Pentax K-01 Review
The K-01 comes with a refined version of the same firmware that's found in the Pentax K-r DSLR: the menus look very similar and the button layout remains largely unchanged, but many options have been added or improved, and the design has been modernized. Some options from the K-5 have also been carried over, but others have been excluded. A few settings have been added specifically to accommodate the K-01's mirrorless design. There are also a few similarities between it and the Q, namely in the way information is displayed in live view, and in the AF system. On this page, we present what's new compared to current Pentax DSLRs. Overall, the K-01's interface resembles that of the K-r very closely.
Two key button additions are the red button, which by default starts video recording regardless of shooting mode (but can be customized to alternatively control file formatting, image preview, focus peaking, custom image, or digital filters), and an HDR setting on the mode dial. The in-camera HDR has been improved since the K-5 and can now be used hand-held, to an extent.
In order to save power, the screen automatically dims itself after 10 seconds. This is new to the K-01 as well.
Another welcome addition is a built-in stereo microphone (naturally with support for external microphones as well). Both the K-5 and K-r only have mono microphones.
The K-01 has a new and improved processor called PRIME M. It greatly improves overall camera performance: images are shown faster and can be cycled through faster in playback mode, the instant preview comes up after a shorter delay, and in-camera processing seems to have sped up as well compared to the K-5 and K-r. Most importantly, however, the new processor delivers a much smoother live view experience than in Pentax DSLRs: there is practically no latency at all unless you're shooting in low light.
The K-01's contrast detect AF system has also been improved over that found in Pentax DSLR live view modes. We elaborate on this later in the review.
Pentax added the focus peaking feature, which we discuss in more detail on our autofocus page. Another addition is a "radiant" preset to the custom image (JPEG profile) system.
A few settings have been added to this menu due to the fact that this is a mirrorless camera. The "flicker reduction" setting, which can be set to 50 or 60Hz, allows you to minimize flickering electrical light sources on the screen based on where you live. You can now also control the hue and color balance of the live view image, rather than just screen brightness. A third new setting here is a power-saving option, which essentially auto-dims the LCD after 10 seconds of inactivity.
Two utility options have also been added: you can now check the firmware version and update firmware straight from the menu (as on the Q), and choose to perform dust removal at shutdown rather than only at startup. The shutdown option might come in handy if you're concerned about the noise the system makes.
Movie mode has perhaps seen the most significant changes. You can now control shutter speed, aperture, and sensitivity before and while recording (see screenshot at top of page). New framerates have been added, and a movie-specific info screen has been added. The K-01 also boasts a stereo microphone.
A power-saving SR option has been added, allowing you to choose full-time shake reduction, or to only have the system activate just before shooting. There is also a new AF mode setting, which essentially lets you fire the shutter before focus is locked, similar to how AF.C works on a DSLR. Pentax calls this "release priority", though this term is somewhat misleading, as on DSLRs it actually changes the behavior of continuous shooting. The K-01 doesn't have continuous shooting as such.
The info screen now let's you control aspect ratio, even if the resulting resolutions aren't among the standard presets. An interesting new feature is automatic shadow/highlight correction, meaning that the K-01 can adjust very bright/dark areas should it detect that it's become necessary. Interestingly, an option to turn off the LCD entirely has also been added (press the info button twice).
Playback mode now features faster image loading and practically instantaneous scrolling. There is a new 81-thumbnail display option, as well as a 36- and 4-thumbnail display.
Even though the K-01 isn't meant to be as advanced as the K-5, we expected to see a few features which turned out to be left out. The K-01 has no electronic level, and thus also no horizon correction feature, which we think would otherwise come in handy in auto pict mode. Bracketing is limited to just 3 frames and cannot be invoked via the remote or self-timer. The remote can also not be used in bulb mode. The shutter only features a top speed of 1/4000s, which is a little bit behind that of the K-r. Also, while the K-01 does have TAv mode, Sv mode has been left out. Finally, only DNG RAW is supported: you cannot choose to shoot in the PEF format. This isn't really a problem as PEF files for a typical scene are about 50% larger than the losslessly compressed DNG files. Regarding RAW files, it should be noted that the K-01's bit depth is 12 bits, whereas the K-5's was 14. The K-01 only has an IR remote sensor in the front (not on both sides), and it doesn't support tethering at the moment.
Finally, the O-GPS1 unit's astrotracer feature is not yet fully supported. Pentax says that an upcoming firmware update will address this.