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 seconds|
|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|
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Pentax K-1 II Review -- First Impressions
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 02/21/2018
02/22/2018: Comprehensive Technical Info report added.
A couple of years ago, at the start of 2016, Ricoh finally answered the 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 to this camera.
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 has now 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 thus far, but we can make an educated guess that it's being used to assist the main PRIME IV-branded processor with denoising.
A two-stop improvement in high ISO sensitivity
The reason we can draw that conclusion is that 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.
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, so we'd expect more of the high ISO range to be usable than was the case with the KP.
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. (Moving the sensor precisely enough to manage single photodiode shifts is already challenging; now imagine trying to do it while also accounting for camera motion.)
If this new feature pans out in real-world use, Pixel Shift Resolution becomes a 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.
Well, there's great news, if so! 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'll have to act quickly if you want to take advantage of the offer, as it's only valid from May 21 to September 30, 2018 in the North American market.
Pricing is 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, will have to replace the main circuit board to gift these new features to a K-1 body. (They'll also swap your 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 at a later date.)
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 strikes us as eminently reasonable.
(We don't know for sure if there will be similar programs in other regions, but we wouldn't be surprised. Contact your local Ricoh dealer to find out for sure, if you're not in the USA or Canada, and share your discoveries in the comments section below for your fellow readers!)
Pentax K-1 II price and availability information
The Pentax K-1 II will be available from April 2018 in the US market. Suggested list pricing is set at around US$2,000, which interestingly is a full $200 (10%) higher than the original K-1 at launch two years ago. (Although, to be clear, the body-only K-1 itself has often sold for as much as $100-150 above list price, after a price hike which happened in late 2016, suggesting that Ricoh is having no problems selling bodies at this price.)
A kit version including the HD PENTAX-D FA 28-105mm F3.5-5.6 ED DC WR zoom lens will also be offered, unlike the K-1 which was officially sold body-only. This new Pentax K-1 II kit will be priced at around US$2,400.
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 while you're waiting on our Pentax K-1 II review to be completed, we'd strongly recommend also taking a look over our existing Pentax K-1 review, as most of it will also be applicable to this camera.
Just want to know all of the features of the K-1 II, old and new? Continue reading on below!
Pentax K-1 II Technical Info
by Mike Tomkins | Posted: 02/22/2018
An all-weather body with excellent ergonomics
The Pentax K-1 II retains the same weather-sealed, magnesium-alloy body which debuted with the original K-1. It's comprehensively weatherproofed, with a total of 87 seals protecting seams, compartments and controls alike from ingress of dust or moisture. And if you purchase the optional portrait / battery grip, this has a further 47 seals. Of course, you'll also need to be using a weather-sealed lens for proper protection.
To choose a weather-sealed lens, look for either the AW or WR designation on a full-frame or sub-frame optic / rear converter, or the DA* designation indicating a premium sub-frame optic. (All of the latter are weather-sealed, but note that the same is not true of FA*-badged lenses.) Continuing the weather-sealed system, the Pentax AF360FGZ II and AF540FGZ II flash strobes are also weather-sealed, as is the O-RC1 remote control.
As well as dust and water-resistance, the K-1 II is also freezeproof, able to operate in temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C).
36-megapixel full-frame and 15-megapixel sub-frame capture
At the heart of the K-1 II is a 36.4-megapixel full-frame CMOS image sensor with a Bayer RGBG color filter array. Dimensions are 35.9 x 24mm, total resolution is 36.77 megapixels, and the pixel pitch is 4.9 microns. Maximum image size is 7,360 x 4,912 pixels, except when operating in the APS-C crop mode, when resolution tops out at 4,800 x 3,200 pixels (or in other words, 15.3 megapixels).
As with other Pentax DSLRs since the K-3, the K-1 II 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 little changed from that camera, although it does now offer a choice of two or three-frame AA Filter Simulator bracketing function, as was added to the K-1 in a firmware update.)
The PRIME IV processor meets a new Accelerator Unit
Like its predecessor, the K-1 II is based around Ricoh's PRIME IV processor. (That's a contraction of "Pentax Real IMage Engine", if you're curious.)
