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
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

Pentax KP Review -- Hands-on Preview

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Preview posted: 01/25/2017

Last updated:

Updated:
02/10/2017: First Shots posted!
03/15/2017: Performance test results 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.

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

 

Pentax KP Review -- Technical Info

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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.

Like all of the company's recent DSLR cameras, the Pentax KP doesn't include an optical low-pass filter. It does, however, feature an on-demand mechanical antialiasing function. More on that in a moment. (Or read Dave Etchells' "Geek's Guide to On-Demand Low-Pass Filtering" from our Pentax K-3 review for the full story; the feature is unchanged from that camera with the exception of the added ability to bracket the AA Filter Simulation function.)

Processor

The Pentax KP is the company's first APS-C sensor-based camera to include its latest-generation PRIME IV image processor, which was previously featured only in the full-frame Pentax K-1. (The "PRIME" in the name is a contraction of "Pentax Real IMage Engine", if you're curious.)

Ricoh hasn't stated what performance gains or other tweaks are to be found in the newer variant of the processor, and nor can any obvious conclusions be drawn from the camera's burst-capture performance. It seems pretty logical to presume that PRIME IV offers more performance and likely contains updated algorithms, versus its predecessor, though.

Sensitivity

The Pentax KP takes the crown from the earlier K-70 when it comes to its sensitivity range, and offers far in excess of that provided by the flagship K-3 and K-3 II cameras.

The Pentax K-3 and K-3 II weren't exactly slouches themselves, with an overall sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 51,200 equivalents, while the K-70 offered everything from ISO 100 to 102,400-equivalent. The Pentax KP stands head and shoulders above the crowd, though, with its ability to provide a truly spectacular range from ISO 100 to 819,200-equivalents. The entire range is available without needing to enable ISO expansion as in some competing cameras, and step sizes of 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV are available.

There's also an Auto ISO sensitivity function with configurable upper and lower limits. And as in past cameras, you can configure the Pentax KP to raise sensitivity more or less quickly than the default.

Performance

In many respects, the Pentax KP matches or bests its flagship siblings, the K-3 and K-3 II. In the burst shooting department, though, those cameras are still the better option, especially if you have a tendency towards longer bursts.

Ricoh rates the Pentax KP as capable of around 7.0 full-resolution frames per second, which is just a touch behind the 8.3 fps ratings of the K-3 and K-3 II. Burst depth for the KP at its maximum speed is around 28 JPEG, eight raw or seven raw+JPEG frames, quite some distance from the 60 JPEG or 23 raw frame burst depth of the K-3 and K-3 II.

There are two reduced-speed burst shooting rates available: either 3.0 or 0.8 fps. That will prove helpful in situations where you don't need the full 7.0 fps, but you're still shooting faster than you'd want to by rapidly pressing the shutter button. (Although we'd still like to see the ability to manually dial in your own chosen speed for reduced-rate capture.)

As you'd expect, the lower-speed burst modes have even greater burst depths. At 3.0 frames per second, Ricoh claims a depth of 70 JPEG 15 raw or 10 raw+JPEG images. Drop the speed to 0.8 fps, and the company predicts a depth of 100 JPEG, 100 raw or 25 raw+JPEG frames.

Shake Reduction

If burst performance isn't the be-all and end-all for you, though, then there are plenty of reasons to consider the Pentax KP over its flagship siblings. One of these is image stabilization, with the KP being the first sub-frame Pentax DSLR to include Ricoh's newer Shake Reduction II technology, as seen previously in the full-frame Pentax K-1.

Where the K-3 and K-3 II used a three-axis Shake Reduction stabilization system, the Pentax KP sports a more sophisticated five-axis system which can correct for vertical and horizontal motion, yaw, pitch and roll. It also has a higher corrective strength of five stops to CIPA testing standards, where the K-3 had a 3.5-stop range and the K-3 II a 4.5-stop range.

Like the Pentax K-3 II before it, the Pentax KP includes a panning detection function, which determines that you're panning to follow a moving subject and then automatically ceases its attempt to stabilize motion on that axis, but still stabilizes the other axes. This will prove handy for the most typical panning motion in most sports.

The Shake Reduction system is also used for various functions such as Pixel Shift Resolution, AA Filter Simulation, AstroTracer, Horizon Correction and Composition Correction, all of which we'll come back to in a minute.

Lens mount

The Pentax KP's KAF2 lens mount is a variant of the K-mount that has been used in all Pentax digital SLRs to date, as well as the K-01 mirrorless camera.

