similar, because the colour noise gets really extreme. In ISO 204800 mode the luminance noise factor is 9.17 percent (!). The colour noise spectrum in these images is extremely smoothed by filter processes and image details get really blurred.

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Even though it got a very small body, it offers a status display on the top. With a large mode dial on the left and an additional dial on the right-hand side, you can easily set up all parameters and additional functions like HDR shots.

The dynamic range results are similar to the noise results. The camera achieved a maximum of 11.3 f-stops and keeps this high level in lower ISO speed settings up to ISO 3200. In images taken with higher speeds dynamic range drops drastically to 2.9 f-stops. In these higher modes the test software ImaTest isn’t able to detect the single pattern of the gray scale pattern (due to the smoothed and blurred images).

Comments on Handling
The K-1 is Pentax’s first SLR with a full-frame sensor. This new camera offers a sensor resolution of
36 MP and has a lot of very interesting features. The camera is very compact. With a width of 137 mm, it is smaller than Fujifilm’s X-Pro2, for example, so it’s smaller than an APS-C system. The depth of the body is larger because the camera needs a little space in its body for the moving mirror system.

The new Pentax features a lot of function buttons and set-up dials. One dial is located near the shutter-release button, one on the back, and a third one on the top. The top dial is very unusual because it offers direct access to additional functions and parameters. Using this dial and the third set-up dial on the top, the photographer can change HDR modes, Wi-Fi settings, or activate “Crop” modes when using lens systems that were designed for APS-C-sensor cameras.

The camera has a lot of function buttons on the back, on the top and on its left-hand side. The useful Raw button toggles between JPEG and Raw mode. The interfaces of the camera are covered, and the whole body of the Pentax is sealed/weather-proofed.

The camera has a lot of function buttons on the back, on the top and on its left-hand side. The useful Raw button toggles between JPEG and Raw mode. The interfaces of the camera are covered, and the whole body of the Pentax is sealed/weather-proofed.

The large mode dial on the top left-hand side offers standard exposure modes as well as additional automatic modes (e.g., modes with manual setting of aperture size and shutter speed, but automatic ISO and 5 (!) user-defined modes). Consequently, personal configuration of the camera is very easy.

The camera has a large, bright optical SLR viewfinder and offers live preview on the LCD screen. This screen has an innovative swivel mechanism that allows you to rotate the screen 90 degrees upward, 45 degrees downward and 35 degrees to each side. This is very helpful! The swivel mechanism looks a little strange—one of our editors said the K-1 is a camera for Transformer movies—but it’s also very solid. In fact, this robust camera is sealed and can be used outdoors even under heavy rain or snow.

The camera has an innovative swivel mechanism for its LCD screen, allowing you to turn it up- and downward and to each side.

The camera has an innovative swivel mechanism for its LCD screen, allowing you to turn it up- and downward and to each side.

The new Pentax K-1 has an integrated image stabilizer that will work with every lens attached to the KAF2 mount. It is a 5-axis stabilizer, and it worked very well during our test. Pentax specifies a compensation up to 5 EV stops, which is a slightly optimistic statement. But we shot images at 1/5 and 1/6 s without a tripod and got very good results (the tests were done with the 43-mm lens), so a compensation of 4 EV stops is more realistic. The sensor-shift mechanism is also useful for dust removal and for the “pixel-shift” images.

The new Pentax uses a fast AF system that performed well in our tests. It uses 33 AF sensors (including 25 cross-type sensors) and is highly configurable. Three centre AF sensors are used for high-speed lenses with f/2.8. For manual focusing, the camera offers a magnifier function and focus peaking.

The camera has additional photo modes and special features. Astro Tracer is used for long-exposure shots of the sky and stars, and it needs the integrated GPS system of Pentax K-1. This GPS system can be also be used to record geo data and to integrate these information into the EXIF data of the images. Another special feature is the HDR Capture function. The camera can record several images with varying exposure settings and create a combined image with HDR. The user can set up the exposure differences, and the camera will align and combine these images to HDR images. With Pixel Shift, the camera offers a special mode to shoot 4 images while slightly moving the sensor for each shot and then combine these images to a high-resolution image to, for example, prevent moiré effects. (The resulting image is still a 36-MP image, unlike pixel-shift images taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, for example.) The Wi-Fi function is very useful; it can be used for wireless image data transfer or for remote shooting. Pentax offers free apps for Android (4.4 and higher) and iOS.

On the back, the camera has a very large LCD with high resolution. For menu navigation, it offers a 4-way-control-field and set-up dials on the top and back.

On the back, the camera has a very large LCD with high resolution. For menu navigation, it offers a 4-way-control-field and set-up dials on the top and back.


Pros

+ compact full-frame sensor system
+ a lot of features, including Wi-Fi and GPS
+ new swivel mechanism for the LCD
+ large, bright viewfinder
+ high-resolution images

Cons
– swivel monitor isn’t full articulated
– no integrated pop-up flash

This review is based on precise lab tests conducted by BetterNet GmbH and provided by the Technical Imaging Press Association (TIPA). TIPA is the largest family of independent photo and imaging magazines worldwide. Photo Life is an active member of TIPA.

SPEC SHEET: Pentax K-1
BASIC TECHNICAL DATA:
Resolution 7360 x 4912
Resolution of sensor 36.4
Size of sensor (in inches) 0/0.00
Size of sensor (in mm) 35.9 x 24.0
TAKING PICTURES:
Start-up time (in sec) 0.09
Shutter delay without pre-focusing (in sec) 0.18
Shutter delay with pre-focusing (in sec) 0.01
Continuous shooting speed (frames per second) 4.4
Max. burst during continuous-shooting speed 70.0
Fastest shutter speed in sec 1/8000
Long-time exposure/shutter speed (in sec) 30
Self-timer yes
Exposure Settings:
Aperture pre-setting, shutter-speed pre-setting, manual exposure settings,
automatic bracketing, time lapse photography
Exposure Programs 0
White balance:
Auto yes
White-balance settings 7
Individual white balance yes
ISO:
ISO min 100
ISO max 204800
ISO steps 34
Manual ISO control yes
FLASH:
Integrated flash no
Flash mode:
On, off, automatic flash, slow-sync, anti-red-eye, rear-curtain sync
External Flash:
X-sync yes
Accessory shoe yes
FILE FORMATS:
Standard file formats JPEG, RAW, DCF
JPEG compression grades 3
LCD AND PREVIEW:
Size (in inches) 3.2
Resolution of LCD (in pixels) 1037000
Zoom mode during preview yes
Index during preview yes
Slideshow during preview yes
VIDEO:
Video available yes
Max. width 1920
Max. height 1080
Picture frequency 30
POWER SOURCE:
Rechargeable battery yes
Battery type Li-Ion
Battery charger included yes
Power connector no
Power supply unit no
STORAGE SYSTEM:
Supported memory cards SD card, SDHC card, SDXC card
PC CONNECTION:
PC connection USB 2.0, HDMI, WLAN
TV out PAL/NTSC HDMI
DIMENSIONS:
Dimensions (width x height x depth; in mm) 136 x 110 x 85
Weight (body without battery and memory card; in g) 1010
ACCESSORIES:
Docking station no
Printed manual yes
Manual on CD yes
Bag no
Remote control no

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