Unveiled: Pentax Makes its First Foray into Full-Frame Cameras, the K-1 DSLR

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Loyal Pentax users can finally celebrate, as the widely hyped and much talked about full-frame K-1 DSLR Camera has officially arrived along with two new optics, the HD PENTAX-D FA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR and HD PENTAX-D FA 15-30mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR. Pentax made sure to deliver with their first full-frame K-mount digital camera, packing in a 36.4MP CMOS sensor along with the latest and greatest of their camera technology. This includes a Pixel Shift resolution mode that can dramatically boost image quality and built-in 5-axis Shake Reduction stabilization rated to five stops that can do more than just combat camera shake. And, as is Pentax’s way, the camera is completely weather sealed, and even rated to operate in freezing temperatures down to 14°F.

In terms of pure features, the K-1 is absolutely loaded. The 36.4MP CMOS sensor omits an optical low-pass filter for maximum sharpness and, together with the new PRIME IV image processor, delivers Pentax’s best images yet at sensitivities up to ISO 204800. It can also shoot continuously at up to 4.5 fps and is equipped with the SAFOX 12 autofocus system, which uses 33 points, including 25 cross-type points, for rapid focusing in lighting conditions down to -3 EV. Combined with the real-time Scene Analysis System, the K-1 can evaluate and create high-quality images in no time at all. Users will also have access to a 15.3MP APS-C setting for use with existing DA-series K-mount lenses or simply narrowing your field of view.

Specialized Capabilities

Moving on to more specialized capabilities, the K-1 is equipped with an in-body, five-axis Shake Reduction system that can compensate for five stops of camera shake with any lens in use. This also combines with the built-in GPS to enable the AstroTracer function to help eliminate star trails during long exposures of the nighttime sky, and there is a Composition Adjustment setting, which lets users move the sensor up/down, left/right, and rotationally to correct for small errors in their composition without having to move the camera physically. On top of all this, users can access an AA Filter Simulator, which mimics the effects of a physical optical low-pass filter by moving the sensor ever so slightly to minimize moiré and aliasing.  

Getting into the body design, the camera has a unique 3.2" cross-tilt LCD screen, which can tilt upward 90°, downward 44°, and left and right 35°. The body is completely weather sealed at 87 different points to ensure rain or dust won’t damage your camera. An interesting feature of the K-1 is a series of strategically placed lights around the body's perimeter—one above the lens mount, four on the rear of the screen, and one in the remote socket—to aid in low-light handling and settings adjustment and, of course, the top LCD lights up for settings confirmation in the darkest conditions.

Buttons and Dials

The body also has a variety of dials and buttons for quick access to any of your most common settings, including two dedicated dials for aperture and shutter speed, as well as a third command dial that is configured by a settings-selection dial for assigning specific functions to be adjusted, such as exposure compensation, ISO, bracketing, and more. Flash is another considered aspect of the camera, with a hot shoe available with TTL support and a PC sync terminal. Users looking for tactile control over their camera will definitely be satisfied. Along with the built-in GPS and eCompass, the K-1 does have integrated Wi-Fi connectivity, which allows photographers to connect to their smartphone and tablet easily for immediate image transfer or wireless camera control.

Beyond stills, the K-1 can record Full HD 1080 video at up to 30p or 60i. This is possible using either the full-frame sensor or an APS-C crop setting, and H.264 compression keeps file sizes manageable. Also, when shooting HD 720p, the K-1 can boost the frame rate to 60 fps.

Audio is well supported with headphone and microphone jacks on the side of the camera and the ability to monitor levels on screen. Additionally, the camera is NTSC/PAL switchable and has focus peaking for accurate manual focusing.

To boost the capabilities of this new digital system, Pentax has seen fit to introduce two more full-frame lenses, the HD PENTAX-D FA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR and HD PENTAX-D FA 15-30mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR. The 28-105mm is a versatile zoom that covers wide to medium telephoto ranges and provides a variable f/3.5-5.6 aperture to maintain a relatively compact design. The 15-30mm, on the other hand, is a specialized ultra-wide zoom that maintains a constant f/2.8 aperture for depth-of-field control and working in low light. It has various specialized optics to reduce aberrations and maintain contrast, including Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass. Furthering optical quality is an HD multi-layer coating, which nearly eliminates flare and ghosting for clear, high-contrast imagery. Both leverage the power of a Supersonic Direct-Drive Motor (SDM) for fast, silent autofocus and have eight seals for weather resistance.