In all, there are 40 Pentax K-mount lens models currently on the market, ignoring converters and adapters, variants of existing lenses such as DA-L vs. DA (plastic vs. metal mount), WR vs. non-WR (weather sealed vs. non-weather sealed), and HD vs. non-HD (newer versus older anti-flare coatings). Of these 40, all but five are DA, DA*, DA Limited or D FA-lenses, with the D in their names indicating that they were designed specifically for use on digital cameras rather than film.

And of course, as well as these 40 current optics, you can use older Pentax K-mount glass (some with restrictions), as well as the company's historic 35mm screwmount and 645/67 medium format lenses with an adapter (and again, with restrictions.) You can also mount a wide selection of third-party K-mount lenses from the likes of Sigma, Tamron, and more, and optics from a healthy variety of other mounts with adapters (and limitations).

Dust removal

If you regularly change lenses -- or use consumer-grade glass that sucks air in and blows it back out every time you rack the focus or zoom -- you can expect dust to get inside your camera sooner or later. (Most likely, sooner.)

Ricoh has retained the same DR II dust removal system used in its recent flagship models for the new Pentax KP. It uses a piezoelectric element that vibrates at higher frequencies than a sensor shift system can, and in our experience systems like these typically do a better job of shaking free dust that's stuck to the sensor's protective cover glass.

Lens correction

Also unchanged from other recent Ricoh DSLRs is the Pentax KP's lens correction functionality. This can correct for lens distortion, lateral chromatic aberration, vignetting and diffraction in-camera when using DA, DA-L and D-FA lenses, as well as with most FA lenses.

Metering

The Pentax KP retains the same 86,000 pixel RGB CCD metering sensor which debuted in the K-3, replacing the earlier 77-segment metering sensor of models going all the way back to the K-7 in 2009. If you have one of those earlier cameras and are considering an upgrade, this new sensor should allow for much more precise metering measurements. And since it's an RGB chip, it can also recognize color information, allowing it to help out with subject identification.

The KP's metering system has a wide working range of -3 to 20 EV with a 50mm f/1.4 lens at ISO 100. Metering modes on offer include Multi-segment, Center-weighted and Spot, and an exposure lock function is available, accessed with the AE-L button at the top right corner of the camera's rear. You can also specify up to +/-5EV of exposure compensation, or bracket 2, 3, or 5 exposures with up to 2EV between exposures. For either compensation or bracketing, you can specify your adjustment in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps.

Autofocus

At first glance, the Pentax KP's SAFOX 11 autofocus system would appear to be identical to that of the K-3 and K-3 II. However, Ricoh tells us that it has upgraded its autofocus algorithms, and that the Pentax KP should now offer noticeably better AF performance and accuracy than in past models using the SAFOX 11 sensor.

In total, the Pentax KP provides 27 autofocus points, of which the 25 central points in a 5x5 array are all cross-types, sensitive to detail in both the horizontal and vertical axes. Only two points, located in the vertical center at far left and right of the array, are linear points sensitive on just one axis. The centermost sensor as well as the points directly above and below it are precision points, capable of focusing with an f/2.8 aperture. The autofocus sensor has a working range of -3 to +18EV at ISO 100.

Autofocus mode choices include AF.S (single-servo), AF.C (continuous-servo), and automatic selection (AF.A). You can also switch from the default 27-point auto selection, with provision for Spot, Select, small / medium / large expanded area or zone-select modes. For single-servo autofocus, Select allows only a single point to be chosen, rather than the fixed center point of Spot AF. Zone Select is similar, but allows a nine-point area to be selected, with the camera making the final determination of which points to use. Finally, Expanded Area works only in continuous-servo mode, and allows you to select a 3x3 array, a 5x5 array, or the entire AF array. Focus starts from the center point, but will be tracked anywhere within your selected array.

Ricoh has included an autofocus hold setting for use in tracking, which will let you control how quickly the camera will react to a radical change in detected subject distance, such as you might get when shooting through a fence, or if somebody walked between camera and subject. You have four options: either the change will be near-instant with Hold AF Status set to off, or you can choose one of three durations (Low, Medium or High) after which the change in focus will be made.

