24.32
Megapixels
Pentax K (KA/KAF/KAF2/3/4) APS-C
size sensor
image of Pentax KP
Front side of Pentax KP digital camera Front side of Pentax KP digital camera Front side of Pentax KP digital camera Front side of Pentax KP digital camera Front side of Pentax KP digital camera
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Pentax KP
Resolution: 24.32 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
(23.5mm x 15.6mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 819,200
Extended ISO: 100 - 819,200
Shutter: 1/24000 - 30 seconds
Dimensions: 5.2 x 4.0 x 3.0 in.
(132 x 101 x 76 mm)
Weight: 24.7 oz (699 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 02/2017
Manufacturer: Pentax
Full specs: Pentax KP specifications

Pentax KP Review -- Hands-on Preview

by
Preview posted: 01/25/2017

Updated:
01/25/2017: Tech Info posted!
02/10/2017: First Shots posted!
03/15/2017: Performance test results posted!
04/14/2017: Field Test Part I posted!
: Field Test Part II posted!

Pentax KP Review -- Product Image

For many years now, we've been big fans of Ricoh's Pentax brand, and the oftentimes superb DSLRs it produces. The Pentax brand has a long history of making exceptionally fully-featured cameras that come complete with equally aggressive price tags. And while it's not necessarily true of every model the company has produced, Pentax has also earned itself something of a reputation for making cameras that are surprisingly compact by DSLR standards, given their feature-rich designs.

DSLR handling in a package that's no larger than many mirrorless cameras

The 24-megapixel Pentax KP takes all of that to the next level, paring off as much of its remaining DSLR heft as possible to better compete with its smaller mirrorless camera rivals, while still offering up an extremely well-specified camera in that newer, smaller envelope. Obviously, since it's still a DSLR and so must make room for a DSLR-sized mirror box, there's a limit to how far this approach can be taken. What's impressive, though, is just how much Ricoh has been able to cram into the Pentax KP despite its compact proportions.

Want to read our full overview for a rundown of the Pentax KP's new features? If so click here, or read on for our real-world field test!

 

Pentax KP Field Test Part II

Low light, special features and video: Ricoh's compact DSLR heads into the real world again!

By | Posted:

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

58mm-equiv., 1/100 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 200

Last month, I posted the first part in my two-part field test of the Pentax KP. If you've not already read my earlier report, you'll want to do so now before continuing, as I'll be covering different ground in the second part. Briefly though, for those who've already perused my first report and just need a refresher, I'll hit the high points again.

A quick recap of my first Pentax KP Field Test

The Pentax KP's body is surprisingly comfortable in-hand, and I liked the controls for the most part too, although I did miss the optional Mode dial lock function of the K-3 II. Performance was good both in terms of burst capture and autofocus, although I didn't notice a particular improvement on the autofocus front, and the buffer depth was rather on the limited side.

And as for image quality, well I'd thus far predominantly shot in good light, but in the daytime at least came away impressed with image quality. If there was a weak spot, it was perhaps a slight tendency to overexpose, but otherwise the Pentax KP has thus far proven capable of capturing really great, detailed and lifelike images even at default settings. (If you want the most realistic color, though, switch to the Natural custom image mode.)

Much more detail on this and more plus loads of gallery images can be found in my earlier field test.

What's on the roster for Field Test II?

But enough of the earlier test, what's slated for coverage in this one? Well, obviously getting some night shooting in was key, both for long-exposure and high-sensitivity images. The latter in particular was an area I was keen to test, given the Pentax KP's astounding sensitivity range of 100 to 819,200-equivalents.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

127mm-equivalent, 1/160 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 400

I also wanted to try out the Pentax KP's electronic shutter to see how prone it was to rolling shutter effect, as well as testing the new aperture and shutter-bracketing functions. And I was also keen to get some movies shot and see how the KP looked in an area that's traditionally been a rare weak spot for Pentax DSLRs. And now I've done all of that, so let's get right down to it!

