Basic Specifications
Full model name: Pentax K-1
Resolution: 36.40 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(35.9mm x 24.0mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 204,800
Extended ISO: 100 - 204,800
Shutter: 1/8000 - 30 seconds
Dimensions: 5.4 x 4.3 x 3.4 in.
(137 x 110 x 86 mm)
Weight: 35.6 oz (1,010 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 04/2016
Manufacturer: Pentax
Full specs: Pentax K-1 specifications
36.40
Megapixels
Pentax K (KA/KAF/KAF2) 35mm
size sensor
image of Pentax K-1
Front side of Pentax K-1 digital camera Front side of Pentax K-1 digital camera Front side of Pentax K-1 digital camera Front side of Pentax K-1 digital camera Front side of Pentax K-1 digital camera

Pentax K-1 Review -- Hands-on Preview

by
Preview posted: 02/17/2016

Updates:
02/18/2016: Technical Info posted
05/03/2016: First Shots posted
05/06/2016: Pixel Shift Resolution analysis posted
: Performance test results posted

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

Pentaxians, your wait is finally at its end! After years of rumors, Ricoh has answered the pleas of its customers and brought its K-series DSLR lineup a new era with the Pentax K-1, its first full-frame digital camera. Bridging the gap between its epic medium-format cameras and its affordable APS-C DSLRs, the K-1 looks to be one very impressive full-frame camera indeed -- and it ships at a pricetag that should be easy for many to justify!

The Pentax K-1 is Ricoh's new flagship K-mount camera

It might be affordable, but that doesn't mean Ricoh has skimped on features in the least. On the contrary, this is a clear flagship model which debuts a brand-new, comprehensively weather-sealed body design. Crafted from magnesium alloy, the Pentax K-1 is freezeproof to 14°F (-10°C), and thanks to a generous array of 87 different seals, it's also dustproof and weather-resistant. (And if you opt to purchase the available battery grip, you'll find that this has a further 47 seals.)

The Pentax K1's body is very comfortable

The Pentax K-1's brand-new body feels very good in-hand, with a nice grip that's both deep enough that your fingers don't press uncomfortably into the camera body if you have large hands, yet thin enough that those of you with smaller hands should be able to hold it comfortably as well. The thumbrest on the top right rear corner of the camera is nicely curved, and sticks out enough to contribute to what is, overall, a very secure-feeling grip on the body.

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

The Pentax K1 is also pretty compact for a full-frame DSLR

The top and rear-panel controls on the Pentax K-1 are arranged very conveniently, although operating the latter will necessitate a two-handed grip. The K-1's body is relatively compact compared to cameras like the Nikon D810 or Canon EOS 5DS R, but it's obviously larger than a full-frame mirrorless camera like, say, the Sony A7R II.

A bright, roomy viewfinder and unique LCD monitor for the K1

As you'd expect, there's a newly-designed pentaprism viewfinder which boasts near-100% coverage and a generous 0.7x magnification. In a departure from past models, focus points are no longer simply illuminated with LEDs, but instead there is now an illuminated LCD overlay in the viewfinder. This also provides a customizable grid display, an indication of the crop area if applicable, and a dual-axis level gauge function.

There's also a 3.2-inch LCD monitor which has a unique articulation mechanism, something we'd seen when the camera was shown under glass a few times over the last year or so, and which we'd been keen to get our hands on.

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

The monitor itself sits atop four struts which allow it not only to be angled to face up, down, left or right, but even swiveled somewhat. These struts provide for +/-35 degrees of side-to-side adjustment, and +/-44 degrees of vertical tilt. Once they reach their maximum extent, a secondary hinge allows the screen tilt to continue upwards to the 90-degree position for waist-level or low-to-the-ground shots. It's a bit tricky to describe, but certainly provides a much wider range of motion than competing designs.

Of course, it can't be angled forwards for selfie shooting, but that's hardly a major use case for a full-frame camera. The one obvious downside compared to a more traditional tilt/swivel mechanism is that the display can't be closed facing inwards for added protection.

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

The Pentax K-1 sports a unique on-camera illumination system that helps with lens, control and cable adjustments after dark. Note the small LED immediately beneath the pentaprism in the shot above, which illuminates the lens mount when changing lenses.