But where the K-1's processor operated alone, the PRIME IV chip in the K-1 II is now aided by what Ricoh is calling an "Accelerator Unit". This featured previously in the sub-frame Pentax K-70 and KP cameras, and is making its full-frame debut in the K-1 II. While Pentax hasn't disclosed this unit's precise function at this time, our educated guess is that it's likely dedicated to noise reduction processing, as the Pentax KP and K-1 II both offer uncommonly broad sensitivity ranges.
Two extra stops of sensitivity at the top end
How broad is uncommonly broad? Well, the original K-1 had an overall sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 204,800. The K-1 II, though, provides an extra two stops of sensitivity at the top end, for an upper limit of ISO 819,200! The entire range is available without needing to enable ISO expansion, and step sizes of 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV are available.
There's also an Auto ISO sensitivity function, whose upper limit can be manually selected. And as in past cameras, you can configure the K-1 II to raise sensitivity more or less quickly than the default.
Moderate performance but with a generous buffer
With a larger, higher-resolution sensor than its sub-frame siblings, the Pentax K-1 II understandably trails them in terms of burst-shooting performance, just as did its predecessor. With a manufacturer rating of 4.4 frames per second, it also trails competitors like the Nikon D810, Canon EOS 5DS R and Sony Alpha A7R II, all of which are manufacturer-rated at five fps.
However, it's worth noting that all three are also significantly more expensive cameras. A fairer comparison would be to the Sony A7R, which has similar resolution and is only fractionally more affordable -- and here the toss-up falls in Ricoh's favor. Sony rates the A7R for around four fps, making the K-1 II about 10% faster than its nearest rival.
Of course, one should also note that all of this relates to full-sensor capture. If you apply an APS-C sensor crop, the K-1 II is capable of shooting at around 6.4 frames per second. Curiously, that's just fractionally slower than the figure for the K-1, which was 6.5 fps. We're not entirely sure why, and have a query in with Ricoh on this point, so we'll let you know if we get an answer!
Although it won't knock your socks off for performance, the buffer depth is pretty generous in either full-frame or APS-C modes. The full-resolution mode can capture around 70 JPEG or 17 raw frames in a burst, while the APS-C mode will allow up to 100 JPEG or 50 raw frames in a burst.
Shoot at lower speeds too, if you want
There are also two reduced-speed burst shooting rates available, although the rate for the minimum-speed option differs depending on crop mode. The intermediate rate provides three fps regardless of crop mode setting, while the lowest rate should manage around one full-frame image every 1.4 seconds, or one APS-C frame per second. Either option should prove handy for situations where you don't need the full burst rate, 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 burst speed for reduced-rate capture.)
As you'd expect, the lower-speed burst modes have even greater burst depths. For full-frame shooting, Ricoh claims a depth of 100 JPEG or 20 raw images at three fps, or 100 raw / JPEG images at 0.7 fps. Crop to APS-C, and the company predicts a depth of 100 JPEG or 70 raw images at three fps, or 100 raw / JPEG images at one frame per second.
(We're guessing that you'll actually get more than 100 frames in the above ratings, incidentally, and that Ricoh simply doesn't supply a precise value if more than 100 frames are possible.)
Banish blur from camera shake with five-axis, five-stop Shake Reduction
Like the K-1 before it, the K-1 II includes in-body image stabilization. It's a more sophisticated system than that in the APS-C flagship K-3 series cameras, if you're considering a step up from sub-frame, though. Where those models were limited to three-axis Shake Reduction and had a maximum correction of around 4.5 stops to CIPA testing standards, the K-1 II offers up five-axis stabilization and a five-stop corrective range, just as did its predecessor.
Wondering what the five different correction axes are? Wonder no more: The K-1 II can correct for vertical and horizontal translational motion (that is, straight side-to-side and up-or-down motion), as well as for side-to-side roll, front-to-back yaw, and rotation around the central axis of the lens.
As in the Pentax K-1 and K-3 II, the K-1 II also includes a panning detection function. This 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.
Game changer? Pixel Shift Resolution now works handheld, too!
In early 2016, Pentax had big news for still-life shooters and anybody else with static subjects when it launched its brand-new Pixel Shift Resolution function in the K-3 II. The K-1 updated it with a motion compensation function which detected and corrected for moving subjects within an overall static scene, making it quite a bit more useful. Now, the Pentax K-1 II revolutionizes the function with support for handheld shooting!
