Mar 12, 2012

Pentax K-01 Review

Review Introduction

The Pentax K-01 is a pioneer; it is the first mirrorless camera to be designed for use with an already-existing lineup of DSLR and SLR lenses. The Pentax K-01 features the Pentax K-mount, which is compatible with all current and past Pentax K-mount lenses and, with an adapter, the K-01 is also compatible with yesteryear's M42 and M37 screw mount lenses such as the Pentax Takumar series of lenses.  The K-01 has the same 16.3 megapixel APS-C sized sensor used in the high-end Pentax DSLR, the K-5, which has gotten praise for its best-in-class image quality.  Combined with support for thousands of lenses, this seems like an irresistable package!

The K-01's look is also unique: the body was designed by Marc Newson, a celebrity industrial designer from Australia. Have looks taken precedence over functionality? We will address this issue in our review.

We will primarily review the K-01 on its own, but for readers who are considering the K-01 as an alternative or companion to a DSLR, we will carry out some comparisons to the Pentax K-5 and K-r (though we don't go hands-on with the K-r).  Our main focus will be to determine whether or not the K-01 is as good as it looked on paper, evaluate its performance, and demonstrate the key functions of the camera.  Is the K-01 a match for other mirrorless cameras out there?  Is the fact that it uses the K-mount a key advantage?

Pentax K-01 adn K-5

The Pentax K-5 is shown above with the optional grip. The K-01 is lighter and more compact than the K-5, even without the grip.  It is also marginally lighter and smaller than the K-r.

Table of Contents

Video Overview

Feel free to watch this video introduction to our review for some hands-on commentary and demonstrations.  In it, we touch on some parts of the in-depth review.

Background

The first mirrorless ILC from Pentax was the Pentax Q, where Pentax made the bold decision of taking advantage of the latest sensor technology and created an extremely compact system built around a point-and-shoot sensor. The K-01 represents another bold move; it is not as compact as the mainstream ILC cameras on the market, but rather closer to the size and heft of an introductory level DSLR. The benefit, of course, is the lens system, and the camera is built to deliver DSLR-grade image quality. The K-01 is not restricted to just a handful of lenses and it can use thousands of K-mount lenses as well as nearly one hundred current lenses from Pentax and other manufacturers.

K-01 with lens

The K-01 continues Pentax's tradition of not following the mainstream, but instead coming out with something unique and desirable.

This camera is available in four colors:

  • black (with silver on the top)
  • silver (with black on the top, Europe only)
  • white (with black on the top, other countries)
  • yellow (with black and silver on the top)

Gang of four K-01 colors

You can choose to buy the body only, a 1-lens kit with the new DA 40mm XS lens (saving you $100 off the price of the lens when purchased separately), and a 2-lens kit with the DA L 18-55mm and DA L 50-200mm lenses.  We recommend that you opt for the 40mm XS lens kit even if you already have other K-mount lenses, as the 40mm is the ideal companion to this camera: it makes the camera very easy to hold and above all, it delivers great AF performance and the same exceptional image quality that we've seen from the DA 40mm F2.8 Limited. We will elaborate more on the 40mm XS lens later in the review. The other two lenses are nothing new, and you can ready more about them in our lens database.


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