The Pentax K-1's on-demand lighting helps see what you're doing

But that's pretty easy to overlook once you see another unique feature of the Pentax K-1. On the outside of the body are an array of lights, but unlike those on the entry-level Pentax K-S1, these are no mere fashion accent. Instead, they illuminate the camera body to help make it easier to see what you're doing when fiddling with controls, changing lenses and so forth after dark.

One such LED sits beneath the pentaprism assembly on the front of the camera, providing illumination for the lens mount. More can be found on the rear of the LCD monitor, and light up the rear-panel controls once the display is tipped or pulled outwards from the camera body. Further LEDs cast some light on the K-1's flash card slots and cable connectors. It's a really nice detail which makes it much easier to handle the K-1 at night. Hindsight is 20/20, but we can't help wondering why nobody thought of this before now.

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

More LEDs can be found hidden beneath the rear of the LCD monitor. Tilt it to one side, and the Pentax K-1 will illuminate its own rear-panel controls for you, making setup changes easier after dark, especially before you're completely familiar with the camera and its control layout.

The K-1's Smart Function Dial keeps you out of the menu system

Another rather unusual touch is the Pentax K-1's new Smart Function dial, which is paired with a new Set dial on the camera's top deck. This supplements the existing twin control dials -- one apiece on the front and rear of the body as in almost all enthusiast-oriented cameras at this price point -- and helps to keep you out of the menus. Spin the Smart Function dial, and the Set dial will be reconfigured to control features like exposure compensation, bracketing, sensitivity, cropping, high dynamic range imaging, and plenty else besides, and all without having to enter the menu system at all.

We found ourselves mostly leaving the Smart Function dial set to exposure compensation to provide quick access to this important exposure variable. When we did need to access one of the other settings, it took just a moment to tweak both dials appropriately and then return the Smart Function dial to exposure compensation when we were done.

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

36 megapixels means the Pentax K-1 compares well to rivals

But enough of the new body, what about the components housed beneath its skin? There's some pretty impressive tech to be found inside the Pentax K-1, as well. Based around a 36.4-megapixel image sensor, the K-1 matches Nikon's D800 / D810 for resolution, but at a much lower pricetag.

Sure, the K-1 still trails Canon's EOS 5DS and 5DSR by quite some way in terms of sensor resolution, but it's also much more affordable than either model. (And Ricoh would doubtless point out that its medium-format Pentax 645Z is a worthy challenger to Canon's high-res 5DS-siblings, while the Pentax K-1 bests the rest of Canon's DSLR lineup for maximum sensor resolution.)

Perhaps the Pentax K-1's nearest rivals in terms of cost and resolution are to be found in Sony's Alpha A7 series, but these mirrorless cameras all lack the K-1's optical finder. Chances are that you've already made your mind up whether or not you're willing to live with an electronic viewfinder as in those cameras. If you don't need their size advantage, there's a lot to be said for the lag-free feeling of connection to your subject that an optical viewfinder can give you -- and that tips the balance in the K-1's favor.

The Pentax K1 sports even better Shake Reduction

Creating a brand-new full-frame camera from scratch is no small task. As well as its image sensor, the Pentax K-1 sports a variety of brand-new technology aimed at extracting the best from the sensor. They might resemble features of the company's APS-C sensored cameras, but the K-1's in-body shake reduction and autofocus systems, too, are newly-designed.

Despite needing to deal with a much larger, heavier sensor assembly, the Pentax K-1's five-axis Shake Reduction system now has an even greater corrective ability than ever, now being rated by its maker as capable of a five-stop correction.

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

The K-1 gives you crisper images with Pixel Shift Resolution

Ricoh has retained its Pixel Shift Resolution feature, which debuted on the Pentax K-3 II, for the new Pentax K-1. As in that camera, the function captures four sequential images, shifting the Shake Reduction sensor-shift assembly by one pixel between shots. The result is both full color capture at every pixel location, and reduced noise levels as well. But where the K-3 II could only use the function for completely static subjects -- at least officially -- the Pentax K-1 can now detect and account for subjects that moved between frames.

In a nutshell, the camera is now doing what I did manually in my field test of the K-3 II by only applying the pixel-shift technique to static areas, while ignoring those areas where there was subject motion. You should be able to get the best of both worlds with this technique, boosting resolution for most of your scene while avoiding artifacts for the moving subjects.

Want to know a whole lot more? Read our in-depth Pentax K-1 Pixel Shift Resolution analysis!

