The wait is over. The moment that countless Pentaxians around the globe have waited for is finally upon us. More than 13 years after Pentax cameras entered the digital age, Ricoh Imaging has officially announced the Pentax K-1, the first full-frame Pentax DSLR to enter production.
In this post we present the highlights of the K-1 along with some brief hands-on commentary. We hope you enjoy reading about the K-1 as much as we enjoyed writing about it!
A 36.4-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with an ISO range of 100 to 204,800 lies at the heart of the Pentax K-1. Notice that the ISO range is the same as that of the medium format 645Z, and thus larger than what other cameras in this category can offer. We expect this to also signify a bump in dynamic range performance.
We do not know the manufacturer of this sensor, thought it does not appear to be the same as the one used in existing 36-megapixel full-frame bodies.
5-axis in-body stabilization (Click to enlarge)
A Photographer's Camera
In traditional Pentax fashion, the K-1 promises to be a formidable camera for photographers who prioritize still image quality, ergonomics, and ease of use. Superb still image quality is a given. Beyond this, the camera introduces a number of innovations for its market segment: for example, it is the only full-frame DSLR to sport sensor-shift stabilization. This Shake Reduction (SR) mechanism has been improved to offer 5-axis stabilization with up to 5 stops of compensation: Pentax's best SR to date. Through the SR system, like the Pentax K-3 II, the K-1 offers pixel shift super resolution for super-sharp photos of stationary subjects, and moire can be combated via the AA filter simulator setting. The K-1 also features a unique adjustable LCD that can both tilt up or down and pivot side to side.
Pentax K-1 with LCD extended and tilted (Click to enlarge)
When paired with the built-in GPS unit, the K-1's SR mechanism can be turned into a star tracker. Pentax calls this feature the Astrotracer, and it has been available on APS-C bodies since 2010. But the K-1 takes things to the next level: anticipating that photographers will use this camera in near darkness, the K-1 has been fitted with LED lights that can illuminate the lens mount, card slot, rear buttons, and LCD screen edges for easy operation in the dark.
New lock button (click to enlarge)
The K-1 also augments the already-user-friendly Pentax user interface in a number of ways. A third control dial has been added to top the camera; this dial can be used to control settings such as sensitivity, exposure compensation, bracketing, and more. It's thus possible to control the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO (for instance) without having to press any additional buttons. Furthermore, items on the Control Panel (quick access menu) can now be customized. Two buttons can also be customized (Fx1 and Fx2). If that doesn't cover all the bases, five customizable User shooting modes are available on the main mode dial. Finally, a lock button can be used to selectively disable the e-dials or rear controls.
K-1 top controls (click to enlarge)
Last but not least, the K-1's viewfinder display has been greatly improved compared to previous Pentax models. Rather than merely using LEDs to light up AF points, the K-1 incorporates a full LCD overlay with a customizable grid, crop area indicator, and dual-axis electronic level (this is very similar to viewfinder of the the Nikon D800 family of DSLR). The grid can be enabled or disabled via the menu, as can most of the other features of the overlay. A dedicated light illuminates this overlay on demand.
Pentax K-1 viewfinder overlay
The optical viewfinder itself offers 100% coverage and 0.70x magnification— a fairly standard size for today's full frame cameras. For comparison, this is about 60% larger than the Pentax K-3's viewfinder. Also, while it's a minor improvement, the diopter adjustment now goes down to -3.5 (was -2.5 on earlier bodies).
We feel that the points listed above are what make the Pentax K-1 unique. Now, let's move on to a discussion of its other highlights.
The K-1 has a specially-designed shutter rated to last for 300,000 actuations. It promises quiet and precise operation. The maximum burst framerate is 4.4 FPS in full-frame more and 6.5 FPS in crop mode. Combined with the PRIME IV processor and an expanded image buffer, the K-1 can store up to 100 JPEGs and 100 RAWs in its buffer, depending on the crop mode and framerate. Optimal performance will only be achieved with the fastest UHS-I SDHC/SDXC cards (we recommend the Sandisk Extreme Pro series).
Furthermore, the new shutter enables a maximum flash sync speed of 1/200s (up from 1/180s) for the first time ever in a Pentax DSLR.
Pentax K-1 shutter mechanism
Like the Pentax K-3 family of DSLRs, the K-1 features dual UHS-I compatible SDXC/SDHC/SD card slots. Files can be stored sequentially, duplicated, or split (RAW/JPEG) between the two cards.
Interestingly, though, there still does not appear to be a dedicated setting to choose which card is to be treated as the primary card in sequential mode.