The Pentax KP's tilting LCD is much more versatile than the K-3 II's fixed one

With lots of shooting to do, I headed towards downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, a subject I know very well as I've lived in the vicinity for close to two decades now. That's something of a mixed blessing. After spending so much time here, I know my way around town very well, but Knoxville's not a huge place, and I've shot much of downtown many times over.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

46mm-equivalent, 1/80 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 1600

I like to try and find new shots, though, and am always looking for new angles on familiar subjects. And that's where the Pentax KP's tilting LCD monitor comes in really handy. The now rather long-in-the-tooth flagship Pentax K-3 and K-3 II both have fixed-position screens, which makes framing shots over your head, from the hip or low to the ground much harder. By contrast, I could easily angle the KP's tilting LCD monitor to help get the shots I was after without having to prostrate myself or become a contortionist just to be able to see the LCD.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

79mm-equiv., 1/100 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 1600

Of course, the tilt-only screen only helps out when shooting in landscape orientation. For that reason, I still prefer the even more versatile side-mounted, tilt/swivel screens found on some cameras including the recent Pentax K-70. Here, not only can you tilt the screen towards your eye for landscape-orientation shots, but also for portrait shots. But as I said, the KP's screen articulation is still infinitely preferable to the fixed screen used in the flagships, and I really hope we see either a tilting screen or better still a tilt/swivel type in a future Pentax APS-C flagship model.

Autofocus performance is very good even in low light

But I digress. Let's come back to the Pentax KP, and my evening photo shoot. I arrived downtown shortly before sunset, as I had some daylight movies to capture as well, then grabbed a quick dinner at Stock & Barrel, my favorite local burgers and bourbon joint, before heading out into the quickly-fading final embers of sunset for some more shooting. And very quickly, it was dark enough for me to get a feel for the Pentax KP's low-light autofocus capabilities.

And I have to say, I came away rather impressed. Just as I'd have expected, since the dedicated autofocus module is physically identical to that in the K-3 II, the Pentax KP proved admirably capable at focusing in low light. The overwhelming majority of the time, if I was capable of discerning my subject through the KP's bright pentaprism viewfinder, the camera was capable of achieving an accurate focus lock on the first attempt.

As for daytime capture, I didn't notice an improvement in AF speed or accuracy versus the K-3 II, even when shooting side-by-side with identical lens models on both bodies. However, as I noted in my first field test, that's likely because the K-3 II already received the same algorithmic tweaks in its firmware updates that the Pentax KP boasts right out of the box.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

127mm-equivalent, 1/160 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 3200
A noticeable step forwards in high ISO noise levels

When it was first announced, perhaps the single bullet item on the Pentax KP's spec sheet which drew the most attention was its jaw-dropping maximum sensitivity limit of ISO 819,200-equivalent. And from the get go, let's be clear here: You won't want to be shooting at that maximum sensitivity unless you have absolutely no other way to get the shot, or you're intentionally looking for a noisy image for artistic effect.

But that's hardly surprising, and has been the case in past models too. Unlike some manufacturers who require that you first enable ISO expansion to access the higher sensitivities which veer beyond each company's in-house definition of acceptable noise levels, Ricoh simply lets you make the choice in its cameras, providing access to the whole range by default. And we've seen in past models that the highest sensitivities are an option of last resort, with the real-world limit being rather lower for most purposes.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

142mm-equivalent, 1/160 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 3200

The K-3 II for example tops out at ISO 51,200-equivalent, but I felt that from ISO 12,800 and beyond, noise levels started to get rather too high. And with the more recent K-70 which has a maximum sensitivity of ISO 102,400-equivalent, I felt that ISO 25,600 was the upper limit beyond which noise levels were simply too high for anything but a last resort when all else fails. (With both cameras, though, I recommended staying at ISO 6400 or below for pleasingly tight and film-like grain.)

And now, with the Pentax KP, I'm seeing another definite step forward at the higher sensitivites. Everything up to ISO 6400-equivalent remains very usable indeed, with plenty of fine detail and tight, film-like grain. And while once again, I noticed coarser grain at ISO 12,800, I continued to remain pretty satisfied nevertheless until ISO 51,200-equivalent.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

39mm-equivalent, 1/60 sec. @ f/4.0, ISO 3200

Considering that the KP is now truly usable across what was the full sensitivity range of the now two-year old K-3 II (which, admittedly, shares its imaging pipeline with the 3.5-year old K-3), I'd have to say I'm thoroughly impressed. Once you get to ISO 102,400-equivalent, grain starts to get rather more intrusive, and colors become more muted, but even this high sensitivity struck me as useful in a pinch.

