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
05/17/2016: Performance test results posted
: Image Quality Comparison and Print Quality 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.

 

Pentax K-1 Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Pentax K-1's single-shot image quality to its latest APS-C sibling, the K-3 Mark II, as well as to a number of high-resolution full-frame cameras: the Canon 5DS R, Nikon D810, and Sony A7R Mark II. And for good measure, we've also included Ricoh's superb Pentax 645Z DSLR, giving a comparison with a medium-format camera that is still our current resolution benchmark.

To see how the K-1's Pixel Shift Resolution feature compares to single-shot mode, as well as to other cameras, please visit our Pentax K-1 Pixel Shift Resolution Mode page.

NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Pentax K-1, Pentax K-3 II, Canon 5DS R, Nikon D810, Pentax 645Z and Sony A7R II -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Pentax K-1 to any camera we've ever tested!

Pentax K-1 vs Pentax K-3 II at Base ISO

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 100
Pentax K-1 at ISO 100
Pentax K-3 II at ISO 100

Here we compare the 36-megapixel full-frame K-1 to the 24-megapixel APS-C K-3 II, to show you some of the advantages of stepping up to the full-frame K-1. The Pentax K-1 easily outresolves the K-3 II as expected, but it also produces a cleaner image even here at base ISO. Color, contrast, saturation and sharpening are all very similar, and both show some aliasing artifacts (AA filter simulation was disabled for maximum detail and per-pixel sharpness in single image mode).

Pentax K-1 vs Canon 5DS R at Base ISO

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100
Pentax K-1 at ISO 100
Canon 5DS R at ISO 100

It's almost the reverse here, with the 50-megapixel 5DS R resolving noticeably more detail while producing similar noise levels. Sharpening halos aren't as obvious from the Canon, and it produces more accurate colors, though saturation and contrast aren't as high.

Pentax K-1 vs Nikon D810 at Base ISO

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64
Pentax K-1 at ISO 100
Nikon D810 at ISO 64

Both the Pentax K-1 and Nikon D810 are 36-megapixel full-frame DSLRs and as such capture very similar levels of detail, but Nikon's processing produces a crisper looking image. Contrast is noticeably higher from the D810, especially in our red-leaf swatch, as is aliasing artifacts in the form of moiré patterns, though fainter patterns can still be seen from the K-1 (however the Pentax has the option of enabling AA filtering which the Nikon does not). Colors are arguably more pleasing from the Nikon, especially the pink fabric which the Pentax renders too magenta.

Pentax K-1 vs Pentax 645Z at Base ISO

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 100
Pentax K-1 at ISO 100
Pentax 645Z at ISO 100

The 51-megapixel medium-format Pentax 645Z captures significantly more detail than the K-1, but noise levels appear similar. And because both cameras are from Ricoh/Pentax, default processing is also quite similar, although sharpening halos appear a little less obvious from the 645Z.

Pentax K-1 vs Sony A7R II at Base ISO

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100
Pentax K-1 at ISO 100
Sony A7R II at ISO 100

The 42-megapixel Sony A7R II is able to capture more detail than the 36-megapixel K-1 here at base ISO, while at the same time producing far fewer sharpening artifacts, lower noise, and more accurate color in the pink fabric.

Pentax K-1 vs Pentax K-3 II at ISO 1600

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 1600
Pentax K-1 at ISO 1600
Pentax K-3 II at ISO 1600

The 36-megapixel full-frame K-1 still easily outresolves the 24-megapixel APS-C K-3 II at ISO 1600, however both images contain similar noise levels. Noise reduction artifacts are stronger from the K-3 II, a sure sign it's working harder to keep noise in check. Interestingly, the K-1 produces only marginally better detail in our tricky red-leaf swatch, and turning off high ISO noise reduction doesn't make much difference for either camera, unfortunately.

Pentax K-1 vs Canon 5DS R at ISO 1600

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 1600
Pentax K-1 at ISO 1600
Canon 5DS R at ISO 1600

The Canon 5DS R continues to capture significantly more detail while displaying noise levels that are similar, and in some areas, actually a little lower than the K-1's here at ISO 1600. The Canon's image also has better color, fewer sharpening artifacts, and much better detail in our troublesome red-leaf fabric.