Dual SDXC card slots
Durability has long been a key advantage of higher-end Pentax bodies, and the K-1 is no exception. The camera skeleton is built of a sturdy magnesium alloy.
A dedicated battery grip has been developed for the Pentax K-1. With the D-BG6, you can extend battery life (trays are included for an additional D-Li90 or 6 AAs) and improve ergonomics when shooting with large lenses. The button layout on this grip is similar to what we've seen on the BG5 and BG4, so K-3 and K-5 users will feel right at home.
D-BG6 grip for the K-1
No full-frame camera is complete without tethering support. Fortunately, the K-1 delivers in this respect in not just one way, but two. Traditional USB tethering is possible via the Image Transmitter 2 software (available separately). The K-1 can also be controlled over Wi-Fi using the Image Sync app (available for iOS and Android). Here's an overview of the Image Sync app.
Remote control via Image Sync
Last but not least, the Pentax K-1 is fitted with the latest SAFOX 12 autofocus system. This system has received algorithmic improvements compared to SAFOX 11, and it now has 33 focusing points, up from 27. 25 points are cross-type with sensitivity to -3 EV. 3 points in the center column are sensitive to F2.8 luminous flux (as on the K-3 and K-3 II).
In addition, the 86k-pixel metering system has been updated with an adaptive scene analysis algorithm that promises further improvements in exposure accuracy (see the press release below for details).
In practice, the K-1's focusing felt very similar to that of the K-3, though we of course were not yet able to test it with a moving subject.
Video and USB Connectivity
At the risk of coining a new term, we'd like to say that the K-1 commits a couple of "Pentaxisms" by failing to deliver in a couple of areas that just shouldn't be left stagnant in today's modern world of electronics. And yes, we're nit-picking a bit.
While it's ultimately a minor thing, the K-1 only has a USB 2 port, unlike the K-3 II, K-3, and 645Z, which were equipped with the much faster USB3 standard. We do not know why a newer camera would have slower transfer speeds than its predecessors; one theory would be that the K-1 had been under development since before the K-3.
Also, the Pentax K-1 does not impress in terms of its video mode, which is in fact identical to that of the Pentax K-3 (albeit with fewer 720p framerates). Framerate options include 1080 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p and 720 60p/50p. Video files are stored in the compressed H.264 .MOV format (raw capture is not possible). On-demand autofocus is available, and the exposure can be controlled manually, as on the K-3.
Is the video mode forgivable? Certainly. The K-1 can still comfortably be used for everyday videos, and it doesn't seem to be targeted at professional videographers. If you're looking for 4K support, you won't find it here; Pentax has been focusing its efforts on real-world features that matter for photographers, rather than keeping up with the race for the highest technical specifications.
Why Full Frame?
In short, full frame cameras are popular among professionals and enthusiasts because they offer very good image quality without being too bulky. Plus, all the great legacy K-mount lenses that we've been using with Pentax APS-C bodies will continue to work on the K-1. These lenses will deliver a wider field of view (for which they were originally designed).
A full frame sensor is 2.25 times larger than an APS-C sensor in terms of area. This allows for larger pixel pitch and in turn much less noise and/or higher resolution than crop bodies.
We will be covering the pros and cons of the full frame format in more detail in a future article.
Pre-Order Your Pentax K-1
Picking up a full frame camera is no small decision, but it can be a very rewarding move if you value image quality and plan to push your camera beyond the limits of the APS-C system. The K-1 can of course also serve as a competent backup body for existing 645Z/645D shooters.
If you have any questions about the K-1, feel free to post them in our new Pentax K-1 forum.
At $1799, the K-1 is priced very competitively for a professional-level camera. Compare it to the Nikon D750 ($1999), Nikon D810 ($2799) or Canon 5D Mk III ($2499).
If you're already convinced, follow the links below to pre-order the K-1 and support the forum. Note that we will be running a giveaway for all forum members who pre-order the camera, so stay tuned for details! Pre-ordering today will retroactively get you an entry in the giveaway. You will also be eligible for free Marketplace access on the forum.
Every Pentax lens ever made is compatible with the Pentax K-1, along with thousands of third-party lenses. M42, M37, and medium format lenses will need an adapter. Canon and Nikon lenses cannot be adapted (unless you want to settle for an adapter that acts as a teleconverter and degrades image quality).
DA-series (crop) lenses will automatically trigger the K-1's 15-megapixel crop mode, though this can be disabled by the user if manual cropping in post processing is preferred. Some DA lenses do a very good job of covering the full frame image circle. Read more about DA lens compatibility on full frame.