ISO 204,800 and above, though, were a step too far for my tastes, at least unless you have no other choice. Images are decidedly soft and noisy, with much of the fine detail lost to noise reduction, and grain starting to become quite intrusive. ISO 409,600-equivalent was even noisier and prone to muddy shadows, while the maximum of ISO 819,200-equivalent was extremely noisy and soft with muddy shadows. I also saw some fairly strong color casts at this maximum sensitivity which varied from shot to shot.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

52mm-equivalent, 1/80 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 6400

But while I would recommend staying as low down the sensitivity range as possible just as with any camera, I have to say I that I'm coming away from my review very impressed with the KP's low-light capabilities. Especially in concert with some brighter glass like the 31mm f/1.8 Limited, the ultra-compact 40mm f/2.8 Limited or 43mm f/1.9 Limited, and the affordable 50mm f/1.4, the Pentax KP makes for a great available-light street shooter, allowing you to capture sharp images handheld long after the sun has gone down.

Of course, if you've got a tripod handy and your subject is relatively static -- or you don't mind some motion blurring and light trails -- then you'll get much lower noise from a long exposure. I shot some myself, and was very pleased with the results! You'll find exposures as long as eight seconds in the gallery, and I shot some as long as 20-30 seconds with great results too, although they didn't make the cut for inclusion in the gallery.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

31mm-equiv., 1/50 sec. @ f/4.0, ISO 6400
A little more UI feedback from my low-light shooting

Coming to the end of the low-light shooting, there are a couple more points I'd like to address in the Pentax KP's user interface, one of which I meant to raise in my previous field test but am only now remembering to return to.

First of all, let's hit the one I noticed previously. Unlike the earlier K-3 and K-3 II, the Pentax KP no longer indicates a 1:1 ratio between image pixels and screen pixels. The K-3 and K-3 II called attention to this nicely with a "100%" indication on-screen alongside the playback zoom indication when you reached an 8.3x playback zoom, which on those cameras equated to 1:1 on-screen viewing. However, with the Pentax KP, there's not a 100% indication at any zoom level, so you're not quite sure when you've reached 1:1 viewing.

That's the bad news, and is perhaps something Ricoh could add back courtesy of a firmware update, if it hears calls from customers to do so. The good news is that in between long-exposure shots I was playing with the Night Vision display mode, and discovered that it pairs nicely with another feature. If you're not familiar with Night Vision mode, it turns the KP's entire LCD display red, a color that's intended to disturb your night vision as little as possible. (And that applies even to image review -- you'll see a monochromatic, red-toned representation of your images in playback mode, uness you first exit Night Vision mode.)

Night Vision and the Outdoor View function might not seem like they'd go hand in hand, as the latter sounds like it would be useful only under bright sunlight. It turns out, though, that you can dial in a negative Outdoor View adjustment for a much, much dimmer screen that, coupled with the all-red Night Vision mode, should have very little impact at all on your night vision.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

72mm-equivalent, 1/100 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 12,800

This wasn't something I actually needed to use in my downtown shoot, because even in the dead of night, Knoxville doesn't really get dark enough for night vision to be a concern. But for astrophotography and the like, take that as a pro tip from me: Dial the Outdoor View brightness down as well as switching to Night Vision mode.

Super-speedy, silent electronic shutter, but it's prone to the jello effect

Another cool new feature of the Pentax KP is its electronic shutter function. This allows completely silent, vibration-free shooting at shutter speeds that are far, far faster than the mechanical shutter mechanism is capable of. Where the mechanical shutter offers everything from 1/6,000 to 30-second exposures plus a bulb position allowing exposures as long as 20 minutes, the Pentax KP's electronic shutter will provide a working range from 1/24,000 to 30 seconds.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo
Pentax KP review -- Sample photo
Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

Mechanical vs. Electronic Shutter Comparison
157mm-equivalent, 1/5,000 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 3200
From top to bottom, the three images above are a shot of a stationary slot car, one shot with a mechanical shutter while the car is moving at a constant speed, and one shot with an electronic shutter at precisely the same speed. All three images were otherwise shot with the same focal length, aperture, shutter speed and sensitivity.