Pentax K-1 vs Nikon D810 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 1600
Pentax K-1 at ISO 1600
Nikon D810 at ISO 1600

Noise levels appear a touch higher from the K-1, with a coarser "grain" pattern in flatter areas here at ISO 1600, and the D810 retains a lot more detail in the red-leaf and pink fabrics. However apart from that, image quality from these two rivals is pretty similar except for color.

Pentax K-1 vs Pentax 645Z at ISO 1600

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 1600
Pentax K-1 at ISO 1600
Pentax 645Z at ISO 1600

As expected, the medium-format Pentax 645Z still captures noticeably more detail at ISO 1600, with slightly lower noise levels as well. The 645Z still smears the red-leaf fabric, though not as much as the K-1, retaining much of the thread pattern. The 645Z also holds on to much more detail in the pink fabric.

Pentax K-1 vs Sony A7R II at ISO 1600

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600
Pentax K-1 at ISO 1600
Sony A7R II at ISO 1600

The Sony A7R II continues to capture more detail than the K-1 here at ISO 1600, with lower noise levels and better color as well.

Pentax K-1 vs Pentax K-3 II at ISO 3200

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 3200
Pentax K-1 at ISO 3200
Pentax K-3 II at ISO 3200

Here at ISO 3200, the advantage of a full-frame sensor is still apparent, with the K-1 capturing better detail in most areas, while displaying significantly better noise characteristics. Interestingly, though, it's the K-3 II that does better with red-leaf swatch, however both cameras struggle to produce any detail at this sensitivity.

Pentax K-1 vs Canon 5DS R at ISO 3200

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200
Pentax K-1 at ISO 3200
Canon 5DS R at ISO 3200

The Canon 5DS R continues to capture and retain more detail than the K-1, though noise levels are quite comparable at ISO 3200. Even though the Canon blurs our tricky red-leaf swatch heavily, it does better than the K-1, while producing more accurate color overall as well.

Pentax K-1 vs Nikon D810 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200
Pentax K-1 at ISO 3200
Nikon D810 at ISO 3200

The Nikon D810 appears to suppress noise in flatter areas better than the K-1 at ISO 3200, while at the same time producing much better renditions of the red-leaf and pink fabrics. Contrast is also somewhat higher from the Nikon, and colors are more pleasing as well, giving the Nikon the edge here.

Pentax K-1 vs Pentax 645Z at ISO 3200

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 3200
Pentax K-1 at ISO 3200
Pentax 645Z at ISO 3200

The 645Z still manages to produce a better image at ISO 3200, with noticeably more detail especially in our challenging red-leaf and pink fabrics, while producing slightly lower noise levels and similar color.

Pentax K-1 vs Sony A7R II at ISO 3200

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200
Pentax K-1 at ISO 3200
Sony A7R II at ISO 3200

The higher-resolution Sony A7R II continues to capture more detail here at ISO 3200, while producing a crisper image with more accurate colors, however noise reduction artifacts are more visible making its noise "grain" look less like film than the K-1's, as well as distorting fine detail. The Sony does much better in the red-leaf and pink fabrics.

Pentax K-1 vs. Pentax K-3 II, Canon 5DS R, Nikon D810, Pentax 645Z, Sony A7R II

100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Pentax K-3 II test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 6400
Pentax
K-1
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Pentax
K-3 II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
5DS R
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D810
ISO 64
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Pentax
645Z
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A7R II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it, too. The full-frame Pentax K-1 does noticeably better here than the APS-C K-3 II in both detail and contrast, however the other full-frame cameras in this group as well as the medium format 645Z retain more detail and/or produce higher contrast. Interestingly, the Pentax models produce more false colors within the striped lettering than the others.

 

Pentax K-1 Print Quality Analysis

Excellent 30 x 40 inch prints and larger at ISO 100/200/400; a good 24 x 36 inch print at ISO 1600; a nice 8 x 10 inch print at ISO 12,800.

ISO 100/200/400 images printed at 30 x 40 inches are simply stunning. The level of fine detail and "pop" in these prints rivals most any model that's passed through our test lab. Wall display prints are possible at larger sizes, until resolution catches up and individual pixels become noticeable, which given the 36.2-megapixel files would not be until very large prints indeed.

