Back for another try: Pentax K-01 mirrorless camera resurrected in Japan


posted Monday, July 8, 2013 at 4:38 PM EST

Of all the cameras we've seen over the last few years, few have been quite as divisive as the Marc Newson-designed Pentax K-01. On the one hand, it had a solid, premium build quality and excellent image quality coupled with a pricetag that quickly fell to bargain basement levels, making it pretty popular with a section of the Pentaxian community. On the other hand, its much-hyped styling placed form before function, resulting in uncomfortable ergonomics and questionable design choices, especially the fiddly rubber flap over the card compartment door which came open at the slightest knock and was a pain to close again.

Its main problem, though, was more fundamental: The basic concept of the K-01 made little sense. Sure, it removed the mirror of the standard DSLR, just as does every other compact system camera on the market -- but in doing so it rather missed the point. By retaining the standard Pentax K lens mount, it had all the disadvantages of a mirrorless camera with hardly any of the advantages. It was barely any smaller than some of Pentax's own DSLR models, and not a whole lot lighter either, but lacked any form of optical viewfinder, and had to rely on sluggish contrast-detection autofocus.

While there were certainly things we liked about the K-01 when we reviewed the model last year, we could see no convincing reason to choose it over a standard SLR of similar size and cost. You could, after all, switch the SLR to live view mode for an experience similar to that of the mirrorless model, but with much better ergonomics. No amount of wishing would return to the K-01 the SLR features it was lacking, however. We must confess that we weren't at all surprised when, just 11 months after it went on sale, Pentax pulled the plug on the K-01 without announcing a successor model.

The Pentax K-01 mirrorless camera is returning to the market in Japan, albeit only in one color combination, and likely in very limited numbers.

We're much more surprised to see that some five months after it came off life support, the camera has actually returned to retail in Japan. Pentax Japan suggests the reissuance comes thanks to user demand, but the focus seems to be on buyers who were attracted to the camera for its styling, because the K-01 is returning to market in just one color variation -- and it's a new one. It is essentially the white-bodied version with black detailing that was available in the US market, but the black rubber grip has been replaced with a powder blue grip, instead.

In other respects, the Pentax K-01 Lens Kit White x Blue is identical to its predecessor. Availability is slated for July 25th in the Japanese market, and pricing -- to include the Marc Newson-styled 40mm f/2.8 XS kit lens -- has not been disclosed. We wouldn't expect to see this model return to store shelves outside of Pentax's home market, and indeed Pentax's own website still lists the camera as a discontinued model.

What do you think -- are you happy to see the Pentax K-01 return? Or should Pentax have left this one in the archives? Share your thoughts in the comments below.