Pentax has made its first foray into full-frame very compelling, whether you are a loyal Pentax shooter or a relative newcomer. The K-1 can also back up a medium-format 645 shooter by using an optional adapter that fits the 645 optics onto the K-1 body, and the D-BG6 Battery Grip will be available for boosting your battery capacity, offering greater comfort and control during vertical shooting.

K-1 DSLR Camera
Lens Mount Pentax K
Image Sensor Full-Frame CMOS
Effective Pixels 36.40 MP
Total Pixels 36.77 MP
Maximum Resolution 7360 x 4912
Aspect Ratio 3:2, 1:1
Still Image File Format JPEG, RAW, DNG
Storage Media SD, SDHC, SDXC
Card Slot 2 x SD
Viewfinder Type Optical
Frame Coverage 100%
Magnification 0.70x
Eyepoint 20.6mm
Diopter Adjustment -3.5 to +1.2 m-1
Shutter Type Mechanical
Shutter Speed 30 - 1/8000 sec.
Flash Sync Speed 1/200 sec.
Drive Modes Single, Continuous (H, M, L), Self-timer, Remote, Bracketing, Mirror Up, Multi exposure, Interval
Top Continuous Shooting Rate 4.5 fps
Self-Timer 12, 2 sec.
Exposure Metering System 86k-pixel RGB sensor
Metering Method Multi-segmant, center-weighted, and spot metering
Metering Range -3 to 20 EV
Exposure Modes Aperture Priority, Auto, Bulb, Manual, Program, Sensitivity Priority, Shutter Priority, Shutter/Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation -5 to +5 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps
Exposure Bracketing -5 to +5 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps with 2, 3, or 5 exposures
ISO Sensitivity Auto, 100-204800
Autofocus System SAFOX 12
Number of Focus Points Phase-Detect: 33, 25 cross-type
Focus Modes Auto, Continuous, Manual, Single
Autofocus Sensitivity -3 to 18 EV
Built-In Flash No
Flash Control TTL
Flash Modes On, Red-eye reduction
Flash Compensation -2 to +1 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps
External Flash Interface Hot shoe
PC sync terminal
White Balance Modes Auto, CTE, Cloudy, Color Temperature, Daylight, Fluorescent (Cool White, Daylight, Warm White, White), Manual, Multi Auto WB, Shade, Tungsten
Movie Recording Full HD 1920 x 1080: 24p, 25p, 30p, 50i, 60i
HD 1280 x 720: 50p, 60p
File Format MOV, AVI
Compression MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, JPEG
Audio Recording Yes, with video
External Microphone Input 1 x 3.5mm audio input
Headphone Jack 1 x 3.5mm audio output
Maximum Recording Time 29 min., 59 sec.
Monitor 3.2" / 8.1 cm 1037k-dot Cross-Tilt LCD
Interface DC input
Mini HDMI
Micro-USB
Wired remote port
Wi-Fi Yes, built-in
GPS Yes, built-in
Power Source 1 x D-LI90P Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery Pack
Battery Life 760 images
Operating Environment As low as 14°F / -10°C
Dimensions 5.4 x 4.3 x 3.4" / 136.5 x 110.0 x 85.5mm
Weight Not specified by manufacturer

 

  HD PENTAX-D FA 15-30mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR HD PENTAX-D FA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR
Lens Mount Pentax K (Full Frame) Pentax K (Full Frame)
Focal Length (35mm Equivalent on APS-C) 15-30mm (23-46mm) 28-105mm (43-161mm)
Maximum Aperture f/2.8 f/3.5-5.6
Minimum Aperture f/22 f/22-32
Angle of View 111-72° 15.5-53.0°
Minimum Focusing Distance 11" / 28 cm 19.7" / 50 cm
Magnification 0.20x 0.22x
Lens Construction 18 elements / 13 groups 15 elements / 11 groups
Diaphragm Blades 9, rounded 9, rounded
Filter Ring Diameter None 62mm
Dimensions 3.9 x 5.7" / 9.9 x 14.4 cm 2.9 x 3.4" / 7.3 x 8.7 cm
Weight 36.7 oz / 1040 g 15.5 oz / 440 g