Fight moire with the Pentax K1's Anti-Aliasing Filter Simulator

Also retained from Ricoh's APS-C DSLR lineup is the Pentax K-1's Anti-Aliasing Filter Simulator function. It's no longer completely unique, as Sony has achieved the same thing in hardware in some of its latest cameras, but it's still pretty special. There's no resolution-sapping optical low-pass filter over the image sensor as in most interchangeable-lens cameras these days, but the K-1 can emulate it by moving the image sensor just slightly during the exposure. This can slightly soften the image as the low-pass filter would have done, and in the process help to prevent moiré and false color effects.

The K-1's autofocus has been updated, too

And while the K-1's new 33-point SAFOX 12 autofocus system does bear a strong resemblance to the SAFOX 11 system in recent APS-C cameras, it too has been updated. For one thing, it has been redesigned to better-cover a 35mm image frame, instead of simply providing a dense cluster of points towards the center of the frame. It also sports an additional six focus points that fill the gaps between the main focus array and the two outermost points in the previous-generation SAFOX chip.

As in the earlier design, though, all 25 points in the central array are cross-types, while the centermost point and those directly above or below it are also capable of working at f/2.8 for more accurate focusing with wide-aperture lenses. (These three points are also now more light-sensitive than ever before, working all the way down to -3EV.) The six new points, as well as the existing leftmost and rightmost points are still linear sensors, meanwhile.

Unlock the potential of your Pentax full-frame lenses

While making the leap to full-frame clearly required a significant investment on Ricoh's part -- and we'd guess that's why it has taken a while to accomplish -- it was clearly very worthwhile because it unlocks the full potential of a great many full-frame optics, both old and new. In total, there are a dozen Pentax full-frame lenses which are either available currently or on the way in the not-too-distant future, and many, many more from years gone by will doubtless be used on Pentaxians' cameras once the K-1 goes on sale.

Of course, not everybody has a big collection of full-frame glass, nor would they necessarily want to use it all the time if they did. Over the last decade, a great many Pentax lenses have been released with sub-frame sensors in mind, and these, too, can be used on the Pentax K-1. Mount a lens designed for an APS-C body on your Pentax K-1, and the sensor data will be cropped automatically, yielding a 15.3-megapixel image. (And you can save this cropped image in raw format too, should you desire.)

You can, however, choose to enable or disable the crop manually, should you prefer. That means you can still use your full-frame glass in cropped mode if you're shooting a distant subject and want to crop in more tightly to reduce file sizes, improve the burst capture rate and depth, and save yourself time in editing later. It also means that you can use the full image circle of your sub-frame lenses, if they happen to provide noticeably greater than APS-C coverage. (Of course, not all will, and even for those which do you may notice degraded quality outside the intended image circle of the lens. Still, it's nice to have the option.)

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

The Pentax K-1's sensitivity and performance look promising

Of course, we'll want to get the Pentax K-1 into our lab and out for some extensive real-world testing before we cast judgement ourselves, but on paper at least it looks to have a very promising sensitivity range and reasonably swift performance. Ricoh rates the K-1 as capable of 4.4 frames-per-second burst shooting at full resolution, or 6.5 frames in APS-C crop mode -- and this with a burst depth of 23 or 50 raw frames depending on your crop mode. ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 204,800 equivalents.

Shutter speeds range from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds plus bulb, and exposures are determined with an 86,000-pixel RGB metering sensor, just as in the company's recent APS-C sensored cameras. All of the exposure modes you'd expect on a Pentax camera are present and accounted for, including not just the typical PASM (Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority or Manual) found on almost all DSLRs, but also Sensitivity-priority and Shutter-and-Aperture-priority as found on Pentax DSLRs. There are also bulb, X-sync and a very generous five user modes.

The Real Time Scene Analysis system of the Pentax K-1 has been upgraded compared to those of earlier models, and should now allow even better automatic exposures when shooting in the new Scene Analyze Auto mode using the Auto Select custom image mode. There are also some new technologies derived from Ricoh's labs in the K-1, including clarity control and skin-tone correction.

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

No built-in flash, as you'd expect in a full-frame flagship like the K1

One important point to note if you're coming from a subframe Pentax DSLR is that unlike most of the company's DSLRs, the Pentax K-1 lacks a built-in flash. That's a common design choice in higher-end cameras aimed at more experienced shooters, where popup flash strobes are seen as a potential breakage concern, and of limited use due to their unflatteringly-harsh light. As in the Pentax K-3 II, the location that would have been occupied by a popup flash strobe is instead given over to the GPS radio.