The K-1 is without question an impressive camera. While it may not be groundbreaking in terms of its technical specifications, it seems to have nailed it in key areas that concern still image quality and usability. When we combine the K-1's new features with the exceptional handling and functionality that we've come to love from Pentax, we're left with an irresistible camera body!
This concludes our launch presentation of the Pentax K-1. We will be bringing you lots more in-depth content and hands-on impressions of the K-1 in the coming days.
PENTAX K-1 PENTAX’s first 35mm full-frame digital SLR camera, and the new flagship model of the popular PENTAX K series, providing outstanding operability and superb reliability
RICOH IMAGING COMPANY, LTD. is pleased to announce the launch of the PENTAX K-1 digital SLR camera. Developed as the flagship model of the acclaimed PENTAX K series of digital SLR cameras, this new model features a large CMOS image sensor, equal in size to the full image area of 35mm film, to deliver super-high-resolution images required for the artistic work of photo enthusiasts and professionals.
Equipped with a large, high-performance CMOS image sensor (35.9mm by 24.0mm) and supported by approximately 36.4 effective megapixels and PENTAX-original imaging technologies, the PENTAX K-1 assures super-high-resolution images rich in gradation and superb in high-sensitivity rendition. Thanks to its large image sensor, the camera provides the same depth of field as a 35mm film-format camera, and allows the user to create a fine bokeh (defocus) effect more effectively than before. By further advancing its unique technologies, accumulated over decades of camera development, PENTAX has also equipped the K-1 with a host of the latest technologies. A new-generation shake reduction mechanism effectively reduces camera shake along five axes with a compensation range of five shutter steps. This mechanism also shifts the image sensor unit by a single pixel to assure super-high-resolution digital imaging. An extra-accurate exposure-control mechanism is supported by state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technology. Within its compact body, the K-1 also provides an array of PENTAX-original features and functions, such as a flexible tilt-type LCD monitor that can be tilted to the desired angle horizontally and vertically without deviating from the lens’s optical axis; an Operation Assist Light function to facilitate camera operation in the dark; and an optical viewfinder with a nearly 100-percent field of view. In addition to an assortment of interchangeable lenses — from old film-era lenses to the latest D FA-series models — the K-1 also accepts more compact DA-series lenses with a smaller image circle, with the help of its Crop function.
1. High-resolution, fine-gradation images supported by approximately 36.4 effective megapixels The K-1 incorporates a newly developed 35mm-format full-frame CMOS image sensor —the first time in a PENTAX K-mount digital SLR camera. It also features an AA (anti-aliasing) filter–free design that puts priority on image resolution. Coupled with a high-speed image processing system and the newly designed PRIME IV imaging engine, capable of 14-bit RAW-format image recording, it optimizes the resolving power of approximately 36.4 effective megapixels to deliver super-high-resolution, fine-gradation images. It also allows for super-high-sensitivity shooting up to ISO 204800, and produces beautiful, high-resolution images over the entire sensitivity range — from the lowest sensitivity to the highest — while effectively minimizing annoying noise at all sensitivity levels.
2. New-generation SR II five-axis system
(1) In-body SR mechanism to assure optimal shake reduction performance with all compatible lenses: The K-1 comes equipped with the PENTAX-developed SR II (Shake Reduction II) five-axis mechanism that enables accurate control of the large full-frame image sensor with all compatible PENTAX interchangeable lenses.* In addition to camera shake caused by pitch and yaw, this new system is also designed to effectively compensate for camera shake caused by horizontal and vertical shift (often generated in macro photography) and camera shake caused by roll, which is difficult to deal with by lens-installed shake reduction mechanisms. It has a compensation range of as much as five shutter steps — the widest of all PENTAX digital SLR models — to expand the limits of handheld shooting. Even when taking a panning shot, this system automatically detects the direction of the camera’s movement, and efficiently controls the SR unit to always produce the best image possible without requiring any mode switching operation.
(2) Pixel Shift Resolution System with a new motion correction function The K-1 features Pixel Shift Resolution System,** the latest super-resolution technology, which captures four images of the same scene by shifting the image sensor by a single pixel for each image, then synthesizes them into a single composite image. Compared to the conventional Bayer system, in which each pixel has only a single color data unit, this innovative system obtains all color data in each pixel to deliver super-high-resolution images with far more truthful colors and much finer details than those produced by conventional full-frame image sensors. This system even provides a new motion correction function,*** which automatically detects a moving object during continuous shooting and minimizes negative effects during the synthesizing process, in order to accommodate a wider range of scenes and subjects.