38 Comments

Hello,

I am ready to pull the trigger or press the shutter, as it were, on a new full-frame camera. I primarily do landscape photography and near field landscape. I will likely never use the video features (not my bag) and I do not need a speed demon for action photography such as wildlife and sports. I have about narrowed my choice down to the Nikon D810 and the Pentax K-1. Budget is a concern to some degree and I simply cannot justify the expense of one of the more expensive models. Maybe someday. My question is which of these two will get me pro-quality prints in the landscape environment best? On paper it appears the Nikon is a better camera, but it is also much more expensive. But then there is the issue of lens availability. Again, Nikon seems to have more lenses available. However, to be honest, I won't use most of the lenses in my work.

I am considering the Pentax with the 24-70mm and 15-30mm lenses to begin with. With the NIkon it would be the 24-105 and perhaps a 20mm prime. My current camera is a now ancient (6 years old) Canon 60D. I have several Canon lenses. I'll be keeping it as a backup, but Canon just doesn't have a pony in this race for me. 

Your advice?

Hi James,

This is a tough question. If budget is your primary concern I would say the Pentax hands-down due to price and the fact that it has the same sensor as the D810, so for landscape prints it is fairly equal quality. However, I want to lean towards the D810 simply because of the lens selection, especially their 14-24mm f/2.8. While the D810 is slightly better than the D800, the D800 is still an amazing camera in terms of pure image quality. I would say a used D800 or D800E will give you just what you want at a great price, and you can check our selection of used cameras here.

Is there an acessory available from Pentax to adapt my Pentax 645 manual focus lenses for use on the K-1?

Hello Carlos,

At the moment there is no adapter available for mounting your 645 glass to the K-1. However, we were told that such an adapter is planned.

Thank you, Shawn.  However, why does the above article about the K-1 state in its last paragraph, " . . . The K-1 can also back up a medium-format 645 shooter by using an optional adapter that fits the 645 optics onto the K-1 body, . . ."?  Which 645 glass are they talking about?

You will be able to use 645 mount glass with the forthcoming adapter. After some research it seems that an adapter was once widely available under the itemcode 38455 from Ricoh if you can track it down. I do not know if Ricoh is planning to release a newer adapter or just make this older adapter more widely available.

Will the double card slot allow for storing images on both cards at the same time even if video? Some camera can only records both cards when not set to highest resolution.

Hello Jacob,

In video mode you will not be able to save to both cards simultaneoulsy. You can only pick which card you would like to save to.

I have two questions. As I use the DSLR most of time to shooting video, I'd like to know if the audio input (meaning signal/noise ratio) is usable, because for example in my Canon 70D, I can not plug any microphone straight to the mic input, due to the hugh noise floor.

Second, also comparing with my canon 70D, Does the continuous focusing of the K1 work just like the 70D's. For me this is a critical issue, and I am very satisfied with 70D focusing system (face following, multitouch screen to select objects to focus in, etc)

Thank you

Hi Marcelo,

Though it is hard to know for sure, I would expect the K-1 to have similar audio performance to the 70D. One trick is to use a mic with built in preamps/gain options to boost the signal specifically to work well with DSLRs. Focusing on the other hand I believe will be much better in the 70D due to the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. Also, the 70D has a touchscreen whereas the K-1 does not. Personally, I believe the 70D is likely a better choice for video.

Will the current Pentax lenses work with the full frame camera?

 

 

Hello Mr. Shawn C. Steiner,

I have a Pentax 16-85mm lens , is that compatible with K-1 ?