Of course, there are some tradeoffs to be made for this much faster shutter speed. First of all, shake reduction is disabled, meaning that your images won't be stabilized. Secondly, flash output is also disabled for exposures with electronic shutter. The third concern is likely the most significant, though, as it means that the electronic shutter function isn't well-suited to fast-moving subjects like sports.

To test the severity of the rolling shutter with a reasonably consistent subject, I borrowed my son's Scalextric slot car set and assembled it outdoors under full sunlight, shorting out the controllers and instead controlling the speed by powering the track from a benchtop power supply, the voltage control adjusting the car's speed around the track.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

120mm-equivalent, 1/160 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 12,800

And let's be clear here, this is a pretty extreme example, as even with the voltage turned down to somewhere around eight or nine volts, the slot car still took only around 1/10th of a second to traverse the entire image frame. (And to make matters worse, I couldn't use the top mechanical shutter speed of 1/6,000 second because there isn't a matching electronic shutter speed, so I had to drop back to 1/5,000 second.)

But as you can see from the adjacent sample images, showing the car captured at the same shutter speed at rest, with the mechanical shutter and with the electronic shutter, the latter is clearly prone to rolling shutter effect (often called jello effect), which is caused by the car's position changing during image capture and readout. It's worth remembering that even the mechanical shutter can exhibit the same effect because the shutter curtains take some time to traverse the image frame themselves, but they're much, much faster at doing so than is the mechanical shutter.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

58mm-equivalent, 1/80 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 25,600

Where the car in the mechanical shutter image has only very slight distortion, most noticeable in the slightly elliptical rendering of the wheels, the one in the electronic shutter image is quite radically distorted. In the 1/5,000-second taken to capture the picture, the car moved forwards by almost 1/4 of its length as the image was read out from top to bottom.

So you won't be wanting to use electronic shutter for sports, at least unless skewed verticals are your intent for artistic reasons. But the function should nevertheless prove handy when you need absolute silence, vibration-free capture, you want to avoid wear and tear to the Pentax KP's mechanical components, or when you need a higher shutter speed than the mechanical shutter can provide so as to avoid having to stop down the aperture instead when shooting at base sensitivity.

Aperture and Shutter-priority bracketing is a cool addition
Pentax KP review -- Sample photo
Pentax KP review -- Sample photo
Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

Depth-of-Field Bracketing Comparison
All three images above are part of a single bracketed series shot using the Pentax KP's Depth-of-Field Bracketing function. The trio share a sensitivity of ISO 200 and a 157mm-equivalent focal length. From top to bottom, the first image has a shutter speed of 1/400 second and an aperture of f/5.0, the second is 1/200 at f/7.1, and the third at 1/100 and f/10.0. Note that unlike the electronic shutter series above, here the Scalextric slot car was stationary in all three exposures.

Another couple of closely-related additions to the Pentax KP are its aperture and shutter speed-bracketing functions, which Ricoh refers to as "depth-of-field bracketing" and "motion bracketing" to give you a sense of each function's purpose. Each is available through the drive mode screen, but only when in the relevant aperture- or shutter-priority mode. You can select the aperture or shutter speed step size between frames in 1/3 or 1/2 EV increments, and then with one press of the shutter button, the camera will capture three frames, varying the appropriate exposure variable between each frame.

This is an excellent addition if you aren't sure what the best shutter speed or aperture for your subject will be, and want to experiment with a minimum of fuss. The only real downside is that you only get to choose when to trip the shutter for the first frame, as the following frames will be captured immediately at the Continuous High burst shooting rate, and you can't opt for single-frame capture instead.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo
Pentax KP review -- Sample photo
Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

Motion Bracketing Comparison
All three images above are part of a single bracketed series shot using the Pentax KP's Motion Bracketing function. The trio share a 24mm-equivalent focal length. From top to bottom, the first image has a shutter speed of 1/4 second, an aperture of f/16.0 and a sensitivity of ISO 200; the second is 1/30 at f/5.6 and ISO 200, and the third is at 1/250, f/3.5 and ISO 800.