Curious how Pixel Shift Resolution works? We covered it in quite some detail on our news page at the time, and while it now supports both handheld shooting and moving subjects within the scene, the fundamentals are unchanged. Hence, our K-3 II article remains relevant for the technical types among us. For the rest, we'll give you the nutshell overview first, before returning to what's new.
How Pixel Shift Resolution differs from its Olympus, Panasonic and Sony rivals
Pixel Shift Resolution has some similarities to -- and some key differences from -- the High Res Mode first introduced by Olympus in the OM-D E-M5 II compact system camera, the Pixel Shift function introduced recently in the Sony A7R III, and the even more recent high-res mode of the Panasonic G9. Like all of those systems, 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.
One place where Pentax and Sony's approach differs from that of Olympus and Panasonic is that they take four shots with full-pixel steps instead of eight shots with half-pixel steps. Another is that when recording JPEGs, Pentax outputs each image at the sensor resolution, rather than at a significantly higher resolution as do Olympus and Panasonic.
(Sony, meanwhile, can't create a pixel-shifted JPEG in-camera at all, recording only as four separate raw images which must be combined on a computer, using either the free Imaging Edge (Remote) or (Viewer) apps for 64-bit Windows or Mac OS.If you can relate to the "What's a computer" kid in Apple's rather divisive TV ad, well... you're out of luck with Sony's implementation until such time as you learn the answer to your question, we suppose. ;)
Ricoh's technique is bested in some respects, but offers important advantages too
The downside for Ricoh and Sony's techniques overall is that there's likely more scope to improve detail using Olympus' methodology. And compared to Olympus and Sony, another disadvantage of Ricoh's technique is that you can't use flash with Pixel Shift Resolution mode. (Sony allows flash sync at 1/13 second, while Olympus allows sync at 1/30 or 1/60 second, depending on the camera model.)
But there are a couple of important upsides for Ricoh stratagem, too. For one thing, file sizes can be much smaller the way Ricoh is doing things, saving you card space and reducing the time you have to wait for images to be written to the flash card. With fewer shots and less data to handle, there's less time and processing power expended if you choose to write JPEGs in-camera.
And compared to Sony, which mandates a minimum of one full second between exposures to allow vibrations to dissipate, the capture process is far faster, too.
Pixel Shift Resolution can make a very obvious improvement in per-pixel sharpness
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. Or, for that matter, images shot with the earlier Pentax K-1, which can be exquisitely detailed.
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.
Camera / subject motion can be corrected, but PSR is still for mostly static scenes
When it originally debuted in the K-3 II, Pixel Shift Resolution only worked for completely static, tripod-mounted images shot with an electronic shutter.
The Pentax K-1 further refined this, detecting image areas that showed subject motion between frames, and then simply skipping the Pixel Shift Resolution processing for these image areas. Since they contain moving subjects, these areas aren't likely to benefit noticeably from increased color resolution anyway, but the Pixel Shift Resolution technique can still be applied elsewhere to improve fine details in static image areas.
And now, the Pentax K-1 II debuts support for handheld capture, even when using Pixel Shift Resolution mode. This simply can't be overstated: If it works well in the real world, this revolutionizes multi-shot, resolution-boosting image capture. Pixel Shift Resolution still makes sense only for predominantly static subjects, of course, or there's no scope for improving image quality. But with the overhauled Pixel Shift function you no longer need lug around a bulky, reasonably sturdy tripod to take advantage of the effect. Now, you can travel light and shoot Pixel Shift Resolution-enhanced imagery with tack-sharp details from locations where previously, it would have been difficult or impossible.
The K-1 II is rare among full-frame cameras in offering optional low-pass filtering
When Ricoh launched the K-3 back in 2013, it debuted a revolutionary new 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, the Anti-Aliasing Filter Simulator function is explained in detail by IR publisher Dave Etchells in our "Geek's Guide to On-Demand Low-Pass Filtering", part of our Pentax K-3 review. If you're already familiar with the system, which has since appeared in several Pentax SLRs, you know almost everything you need to about how it works in the K-1 II. The only thing we'd add in terms of functionality is that you can now bracket the AA Filter Simulator function, with the camera shooting your choice of either two or three frames with different AA Filter Simulator settings.