Thank you

Hello Zoheir,

If you are referring to the current HD PENTAX DA 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR Lens it will work, but only in the K-1's APS-C setting, as that lens is only designed to cover the smaller APS-C sensors. An easy way to tell if a lens is for full-frame or APS-C is to look for a "DA" or "FA" in the lens name. DA signifies the smaller APS-C format while FA will cover full-frame sensors.

Hope this helps.

How about the Pentax D FA lenses? And third party lens, such as Tamaron? Will they still cover in full frame?

 

Thanks

Hello Linwood,

Short answer is yes. Long answer is that the D in D FA signifies digital, as some of their older full-frame glass has been updated to handle high resolution digital sensors. DA lenses on the other hand were designed specifically for crop frame digital and don't have the extra D designation. As for third-party options, that would depend on that exact lens, as some may and others may not.

Its good to see Pentax delivering some quality products. As someone who leart to take photos on the Spotmatic, and was priveledged to own the revoultionary Super/Program A's  and even the Professsional LX, I had to migrate to Canon about 10 years ago. Being loyal I persevered with Pentax into the digital age with the istD and K10D, which were good cameras, but the lack of quality and fast lenses was the deciding factor.

Well done to Pentax for keeping and catching up with the times

Composition Adjust is not new.  It has been in the past four Pentax flagship (APS-C) camera model iterations: K-5, K-5 II and K-5 IIs, K-3, and K-3 II. I use it regularly for detailed adjustment when taking 1:1 macro photos with a telephoto lens on a tripod. It moves the sensor left, right, up, down, and rotationally in order to fine-tune the composition very precisely, rather than trying to aim the heavy camera-lens combination with extreme precision and then lock them down.

Hello Rich,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention, we have adjusted our text to reflect this.

I used compensation adjustment in the K-3 II and really liked it.  It will not go as far as a Canon 24 mm tilt shift.  But, it does allow you to shift the view up or down, so you can display more of the ceiling or floor, without the walls leaning. It does about 70 percent of what you usually need from a tilt shift, unless you are shooting staircases or a large church.  When you fix leaning walls in Photoshop, it crops out part of the photo.  The sensor actually shifts to accomplish this.

The real deal killer was that I wanted to shoot from my iPad using wireless, and have the environment compensation feature on (which uses live view).  This would allow you to bracket, and do some HDR shots, and have perfect perspective (no tilting walls).  Wireless  and compensation adjustment are not allowed at the same time.  The manual for the K-3 II did not document the incompatibility.  Conversations with Pentex did not lead me to believe that the shortcoming could be fixed any time soon. 

If those two functions worked at the same time, this camera would be a wonderful option for architecture without buying a $1800 tilt shift lens.  To bracket, you cannot touch the camera when it's on a tripod.  It's best to see what you are shooting instantly, on an iPad instead of a small LED.

If I cannot adapt my Canon Tilt Shift lenses, and I cannot use compensation adjustment from a wireless screen, the K-1 will not be of much use for what I like to do.

 

 

The lack of 4K video means this camera is still born as far as I am concerned. That is a shame I would have several other wise to replace my K-01 Cluster, but this cam is no real improvement. Not sure what they are thinking but this camera is not competetive in today's market. Will not buy.

Good thing then that the K-1 wasn't created for you or others interested in video.

video features are a cancer on the pro photography world. There are plenty of options for aspiring YouTubers at this point. 

Video features on pro cameras, used by professionals that do not rely on outside income, is definitely not a cancer for most photographers.  In fact, manhy of us consider video + stills a blessing.  I won't buy a profesisonal camera body (aside from Medium/Large format) without video.  While I'm sure YouTubers like video mated to their dslrs, I can attest that many profesisonal photographers world over that shoot in order to eat, make good use of video as well.  For those who want the utmost quality without the trappings of "video" to cramp their style, B&H offers something for everyone... including the Linhof M 679CS (6x9) variety of cameras which should quench the thirst of purist who feel 'crippled' or slighted by dslr manufactures offering video.   See the B&H link to a fine quality alternative below:  ;)

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/368800-REG/Linhof_000117_M_679CS_…

I have used a Pentax K3 II and loved the features, so I have been following the K1 announcements.  Right now, I use a Canon 6D and tilt shift lenses (24 and 17) for architecture. 