(3) Innovative AA filter simulator to minimize moiré By applying microscopic vibrations to the image sensor unit at the sub-pixel level during image exposure, the K-1's AA (anti-aliasing) filter simulator**** provides the same level of moiré reduction as an optical AA filter. Unlike an optical filter, which always creates the identical result, this innovative simulator lets the user not only switch the AA filter effect on and off, but also to adjust the level of the effect. This means that the ideal effect can be set for a particular scene or subject based on given photographic conditions.
(4) Supportive shooting functions Since the K-1’s SR unit has a flexible design that tilts the image sensor unit in all directions, it provides a host of handy shooting functions, including auto level compensation, image-composition fine-adjustment, and ASTRO TRACER, which simplifies advanced astronomical photography using a built-in GPS module.
* Lenses compatible with this mechanism: K-, KA-, KAF-, KAF2- and KAF3-mount lenses; screw-mount lenses (with an adapter); and 645- and 67-system lenses (with an adapter). Some functions may not be available with certain lenses. ** When using this system, the user is advised to stabilize the camera firmly on a tripod. When a moving subject is captured in the camera's image field, its image may not be reproduced clearly, either in part or as a whole. *** The movement may not be sufficiently corrected when the object is moving in a certain direction and/or pattern. This function does not guarantee that the movement is properly corrected with all subjects. **** This function works most effectively with a shutter speed of 1/1000 second or slower. This function may not be combined with some shooting modes, including the Pixel Shift Resolution system.
3. Flexible tilt-type LCD monitor to accommodate various shooting angles
On its back panel, the K-1 features a newly designed, flexible tilt-type LCD monitor, which can be tilted to the desired angle horizontally, vertically or diagonally with a single action, without deviating from the lens’s optical axis. The user can not only tilt it approximately 35 degrees horizontally and approximately 44 degrees vertically, but also pull it out from its base to view the on-screen image from above for waist-level photography. This large, 3.2-inch LCD monitor has approximately 1,037,000 dots and a 3:2 aspect ratio, and provides a protective tempered-glass front panel for added durability. In addition to its wide-view design, it also features a unique air-gapless construction, in which the air space between LCD layers is eliminated to effectively reduce the reflection and dispersion of light for improved visibility during outdoor shooting. A new Outdoor View Setting mode allows the user to instantly choose the desired monitor brightness level with a single push of a button.
4. Newly developed SAFOX 12 with 33 sensor points and full-frame-proportioned AF frame
The K-1 features a newly developed SAFOX 12 AF sensor module with an expanded AF frame covering the full-frame image field with 33 AF sensors (25 cross-type sensors positioned in the middle). The center sensor and the two sensors located just above and below it are designed to detect the light flux of an F2.8 lens, making it easy to obtain pinpoint focus on a subject when using a large-aperture lens. Working together with the advanced PENTAX Real-Time Scene Analysis System, this AF system assures much improved AF tracking performance when photographing fast-moving subjects.
5. Upgraded PENTAX Real-Time Scene Analysis System, with application of artificial intelligence technology
By combining an approximately 86,000-pixel RGB metering sensor with the new PRIME IV imaging engine, the K-1’s advanced PENTAX Real-Time Scene Analysis System performs real-time analysis of the brightness distribution over the image field and the subject’s colors and movement. Based on this data, it then measures the subject’s lighting conditions with great accuracy and optimizes the exposure. In addition, by adopting a breakthrough artificial intelligence technology called deep learning to its algorithm,* it assesses each individual scene more accurately, and optimizes the exposure settings for a given scene or composition.
* Effective when the AUTO exposure mode is set to Scene Analyze Auto and the Custom Image mode is set to Auto Select.
6. Easy-to-focus optical viewfinder with nearly 100-percent field of view
Newly developed for its 35mm full-frame design, the K-1’s optical viewfinder provides a nearly 100-percent field of view and an approximately 0.7-times magnification. It comes with a Natural Bright Matt III focusing screen, which is acclaimed for ease of focusing during manual-focus operation and a true-to-life rendition of defocused areas in the viewfinder image. In addition, its transparent viewfinder display makes it possible to superimpose a wide range of photographic data over the viewfinder image.
7. High-speed continuous shooting with a top speed of approximately 4.4 images per second
The K-1 has a larger shutter unit, which is newly designed to accommodate the camera’s full-frame image sensor. It also incorporates a range of new mechanisms to provide high-speed, high-accuracy control of the mirror unit, including a damper mechanism that effectively minimizes mirror shock. A high-speed data transmission system incorporated in the PRIME IV imaging engine allows the user to continuously record as many as 17 images in the RAW format (or a maximum of 70 images in the JPEG Best format) in a single sequence, at a top speed of approximately 4.4 images per second.