With the high sensitivity of the camera itself -- and the opportunities for available-light shooting that it brings -- we rather doubt too many photographers will mourn the absence of a popup flash, but one time where you might find yourself wishing for an internal flash is if you're planning on wireless flash photography. Where most other Pentax DSLRs allow this out of the box, using the internal flash as a controller, this isn't possible with the Pentax K-1. Instead, you'll need to supply an extra strobe on the camera to control your wireless setup, even if that strobe won't be taking part in the final exposure.

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

The Pentax K-1 boasts instant sharing, and geotagging too

We mentioned that the Pentax K-1 includes a built-in GPS receiver, just as did the K-3 II before it, but the new model goes a step further in its radio connectivity than did that earlier camera. Where the K-3 II had to rely on a rebranded Trek FluCard flash card to provide for wireless data transfer, the Pentax K-1 now sports built-in Wi-Fi. That's big news if you need to get your photos off the camera and uploading as quickly as possible, whether to social networks or to put them into the hands of your client, ASAP.

The GPS, meanwhile, allows your photos to be tagged with their capture location. And thanks to an electronic compass, the K-1 will also record the direction you're facing. You can also take advantage of these features to access the K-1's AstroTracer function, which freezes the motion of stars to help you capture a longer exposure without visible star trails.

If there's a weak point in the Pentax K1, it's probably video

Although its cameras have long offered video capture capability -- and indeed, were among the very first DSLR models to do so -- Ricoh continues not to put a big emphasis on video capture with the Pentax K-1. If you're planning on infrequent video capture, you'll doubtless still appreciate the availability of Full HD capture at up to 30p / 60i frame rates, as well as a stereo microphone, mic input jack, headphone jack for levels monitoring, and the ability to adjust audio levels manually. If video is a primary goal, though, the Pentax K-1 likely won't tick the right boxes for you, as it lacks 4K video capture, high framerate video at above HD resolution, or clean HDMI output.

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

The K-1 sports a familiar battery and dual card slots

In a rather nice touch for Pentaxians, Ricoh has retained the exact same battery pack for the Pentax K-1 as have been used in all of the company's higher-end DSLRs (even medium-format models) dating right back to the Pentax K-7. That's right, you can share packs with your Pentax K-3, K-5, K-7, K-01 or (if you're lucky enough to own one) your 645-series digital camera!

When used with a Pentax K-1, the D-LI90 battery pack is rated as good for 760 shots on a charge, or 390 minutes of playback. That's just slightly better than the K-3 II in record mode, as that model was rated for 720 shots on a charge. Note that when comparing with other models, you'll need to account for the lack of a flash strobe in the K-1. (The standard CIPA test uses the flash for every other shot if the camera has one, increasing power consumption.)

Add on the optional portrait / battery grip, and you'll be able to put a second battery pack in the camera for double the battery life. (You'll also be able to use six standard AA batteries in the grip if you can't get to a charger, and a spare flash card can be stored in one of the two battery inserts that are supplied with it.)

Storage is catered for with dual SD card slots. These are compatible with both the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC cards, as well as the higher UHS-I cards, the latter up to the maximum bus speed of 104MB/second.

Pentax K-1 Review -- Product Image

No more SuperSpeed USB for the flagship Pentax

One feature present in recent Pentax flagship DSLRs is surprisingly absent from the K-1, perhaps suggesting that the company feels it doesn't see sufficient use to justify the cost. Where the earlier K-3 and K-3 II sported USB 3.0 SuperSpeed data connectivity, the K-1 reverts back to the far more common -- but rather slower -- USB 2.0 High Speed. If you prefer to swap your SD card to another devices instead of transferring data through a cable, then you'll not even notice the change. If you appreciated the higher transfer rates possible with the K-3 siblings, though, it might be time to invest in a fast card reader and change your habits.

Pentax K-1 pricing and availability

The Pentax K-1 began shipping in the US market from the beginning of May 2016. Pricing is set at around US$1,800 body-only. Available accessories include a weather-sealed battery grip, model number D-BG6, with duplicated controls for portrait shooting. Pricing for this accessory is set at US$200.