For portraits or other relatively static scenes that's usually fine, but if you want to time the moment at which you trip the shutter for each frame yourself to get the pose or framing you're after, it'd be nice if Ricoh would also provide the ability to trip the shutter for each of the three bracketed frames in a future firmware update.

Movies are still a bit of an afterthought for the Pentax KP

To date, Ricoh hasn't put quite the same emphasis on video capture that its rivals have, and the Pentax KP doesn't change that fact. Its movie capture functionality is quite similar to that of the K-3 and K-3 II, but with a few omissions and a couple of additions, one of which is of very limited value right now unless you happen to own the right lens to take advantage of it. (You probably don't, as the requisite lens hasn't yet been on sale for a full year.)

Daytime video, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels @ 60 fields per second (top) / 30 frames per second (bottom)

Although the Full HD frame rate options are identical in all three cameras, the Pentax KP offers only 50/60 frames per second capture at HD resolution, where the K-3 and K-3 II also allowed 24, 25 or 30 frames per second HD capture. There's also no headphone jack for audio levels monitoring, although there is an external microphone jack, and a levels control is provided. Manual and priority exposure control are also available, and ISO sensitivity control is also provided when in manual mode.

So what are the new features? Well, one is that the Pentax KP now has a built-in stereo microphone, rather than the monaural mics of the K-3 and K-3 II. The other relates to movie autofocus, something we saw recently (and to not-so-great effect) in our Pentax K-70 review. That camera had on-chip phase detection autofocus pixels, but despite that addition, its movie autofocus function was prone to visible hunting around the point of focus, and had an annoyingly frequent tendency to lose focus altogether and rack through the entire focus range trying to get it back.

Nighttime video, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels @ 60 fields per second (top) / 30 frames per second (bottom)

The Pentax KP lacks the on-chip phase-detection AF pixels, and relies instead on contrast detection autofocus. However, I can't tell you how well it performs. "Why's that?", I hear you asking. Well, when I first tried to autofocus during movie capture when shooting with the HD PENTAX DA 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR lens mounted, I was immediately warned that autofocus wasn't available during movie capture.

That struck me as odd, as the 16-85mm has a fast and near-silent DC autofocus motor, so I turned to the manual only to find a note that movie AF is only available when "a compatible lens is attached to the camera." It took some digging, but I was eventually able to turn up the list of compatible lenses... or should I say lens.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

240mm-equivalent, 1/250 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 51,200

Although it's missing from the English-language FAQ for the Pentax KP on Ricoh's global website, the Japanese-language version has a question which translates roughly as "Does autofocus work during movie capture?" And the answer, as in the manual, is that it does so long as a compatible lens is attached. But for this point, there's an asterisk calling your attention to a footnote, and therein, the answer: "Compatible lens: HD PENTAX - DA 55 - 300 mm F - 4.5 - 6.3 ED PLM WR RE".

So, unless you own that optic, it seems that you're out of luck for movie AF, something which is broadly available from rivals. I'm sure most Pentax KP owners will never even notice the function's absence for other optics, as were interchangeable-lens video a priority they'd likely have chosen another brand and camera in the first place. To make a long story very short, yes the Pentax KP can shoot good-quality videos, but for the most part you're going to need to pull focus manually or set up your shots so as to allow for fixed focus, and really you'll find the movie capture useful mostly for brief clips, switching to another camera if you want more capable video capture.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

225mm-equivalent, 1/250 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 102,400

Closing thoughts on the Pentax KP

A weak video capture mode aside, I have to say that I've really enjoyed shooting with the Pentax KP. It's a very capable camera in an impressively compact package. With the best will in the world, an APS-C DSLR is never going to be quite as compact as a mirrorless camera, even one with a full-frame sensor.

But that's not really the point, as a mirrorless camera at this price point just isn't going to give you the connection to your subject that you'll get from a pentaprism-based, thru-the-lens optical viewfinder. I'd say the Pentax KP is plenty small enough to make a great travel camera, especially when paired with some of Ricoh's impressively compact, high-quality Pentax Limited lens lineup.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

42mm-equivalent, 1/1,000 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 204,800

Honestly, the biggest argument against purchasing the Pentax KP is its sibling, the K-3 II. (As would be the closely-related K-3, were it still on the market.) Although in some respects -- and especially in terms of its high ISO performance -- the KP manages to best the K-3 series cameras, it's actually currently a more expensive model than the flagships, even though the KP itself isn't a flagship camera.