You can also define whether a focus lock or a full shutter button press should be of greater importance to the Pentax KP. In single-servo mode, you can configure the camera in focus priority mode, such that it will wait to trip the shutter until a focus lock is achieved, or shutter priority mode to take the image as soon as you fully press the shutter button. In continuous or AF.A modes, you can opt for focus priority or frame rate priority, which takes another photo as soon as the shutter has recycled and there is available buffer space to do so. You can also select a different option for the first frame in an AF.C burst, for example to require a focus lock on the first frame and then switch to frame rate priority for subsequent frames.

Of course, you can focus manually as well, and if you shoot in live view mode, there's a focus peaking display to help you ascertain the exact point of focus. You have a choice of highlight edge or extract edge modes when using focus peaking.

Flash

A built-in, popup flash strobe is included in the Pentax KP's design, as is a hot shoe for external strobes. Flash sync is at 1/180 second, and flash exposure compensation is within a -2 to +1EV range.

The built-in flash has a guide number of six meters at ISO 100, and has coverage sufficient for a 28mm-equivalent lens. Flash modes include auto, on, slow-sync, second-curtain sync, manual and wireless. The built-in flash can act as a controller for remote strobes using this last option.

The standard hot shoe on the top deck includes both support for a locking pin, and intelligent connections that allow for Pentax's P-TTL flash metering system. Unlike in the K-3 and K-3 II, there's no PC sync socket, though, so you'll have to buy a hot shoe to PC terminal adapter if you want to hook up your studio strobes.

Viewfinder

The Pentax KP shares the exact same viewfinder design used in all of the company's flagship models from the K-7 until the K-3 II, as well as more than a few of its mid-range and even entry-level cameras. It's pentaprism-based and has a manufacturer-rated 100% coverage. Magnification is said to be 0.95x, and the viewfinder accepts interchangeable focusing screens. The bundled screen is a Natural-Bright-Matte III type. Also unchanged is the dioptric adjustment range of -2.5 to +1.5m-1.

Monitor

The Pentax KP's rear-panel LCD monitor is identical to that in the K-70, although the manner in which it is articulated differs. It has a 3.0-inch diagonal, a 3:2 aspect ratio, and a total dot count of around 921,000 dots. And helping it to combat glare and low contrast, the monitor has a gapless design overlaid with a tempered glass front panel.

Where the K-70 and K-S2 used a side-mounted tilt/swivel mechanism, though, the Pentax KP opts instead for a vertically-tilting design. The precise tilting range isn't stated in Ricoh's press materials, but looking at the mechanism, it appears to offer just a little more than a 90-degree upwards tilt, and around a 45-degree downwards tilt. Extensive selfie shooters may want to consider the K-70 or K-S2 instead, though, as those cameras' side-mounted tilt/swivel allow for viewing from in front of the lens, which the KP's articulation mechanism doesn't do.

Exposure modes

The KP offers all of the main exposure modes you'd expect to find in a Pentax DSLR. As well as fully Automatic exposure, Program (with program shift), Shutter priority (Tv), Aperture priority (Av), Manual, and Bulb, there are a couple of Pentax exclusives: Sensitivity priority (Sv), and Shutter-and-Aperture priority (TAv). In these latter two modes, you can either dial in a sensitivity and let the camera select aperture and shutter speed, or dial in the aperture and shutter speed, then let the camera select the sensitivity. There are also no less than five separate User modes (U1, U2, U3, U4 and U5), allowing you to quickly recall settings groups you'd saved for particular shooting situations.

And you can opt for various program lines when using automatic or semi-automatic exposure. As well as the default program line, you can bias the camera in favor of higher shutter speeds, a shallow or deep depth of field, or towards the MTF sweet spot of the lens. Alternatively, you can let the camera choose between these program lines on your behalf.

Drive modes

Drive mode options in the Pentax KP include single, continuous (high [7 fps], medium [3 fps], or low [0.8 fps]), self-timer (two or 12 second plus continuous), exposure bracketing, aperture bracketing, shutter bracketing, mirror lockup, multiple exposure, interval shooting, interval composite, interval movie record and star stream. The bracketing mode allows 2, 3, or 5 shots; we don't yet know what the maximum step size between exposures is.

Shutter

The Pentax KP's mechanical shutter speed range is a little more abbreviated than that of recent flagships. The shutter mechanism itself has a rated lifetime of 100,000 cycles (half that of the K-3 series cameras), and is pretty quiet for an APS-C DSLR. Available shutter speeds range from 1/6,000 to 30 seconds in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps, plus bulb / timed exposure. Enabling the electronic shutter extends this range to encompass everything from 1/24,000 to 30 seconds, and timed exposures are possible within a range from 10 seconds to 20 minutes.

