Pentax K-1 Review

Recommended Settings

The Pentax K-1's default settings are a good starting point, but a little bit of customization can help you get the most out of the camera and tailor it to your needs.  Certain settings that weren't previously default are now standard on the K-1, such as automatic dust removal at both startup and shutdown.

While DSLRs in the professional market segment rarely offer beginner-friendly options, the K-1 does have an "Auto" mode on its mode dial.  Note that when the camera is in this mode, many settings in the menu will be greyed out, so please ensure that your camera is in a different mode prior to proceeding.

Record Menu

The record menu consists of the first 5 tabs in the K-1's main menu and controls settings related to image capture.  We indicate the tab for each setting in parentheses.  Note that many of these settings can also be changed via the quick access Control Panel.

  • (1) Phase Detection AF > AF Active Area

    Select the AF point mode for your needs.  Auto-9 mode is good for everyday shooting while SEL mode (SEL-M or SEL-S for action) is good for advanced users who wish to move the active AF point(s) around.  Note that these settings can be changed on the fly while holding down the AF mode button near the lens mount, and then turning the e-dials.

  • (1) Contrast Detection AF > Contrast AF

    Use Select mode for optimal accuracy while shooting on a tripod; use Auto mode for the fastest focusing performance hand-held.

  • (1) Contrast Detection AF > Focus Peaking

    Turn on focus peaking for sharp edges to be highlighted in live view mode.  Excellent for manual focusing.

  • (1) Program Line

    Select MTF for the camera to prefer using aperture values at which the lens is the sharpest.  This setting works with FA, DA, and D FA lenses.  The program line will revert to Normal with other lenses.

  • (2) Memory Card Options

    Opt to back up files to both cards, or to split JPEG and RAW files.  Note that these options take a toll on performance, so avoid them when shooting in burst mode.

  • (2) Image Capture Settings > RAW File Format

    Select DNG for the best compatibility with existing photo editing software.  There is no difference in the contents of DNG and PEF files, but PEF files can only be opened by the latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom, and may not be supported by other third-party software.  If you accidentally shoot in the "wrong" RAW format, the supplied Pentax Digital Camera Utility software can convert between the two file types.

  • (3) Pixel Shift Resolution

    Keep this feature off unless you are shooting an immobile subject using a tripod.  Advanced users only.

  • (4) Horizon Correction

    Turn this feature on if you plan to take a lot of landscape snapshots.  SR roll compensation will be limited in this mode.

  • (4) Lens Correction > Distortion Correction

    Turn this feature off when shooting bursts and on otherwise.  Note that Lens Corrections only apply to JPEG files.

    Bonus tip: create a custom USER mode with the drive mode set to continuous, and Distortion Correction off.  USER mode settings are saved using the last option in the record menu.

  • (5) Viewfinder Overlay > Grid Display

    Turn off the grid and customize other aspects of the viewfinder as you see fit.

  • (5) Instant Review

    Disable or extend the duration as you see fit.

  • (5) Memory

    Uncheck exposure compensation unless you exclusively shoot with manual lenses.  Sometimes it's easy to overlook that exposure compensation is enabled after turning the camera back on, and this could result in many incorrectly exposed photos.

  • (5) Other Display Settings

    If you have multiple K-1's, consider using a different color scheme on each to be able to easily tell them apart.  Also, consider disabling the Guide Display once you've familiarized yourself with your camera.

  • (5) Button Customization > AF Button

    Set to AF2 if you wish to exclusively use the AF button to activate autofocus.  Also, consider making customizations to Fx1 and Fx2 based on your needs, especially if you frequently shoot with an external flash.

Playback Menu

These settings only apply when viewing photos using the camera's playback mode.

  • (1) Quick Zoom

    Set to 100% to instantly zoom to full size, rather than having to scroll through to zoom all the way in.

  • (2) LCD Display > Highlight Alert

    Turn on if you would like the camera to highlight areas that may be under- or over-exposed.

Setup Menu

This menu controls configuration settings related to general camera operation.

  • (1) Sound Effects

    Consider disabling certain sound effects or reducing their volume.

  • (2) Auto Power Off

    Change to 3 minutes to avoid unexpected power-offs.

  • (2) Illumination Settings

    Enable the external LED lighting you'd like.

  • (2) Indicator Lamps

    Optionally disable the GPS and Wi-Fi lights.  The former can in fact otherwise be blinding while working in the darkness.
  • (3) File Name

    Consider changing your file prefix, especially if you have multiple cameras.

  • (3) Copyright Information

    Add your name and/or company name.  This information will be stored in the EXIF metadata of photos you take.

  • (4) Select Battery

    If you're using the optional battery grip, select Grip First so that in-camera power is conserved.  The battery in the camera cannot be charged unless the grip is removed.

Custom Functions Menu

This four-page menu contains advanced settings that aren't changed frequently once set.

  • (1-1) EV Steps

    Set to 2 (1/2 EV Steps) if you would like to use half-stops to reduce e-dial scrolling.

  • (1-7) Flash Sync Speed

    Set to 2 (1/180s) for compatibility with third-party flash accessories designed for earlier Pentax models.

  • (2-12) One-Push Bracketing

    Set to 2 (On) for the camera to automatically shoot bracketing sequences.

  • (2-20) Change AF Point Button

    If you frequently use SEL mode or want to move around your AF point, set this setting to 2 (Type 2) to avoid surprises when looking through the viewfinder.  Strongly recommended!

  • (2-24) Catch-in Focus

    Set to 2 (On) if you frequently shoot with manual lenses.  The shutter will automatically fire once the subjects enters focus while you're holding down the shutter button.

  • (2-26) Using Aperture Ring

    Set to 2 (Enable) to permit the use of manual lenses (i.e. those without the "A" setting on the aperture ring).  See also: manual lens instructions and K-1 lens guide.

Function Dial

The function dial can make the settings dial (third control wheel control) the HDR mode, viewfinder grid, shake reduction, exposure compensation, ISO, burst mode, Wi-Fi, or bracketing.

Status screen when the settings dial is set to CH/CL (burst mode)

These settings are all situational, so we cannot offer a "set it and forget it" recommendation.  All of them have their use.

Note that when the dial is set to the white dot, the third control wheel will instead control zoom during instant review.

Control Panel

The K-1 is the first Pentax camera to allow customization of the settings accessible via the Control Panel (INFO button).  The Control Panel is invaluable in changing common settings, as it spares the user from having to access the main menu and scroll through tabs and sub-menus.  There are 38 selectable options and 20 available fields.

Customizing the Control Panel

We recommend a layout similar to the one below.  Most notably, we've added the Composition Adjustment setting for quick access, and the SR Focal length setting for easy adjustment with manual lenses.

Depending on what you use the camera for, you may wish to consider swapping some of these settings for the Astrotracer, Flash Mode, Flash Exposure Compensation, SD Card Options, JPEG Size, or AA Filter Simulator.  If you shoot in RAW, settings such as High-ISO Noise Reduction and Lens Corrections do not apply and can safely be removed.


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