Pentax K-1 II Review
|Full model name:||Pentax K-1 II|
(35.9mm x 24.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 819,200|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 819,200|
|Shutter:||1/8000 - 30 sec|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
5.4 x 4.3 x 3.4 in.
(137 x 110 x 86 mm)
|Full specs:||Pentax K-1 II specifications|
K-1 II Summary
A modest but worthwhile update to the earlier K-1, the Pentax K-1 II is the company's flagship full-frame DSLR, offering the best image quality you can get from any K-mount camera and the most feature-rich shooting experience of any Ricoh camera. If performance is paramount, then you may want to look at an APS-C model for more speed, but otherwise the K-1 II represents the sweet spot in the Pentax DSLR line. Find out what it has to offer -- and whether you should buy one -- in our in-depth Pentax K-1 II review!Pros
Excellent build and comfortable handling; Bright, roomy viewfinder and articulated LCD; Great image quality; Good performance for the class; In-camera stabilization, GPS and Wi-Fi; Incredibly feature-rich design.Cons
Bulkier than APS-C DSLRs; Top ISOs are for the spec sheet, not the real world; JPEGs are a bit punchy by default; Slow startup; Below-average battery life; Only a relatively modest update to the K-1.Price and availability
The Pentax K-1 II became available from April 2018 in the US market. Suggested list pricing at launch was around US$2,000, some $200 (10%) higher than that of the original K-1 at launch. As of this writing in mid-2019, list pricing has been lowered twice by $100, for a current list price of around US$1,800. A kit version including the HD PENTAX-D FA 28-105mm F3.5-5.6 ED DC WR zoom lens is also offered, unlike the K-1 which was officially sold body-only. This new Pentax K-1 II kit was originally priced at around US$2,400, and now lists for around US$2,200.Imaging Resource rating
4.5 out of 5.0
Pentax K-1 II Review
At the start of 2016, Ricoh finally answered calls from Pentaxians for a full-frame DSLR with the arrival of the Pentax K-1. We were seriously impressed by the weatherproof, 36-megapixel K-1, which paired great ergonomics with a lengthy laundry list of features, some of them completely unique.
The first full-frame Pentax with an accelerator unit, as seen previously in the sub-frame K-70 and KP
Two years down the line, the K-1 received a followup in the form of the Pentax K-1 II. If you're familiar with the earlier camera, you already know most of what you need to about its successor, as the two are near-identical in most ways. There are changes in just a few key areas.
So what's new? Well, most importantly the Pentax K-1 II now features the same accelerator unit which made its debut in 2016's Pentax K-70, and was also sighted in the 2017 model year Pentax KP. So what, exactly, does this new unit do? Ricoh has played its cards pretty close to its chest, but we understand that it's being used to assist the main PRIME IV-branded processor with denoising, thereby freeing it up to expend more processing power on other image quality-related tasks.
A two-stop increase in high ISO sensitivity
The Pentax K-1 II's performance is basically unchanged from that of its predecessor. Full-resolution, full-frame burst capture is still limited to a maximum of 4.4 frames per second, while the 15-megapixel APS-C crop mode has slowed ever so fractionally from 6.5 to 6.4 fps. (The K-1 II managed slightly higher numbers in our Performance lab tests.)
But while burst capture speed is unchanged, the K-1 II's maximum ISO sensitivity soars a full two stops beyond what the K-1 could manage. Just as did the sub-frame Pentax KP before it, the K-1 II offers everything from a minimum of ISO 100 to a maximum of ISO 819,200, but it does so with a much larger full-frame sensor. Read our image quality and print quality analyses for the full story on this.
Miracle of miracles, a hand-holdable version of Pixel Shift Resolution!!
As well as that two-stop expansion of its sensitivity range, the K-1 II further improves upon the Pixel Shift Resolution function mode which made its debut in the sub-frame Pentax K-3 II, and was further refined in the original K-1. Pixel Shift Resolution is used to increase per-pixel sharpness, and to combat false color and moiré artifacts as well, by capturing four images of the same scene in quick succession while fractionally adjusting the sensor-shift mechanism in between frames.
In the original K-3 II, the function worked only with completely static subjects and a tripod-mounted camera, making it more useful in a studio setting or for landscapes, and less so for other real-world subjects. The original K-1 improved upon this by adding the ability to compensate for moving subjects within an otherwise static scene, but still couldn't handle camera motion.
Now, the K-1 II adds a feature which promises to greatly improve upon the versatility of Pixel Shift Resolution, answering the cries of Pentaxians ever since the original K-3 II. The K-1 II now allows Pixel Shift Resolution to be used handheld, an improvement which we'd imagine required a significant development effort.
This new feature makes Pixel Shift Resolution a noticeably more useful tool in a much broader range of situations. You're still going to want to use it for predominantly static scenes, as moving subjects can't benefit from the technique in the first place, but being able to shoot those scenes without having to carry around a tripod makes this a much more useful tool in the real world.
All of the K-1's firmware updates are rolled into the K-1 II, of course
And that's essentially it for the new features. The Pentax K-1 II is otherwise very much like the original (and very impressive) K-1 in most other respects, at least if the K-1 has been upgraded to current firmware. (The K-1 II ships with KAF4 lens support, night vision LCD mode, electronic shutter function and a choice of two or three-shot AA filter bracketing functions out of the box, where these features were added to the earlier K-1 via firmware updates post-launch.)
Packing an extra battery will be more important than ever
But there's one area in which the K-1 II does trail its predecessor somewhat, likely thanks to the added power draw from the accelerator unit discussed previously. The original K-1's battery life was already modest by DSLR standards, and the K-1 II is even more so, with around a 12% reduction in battery life when measured according to CIPA testing standards. Battery life is now said to be around 670 still frames (down from 760 in the K-1), and around 340 minutes of playback (down from 390).
