Pentax has finally revealed its upcoming full frame K-1 DSLR. The 36.4-megapixel camera boasts a number of features which have impressed elsewhere in the Pentax lineup, including five-axis shake-reduction, Pixel Shift Resolution and robust weather sealing. The US$1,800 DSLR also debuts a new cross-tilt LCD monitor and operation assist LEDs to help you use it in the dark.
It's fair to say we've been waiting for a full frame DSLR from Pentax for some time – since it teased the MZ-D and then cancelled it back in 2000, in fact. But with the flagship K-1, the firm finally joins the likes of Canon, Nikon and Sony. The camera also plugs the gap between Pentax's crop sensor DSLRs like the K-3 II and the medium format 645D.
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At the heart of the Pentax K-1 is its 36.4-megapixel full frame (35.9 x 24 mm) CMOS sensor which lacks an anti-aliasing filter in the name of sharpness, though the camera does have an AA Filter Simulator to eliminate the moiré effect. Combined with a PRIME IV imaging engine, this enables 14-bit RAW-format image recording, an ISO range of 100 to 204,800, and the ability to shoot full frame images at 4.4 fps (frames per second).
The addition of an SR II five-axis shake reduction system will help reduce blurry images caused by camera shake, and is said to be worth up to five exposure steps. The sensor shift tech is also used by the Pixel Shift Resolution System to take four images and combine them to give better quality results. However, unlike the version we used on the K-3 II, a new motion correction function will allow you to use the mode when shooting slightly moving subjects, not just entirely static ones.
Autofocus is dealt with courtesy of a new SAFOX 12 autofocus mechanism with 33 autofocus points, of which 25 are cross type. While this is considerably less than on other cameras we've seen recently, like the Nikon D5 and D500, Pentax insists it's still fast and accurate. However, one area the Pentax K-1 looks like it could disappoint is video, where it maxes out at a dated-feeling Full HD 1080p 30/25/24 fps, only jumping up to 60/50 fps at HD 720p resolutions.
The camera measures 136.5 x 110 x 85.5 mm (5.37 x 4.33 x 3.37 in) making it relatively compact compared to other full frame DSLRs, though it weighs in at a hefty 1,010 g (35.6 oz) with a battery and memory card. Style-wise, its utilitarian looks could be divisive, but the rugged magnesium alloy build, with 87 sealing parts making it dust-proof, weather-resistant and cold-resistant could help make up for that.
Big dials and buttons should make the camera comfortable to operate, such as the new Smart Function dial which lets users select frequently-used functions without going into the LCD menu. On the back there's an optical viewfinder which offers "nearly 100-percent" field of view and a 3.2-inch LCD monitor with 1037K dots. Interestingly, the monitor can be tilted horizontally, vertically or diagonally with a single action, without deviating from the lens' optical axis. This is thanks to a new rugged flexible cross-tilt design which sees it mounted to a cradle and four legs.
Another feature which could make the K-1 a bit easier to use in certain circumstances is the addition of Operation Assist Lights. These are little white LEDs positioned to make it easier to change lenses, swap memory cards and adjust back-of-camera controls in the dark. The K-1 also has built in Wi-Fi for wireless sharing and remote control, and a GPS module for geo-tagging and enabling features such as the Astrotracer mode. The camera shoots to dual SD card slots.
Using a KAF2 bayonet mount, there's plenty of older glass available for the new K-1, and Pentax is offering 12 full-frame compatible lenses at launch. This includes two newly-announced models, the HD Pentax-D FA 15-30-mm F2.8 ultra-wide angle zoom and the HD Pentax-D FA 28-105-mm F3.5-F5.6 lightweight zoom.
The Pentax K-1 from Ricoh Imaging, will be available in April priced at US$1,800 body-only.
Product page: Pentax K-1View gallery - 10 images