 

An analysis of the Pentax K-1's "Pixel Shift Resolution" mode

by | Posted: 05/06/2016

When it launched its crop-sensor flagship camera, the Pentax K-3 II, back in April, 2015, Ricoh debuted a brand-new feature that was hugely useful to anyone wanting the maximum per-pixel sharpness and dealing primarily with relatively static subjects. Dubbed Pixel Shift Resolution (or in some markets, Real Resolution), this function captured multiple images and combined them in-camera to create a single shot with higher resolution.

Pixel Shift Resolution worked similarly to the High-Res Shot mode of the Olympus E-M5 II, which predated the K-3 II by a couple of months, although there were some important differences between the two. (We'll come back to those in a moment.) Olympus has since taken its rival feature into an even smaller camera with the handsome Olympus PEN-F. Now Ricoh heads in the opposite direction with the Pentax K-1, the subject of this review and the first full-frame camera to include such a feature.

The K-1's Pixel Shift Resolution can now compensate for moving subjects

In our earlier K-3 II review, we noted that both Ricoh and Olympus' competing technologies shared the same key limitation: They only worked with static subjects. (At least, unless you were willing to roll your sleeves up and get down and dirty in the digital darkroom.) Interestingly, that is no longer the case for the Pixel Shift Resolution function in the Pentax K-1. Although you do still need to use a tripod, just as you do with Olympus' cameras, Ricoh says that its uprated function in the K-1 can optionally compensate for moving subjects.

The way in which it does this is essentially automating the same technique I proposed in my first Pentax K-3 II field test, but with a whole lot less fuss on the user's part. The camera locates areas of subject motion, and then simply doesn't apply the Pixel Shift Resolution technique here. That means that these areas don't gain the benefit of improved resolution, but as it happens that's not really an issue. Your brain expects subjects in motion to look softer, and so if it's noticeable at all, simply interprets that softness as a moving subject. The remainder of the image gains the benefit of greater per-pixel sharpness, and all is well, in theory at least.

We will, of course, be testing this theory out. We've not yet had a moment to shoot some real-world subjects, as the lab guys have still got some more shooting to do first, though, so watch this space! (A great way to do so would be to follow our official Imaging Resource Twitter feed, like our Imaging Resource Facebook page or follow our Imaging Resource Google+ page!)

The K1 still can't compensate for handheld shooting, however

Of course, the reason for the tripod requirement is pretty simple: If it's the camera that's moving rather than the subject, then most or all of the image frame (depending upon how the camera and subject moves) will show motion relative to your subject. That means that most or all of the scene will be rendered using the single-image capture, and effectively the Pixel Shift Resolution function will do nothing at all.

Thus far at least, it seems that the challenge of correcting for handheld motion -- compensating accurately enough to freeze that motion while simultaneously managing the single-pixel shifts required between frames -- is too tough a challenge for the Pixel Shift Resolution function to work without a tripod, but that's not really surprising.

Even with the requirement to shoot on a tripod, with its new motion compensation function Pixel Shift Resolution should be noticeably more useful than in the K-3 II, though, and that's great news. As in the that camera, for predominantly static subjects it can give you access to even greater resolution than can be derived from a single shot, reduce the incidence of moiré and false color, and -- although still we can't think of a good reason you'd need to do so -- can also improve noise levels and grain size.

How The Pentax K-1's Pixel Shift Resolution differs from Olympus' High-Res Shot

Both Ricoh and Olympus' cameras create their high-resolution images by capturing multiple shots in sequence, and adjusting the sensor position just fractionally between shots using the sensor-shift stabilization mechanism so that the light at any given location falls on different sensor pixels. Where typically a camera using a Bayer-filtered sensor must interpolate (or in essence, guess) the values for two out of the three red, green and blue channels for every pixel, this technique allows full color information to be recorded directly at every pixel.

So what separates Ricoh's approach in the Pentax K-1 and K-3 II from that selected by Olympus in the E-M5 II and PEN-F? The answer is fairly simple: Olympus is moving the sensor in steps that are smaller than its pixel size, and then capturing a total of eight frames to create a single output image. Ricoh, by contrast, is using full pixel-sized steps and combining half as many frames per image, with a total of four images captured per output frame.

Pentax K-3 II Review -- Pixel Shift Resolution diagram
The Pentax K-1's Pixel Shift Resolution System captures four images with slightly different sensor positions, and combines them into a single shot with full color information at every pixel location.

