Pentax K-1 Review

Conclusion

Pentax may be late to the full-frame party, but the K-1 sure made a loud entrance.  When it comes to image quality, the new Pentax K-1 boasts an unprecedented level of performance and versatility which without question secures its spot as the most powerful K-mount camera released to date.  Pentax has not only adapted a K-mount DSLR to the full frame format, but also managed to improve on nearly every hardware aspect compared to previous-generation cameras like the K-3 II.  Furthermore, literally all of the latest features from Pentax's current APS-C bodies have been carried over to the K-1, with a few enhancements along the way.

Features such as Pixel Shift Resolution for landscape and product photography, the AA Filter Simulator for fashion, and the Astrotracer for astrophotography make the K-1 unique alongside its full-frame competitors.  The Shake Reduction II system— which powers all of these technologies under the hood— also performs its primary role of stabilization remarkably well, making the K-1 an excellent choice for hand-held shooting in low light.

Finally, there's the value proposition.  At its launch price of $1799, the K-1 is $1000 cheaper than the Nikon D810, its closest current competitor.  While the K-1 may not outshine other brands in every area (such as video or speed), it is at least just as capable of taking incredible photos, and it brings a host of new advantages to the table.

Pentax K-1 with the D FA★ 70-200mm F2.8

Of course, no camera is perfect.  While we haven't been able to identify any major flaws or omissions in the K-1, its file writing speed and USB2 transfer rate is rather slow, as is the Wi-Fi performance.  Video features are not particularly impressive, nor is the JPEG engine in the hands of a demanding user.  While the customizable Control Panel makes common settings changes a breeze, some button duplication lingers, along with a few interface quirks that can slow down even an experienced user. And although the K-1's interface is user-friendly, the sheer number of settings can certainly be overwhelming to new users at first.

The new weather-sealed, silent-focusing D FA zoom lenses have shown to be very solid performers, but compared to Canon, Nikon, and even Sony, Pentax's modern full-frame lens lineup is still in its infancy.  Fortunately, the expansive Pentax legacy lens lineup offers a wide range of options to satisfy nearly any requirement, from ultra-compact lenses to fast telephoto zooms.  In fact, since some legacy lenses are so small, they can compensate for the K-1's larger size and turn the camera into a viable option for travel.

Pros and Cons

See below for the Pentax K-1's strengths and weaknesses that we have identified.

  • Superb dynamic range and low-light performance
  • Effective stabilization, works with any lens
  • Pixel Shift system delivers amazing detail
  • Astrophotographer-friendly
  • Improved AF system /w viewfinder overlay
  • Elegant, face-lifted menu system
  • Accurate low-light AF performance
  • Very large burst buffer in JPEG mode
  • Robust live view mode
  • Excellent backwards-compatibility
  • Quiet screwdrive AF performance
  • Customizable user interface
  • Versatile LCD with outdoor view setting
  • External LED lighting
  • Durable weather-sealed construction
  • Class-leading shutter durability (300,000)
  • Shutter priority added in video mode
  • Competitively priced
  • Poor JPEG quality
  • Limited selection of modern FF lenses
  • Limited third-party lens / flash support
  • Slow USB file transfers
  • Slow write speed, especially to multiple cards
  • Wi-Fi features cannot work with a PC
  • Button duplication slows down operation
  • No focus peaking during video recording
  • Primary SD slot cannot be chosen directly
  • USB cord not included
  • No raw video
  • No on-board flash

Who Is It For?

Demanding photographers who seek the absolute best image quality in a (K-mount) DSLR and don't mind the increased size and cost of the full-frame format.

The Bottom Line

The K-1 is any Pentax shooter's dream, and we suspect that it will also be the dream of photographers who have long been awaiting an affordable full-frame DSLR that really packs a punch.

The K-1's performance speaks for itself, as does user demand for the camera.  Since its launch until early June (when we published our review), the K-1 has been sold out worldwide.  On our forum, users have posted almost as many photos from the K-1 after just a month as there are photos from the K-3 II, which has been out for over a year.

Pentax is in a unique position to offer three distinct high-performance DSLR formats: medium format through Pentax 645Z, full-frame through the K-1, and APS-C through the remainder of the K series.  We feel that within the high-resolution full-frame market segment, the K-1 is at least as good of a value as the 645Z is within its market.

Pricing

At launch in June, 2016, the Pentax K-1 body was priced at $1799 in the US (B&H Photo | Adorama | Amazon US), £1599 in the UK (SRS Microsystems | WEX Photographic), €1999 in the EU, $2499 CAD in Canada (Henry's | Amazon Canada), $2899 AUD in Australia (CR Kennedy), and  ¥257,500 in Japan.  We've included links to stores we trust and recommend; we are not affiliated with any non-US stores.  You can support future reviews by ordering your K-1 using the links below:

Due to continuing high demand and in response to market conditions, on October 1, 2016, K-1 pricing went up to $1949 USD, £1799, €2099, and $2599 CAD, respectively.  The Australian price remains unchanged at $2899 AUD, while the Japanese price has dipped to ¥240,000.

Order your Pentax K-1 at: B&H Photo | Adorama | Amazon US

Rating

Overall, the Pentax K-1 ranks the highest among Pentax cameras we've tested to date.

Ergonomics 
 9
Build Quality 
 10
Interface 
 9
Performance 
 8
Image Quality 
 10
Autofocus 
 9
HD Video 
 7
Value 
 10
Overall 
 9.0 (Excellent)

Good for:

  • demanding photographers seeking excellent still image quality
  • users looking for an excellent value in a full-frame camera

Not so good for:

  • videographers
  • beginners

A Pentax K-1 with the SMC Pentax-A 50mm F1.2 Special

Have Your Say

Tell us how to plan to use the K-1, or simply ask a question in the comments below.

If you already own the Pentax K-1 you can also add your own review to our camera database!

To discuss anything and everything related to the K-1, visit our Pentax K-1 forum.

Comments

 

 


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