Only Sony has a better system, and it's not available in an interchangeable-lens camera
We should also note that since our review of the K-3 was written, a competing technology has appeared on the scene, so Ricoh's function is no longer unique in its capabilities, even if the manner in which the effect is achieved differs wildly. Out of the two methods, Sony's Optical Variable Low-Pass filter is clearly the superior method, as it's a real low-pass filter rather than an artificial one, and so not subject to some limitations of the artificial method.
Sony's fixed-lens RX1R Mark II uses liquid crystal technology with conventional low-pass filter elements to permit low-pass filtration to be turned on or off completely, or to be set somewhere in between the two states. Since it's achieved in hardware, it doesn't have the limitations of Ricoh's system, which reaches its limits at exposures of 1/1,000 second or faster. Beyond that point, you'll find that the strength of the AA filter simulator effect is diminished regardless of your settings. Also, Ricoh's system 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.
Still, even in the face of what's potentially a better rival -- albeit not one available yet in an interchangeable-lens camera -- the importance of Ricoh's system for your photography can't be overstated. It places control back in your hands for most shooting situations, letting you decide what's most important for you on any given shot: maximum image detail, or resistance to objectionable artifacts.
Compatible with decades of full-frame and sub-frame Pentax lenses for film or digital
The Pentax K-1 II's KAF2 lens mount is a variant of the K-mount that has been used in the preceding full-frame K-1, all sub-frame Pentax digital SLRs to date, the K-01 mirrorless camera and the company's many 35mm film SLRs.
But where all Pentax DSLRs except the preceding K-1 and the medium-format 645-series are limited to using the centermost area of the image circle for full-frame optics, the K-1 II allows you to use your full-frame lenses as their designers intended. (And with the K-1 now discontinued, the K-1 II is in fact your only full-frame choice for the K-mount, unless you're willing to take the not-insignificant risk of buying secondhand.)
Compatible with decades of full-frame and sub-frame Pentax lenses for film or digital
In all, there are a dozen different full-frame lenses currently available from Pentax, and one further lens -- the tentatively-named HD PENTAX-D FA* 50mm F1.4 SDM AW -- is set to arrive this spring. Another, the D FA * 85mmF1.4, is set for 2018 or later. Four other unnamed optics are set to follow: A fish-eye zoom, ultra-wide angle prime, large-aperture wide-angle prime and a telephoto zoom. And you can also use decades worth of great glass made for the Pentax K-mount, too, all but the oldest of it without any significant restrictions. (Only the very oldest lenses from the latter half of the 1970s or lenses adapted from other mounts come with any troublesome strings attached to their use.)
And of course, you can also switch to APS-C mode if you can live with 15.3-megapixel resolution, where you'll find a faster burst capture rate and support for the many sub-frame optics released since Pentax made the jump to digital with the clumsily-named *ist D almost 15 years ago. Interestingly, a fair few optics billed as being made for sub-frame cameras over the years can nevertheless provide a sufficiently large image circle to shoot on full-frame, albeit with an increased likelihood of image defects towards the edges and especially in the corners of the frame.
Among these, three currently-available DA-series (ie. sub-frame) lenses not only have sufficiently large image circles that they can fully cover a full-frame image sensor, but are also compatible with some lens correction functionality outside of the APS-C image area. (This includes diffraction and chromatic aberration correction; we're not sure if it includes further corrections.) But it should be noted that Ricoh doesn't guarantee the quality outside of the APS-C image area, and given that these are all long teles -- the 200mm F2.8, 300mm F4 and 560mm F5.6 -- you'd probably do better to just shoot with a wider lens in the first place.
When shooting with a sub-frame lens, the Pentax K-1 II can detect this and automatically apply the requisite APS-C crop. Alternatively, you can make the choice to switch between full-frame and sub-frame operation yourself.
Top-notch dust removal as you'd expect from a Pentax flagship camera
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 other flagship models since the K-7 for the new K-1 II . 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.
To help you decide when a more detailed cleaning is needed, the K-1 II also retains its predecessors' dust alert function, which helps you to locate stubborn dust particles on the sensor for manual cleaning.
Automatic correction of common optical defects
Also like other recent Pentax DSLRs, the K-1 II includes lens correction functionality. This can correct for lens distortion, lateral chromatic aberration, vignetting and diffraction in-camera when using DA and DFA lenses, as well as with certain FA lenses.
