Pentax K-01 Review

Movie Mode

The Pentax K-01 movie (video) mode is arguably one of the camera's most-anticipated features.  Up until the release of the camera, users have been wondering whether or not the K-01 supports true manual video controls during recording, and whether or not it can autofocus while recording.  Well, we are happy to report that it supports both, and you can control the video exposure to your heart's desire while recording.

moviemenu

In order to enter video mode, turn the mode dial to the video position, which is directly above auto mode.  The info screen will then change to display video-related settings rather than settings for stills, which we really liked.  You can also start recording videos from any other mode simply by pressing the red button (assuming you haven't changed what it does via the button customization menu).

red button

The K-01 records in the popular MPEG4 AVC/H.264 video format and produces .MOV files, which are much smaller than the K-5's .AVI files.  It supports full-HD video recording at 30/25/24 FPS, 720p recording at 60/50/30/25/24 FPS, and VGA recording at 30/25/24 FPS.  It's interesting that Pentax decided not to include even higher framerates in VGA mode- perhaps they are reserving this feature for a future advanced DSLR! 

The K-01 is capable of making basic in-camera video edits, namely splitting/trimming and image extraction.  The former is accomplished in play mode by pressing the down button when the desired video is selected.  All image processing options (none of which can be used) are also shown at that time, which is somewhat counter-intuitive as they should have simply been left out.  The latter can be done while playing back: simply pause the video when the desired frame is reached, and press the EV button to generate a JPEG still corresponding to the current frame.

movie trimming

Video Shooting Modes

Movie Info ScreenThere are three primary video shooting modes: P, Av, and M.  You can select the mode via the menu or through the info screen (the latter makes it quite convenient, as you can change modes using the scroll wheel).  In P mode, the camera sets the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO for you, but you can adjust the exposure by up to two stops using the EV button.  In Av mode, the camera sets the shutter speed and ISO, while you choose the aperture.  You can also adjust the EV as before.  If you choose an aperture setting that's too slow for the current lighting conditions, it will be shown in red.

M movie modeIn M mode, you control the shutter speed and aperture manually yourself, and the settings will flash in red if you're under or over-exposing.  You can also choose to manually control the ISO or leave it in auto mode.  Note that if you set the ISO to auto, you will not be able to change it during recording.  In manual ISO mode, you can, however.  In order to switch between controlling the shutter speed and the aperture, press the EV button once.  An arrow on the screen will indicate which one is being set.  The green button can be used to return to the program line if needed.

As in the image capture modes, you can choose to disable display of detailed recording information by pressing the info button twice.  You can also select custom image settings and digital filters, such as black and white.

As a side note, Pentax also introduced a new "interval movie" mode with this camera: this is similar to interval shooting except that, obviously, it records video files.

Microphone

The K-01 has a built-in stereo microphone and supports external (i.e. hotshoe-mounted) microphones as well.  The microphone volume can be controlled via the info screen or movie mode menu and can be changed while recording.

mic volume

int ext sound level

Autofocus

Autofocus can be used before and during recording, although while recording, you don't get any sort of confirmation.  You can, however, choose which AF mode you'd like to use.  While recording, you can only get the camera to focus using the AF button on the back of the camera.  Overall, the AF performance during video is mediocre.  It's slow and inaccurate for the most part when dealing with moving objects; on wide lenses, it's usable.  Obviously, SDM lenses are preferred for video, as they make less noise (though the K-01 does try to keep this to a minimum with screwdrive lenses by turning the focus ring slower than normal).

Shake Reduction

The SR system is highly effective in movie mode, and practically inaudible.  See below for two test videos with SR on (left) and off (right).  The only annoyance as far as noises go is that you can clearly here when the lens changes its aperture settings or when you turn the scroll wheel when in manual mode; the SR itself doesn't get in the way.  We've found that the SR system makes panning without a tripod quite stable.

Sample Videos

We present several sample videos below.  For all videos, we used the DA 18-135mm lens and 720p resolution at 60 frames per second.  Shake reduction was on for all the "amateur videos".

On a tripod:

Edited video (shot by SweetPixels):

Amateur video 1, P Mode:

Amateur video 2, P Mode (with AE functionality in varying light):

As the train exits the tunnel, you can hear the camera change the aperture setting.

Amateur video 3, Av Mode (with panning and tracking):

The Bottom Line

Overall, we are very pleased with the K-01's video capabilities, and it makes a great video camera that also takes top-notch stills!  This is where the new PRIME M processor really shines.  All the video settings are quite easy to access and change, and the red button comes in handy, i.e. to enable focus peaking when shooting videos with manual lenses.  Auto exposure and custom image settings work superbly in video mode. The DA 18-135mm lens we used for most of our videos worked very well, as it was easy to hold, focused silently, and allows for plenty of zooming.

If we have to be picky, then we didn't really like the fact that the ISO cannot be snapped out of auto mode while recording, and that you have to set it manually up-front if you want to be able to change it later.  The loud clicking sound of the scroll wheel makes an external microphone a necessity for any sort of professional video work, and AF visual confirmation in video mode would be nice.  Finally, it would also have been handy if Pentax had implemented a full-time AF system for novice users, and if the AF system could be triggered by half-pressing the shutter release button.  Better AF performance, as always, would likewise be welcome, especially with respect to the tracking feature.  Using the LCD viewfinder, as with stills, is somewhat problematic when it's very bright outside, but in darker scenarios we can't complain.

The K-01 is without a doubt the most versatile Pentax to date for shooting videos, and it'll make a great companion for your DSLR if that's what you're after.  With that said, please note that we're a photo site, and not a video site, and thus we may not evaluate all the criteria (such as video file formats or editing features) that pro videographers consider.


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