Pentax K-1 Review

Drive Modes

The Pentax K-1 has a plethora of drive modes. They are accessed from the control panel which opens up when the "up" button of the four way controller is pressed in capture mode:

Drive modes screen with bracketing selected

This screenshot shows that five-image bracketing is set with 1.5 EV intervals between the shots. The front e-dial sets the number of shots and the rear e-dial sets the bracketing value, here 1.5 EV.

It is easy and intuitive to set a drive mode on this screen. We wish that there would be a "one button push" way to get back to single shot mode, though. It takes several button pushes to move the highlight all the way to the left to single shot mode.

Some of the drive modes are quite involved so we'll go through them all (click any thumbnail to enlarge):

Single frame mode. The camera captures but one shot for each press of the shutter release
Continuous shooting. Three speeds are available: High, medium, and low. The speeds depend on the capture format. In APS-C format the High speed is rated at 6.5 frames per second, in full frame mode it is 4.4 frames per second
Self timer. Three settings are available: 12 seconds delay for group shots and such, 2 seconds delay with mirror up for macro shooting and other applications where vibrations from the mirror slap could have adverse effects, and continuous shooting with self timer.
In the continuous mode one can set the speed (high, medium, low) and the number of shots that should fire with one push of the button. There  is a 12 seconds delay before the first shot, the remaining shots follow per the speed set
Infrared remote control. Three settings are available: Immediate release, 3 seconds delay with mirror up, and continuous shooting.
In the continuous mode one can set the speed (high, medium, low). Shooting starts at the first press on the remote and ends with a second press.
Bracketing can be set to shoot 2, 3 or 5 frames. The size of the bracketing steps can be up to 2 EV. Custom function 12 can be set to one push bracketing which means that all bracketed shots will be taken with one push of the shutter release. If not set you must release the shutter for each bracketed shot. Bracketing can be combined with self timer and infrared remote control. EV compensation can be used with bracketing so that the bracketed exposures can be moved up or down in EV value.
This is an alternative way of mirror-up shooting. The first press of the shutter release button flips the mirror up, the next press takes the picture. The two settings are: Use the camera's shutter release and use an infrared control
Multi-exposure. This mode combines two or more frames into one image. The frames can be combined in three ways:
Average: The exposure of the individual images is averaged out
Additive: The exposures are added together
Bright: The brightest exposure of any part of the image is retained
Besides the normal mode, multi-exposure can be combined with continuous shooting, self timer (12s as well as 2s with mirror up), and infrared remote (immediate and 3s with mirror up).
In interval shooting one sets the number of shots to be taken and the interval between the start times of the shots (custom function 13 can change this behavior such the interval set will be between the shots). The four options are:
INT: Each individual shot is saved,
Composite: The shots are merged into one image (options are average, additive, and bright as for multi-exposure which see),
Movie: A movie is created from the shots,
Star stream: A movie is made that merges the images together over time.

We are pleased with the complete set of drive mode options. The multi-exposure and interval shooting modes are quite involved, though, with the many options and sub-options. The learning curve is steep, but when mastered many photographic tasks can be automated using these modes. One example is multi-exposure which properly set can replace an ND filter for the smooth effect of waterfalls or the sea.

Single/continuous shooting can conveniently be set with the new setting dial on the top plate. With the function dial set to CH/CL, the setting dial scrolls through the three continuous shooting speeds and singe shot mode.

Bracketing is another drive mode that can be set using the dial and setting dials. This is but a partial solution, though, since one can't turn bracketing off again with the dial, but must enter the drive mode menu or switch to CH/CL to cancel out of bracketing. The other issue is that the number of bracketing shots can't be set with the dial. The dial can only control the size of the EV bracketing steps. Pentax really needs to improve on how to set and clear bracketing. They know how to do it, it was done right on the Pentax K10D and K20D.


The K-1 has all the drive modes one could ever desire and then some. They can be a bit overwhelming at first, but they can be mastered in due time and the more involved modes like multi-exposure and interval shooting allow for some creative use.

It is a plus that single shot/continuous shooting can be controlled with the setting dial on the top plate and we find the number of frames per second acceptable at 4.4 fps (6.5 fps in APS-C mode) although it doesn't reach the 8.3 fps of the K-3. The implementation of bracketing via the setting dial on the other hand is somewhat disappointing and turning bracketing off is downright tedious. PentaxForums @PentaxForums News | Reviews | Forum

Support Pentax Forums Donate to Pentax Forums Support Pentax Forums