White balance

The Pentax KP offers all the white balance choices you'd expect in a Ricoh DSLR, including the clever Multi Auto WB mode, which aims to neutralize color casts from multiple different light sources in the same scene. As well as Automatic and Manual modes, the KP provides nine white balance presets (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Daylight Color Fluorescent, Daylight White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Tungsten, and Color Temperature Enhancement). This last option is used to retain and enhance the lighting tone -- for example, to enhance a sunset.

White balance can also be measured from a neutral target, or a specific color temperature can be dialed in manually. Three custom white balance values of each type can be stored in-camera. And finally, you can adjust white balance within a +/- 7-step range on both amber-blue and green-magenta axes.

Creative

For a mid-range DSLR, the Pentax KP offers up a huge wealth of creative options.

HDR mode captures multiple images, then microaligns them in camera and blends them to create a single image with greater dynamic range. You have a choice of automatic blending, one of three effect strengths, or Advanced HDR mode. These range from fairly natural to a bolder, crunchier feel. (And since the images are microaligned, the mode can be used handheld.)

Multiple exposure mode also creates a single image from multiple exposures. There are three methods of merging the source images: additive, average or bright mode. The first two are self-explanatory, while the third takes the brightest pixel at any given location in the source images, and uses that in the final image. You can merge up to 2,000 frames, allowing for some pretty cool effects.

There's also a time-lapse function, which allows shots at 2-second to 24-hour intervals. Again, you can capture as many as 2,000 shots in a series. Here, you have a choice of saving each image separately, combining them all into a single composite image, or saving them as a 4K, Full HD or HD movie. For movie capture, you can also choose whether or not you want star trails in the clip.

Custom image and digital filter effects in the Pentax KP are unchanged from other recent models. Custom image modes include Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Radiant, Muted, Flat, Bleach Bypass, Reversal Film, Monochrome and Cross Processing. Digital filters include Extract Color, Replace Color, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Shading, Invert Color, Unicolor Bold and Bold Monochrome.

You can also enable a Cross Process function, which can either adjust its effect automatically and randomly, or you can choose from one of three presets, or one of three favorite Cross Process effects that you've previously saved.

Ricoh has also provided a +/- four-step clarity control, and an optional skin tone correction function with two operating modes.

Copyright tagging

Like all of the company's recent DSLRs, the Pentax KP can optionally embed copyright data into its raw and JPEG image files. You can enter both a photographer and copyright holder name from the camera body, and the headers of images will be tagged with both. It's not a permanent tag, and so you can't rely on it to protect your images from copyright theft, but it does make it so that you can easily identify who shot a particular image in your library.

Dual-axis level gauge

The Pentax KP includes a dual-axis level gauge function. This detects both side-to-side roll, and front-to-back pitch. Roll is displayed in the viewfinder, and on the rear-panel LCD monitor. Pitch can be displayed only on the LCD.

Pixel Shift Resolution

Ricoh's Pixel Shift Resolution function, which is achieved using the sensor-shift mechanism that's also used for image stabilization, was huge news when it first hit the scene with the Pentax K-3 II. It's been around for a while now, but it's still a huge boon for still-life shooters and anybody else with static subjects. We've covered the function in quite some detail on our news page in the past, and with that being the case, we'll just give you the nutshell overview here.

Pixel Shift Resolution has some similarities to -- and some key differences from -- the High Res Mode introduced by Olympus in the OM-D E-M5 II compact system camera. Like that system, Ricoh's Pixel Shift Resolution mode combines multiple sequential images with very slight adjustments of the image sensor position to create a single output image of higher quality.

Where Pentax's approach differs is that it takes four shots with full-pixel steps instead of eight shots with half-pixel steps, and it outputs each image at the sensor resolution, rather than at a significantly higher resolution. The downside is that there's more scope to improve detail using Olympus' methodology, but the upside is that file sizes can be much smaller the way Ricoh is doing things, and there's less time and processing power expended, too.

And while the output resolution is no different to that of a standard, single-shot image, there's little question that by getting full color information at every pixel, Ricoh can still significantly improve detail. (You only need to look at images from the Foveon X3 sensor-based cameras from Sigma, which actually record full color at every pixel in a single shot, to see that.)

Nor is it just improved detail and a reduced incidence of moiré, false color and jaggies that makes the Pixel Shift Resolution function worthwhile. It also reduces image noise and yields a finer-grained noise structure, since the additive exposures for each pixel can be used to average out luminance noise, and the remaining noise isn't interpolated outwards to surrounding pixels.