The K-1 II features an 86,000 pixel RGB CCD metering sensor. It 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.
You can also specify up to +/-5EV of exposure compensation, or bracket two, three or five 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.
And since the metering sensor is based around a color-filtered chip, it can also recognize color information, allowing it to help out with subject identification too.
The same 33-point SAFOX 12 autofocus system as in the K-1
The K-1 II retains the same 33-point autofocus sensor which debuted in the preceding K-1. Dubbed SAFOX 12, it has much the same arrangement as the earlier SAFOX 11 design, but places an additional three AF points on either side of the main array, just inside the two linear AF points at the leftmost and rightmost ends of the array.
The 25 central points in a 5x5 array are all cross-types, sensitive to detail in both the horizontal and vertical axes. The remaining eight points, located towards the 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. These same points also have a working range of -3 to +18EV.
All of the same autofocus functions and options, too
Autofocus mode choices include AF-S (single-servo), AF-C (continuous-servo), and automatic selection (AF-A). You can also switch from the default 33-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.
As in the K-3 cameras, 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 K-1. In single-servo mode, you can choose focus priority to have the camera wait to trip the shutter until a focus lock is achieved, or shutter priority to take it as soon as you full 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).
No hybrid or phase-detect AF in live view, just regular contrast-detect AF or manual focusing
Of course, all of the above applies only when focusing using the dedicated AF sensor, which can only happen when the reflex mirror is lowered. In live view or movie modes, the Pentax K-1 II instead switches solely to contrast-detection autofocus, which provides both face detection and tracking capabilities. You can focus manually as well, just as you'd expect, and if you do so in live view mode there's a focus peaking display to help you ascertain the exact point of focus.
No built-in flash, but great support for external strobes
As you'd probably expect on a camera aimed at enthusiast or professional use, the K-1 II lacks a built-in flash strobe. Many -- perhaps even most -- potential K-1 owners will see this as a good thing, since popup strobes represent a potential point of failure. If you're the type to rely on your popup strobe, though, you'll want to retrain yourself to bring a separate flash. Although with that said, the extremely wide sensitivity range of the K-1 II should go some way to preventing the need for a flash in the first place.
If you're a fan of off-camera wireless flash, the absence of the built-in strobe also means that you'll need an extra external strobe, since there's no longer a built-in strobe with which for the camera body to communicate with off-camera strobes. (Of course, you could also use a wired tether between camera and strobe, using the K-1 II's sync connector or a hot-shoe mounted cable.)
Speaking of which, the standard hot shoe on the top deck also includes both support for a locking pin, and intelligent connections that allow for Pentax's P-TTL flash metering system. And the aforementioned PC sync socket is protected by a small, screw-in cap, although it isn't attached to the camera body, so you'll want to ensure it's snug so as not to lose it. Still, it's nice to have the terminal at all -- many competitors force you to buy a hot shoe to PC terminal adapter, if you want to hook up your studio strobes.
Love the outdoors and traveling? Put your shots on the map with the K-1 II's geotagging support
Like the Pentax K-3 II and K-1 before it, the K-1 II features a built-in GPS receiver, electronic compass and three-axis orientation sensor. Together, these allow it to geotag your images with their capture location, the direction the camera was pointing, and the extremely accurate time provided by the GPS satellites.
The K-1 can also record track logs in the KML format used by Google Earth, logging your location at intervals of 5, 10, 15, 30 or 60 seconds, with a duration of up to 9 hours at the minimum interval or 18 hours with a 10-second interval. (Bear in mind, though, that if you take advantage of the full duration, you won't have any battery life left over for shooting photos, which rather defeats the purpose of having the camera in the first place!) Regardless of the interval set, the maximum logging time is 24 hours.
Of course, we live in a world where there are now multiple competing standard for satellite positioning systems, and so when one refers to GPS, it isn't immediately clear which systems the device is compatible with. For the K-1 II, it's compatible with the United States government's GPS system, but not other systems such as Russia's GLONASS, China's Beidou, Europe's Galileo or India's IRNSS. That doesn't mean it can't get a fix in these regions, though, as GPS has pretty-much global coverage -- it just means that it can't take advantage of the extra satellites from the rival systems to gain a faster, more accurate fix.