8. Supportive shooting functions to improve picture-taking efficiency and operational comfort
·Operation assist light function, which provides LED lights at four different spots around the camera body (above the lens mount, behind the LCD monitor, at the memory car slot, and at the cable switch terminal) to facilitate lens and memory card changes, attachment and removal of a cable switch, and control button operation at night and in poorly lit settings. ·Key lock function, which prevents erroneous operation of the four-way controller and other exposure-related control buttons. ·Smart Function, which allows the user to swiftly choose and set desired functions using just the function dial and the set dial on the camera’s upper panel, without referring to the menu screen on the LCD monitor. ·Control panel customize function, which allows the user to change a listing and/or position of the on-screen menu.
9. Compact, solid body with dustproof, weather-resistant construction
The K-1's top panel and front and back frames are all made of sturdy yet lightweight magnesium alloy. Although the camera features a dependable, durable shutter unit that can withstand 300,000 shutter releases (measured under actual shooting conditions) for professional use, its body has been downsized to the minimum, thanks to the incorporation of a newly designed floating mirror structure. With the inclusion of 87 sealing parts in the body, the K-1 also boasts a dustproof, weather-resistant and cold-resistant construction, assuring solid operation at temperatures as low as -10°C. All these features make the K-1 a dependable, all-purpose performer, even under demanding shooting conditions.
10. Wireless LAN connection to support smartphone operation
The K-1 provides a host of wireless LAN (Wi-Fi) functions to support the operation with smartphones and tablet computers. By installing the dedicated Image Sync application in a mobile device, the user can remotely check the live-view image, capture still images, and adjust such camera settings as aperture, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity to the desired level through the mobile device. It is even possible to download captured images onto the mobile device, then upload them on social networking service websites.
11. Full HD movie recording with an array of creative tools
The K-1 captures Full HD movie clips (1920 x 1080 pixels; 60i/30p frame rate) in the H.264 recording format, and comes equipped with a stereo mic terminal for external microphone connection and a headphone terminal. The user can also adjust the audio recording level manually, monitor sound pressure levels during microphone recording, and cut down wind noise using a new wind noise reduction mode. In addition to a host of distinctive visual effects available for movie recording,* the K-1 also provides the interval movie mode, which captures a series of 4K-resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) movie clips at a fixed interval.
* When special image processing is required, the frame rate may vary depending on the selected special-effect mode.
12. Built-in GPS module
Thanks to its built-in GPS module, the K-1 provides a variety of advanced GPS functions, including the recording of location, latitude, longitude, altitude and UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) and direction at the time of shooting. The user can easily access images containing GPS data using a computer, to browse them, check on shooting locations and position data on the screen, or save them. The K-1 also provides a set of other unique tools, including: Electronic Compass, which displays the camera's direction on its LCD monitor; GPS log, which keeps track of the photographer's movement; and ASTRO TRACER, which simplifies the tracing and photographing of celestial bodies by coupling GPS data with the camera's SR mechanism.
13. Other features
·High-grade DRII (Dust Removal II) mechanism for effective elimination of dust on the image sensor using ultrasonic vibration ·Crop mode with a choice of image area from AUTO, FF (Full Frame) and APS-C, to accommodate different types of lenses ·Clarity control and Skin Tone correction functions, a pair of the latest image processing technologies developed by RICOH Central Laboratory ·HDR (High Dynamic Range) shooting mode with RAW-format data filing, usable in handheld shooting ·The PENTAX-invented hyper operating system for quick, accurate response to the photographer's creative intentions ·Dual SD card slots for memory card flexibility (compatible with SDXC UHS-1 speed class in SDR104 buss speed mode) ·Compensation of various parameters: lens distortion, lateral chromatic aberration, diffraction, and brightness level at image-field edges. Fringe effect compensation is also available in RAW-format processing. ·Compatibility with PENTAX Image Transmitter 2 tethering software (Software update required from RICOH IMAGING official website) ·Digital Camera Utility 5 software (latest version) included
D-BG6 Battery Grip A battery grip for exclusive use with the PENTAX K-1 camera body. Designed to facilitate vertical-position shooting, it provides a shutter release button, a set of control buttons (AE lock, AF, ISO, exposure compensation, green), a preview lever, and dual electronic dials — just like those provided on the camera body. It also features the dustproof, weather-resistant construction identical to the PENTAX K-1 camera body. In addition to the dedicated lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, it also accepts six AA-size batteries.
-All other brands or product names mentioned herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies. -Designs and specifications are subjects to change without notice.
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