Pentax KP Review

Conclusion

The Pentax KP has proven to be a high-performance DSLR which makes no compromises in terms of image quality or construction.  In fact, as of mid-2017, it delivers the best image quality of any Pentax APS-C DSLR thanks to the new 24-megapixel sensor's exceptional low-light performance.  It's also designed to last, with a shutter designed for 100,000 actuations.

Its body boasts a sleek, compact appearance.  Especially when paired with a Limited-series lens, the combination can look quite elegant!  While the tough magnesium alloy build results in quite a bit of weight for its size, the camera makes up for this by including interchangeable grips in three different sizes, an optional battery grip, and extensive customization of the external buttons and dials.  Each successive Pentax model has offered more and more button options, and the KP is no exception with its 3 user-programmable buttons.

As a mid-range model, the KP skips on high-end features such as dual card slots, a top LCD, or a 1/8000s maximum shutter speed which you'd find on the (now aging) K-3 II APS-C flagship.  Still, it holds an edge over this outgoing model through improvements such as an enhanced menu system, built-in Wi-Fi, pixel shift super resolution with motion correction, depth of field bracketing, and bulb shooting up to 20 seconds— the list of fancy features normally reserved for high-end models goes on.  We can't end this review without mentioning the KP's tilting LCD screen, which makes shooting from the hip or above the head a breeze.

Pentax KP with DA 20-40mm F2.8-4 Limited Zoom

It's hard find many faults with the KP as it's really quite a solid performer overall.  One thing that stood out for us is that the camera lacks an infrared remote port— something that has been standard on every other Pentax DSLR model.  As a alternative, you can use the fairly scarce CS-310 cable release (which plugs in to the microphone port), or a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter plug along with the CS-205 cable release from other Pentax models.

Apart from this, the ergonomics of the smaller body can be hit-or-miss for users with large hands, or users who favor large lenses.  We found the dedicated grip on the Pentax K-3 II to be more comfortable with such lenses, while the KP felt more at-home with compact Limited primes and smaller zooms.

Finally, there are the common weak points of Pentax: continuous autofocus that's good but not cutting-edge, and a video mode which falls into a similar category.  That said, the KP does quite well when shooting videos at high ISO.

Pentax KP rear view w/ status screen

From an image quality perspective, there is not much more to ask for in a DSLR and the Pentax KP is up there with the best that the APS-C format can offer.

Pros

  • Class-leading image quality
    • Phenomenal in low light
    • Pixel shift super resolution
    • All lenses stabilized via 5-axis SR II
    • Advanced imaging features / modes
    • Improved JPEG image quality
  • Flip up/down LCD
  • Weather sealing
  • Supports wireless flash
  • Rugged metal body
  • Can be fitted with a battery grip
  • Extensive button/menu customization
  • Speedy performance
  • Intuitive menu system
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, support for GPS & astrotracer
  • USB tethering support

Cons

  • Video AF.C doesn’t work well
  • Heavy for its size
  • Small RAW burst buffer
  • Body ergonomics not ideal
    for use with larger lenses
  • No top LCD
  • HDMI out requires adapter
  • No IR port for remote control
  • Wi-Fi shooting limited to single frame
  • Short internal battery life
  • Strong video compression

Pricing

The Pentax KP was launched at $1099 in the US, and has averaged $1079 in the first four months following launch in the US.  While it briefly went on sale for $987 in early June, 2017, it has since bounced back to close to the launch price as of the end of June.  Current pricing details can be found below:

All in all, we believe the KP is priced fairly, as even at full price it falls below competitors such as the Canon 80D or Nikon D7200.

Who is it for?

The Pentax KP is perfect for photographers who crave the best DSLR image quality and advanced features, but want a small, portable camera body. 

While the Pentax KP costs slightly more than the outgoing (and thus sale-priced) K-3 II flagship, it outperforms the K-3 II in terms of image quality thanks to its newer-generation hardware, so we can recommend the KP over the K-3 if your budget allows it, especially if you value compactness.  Click here to compare the K-3 and KP side-by-side.

On the other hand, if you're on a tighter budget but still want the KP's impressive image quality, the K-70 is a viable alternative that lacks the premium build quality and design.

Rating

When it comes to what matters most, the KP is an impressive midrange DSLR, offering a rugged build, good ergonomics, a highly customizable user interface, and phenomenal image quality, especially in low light.  Its compact form factor and sleek appearance make it rather unique in the DSLR landscape.

Compared to the K-70, which has essentially the same image quality but only a lower ISO limit, the KP's price can seem a bit on the high side, so we nick the KP a tad on value.  However, this camera brings quite a bit more to the table than its entry-level cousins through its construction, aesthetics, durability, speed, and extensive customizability, and thus has a clearly-defined spot in the Pentax lineup.

Build Quality 
 9
Handling 
 7
User Interface 
 9
Performance 
 8
Image Quality 
 10
Autofocus 
 8
HD Video 
 6
Value 
 8
Overall 
 8.1 (Very Good)

Ready to order your Pentax KP? Get yours today!

To discuss this camera, visit our KP forum.

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