That's just an artifact of the K-3 II's age, however. It's coming to the end of its life on the marketplace, and so is being heavily discounted. It can be picked up new for just US$850 as of this writing, where the Pentax KP retails for US$1,100 because it's new and still selling at around list pricing. And that's not inconsequential: It's a big enough difference to score an entry-level lens or some accessories.

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

79mm-equivalent, 1/1,000 sec. @ f/7.1, ISO 409,600

Were I in the market for a new camera today, I think personally I'd probably still opt for the K-3 II over the Pentax KP. If you're looking for an enthusiast-grade camera, you'd be wise to consider the same. But if you need the smallest possible camera body, do enough live view shooting to justify the extra cost for a tilting LCD, or really need the maximum image quality at higher sensitivities, the Pentax KP would make a very solid choice indeed!

Pentax KP review -- Sample photo

42mm-equivalent, 1/800 sec. @ f/4.0, ISO 819,200

 

Pentax KP Overview

By Mike Tomkins | Posted: 01/25/2017

To date, the smallest true DSLR we've reviewed has been the Canon SL1, a camera which is aimed at entry-level shooters rather than the more experienced photographers Ricoh is courting with the Pentax KP. Ricoh's new camera sports a body that's not a whole lot bigger than that of the Canon SL1. At 5.2 x 4.0 x 3.0 inches (W x H x D), it's barely 10-12% larger in each dimension, yet the Pentax KP packs in far more features than did the SL1. (And if anything, those dimension figures read as being misleadingly high. Much of the KP's body is far slimmer and less tall than the numbers suggest, with only the central mirror box portion of the camera occupying the full height and depth.)

Pentax KP Review -- Product Image

The Pentax KP sports a feature-packed, weather-sealed mag-alloy body

The magnesium alloy-bodied Pentax KP has a glass pentaprism viewfinder with near-100% coverage, for example, where the Canon SL1 instead opted for a smaller, dimmer and less accurate pentamirror finder. The Pentax KP also boasts a twin-dial design with full dust, weather and freeze-proofing, a tilting LCD monitor, an uprated in-body shake reduction system and in-camera Wi-Fi -- all features that Canon's smallest DSLR lacked -- as well as plenty else besides.

Admittedly, the Pentax KP is also 50% heavier than was the Canon SL1 when loaded and ready to shoot, but without the lens. That's a difference which is pretty easy to understand, though, when one considers that Canon's beginner-friendly design lacked so many of the Pentax KP's features, and placed them inside a predominantly plastic body. The Pentax KP, by contrast, has magnesium-alloy panels at front, back and on the bottom, relying on polycarbonate only on its top deck.

Pentax KP Review -- Product Image

A ground-up rethink of how to package a truly compact DSLR

So how has Ricoh been able to achieve this degree of miniaturization while retaining so many features, and how does the Pentax KP handle? Well to answer that second question first, the answer is very well -- surprisingly so given its compact size. The KP has been redesigned from the ground-up, with Ricoh rethinking the positions of controls and internal components to make best use of available space.

Externally, this is most noticeable in the change to a vertically-mounted front control dial, rather than the near-horizontal front dial of past models. I found this new dial to be quite comfortable in use, and it's paired with a new interchangeable hand-grip design, with a total of three grip options available. (Grips are exchanged by simply loosening a socket-head screw with a provided hex key.) At launch, Pentax will be including all three grips in the product bundle in the US market, although in other markets it's possible that some of the grips may instead be sold separately from the camera.

Pentax KP Review -- Product Image

Tune the Pentax KP to your tastes with its clever interchangeable grips

In my hands-on time with the Pentax KP, I was able to try out the most compact of the trio, the Grip S (shown attached). Despite its relatively shallow profile and my larger-than-average hands, I felt this pairing was quite secure in my grip, and my fingers didn't really feel unnecessarily cramped. I'm definitely looking forward to trying out the medium and large-sized Grip M and Grip L, though, as for a slight increase in weight and grip depth, these look to provide even more purchase for a more secure hand-hold. While I've not yet gotten a chance to try these on the camera (the required hex key having gotten misplaced), I can say that each of these accessory grips felt sturdy, and had a good-sized piece of metal inset in their back surface to help ensure a tight, creak-free fit against the camera body.