What it can do, though, is to improve the quality of its positioning using a number of augmentations to the GPS system. These include the US Federal Aviation Administration's WAAS in North America, the European Union's EGNOS inside Western Europe, India's GAGAN within the Indian subcontinent, and both the MSAS and proposed QZSS systems within Japan. In other regions, the K-1 II will fall back to relying solely on the base GPS system for its location information.
AstroTracer freezes the night sky for longer exposures without star trails
Nor is that all. If you've ever tried to shoot an image of the night sky to reveal the details invisible to the naked eye, you'll appreciate another clever capability of the Pentax K-1 II. By combining information from the GPS receiver, compass, orientation sensors and lens, the K-1 II can determine how quickly stars will be moving across the night sky, and in which direction. It can then use the Shake Reduction 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 accessory beyond a good, sturdy tripod. 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. And with their larger, more sensitive full-frame sensor and higher resolution, it shows even more potential on the K-1 II and its predecessor than it did on the sub-frame K-3 II.
A really bright, roomy DSLR viewfinder gives you a great connection to your subjects
Ricoh debuted a new pentaprism viewfinder in the Pentax K-1, and it's retained in the followup camera too, still sporting an accurate manufacturer-rated 100% coverage. In place of the LED focus point indication used in sub-frame models, it features an illuminated LCD overlay providing a customizable grid display, an indication of the crop area if applicable, and a dual-axis level gauge display.
Magnification is 0.7x (50mm f/1.4 lens at infinity), and the eyepoint is 20.6mm from the eyepiece frame, or 21.7mm from the viewfinder lens. The viewfinder comes with a Natural Bright-Matte III type focusing screen, and this is not interchangeable. The dioptric adjustment range of -3.5 to +1.2m-1 is even broader than that provided in the company's flagship APS-C cameras.
The Lunar Lander articulation mechanism is back for a second generation!
The Pentax K-1 II's rear-panel LCD monitor also debuted in the previous K-1 model, and still has probably the most unusual articulation mechanism we've seen to date, dubbed "Cross-Tilt". (We've often described it as reminiscent of NASA's lunar lander modules from the Apollo missions!)
The monitor itself sits atop four struts which allow it not only to be angled to face up, down, left or right, but even swiveled somewhat. These struts provide for +/-35 degrees of side-to-side adjustment, and +/-44 degrees of vertical tilt. Once they reach their maximum extent, a secondary hinge allows the screen tilt to continue upwards to the 90-degree position for waist-level or low-to-the-ground shots. It's a bit tricky to describe, but certainly provides a much wider range of motion than competing designs.
Of course, it can't be angled forwards for selfie shooting, but that's hardly a major use case for a full-frame camera. The one obvious downside compared to a more traditional tilt/swivel mechanism, though, is that the display can't be closed facing inwards for added protection.
The display itself has a 3.2-inch diagonal, a 3:2 aspect ratio, and a total dot count of around 1,037k dots. And helping combat glare and low contrast, it has a gapless design. Further assisting with visibility is a new outdoor view setting which boosts brightness with two-step control. You can also dim the LCD significantly and even enable a red channel-only Night Vision LCD Display mode for night shooting, to help protect your night vision. Additional controls let you tweak brightness, saturation and color.
A modestly-sized top-deck LCD
For quick at-a-glance checks of basic setup, battery life and shots remaining, there's still a monochrome info display on the top deck. Just as in the K-1, it's significantly smaller and contains less information than that on the earlier K-series sub-frame flagships. That decluttering helps to free up room for some of the new top-deck controls, but the display still hits all of the high points. For nighttime viewing, it has an amber backlight which illuminates when you press the dedicated lamp button on the top of the camera.
On-demand body lighting is still an unbelievably clever idea
That's not the only function of the lamp button, though. It also activates another unique feature the K-1 II inherited from its predecessor. On the outside of the body are an array of lights, but unlike those on the entry-level Pentax K-S1, these are no mere fashion accent. Instead, they illuminate the camera body to help make it easier to see what you're doing when fiddling with controls, changing lenses and so forth after dark.