The function does now include a Motion Correction feature, as seen previously in the Pentax K-70. Our experience with this feature in that camera was that it works well for reasonably clear and distinct subjects such as people or vehicles moving around the image frame, but struggles with more subtle motion such as leaves rustling ripples in water and the like.

On-demand low-pass filtering

Another feature making clever use of the image stabilization system of the Pentax KP is what Pentax calls the AA Filter Simulator, or in layman's terms, on-demand low-pass filtering. Launched with the original K-3, this feature is a very cool way of combating moiré, false color, and jaggies when needed, yet maximizing sharpness the rest of the time. Instead of the resolution-robbing optical low pass filter used by some cameras, Ricoh achieved the same thing with a very fine motion of the image stabilization system during exposure.

For those who want to know the nuts and bolts, we have again explained the Anti-Aliasing Filter Simulator function in great detail in a past article entitled "Geek's Guide to On-Demand Low-Pass Filtering", as a part of our Pentax K-3 review. If you're already familiar with the system, which has since appeared in several other Pentax DSLRs, you know everything you need to about how it works in the KP: It's functioning is identical to other models that are running the latest firmware.

The importance of the system for your photography can't be overstated. It places control back in your hands, letting you decide what's most important for you on any given shot: maximum image detail, or resistance to objectionable artifacts. However, there are a couple of limits to bear in mind.

First of all, the system reaches its limits at exposures of 1/1,000 second or faster, so you'll find that the strength of its effect is diminished beyond this point, regardless of your choice. Secondly, it won't work with flash exposures, because the brief moment of illumination from your strobe isn't long enough for the required motion to take place. If you want to take advantage of the AA Filter Simulator to avoid artifacts in the studio, you'll need to use hot lights or available light.

But that's still better than the alternative from other DSLR manufacturers: Either using a full-time low-pass filter, or foregoing one altogether and relying on software techniques to combat moiré.

AstroTracer

Nor is that all for the much-loved sensor-shift assembly in the Pentax KP. Courtesy of the optional O-GPS1 GPS Unit accessory, the KP can combine location and direction information with the camera's own knowledge of it orientation and lens type to determine how quickly stars will be moving across the night sky, and in which direction. It can then use the Shake Reduction II system to counteract their motion, allowing for much longer exposures than would normally be possible without causing star trails to form.

The result is that you can get better results as an astrophotographer, without the need for any accessories beyond a good, sturdy tripod and the aforementioned O-GPS1 GPS unit. The actual exposure time you'll be able to achieve will depend on the focal length of the lens you're using, and of course you won't be able to include foreground subjects without blurring them instead, but this function -- dubbed AstroTracer -- really is unique in the marketplace.

Horizon correction

We already mentioned that the Pentax KP includes a built-in dual-axis level gauge. As in several of its other recent DSLRs, though, Ricoh goes a step further than simply showing the degree of side-to-side roll, though. The Pentax KP can also automatically correct for up to 1.5 degrees of roll in either direction if Shake Reduction is disabled, or one degree if it's enabled. If you're driven to distraction by tilted horizons, it's a great feature to have. (Note that the same feature on the K-3 and K-3 II can provide an even greater corrective range of up to two degrees with Shake Reduction disabled, however.)

Composition correction

All of these many features take advantage of Pentax's sensor-shift system for other purposes, and so to does composition correction. This is handy when you're shooting on a tripod, and want to make very slight adjustments to composition. You can move the sensor left, right, up, or down by a millimeter (or half a millimeter if rotated), and rotate it by up to a degree. That adjustment range might not sound like much, but it can really help you to fine-tune your composition to perfection!

Movie capture

The Pentax KP's Movie mode is somewhere between that of the flagship K-3 or K-3 II, and that of the subsequently-launched K-70.

The good news is that, just as in the K-70, there's no more dated, inefficient Motion JPEG compression. Instead, the Pentax KP uses more modern MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 compression in a .MOV container. (OK, that's not entirely true -- interval movies, which we'll come to in a second, are still shot with Motion JPEG compression. All real-time movies are shot with H.264 compression, though.)

The bad news, though, is that the Pentax KP returns to a reliance solely on contrast-detection autofocus for movie capture, skipping the on-chip phase-detection autofocus system which was used previously in the K-70. Interestingly, though, Ricoh says that continuous autofocus is now available even though this model lacks phase-detection AF in live view mode. (And given the K-70's rather flaky movie phase-detect implementation, perhaps returning to contrast-detect for the time being isn't such a bad thing anyway.)