Pentax KP Review -- Product Image

The K-1's Smart Function Dial makes its first APS-C appearance

Also new to the Pentax APS-C camera line is the Smart Function Dial which was introduced on the Pentax K-1. This clever control saves you delving through the menu system, keeping more than just the exposure basics handy for quick adjustments. Sadly, there's not space on the Pentax KP's top deck to include the Smart Function Dial alongside of an LCD info display, and so this model relies solely on its viewfinder and rear-deck 3.0-inch tilting LCD monitor to provide information on camera setup.

Pentax KP Review -- Product Image

A brand-new sensor should give the Pentax KP spectacular high ISO performance

But enough of the body, what's new under the skin? Perhaps the most important change of the bunch is a brand-new APS-C sized 24-megapixel image sensor which we're told is an improved version of that featured previously in the Pentax K-70. This is said to bring with it improved high ISO noise performance, and according to Ricoh's reps, should allow the Pentax KP to come "very close" to the image quality of the full-frame Pentax K-1, even as high as ISO 51,200-equivalent. And that's nowhere near the upper limit of this camera's range, incidentally. The Pentax KP offers everything from ISO 100 to 819,200-equivalents, a truly staggering range for an APS-C sensor-based camera.

The K-1's uprated Shake Reduction II system makes its APS-C debut

And as if that broad sensitivity range wasn't already enough to ensure blur-free shots in low-light shooting, the Pentax KP also debuts a newly-uprated, five-axis image stabilization system dubbed Shake Reduction II. (We've seen this SR II system previously in the full-frame Pentax K-1, but it's never been featured in an APS-C based camera body before now.) Ricoh's new SR II system corrects for pitch, yaw, roll, and both horizontal and vertical motion, and now has a claimed five-stop corrective strength to CIPA testing standards when using the smc PENTAX-DA 18-135mmF3.5-5.6ED AL [IF] DC WR lens at the telephoto position.

Pentax KP Review -- Product Image

Pixel Shift Resolution, AA Filter Simulator, AstroTracer, you name it: Ricoh gets plenty of added value from the sensor-shift mechanism

The uprated Shake Reduction II system includes automatic panning detection, and the sensor shift assembly which sits at its heart can also be used for a wide variety of purposes beyond image stabilization. Pentax's Pixel Shift Resolution function, for example, uses the SR II system to boost per-pixel resolution for relatively static scenes by capturing and combining several shots, while very precisely moving the sensor in between captures. The Pentax KP also retains the clever AA Filter Simulator function which recreates the moiré and false color-fighting effects of an optical low-pass filter by precisely moving the image sensor during exposure.

And like its predecessors, the Pentax KP can also automatically level horizons for you if you're holding the camera just slightly off-kilter, let you fine-tune your image composition when shooting with the camera mounted on a tripod, and even freeze star trails in long exposures, functions which are achieved using the same sensor shift mechanism that helps stabilize your shots at slower shutter speeds. (You'll need to pick up the optional O-GPS1 GPS receiver accessory if you want to use the star trail-freezing AstroTracer system though, as the camera itself lacks a built-in GPS receiver.)

Pentax KP Review -- Product Image

Performance that's close to Ricoh's APS-C flagships, but with a rather more limited buffer

Burst performance, while not manufacturer-rated as being quite as fast as the company's APS-C flagship Pentax K-3 and K-3 II -- which remain on sale alongside the KP which slots in underneath them in the lineup -- is still very generous. Ricoh rates the Pentax KP as capable of up to seven frames per second for as many as 28 full-resolution JPEG, eight raw or seven raw+JPEG frames. That's just a touch slower than the 8.3 fps manufacturer rating of the K-3 and K-3 II, although the much more abbreviated buffer of the Pentax KP will make these flagships the better option for sports shooters. (The K-3 and K-3 II are capable of 60 JPEG or 23 raw frames in a burst, double to triple the burst depth of the Pentax KP.)