One such LED sits beneath the pentaprism assembly on the front of the camera, providing illumination for the lens mount. Four more can be found on the rear of the LCD monitor, and light up the rear-panel controls once the display is tipped or pulled outwards from the camera body. Further LEDs cast some light on the K-1 II's flash card slots and cable connectors.
If you want, you can adjust the brightness of the LEDs or disable them altogether, as well. It's a really nice detail which makes it much easier to handle the K-1 II at night. Hindsight is 20/20, but we can't help wondering why nobody thought of this before Ricoh.
More exposure modes than you can shake a selfie stick at
The K-1 II offers a healthy selection of exposure modes. As well as Automatic, 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's also a Flash X-Sync mode, which locks the shutter speed at 1/200 second, just a little faster than the 1/180 second typical of Pentax DSLRs.
There are also five separate User modes (U1 thru 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.
Finally, the Auto mode has a Real-Time Scene Analysis system which, as in the K-1, improves results when shooting in the Auto Select custom image mode.
All of the same drive modes as in the K-1
Drive mode options in the K-1 II include continuous (high, medium, or low), self-timer (two or 12 second), remote control (instant, three second, or continuous), bracketing, mirror lockup, HDR, interval, interval composite and multiple exposure. (More on these last few in the creative section below.) The bracketing mode allows 2, 3, or 5 shots with up to 2EV between exposures.
A swift 1/8,000-second physical shutter with a long 300,000-cycle lifetime
The Pentax K-1 II's shutter speed range is unchanged from that of other recent flagships, and the shutter mechanism itself is carried over from the K-1 specifically. It has a rated lifetime of 300,000 cycles, 50% higher than that of Pentax's APS-C flagships. Available shutter speeds range from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps, plus bulb.
There's also an electronic shutter function, accessible only in live view mode. We're not actually certain of its shutter speed range at this point, as we've not had a chance to shoot with the earlier K-1 ourselves since this feature was added in firmware version 1.30, and Ricoh's marketing materials don't list this spec. Rest assured we'll be checking this out for ourselves soon, though!
Comprehensive white balance options like all Pentax flagships
The K-1 II's white balance system offers a wide range of options, including an interesting 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 K-1 II 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, using either Kelvin or Mired values. 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.
The Pentax K-1 II is comprehensively equipped to unlock your creativity
The K-1 II has a healthy selection of creative options. We've already briefly mentioned a couple: HDR mode and multiple-exposure shooting.
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, or one of three effect strengths. These range from fairly natural to a bolder, crunchier feel. (And since the images are microaligned, the mode can be used handheld.) And unusually, the HDR mode even allows you to output a raw image, although much third-party software is unlikely to recognize that there are multiple shots in the file. (But you can split the HDR raw into three non-HDR raws using Ricoh's Silkypix-based bundled software, allowing you to tweak the results in your own HDR app.)
Multiple exposure mode also allows you to save your result as a single raw image merged 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.
Custom image modes include Auto Select, Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Radiant, Muted, Flat, Bleach Bypass, Reversal Film, Monochrome and Cross Processing. (Both Auto Select and Flat were new additions for the previous K-1.) Digital filters include Extract Color, Replace Color, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Shading, Invert Color, Unicolor Bold and Bold Monochrome.
And of course, there's the Pixel Shift Resolution function which we covered previously.
Tag your artworks with copyright information as they're captured
Like the flagship models which precede it, the K-1 II 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.
The K-1 II doesn't just show if your horizon's level, it makes it so
The K-1 II features a dual-axis level gauge function. This detects both side-to-side roll, and front-to-back pitch. Both of these are displayed in the viewfinder and on the rear LCD. Ricoh goes a step further than most DSLRs, which simply show the degree of side-to-side roll, though. The K-1 II can automatically correct for up to two 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.
Make fine adjustments to composition without touching your tripod
Horizon correction takes advantage of Pentax's sensor-shift system, 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, and rotate it by up to a couple of degrees, fine-tuning your composition to perfection.
No 4K, but otherwise reasonably capable video capture
The K-1 II's Movie mode isn't as comprehensive as that of some rivals, but does hit the high points, making it reasonably suitable to grabbing short clips to accompany your stills. Standard movies are stored using MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 compression in a .MOV container, while interval movies, which we'll come to in a second, are shot with Motion JPEG compression.