Olympus' approach to the problem gives it more data to work with, and allows resolution to be improved well beyond what the sensor resolution would suggest. Final output resolution for the E-M5 II is 40 megapixels in JPEG mode or 64 megapixels in raw, while that for the PEN-F is even higher at 50 megapixels in JPEG mode or 80 megapixels in raw. It also presents a much more complex problem for the cameras, though, and requires finer sensor positioning.

With less data to juggle for every pixel, Ricoh's approach as used in both the K-1 and K-3 II is much more easily solved, and yet it still triples the amount of information for each pixel compared to a single-shot capture shot with the same sensor. And as an added advantage, it does so without significantly increasing file sizes, at least so long as you're shooting in JPEG mode.

In raw capture, though, the Pentax K-1's Pixel Shift Resolution images have about 3.7 to 3.8 times the file size of a standard raw file. You can expect some extremely large file sizes if you intend to shoot in raw format using Pixel Shift Resolution with the Pentax K-1, on the order of 185-190MB even at base sensitivity, and likely even larger as your ISO sensitivity setting climbs.

The largest DNG file we've shot thus far, captured at ISO 204,800-equivalent, weighs in at a truly staggering 264MB for a single scene. The hefty file sizes are also true of Olympus' cameras, if not quite to the same extent. The E-M5 II's High Resolution-mode raw files weigh in at around 104MB, about five times the size of its standard raws. The PEN-F's, meanwhile, tip the scales at around 131MB, some seven times the size of its standard raws. Interestingly, file sizes don't vary even slightly for either of Olympus' cameras, no matter the subject or sensitivity used.

Also, it's worth noting here that even with the 20-megapixel PEN-F, Olympus has quite a resolution deficit to make up compared to the full-frame competition. Since its sensor has around 2.3x more pixels than that in the E-M5 II, and 1.8x as many as in the PEN-F, there's less need for the Pentax K-1 to increase resolution.

Comparing the Pentax K-1 to its full-frame rivals, only the Sony A7R II, Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R offer higher resolution in single-shot mode, and by much more modest margins. The Sony has about 16% higher resolution on paper, and the Canon models around 38% higher.

The Pentax K1's Standard / Pixel Shift Resolution modes compared

Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 100
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 100

 

The Pentax K-1's Pixel Shift Resolution versus the competition

Now we've seen the gain over single-shot imagery, what about a comparison to the competition? We were only too keen to find out how Pixel Shift Resolution imagery from the Pentax K-1 compares to that of its rivals, so we pulled together a raft of our standardized test samples to find out.

For this comparison, we decided that a number of comparisons were in order. First and most obviously, we wanted to see how the K-1 fared against the highest-resolution full-frame offerings from its rivals -- the Canon EOS 5DS R, Nikon D810 and Sony A7R II. Then, of course, we wanted a comparison against Olympus' High-Res Shot mode. Here, we opted for the higher-res PEN-F, for a fairer comparison against the much higher-res K-1 than you'd get from the E-M5 II. And finally, just as in our roundup for the Pentax K-3 II, we wanted to see where Pixel Shift Resolution placed the K-1 versus its own siblings, and so decided to include the K-3 II's High Res Shot mode, as well as medium-format imagery from the Pentax 645Z.

For all cameras except the Olympus PEN-F, which has a base sensitivity of ISO 200 equivalent, we opted to stick with ISO 100 for all models, that being the base sensitivity of the Pentax K-1. (And indeed, of most models in the roundup). All cameras were also set to their default noise reduction settings, that being Auto for the Pentax cameras. To ensure we got the most from the Canon 5DS R, we opted for its Fine Detail picture style. And since the Olympus PEN-F offers different resolution depending on whether imagery is created in-camera or not, we decided to include not just the in-camera JPEG results for High-Res Shot mode, but also images processed on the desktop at higher resolution with default settings in Olympus Viewer 3.

Of course, lenses matter too, and as a reader pointed out we missed mentioning which were used. (You can always check the EXIF info by clicking the link from the sample page if you want to check settings, but I did mean to mention the optics here myself.) So which lenses were used? The Pentax K-1 and K-3 II used the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX Macro, and so did the Canon EOS 5DS R and Nikon D810. The Olympus PEN-F used the Zuiko Digital ED 50mm F2.0 Macro, and the Sony A7R II used the FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA. Finally, the Pentax 645Z used the D FA 645 55mm F2.8 AL [IF] SDM AW.