Ricoh has also switched away from using the optionally-available K-AC132 AC adapter kit (which is also compatible with the sub-frame K-3 series cameras) to provide mains power for studio shooting. Instead, it now offers the same, optional K-AC167 kit as used with the Pentax KP.
The K-1 II will also be available as an in-place upgrade for your existing K-1
If you're a K-1 owner, you're probably feeling a touch of jealousy at this new model. There's probably not enough to justify the expense of replacing your camera with the newer model unless your pockets are deep, but at the same time, a two-stop improvement in high ISO performance and a hand-holdable Pixel Shift Resolution mode aren't to be sniffed at.
is was great news, if so! [Edit 06/2019: The program described below has now ended, but we're leaving mention of it in our review for historical purposes.] Ricoh has shown impressive commitment to its customers by announcing a paid upgrade program which will allow K-1 owners to have their cameras converted to K-1 II spec. You had to act quickly if you wanted to take advantage of the offer, as it was only valid from May 21 to September 30, 2018 in the North American market.
Pricing was set at US$550 or CA$690, and while that might sound like a lot, it's worth bearing in mind that replacing the entire camera body would cost almost four times as much. Techs at Precision Camera (in the USA) or Sun Camera (in Canada), working on Ricoh's behalf, had to replace the main circuit board to gift these new features to a K-1 body. (They also swapped the SR logo for a K-1 II logo, so it should be immediately obvious which cameras have the upgrade if you are buying second-hand today.)
Swapping circuit boards like this is a rather labor-intensive task, requiring your camera to be partially dismantled, reconfigured, put back together and tested, one at a time. Given that fact, a $550 upgrade cost struck us as eminently reasonable.
Read our original K-1 review for much more insight on the closely-related K-1 II
In other respects including its body, sensor, PRIME IV processor, viewfinder, displays, connectivity and storage options, the K-1 II is basically the same camera as the K-1, so once you've finished reading this review, we'd strongly recommend also taking a look over our existing Pentax K-1 review, as most of it is also applicable to this camera.
Just want to know all of the features of the K-1 II, old and new? Read our Technical Info report here!
Pentax K-1 II Field Test Part I
Return of the king: Ricoh's full-frame flagship is back and better than ever!
I knew that the bayonet design which Pentaxians know and love dates back to 1975, when Asahi Pentax (as the company was then known) replaced its earlier screwmount design for the K2, KX and KM film cameras. What I didn't know was that the new bayonet's initialism was a play on the logo for Asahi Pentax, as the brand was then known. The logo included a crown, and the letter K stood for "king". (The subsequent Q-mount, of course, was the "queen".)
Pentax K-1 II Field Test Part II
A second look at one of our favorite cameras of 2018
It's official: The K-1 II is an award-winner, too
In fact, we've been impressed enough with the Pentax K-1II that we recently named it a Camera of Distinction in the Best Professional Camera categoryof our2018 Camera of the Year awards. So believe me when I say that, when I've managed to get out and shoot with it, I've continued to greatly enjoy the experience of using this camera. (For still images, at least; it's not really aimed at videographers as we'll discuss in a moment.)
Pentax K-1 II Field Test Part III
There's a noticeable detail boost from handheld Pixel Shift Resolution!
A brief recap of Pixel Shift Resolution
But in a nutshell, the technique works by capturing four frames in the shortest time possible -- which varies depending upon whether an electronic or mechanical shutter is being used -- and microscopically adjusting the position of the image sensor between frames. In the process, the amount of light gathered is quadrupled, because instead of 2/3 of the incoming light being lost to a Bayer color filter array, every pixel location is now full-color sensitive, with data having been captured in red, green (twice) and blue.
Pentax K-1 II Technical Info
Take a deep dive under the hood
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.
Pentax K-1 II Image Quality Comparison
See how the K-1 II's IQ compares to its predecessor and rivals
We've also included some comparisons of the K-1 II's single-shot mode to the two Pixel Shift Resolution modes, as well as between the standard and new Dynamic PSR modes.
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 II Print Quality Analysis
But how does it do on paper?
The Pentax K-1 Mark II delivers a solid performance in the print quality department, turning in stunning images at and near base ISO, and continuing to deliver large images up to ISO 3200. We find the images to be pleasing and three dimensional for viewing, and the camera delivers in image quality as we'd expect from a good full-frame camera, though not as good as some leading competitors. Somewhat surprisingly the Mark II does not exceed any print sizes as compared to the original Mark I, despite its lower high ISO noise levels. However, it doesn't require a reduction to any sizes either, so that's a good thing. And with careful processing of raw files or when employing Pixel Shift Resolution mode, you'll certainly be able to produce even larger prints.
Pentax K-1 II Conclusion
A minor -- but worthwhile -- update to an already-great camera!
The K-1 II shares basically everything that made the K-1 a great camera
And what a camera the original K-1 was, which is great news for would-be K-1 II owners since they're so closely-related. As I said in my review of that camera -- which you should definitely read after you finish this conclusion, because it shares so much with the K-1 II -- the K-1 is a no-brainer choice for Pentaxians who want to enjoy the advantages of full-frame.
In the Box
The Pentax K-1 II retail box ships with the following items:
- Pentax K-1 Mark II camera body
- Body cap K II
- D-LI90 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack
- D-BC90 battery charger
- AC plug cord
- Hot shoe cover FK
- Eyepiece cup FT
- Shoulder strap O-ST162
- Finder cap ME
- PC socket cap
- Instruction manual
- Software CD-ROM S-SW171
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