Pentax KP Review

General Image Quality

We start out with this image of our very patient model.

The SceneThe scene rendered by the Pentax KP, JPG Out of Camera

It was shot indoors in natural light with custom image set to natural, no lens corrections, no highligt/shadow correction, no skin tone and clarity correction, in other words, as neutral as we could make it. We repeated the shot with a Pentax K-3 with the same settings and exposure. The lens was the smc Pentax-D FA 100mm F2.8 Macro WR at F9.5, 4 seconds, ISO 100.

Click on any one of the images to enlarge and browse between the KP and the K-3, between JPG and RAW. The images are reduced in resolution to 1000 x 1500 pixels.

KP JPG K-3 JPG
KP from RAW K-3 from RAW

The images developed from RAW from the two cameras are very similar whereas the Out of Camera (OoC) JPG from the KP is the more pleasing one being a bit warmer and brighter. It is actually more accurate in color tone than the K-3 image.

Below we compare a 100% crop of the JPG OoC image with the image developed from RAW:

JPG Out of Camera
Developed from RAW

Clearly it is possible to eek out a bit more clarity when developing from RAW. The OoC JPG could of course also be tweaked, but then it isn't OoC anymore! If you have to post-process you might as well do it on the RAW image.

The original full-size images can be downloded via these links:

JPG Engine

We already got a glimpse of the JPG engine performance in the image of the doll. The JPG engine of the Pentax KP appears improved over other models, including the K-1. Below is a 400 x 600 pixel 100% crop of an image shot in RAW+ at 1/180s, F9.5, ISO 200 with a Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro zoom set to 45mm. The RAW image was processed in Adobe Camera Raw and sharpened in Photoshop with an unsharp mask at 100%, radius 1, threshold 0. Drag the slider to compare - the processed RAW image is to the left.

From RAW
Original JPG

The out of camera JPG has not lost much detail, but is a bit over sharpened at the default bright custom image setting. If you are shooting JPG it might be advisable to experiment a bit and adjust the sharpening downwards in the camera.

The next example was shot at 1/90s, F9.5, ISO 200 with that same Sigma lens now set to 37mm:

From RAW
JPG Out of Camera

As a side remark the white balance produced by the camera's processor is closer to how we remember the scene than what we were able to come up with in Adobe Camera Raw. Here is an overview of the scene with the above crop outlined:

Pixel Shift Super Resolution

The KP includes the pixel shift feature which provides for increased resolution and cleaner colors. This feature was first introduced in 2015 with the Pentax K-3 II. It works best with subjects that stay stationary during the consequtive exposure of the four images that gets overlaid each other to form the final image. The KP is able to correct for moving objects to some extent, but the improvement from pixel shifting is lost in thoses areas of the image where the subject moved.

We photographed our model without and with pixel shift with the camera on a tripod and with identical exposures of 6s, F9.5 and ISO 100. Below is a full resolution crop which illustrates how rendering of the texture and fine deail of the cloth improves with the pixel shift technology:

No pixel shift
With pixel shift

These cropped images are based on JPGs created by the camera and they are available here in full size: No pixel shift | With pixel shift.

The pixel shift technology makes for a nice improvement for the right kind of subject like in this example and we're glad that Pentax included the feature on the KP.

Flash

The built-in flash is quite weak which can be compensated for by increasing the ISO. This is a feasible solution due to the excellent high ISO performance of the KP.

Built-in flash, ISO 6400

This sample was shot with P-TTL flash, and we let the camera set the exposure including ISO, which the camera bumped to 6400. We cannot fault the image quality and exposure of this shot.

Verdict

The Pentax KP has the best JPG engine we have seen so far in a Pentax DSLR. For every day shooting with the KP there is little reason to shoot RAW. Engaging the pixel shift resolution mode enhances the quality of further. While weak, the built-in flash illuminates the subject evenly and the camera's low noise at high ISO makes the built-in flash quite usable.


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