Given the number of comparisons to make here -- and therefore the scope of the task at hand -- we decided to make a few concessions relative to our last test. For one thing, we're going to let the images do the talking here: We're simply providing the crops and links to full-resolution imagery, and allowing readers to draw their own conclusions as to which cameras are doing the best job. We're also providing one crop from the mosaic label area of our standardized test scene, because it's near the center of the image frame (minimizing potential lens-induced issues), includes both a mixture of extremely fine detail and smooth, flat areas with minimal detail, and can crop down nicely for easier side-by-side viewing.

Also, while last time we provided comparisons both upsampling the lower-res camera and downsampling the higher-res one, that honestly seemed like overkill to us for a comparison this big. Doubly so because the resampling and sharpening methods used will affect the results, making it to some extent a comparison of the resampling methodology, and not of the cameras themselves. If you want to make the comparisons for yourself, full-res out-of-camera JPEGs and raw files are available on our samples pages for all of these cameras, so you can again draw your own conclusions.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at the results!

Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution Canon  5DS R - 100% crop of a single-shot capture
Pixel Shift Resolution shot from the Pentax K-1
Single-frame shot from the Canon EOS 5DS R

Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution Nikon D810 - 100% crop of a single-shot capture
Pixel Shift Resolution shot from the Pentax K-1
Single-frame shot from the Nikon D810

Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution Sony A7R II - 100% crop of a single-shot capture
Pixel Shift Resolution shot from the Pentax K-1
Single-frame shot from the Sony A7R II

Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution Olympus PEN-F - 100% crop of a High-Res Shot mode capture processed in-camera
Pixel Shift Resolution shot from the Pentax K-1
(out-of-camera JPEG @ base ISO 100)
High-Res Shot mode from the Olympus PEN-F
(out-of-camera JPEG @ base ISO 200)

Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution Olympus PEN-F - 100% crop of a High-Res Shot mode capture processed in Olympus Viewer 3
Pixel Shift Resolution shot from the Pentax K-1
(out-of-camera JPEG @ base ISO 100)
High-Res Shot mode from the Olympus PEN-F
(Olympus Viewer 3 JPEG @ base ISO 200)

Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution Pentax 645Z - 100% crop of a single-shot capture
Pixel Shift Resolution shot from the Pentax K-1
Single-frame shot from the Pentax 645Z

Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution Pentax K-3 II - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Pixel Shift Resolution shot from the Pentax K-1
Pixel Shift Resolution shot from Pentax K-3 II

 

The Pentax K1's Pixel Shift Resolution's as relates to sensitivity

Another advantage of this multi-shot technique, as we said at the outset, is that it can significantly reduce noise levels. For our final comparison, we offer a side-by-side look at how noise levels and detail differ between single-shot and Pixel Shift Resolution modes across the Pentax K-1's ISO sensitivity range!

Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 100
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 100
Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 200
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 200
Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 400
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 400
Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 800
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 800
Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 1600
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 1600
Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 3200
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 3200
Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 6400
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 6400
Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 12,800
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 12,800
Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 25,600
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 25,600
Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 51,200
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 51,200
Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 102,400
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 102,400
Pentax K-1 - 100% crop of a single-frame shot Pentax K-1 - 100% crop with Pixel Shift Resolution
Single-shot at ISO 204,800
Pixel Shift Resolution at ISO 204,800

 

Pentax K-1 Technical Info

A detailed look at the company's first full-frame DSLR

by Mike Tomkins |

Pentax K-1 tech section illustrationBody
The Pentax K-1 sports a brand-new, weather-sealed body constructed from magnesium alloy. It's comprehensively weatherproofed, with a total of 87 seals protecting seams, compartments and controls alike from ingress of dust or moisture. And if you purchase the optional portrait / battery grip, this has a further 47 seals. Of course, you'll also need to be using a weather-sealed lens for proper protection.

To choose a weather-sealed lens, look for either the AW or WR designation on a full-frame or sub-frame optic / rear converter, or the DA* designation indicating a premium sub-frame optic. (All of the latter are weather-sealed, but note that the same is not true of FA*-badged lenses.) Continuing the weather-sealed system, the Pentax AF360FGZ II and AF540FGZ II flash strobes are also weather-sealed, as is the O-RC1 remote control.

As well as dust and water-resistance, the Pentax K-1 is also freezeproof, able to operate in temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C).

 

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