The K3 II has double card slots, levels for two directions, pixel shift high resolution, a sensor that tilts for perspective correction, image stabilization and other great features.  The Canon 6D is a good camera but it feels less solid, and I miss those functions for a reasonable price.

I am anxious to find out if my Canon -manual focus- tilt/shift lenses can be adapted to the new K1 body.  And, I hope that Canon begins to feel threatened by Sony and Pentax, like Detroit once did from foreign cars.

 

 

 

Hello Gerrald,

Unfortunately you will not be able to adapt your Canon lenses to the new Pentax K-1. You can read more about lens mounts and adapters here for a more in-depth explanation.

That is too bad. I would love to have the features it offers that the Pentax price.  The K3-II was really a great camera.   I bet this K-1 camera is a real pleasure to use also.  Thanks for the feedback. 

How much resolution does pixel shift add?

Pixel Shift adds color resolution not spatial.

 

K3II owners are playing with the pixel shift tests. This should be interesting to follow, particularly with those using reverse-mounted lenses.  The difference is noticeable, but this is meant for static subjects. When used in a landscape environment you can get artifacts from movement.

Hello V. Anand,

Rick is correct. The Pixel Shift Resolution mode moves the sensor in order to capture full color information at each pixel, whereas the usual process involves interpolation from a Bayer pattern. This should lead to greater detail and color accuracy. It is unknown at the time whether Pentax will add capabilities in the future that will boost the spatial resolution using this feature.

Shawn C. Steiner wrote:

Hello V. Anand,

Rick is correct. The Pixel Shift Resolution mode moves the sensor in order to capture full color information at each pixel, whereas the usual process involves interpolation from a Bayer pattern. This should lead to greater detail and color accuracy. It is unknown at the time whether Pentax will add capabilities in the future that will boost the spatial resolution using this feature.

Hello Shawn,

I see in the tests on several sites that the pixel shift leads to much greater detail and color reproduction. Probabely this is a dumb question but what would be the advantage of bigger spatial resolution ? I suppose you need more spatial resolution to be able to make bigger prints without loss of quality?

I ask this because I would like to buy The K1 or the K3II. I want to use it for reproduction work of flat artwork, posters, paintings, drawings, and medium and large format film ( by means of camera macro scanning / stitching ). I want to be able to use the stitched files to produce large format  high resolution inktjet/iris prints. What would be the best choice for this purpose the pentax K3II with 26 MP and approx 120 MB files in pixelshift mode for each shot  ( APSC size sensor using only the best part of the image cirkel of my schneider planar S 74 mm macro duplication lens ) or the pentax K1 in crop mode with 16 Mp in crop and pixelshift mode  ( approx 80 MB ).

The final qualty of the reproduction combined with max print size are important criteria for me.

I don't ow a digital camera yet and find it rather difficult to choose between these two cameras.

Positive advice is welcome !.

 

I    

Hi Dirk,

Greater spatial resolution would most of the time refer to improved rendering of fine details within an image, which usually (but not always) improves when you increase the megapixel count when considering print sizes. First, if you only plan on using the APS-C image area, I would say that the K-3 II will be the better option for you, no need to have something you won't use. Also, it has a greater pixel count on the APS-C format, so your max print size will be greater because of that. Since it sounds like you are going to be set up with sturdy equipment and controlled lighting, any image quality differences between the sensors will be practically non-existent for all practical purposes.

However, if you do end up using a greater area of the sensor or want full-frame, the K-1 is a great camera and will get the job done. Hope this helps.

Hi Shawn,

Thanks for your explanation. This is helpfull for me. It will indeed be set up with sturdy equipment and controlled light.

Spatial resolution is also enhanced.  Once bayer interpolation is replaced by true colour information at each pixel, the difference is equivalent to approx 50% + increase in pixels. or about 20mp grater pixel count (say, 55-60mp).

Once you have experienced it, it's hard to go back.  That's why Hasselblad is able to charge a substantial premium for its 4 shot multi-shot camera.

Also, no moire or colour noise.