The Pentax K-1 II captures movies at up to Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel; 1080p/i) resolutions, with a selection of frame rates include interlaced 60i / 50i or progressive-scan 30p / 25p / 24p at Full HD resolution. At the lower 720p resolution, you'll find a choice of progressive scan 60p / 50p rates.
Movies can be shot with Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority or fully Manual exposure. 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. There's also a 3.5mm stereo headphone port, which means that you can monitor audio levels before and during capture. And the K-1 II provides levels display before and during capture, completely with a peak hold function, and separate display of left / right channels.
The K-1 II also allows autofocus during movie capture. It's not the fastest and it only provides single operation, rather than full-time autofocus. Still, it means you don't have to pull focus manually or set your shoot up so as to keep your subject within depth of field.
There's still a 25-minute / 4GB clip length limit in the Pentax K-1, and so if you need to have longer continuous shooting, you'll need to look for another solution. Sadly, there's also no clean HDMI output, so recording externally isn't an option. And nor is 4K video capture possible, with one exception.
We mentioned that the Pentax K-1 supports interval movie capture. This works much as it did in earlier flagships, and it can shoot 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.
Share images to your smartphone with built-in Wi-Fi
Helpfully if you want to get your photos online or into your client's hands as quickly as possible, the K-1 II includes in-camera Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity. Through a free "Image Sync" app for both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, the K-1 can be controlled remotely, complete with a live view feed and the ability to adjust variables such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO sensitivity. It's a much more integrated solution than in past Pentax flagships, which at best have offered compatibility with Eye-Fi cards for image transfer, or with Pentax-branded Flucards for image transfer and remote control.
Still no USB 3.0, but all the other connectivity you could hope for
In almost all respects, the Pentax K-1 and K-1 II are significant upgrades over the crop-sensored K-3 and K-3 II. In one respect, though, they rather curiously trail both cameras. Where the earlier K-3 and K-3 II sported USB 3.0 SuperSpeed data connectivity, the K-1 reverted back to the far more common -- but rather slower -- USB 2.0 High Speed, and the K-1 II sticks with it. If you prefer to swap your SD card to another devices instead of transferring data through a cable, then you'll not even notice the change. If you appreciated the higher transfer rates possible with the K-3 siblings, though, it might be time to invest in a fast card reader and change your habits.
Acknowledging that standard-def is now a thing of the past for most of us, the K-1 II offers only a high-definition Type-D Micro HDMI output. We've already mentioned much of the K-1 II's remaining connectivity, which includes 3.5mm stereo mic and headset jacks, an intelligent hot shoe, cable switch terminal, PC sync terminal, front and rear infrared receivers, and a connector for the optionally-available D-BG6 portrait / battery grip.
There's also an 8.3V DC input, which works with the same K-AC167 AC adapter as used by the Pentax KP, and not the K-AC132 AC adapter kit with which the earlier K-1 was compatible..
Dual card slots, but no UHS-II support
Storage is catered for with dual SD card slots. These are compatible with both the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC cards, as well as the higher-speed UHS-I cards, the latter up to the maximum bus speed of 104MB/second. Sadly, there's still no support for higher-speed UHS-II cards.
An already-modest battery life declines a little further
The Pentax K-1 II retains the same D-LI90 battery as all of Pentax's other flagship models since the K-7. The combination of battery and K-1 II body is rated as good for 670 shots on a charge, or 340 minutes of playback. That's around 12% lower than the already-modest battery life of the previous K-1, unfortunately, a change that Ricoh attributes to added power draw from the new accelerator unit. (In other words, shorter battery life is the price you pay for better high ISO image quality and a higher maximum sensitivity.).
Note that when comparing with other models, you'll need to account for the lack of a flash strobe in the K-1 II. (The standard CIPA test uses the flash for every other shot if the camera has one, increasing power consumption.)
Add on the optional D-BG6 portrait / battery grip, and you'll be able to put a second battery pack in the camera for double the battery life. (You'll also be able to use six standard AA batteries in the grip if you can't get to a charger, and a spare flash card can be stored in one of the two battery inserts that are supplied with it.)
Buy the Pentax K-1 II
$3299.00 (39% more)
30.4 MP (20% less)
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$5699.00 (65% more)
20.2 MP (80% less)
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$2599.00 (23% more)
22.3 MP (63% less)
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