ISO 800 prints are quite nice at 24 x 36 inches. Crisp, fine detail and rich colors are still present at this size, and only the faintest trace of noise is evident in flatter areas of our test target. There's also a typical softening in the red channel, common on most all digital cameras to varying degrees as ISO begins to rise.

ISO 1600 yields a 24 x 36 inch print that almost passes our "good" grade. There is now a bit more noise evident in the shadowy areas of our target, although it's more akin to film grain than mottling as some cameras produce, but enough to warrant only using this size for less critical applications. A reduction to 20 x 30 inches does the trick and allows for good prints at this sensitivity.

ISO 3200 is capable of delivering a very nice 16 x 20 inch print, with only minor issues such as a trace of noise apparent in flatter areas of our target. Also, all contrast detail is now lost in our tricky red-leaf swatch, a fairly common theme as ISO rises, but otherwise the print still shows good fine detail and color reproduction is still quite good.

ISO 6400 tends to be the turning point for most full-frame cameras in terms of image quality, and the K-1 is no exception. While the 13 x 19 inch print is not bad, and certainly usable for less critical applications, a reduction in size to 11 x 14 inches is required in order to tighten the prints up enough to warrant our good seal. There are only minor issues similar to the ones mentioned above, but otherwise a nice print. Anything larger introduces too much noise in some areas to make our good grade.

ISO 12,800 prints a nice 8 x 10, which is still a very useful size for such a high sensitivity. It's only been in the past few years that we've awarded a few cameras with larger prints here, with a few Nikon and Sony bodies that have scored an 11 x 14 inch rating.

ISO 25,600 produces a 5 x 7 inch print similar to the 8 x 10 at ISO 12,800. There's still plenty of fine detail and full color reproduction, with very few issues to speak of. Not a large print, but it's nice to know you can achieve a good 5 x 7 at such a lofty gain setting!

ISO 51,200 images show just a bit too much noise in the 4 x 6 inch prints to call good, but they're fine for less critical applications. Still, this setting is best avoided for printing.

ISO 102,400/204,800 do not produce worthwhile prints at any size and these settings are best avoided.

The 36-megapixel full-frame Pentax K-1 abounds with the potential to deliver stunning prints at the lower ISOs, and your printer will love you for it. As the gain rises the K-1 continues to offer the ability to produce large prints all the way to a 16 x 20 at ISO 3200. After that, the camera becomes a mere mortal again but still delivers about as good as most other full-frame models we've tested, though not as good as some of them. However when employing PSR mode you'll gain even more resolution and lower noise, and can therefore produce even larger prints. Given the excellent single-shot printing performance up to ISO 3200, we give the Pentax K-1 high marks in the print quality department.

 

Pentax K-1 Pixel Shift Resolution Mode Analysis

Higher resolution and lower noise from multiple shots

by Mike Tomkins |

Pentax K-1 tech section illustrationWhen 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.

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).

 

In the Box

The Pentax K-1 retail box ships with the following items:

  • Pentax K-1 camera body
  • Body cap
  • D-LI90 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack
  • K-BC90 battery charger kit
  • Hot shoe cover FK
  • Eyepiece cup FT
  • Shoulder strap O-ST162
  • Finder cap ME
  • PC socket cap
  • Instruction manual
  • Software CD-ROM S-SW162 with Digital Camera Utility 5 software (based on Silkypix)

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra D-LI90 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack for extended outings
  • D-BG6 battery grip (if you want portrait-orientation controls, and extended battery life with a second pack)
  • Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory cards. Given the high resolution and large file sizes of the K-1, 32GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity. If you plan to capture HD movie clips, shoot image bursts, or shoot in RAW format, look for cards with UHS-I markings. And remember there are two card slots, for double the storage.
  • O-FC1 Flucard for Pentax (Wi-Fi capable SD card with remote control functionality)
  • External shoe mount flash / video light (AF540FGZ II, AF540FGZ, AF360FGZ II, AF360FGZ) or other accessory flash
  • K-AC132 power supply kit with DC coupler
  • External stereo microphone
  • O-RC1 or F remote controls
  • CS-205 cable switch
  • Medium to large camera bag

 

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