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Pentax delivers full-frame K-1 with some novel features

Create: 02/20/2016 - 11:57
Pentax full-frame K-1


  • Full-frame 36.4-MP CMOS sensor
  • Can accept all K, KA, KAF full-frame and APS-C lenses
  • Body is weather-resistant

For months, Pentax has teased photographers with previews of its upcoming full-frame camera.

Pentax, which is part of the Ricoh Imaging group, finally has fully unveiled the K-1.

While it doesn’t break any new ground in terms of its technology, longtime Pentax fans will appreciate the pro-level features and the price. At US$1,799.95, it's one of the lowest-price full-frame digital cameras at its introduction. The camera will begin shipping in April 2016.

The K-1 uses a 36.4-MP CMOS sensor that does not have an anti-aliasing filter, which should result in a sharper image out of the camera. The camera does some processing to reduce the effects of moire in certain situations. The sensor’s ISO range is 100-204,800.

The K-1 uses the KAF2 mount, but it’s compatible with nearly all K-type lenses, including the original K, KA, KAF, KAF2 and KAF3 lines, as well as a myriad of 42mm screw-mount lenses via the proper adapter. Obviously, older manual focus lenses won’t transmit focusing information to the camera, although those with "A" on the aperture ring should be able to transmit aperture information.

The camera automatically detects when an APS-C lens is attached and makes the necessary adjustments. When in APS-C mode, there is a 1.5x magnification factor for all lenses. For example, a 50mm lens gives the same field of view as a 75mm lens.

Available shutter speeds run from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds plus B.

Images are recorded as either JPG or RAW (PEF/DNG) with the ability to record JPG+RAW. The camera has dual SD slots, which will provide redundant recording to both cards or sequentially – when one memory card fills, the camera switches automatically to the other. The camera also can copy images from one card to the other.

The camera can shoot in intervals as short as two seconds and as long as 24 hours for up to 2,000 photos. For fast shooting, the K-1 can shoot at 34.4 frames per second for up to 70 JPGs or 17 RAW images. When shooting in APS-C mode, the frame rate rises to 6.5 fps for 100 JPGs or 50 RAW images.

The K-1 can record Full HD 1920x1080 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p movies but not 4K. To shoot at 60p/50p, resolution will need to be lowered to 1280x720. Individual movies are limited to 25 minutes or 4GB, whichever is reached first. The camera has an input port for an external microphone, as well as a headphone jack, which is useful for checking audio.

Image stabilization is built into the body in the form of Pentax’s SRII, which uses a five-axis sensor-shift system.

The K-1 uses a true pentaprism finder, which provides nearly 100% view. For Live View, there is a 3.2-inch LCD that has “flexible tilt.” That means that it can tilt vertically while also provide a degree of rotation. See the photo in the slideshow below.

The camera uses a 33-point phase-detection autofocus system with LED AF-assist light. The K-1 does not have a built-in flash, and flash-synch speed is 1/200.

The LED AF-assist isn’t the only LED. There also are small LEDs above the lens mount, behind the LCD monitor and near the memory card slots and a fourth near the cable connections to provide help for the photographer. Each of these can be turned off or on. That is, turning one on doesn’t turn them all on.

As with several previous Pentax cameras, the K-1 has an electronic compass and Astrotracer to assist astrophotographers.

There is a high degree of customization when it comes to the buttons. Up to five user profiles can be saved. There also are 26 custom functions, while 16 items can be held in mode memory. Furthermore, the photographer’s name and copyright information can be embedded in the file.

In addition to the compass, the K-1 also has GPS and WiFi. The wired connection to a computer is via USB 2.0. The camera also has HDMI output (Type D). One of the ports is for an external power supply.

The body is weather resistant and is constructed of magnesium alloy over a metal frame. The weight of the body is 35.6 ounces (1,010 grams) and is 5.4 x 4.3 x 3.4 inches (136.5 x 110 x 85.5mm).

The capacity of the battery is much more than nearly all amateur-level cameras at 760 still shots. There is an accessory grip, which holds a second D-LI90-P battery.

Ricoh Imaging is not offering any body + lens packages at this time.

» See the specifications for the Pentax K-1 (pdf).

About the Author

Mike Elek is a longtime journalist and was one of the original editors for The Wall Street Journal Online. He also has worked as a reporter and editor in Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Vineland, N.J.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; New York City; and Hong Kong. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran. He shoots with film and digital cameras.