The Pentax KP captures movies at up to Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel; 1080p/i) resolutions, with a generous selection of frame rates. These include interlaced 60i / 50i or progressive-scan 30p / 25p / 24p at Full HD resolution. At the lower 720p resolution, you'll find that the only choices are progressive scan 60p / 50p rates.

Sound comes courtesy of a built-in stereo microphone by default, or you can connect an off-camera microphone courtesy of a standard 3.5mm stereo mic port. Unlike the K-3 series cameras, however, there's no provision for audio levels monitoring during capture.

There's still a 25-minute / four gigabyte clip length limit in the Pentax KP, and so if you need to have longer continuous shooting, you'll need to look for another solution.

And we mentioned that the Pentax KP supports interval movie capture. This works much as it did in the K-3 and K-3 II, and shoots at up to 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160 pixels). If your clips are lengthy, you can expect some seriously colossal file sizes -- around 3GB per minute -- at this resolution, thanks to the Motion JPEG / AVI compression. That said, the ability to shoot ultra high-def time-lapse video is nevertheless pretty cool.

Weather-sealing / cold-proofing

Pentax's enthusiast-grade DSLRs have a reputation as among the best-sealed in the business, and the Pentax KP's body, too, is comprehensively dustproof and weatherproof, thanks to seals at all controls and body seams. The number of seals is listed as 67 in total. The KP is also freezeproof to 14°F / -10°C, and works reliably in temperatures up to 104°F / 40°C.

And it's not just the body that's weatherproof, either. Regardless of whether you're shopping for consumer or enthusiast-grade gear, weather-sealed options are now available to you. The optional D-BG7 portrait / battery grip is sealed to the same standard as the camera body. Likewise all DA* lenses, and several affordable WR lenses covering everything from 18mm to 300mm are also available for all-weather shooting.

Add in Pentax's weather-resistant strobes, and there isn't a link in the chain that can't be used in dust and rain. If you plan to shoot in inclement conditions, rest assured: this is truly part of a take-anywhere system.

Wireless connectivity

The Pentax K-S2 was the company's first DSLR to include in-camera Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity, a feature that's retained for the Pentax KP. What isn't retained is the NFC function, a decision which will have no impact whatsoever on iOS users (since Apple steadfastly refuses to let third parties use the NFC radios in its phones), but it's rather a shame for Android folks. The NFC antenna in the K-S2 made pairing much quicker and easier; Pentax KP users will need to pair manually instead.

Through a free "Image Sync" app for both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, the KP can be controlled remotely, complete with a live view feed and the ability to adjust variables such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO sensitivity. The Pentax KP supports 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n wireless networks with WPA2 AES encryption, just as did the K-70.

Wired connectivity

Wired connectivity in the Pentax KP includes USB 2.0 High Speed data using a Micro-B connector, and the aforementioned 3.5mm microphone jack and flash hot shoe. Although there's not a separate HDMI port, the USB port supports the SlimPort standard which allows output of an HDMI signal via USB courtesy of an optional SlimPort-HDMI adapter. The microphone jack, meanwhile, doubles as an input for an optional cabled remote release.

Power

Power comes courtesy of a proprietary D-LI109 lithium-ion battery pack, the same type used in the earlier Pentax K-S1, K-S2, K-50, K-70 and others. Battery life is rated at 390 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards, some 20 shots less than the K-70.

Battery grip

You can still supplement battery life by using the optional D-BG8 portrait grip, however. This allows you to insert a second D-LI109 battery pack for double the battery life (780 shots on a charge to CIPA standards). Alternatively, you can supplement the in-body battery with the same D-LI90 battery pack used in Pentax's flagship DSLRs. We don't currently have information on battery life with this pairing, however.

Either grip battery option is catered for with removable battery trays, and the grip itself also provides duplicate controls for portrait-orientation shooting.

Storage

Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, courtesy of a single SD card slot that is compatible with SDHC, SDXC and UHS-I cards. Both Pentax's proprietary PEF raw format and Adobe's standardized DNG raw format are supported in-camera. The Pentax KP supports 14-bit raw capture. However, it does lack the dual SD card slots of recent flagship models.

Software

The Pentax KP digital SLR ships with Pentax's Digital Camera Utility 5 software. It's still Silkypix-based, just like previous versions.

 

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