The Pentax KP brings some worthwhile tweaks to autofocus and exposure

Exposure options are in most respects similar to the Pentax K-3 and K-3 II, with the Pentax KP using the same 27-point SAFOX 11 autofocus systems as in those cameras, complete with 25 cross-type points that are sensitive to detail on both horizontal and vertical axes. And the KP also retains the same 86,000 pixel RGB metering system as in its flagship siblings. However, there are some important differences.

Pentax KP Review -- Product Image

Perhaps most significantly, Ricoh notes that it has improved its autofocus algorithms such that the Pentax KP should offer noticeably better AF performance and accuracy than past models using the same AF sensor. And while the Pentax KP has a fastest mechanical shutter speed of 1/6,000-second, not quite as swift as the 1/8,000-second shutter of the K3-series models, it also now sports an electronic shutter function which tops out at 1/24,000-second.

The Pentax KP also brings with it some new bracketing functionality not seen in past models. For example, Depth-of-Field bracketing allows you to bracket the camera's selected aperture value, while Motion Bracketing allows you to do much the same with shutter speeds.

Finally, an official tethering solution returns to Pentax APS-C cameras!

Another piece of great news is that the Pentax KP will support remote tethered shooting using the company's optional Pentax Image Transmitter 2 software and its related Lightroom plugin. That's huge news, as until now the software has been reserved for Pentax's medium-format and full-frame DSLR models, with APS-C shooters having to rely on reverse-engineered third-party solutions for tethered shooting. We're thrilled to see Ricoh has decided to bring tethering back for subframe shooters, as it's something we've been asking about for years!

Pentax KP Review -- Product Image

Pricing and availability

Available since February 25th, 2017, the Pentax KP is sold in the US market at a list price of around US$1,100 body-only. The D-BG7 battery grip is priced at around US$230, and will ship from May 2017 in the US market.

 

Pentax KP Field Test Part I

Ricoh's compact, capable and customizable alternative to mirrorless

by Mike Tomkins |

Pentax KP field test photoRegular readers will know that I've long been a fan of Ricoh's Pentax DSLR lineup. In fact, when I don't have anything in hand to review -- admittedly, a somewhat rare occurrence -- and I want to shoot an interchangeable-lens camera, it's usually my own Pentax K-5 or K-3 II that I'll reach for, and I've been a K-series shooter for close to a decade now, all the way back to 2009's Pentax K-7. So when the Pentax KP arrived at Imaging Resource headquarters, there was no question who'd be handling the real-world portion of our testing!

I've been eagerly looking forward to reviewing the Pentax KP ever since I first had the chance to handle a pre-production camera early this year. In particular, I've found myself intrigued by its clever interchangeable handgrip design, which is one of the key factors behind the KP's compact size, by DSLR standards. I've also been keen to try out its high ISO capabilities, as well as its evolution of the Smart Function dial first seen in the K-1. And of course I've also been looking forward to trying out its uprated stabilization, autofocus and exposure options. And I'm thrilled with its new tethering capabilities, something I've been asking the company for over the course of more than a few reviews.

How the Pentax KP compares to its siblings
But before we get to all of that, let's start with a quick look at where the Pentax KP sits in the company's lineup. If you're not familiar with the Pentax brand, that can be a little less than obvious.

Pentax KP Technical Info

A look at what's on the inside of this compact DSLR

by Mike Tomkins |

Sensor
At the heart of the Pentax KP is a brand-new image sensor based on that featured previously in the Pentax K-70. It's a 24.32-megapixel CMOS image sensor with a Bayer RGBG color filter array. Dimensions are 23.5 x 15.6mm, and total resolution is 24.96 megapixels. Maximum image size is 6,016 x 4,000 pixels.

Note that both the total and effective resolution counts are just slightly higher than their K-70 counterparts, although the output image resolution is unchanged. We're speculating here, but our guess is that the difference comes down to one feature subtraction from the K-70: The Pentax KP forgoes that camera's on-chip phase-detection autofocus pixels, meaning that it relies solely on contrast-detection autofocus during live view or movie shooting. Freeing up those pixels for imaging instead of phase-detect AF likely answers why the pixel counts have increased, however.

 

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