K-1: First Pentax Full-Frame Loaded With Unique Features

ShadowK-1 First Pentax Full Frame

Following the recent announcements by Nikon and Canon, Pentax has now also made a move (with the first Pentax full-frame dslr) to compete on the professional DSLR market.

Pentax is probably the third most recognized brand among the advanced amateur photographers after Canon and Nikon. And for good reason.

Pentax cameras offer great value, a lot of nice and often unique features together with great ergonomics and competitive image quality.

But until now they were only capturing amateurs' attention due to a line-up that did not cover the high-end segment of Full-Frame cameras. This is about to change.

Pentax K-1

Pentax K-1 Key Features

  • 32.2MP Full-Frame Sensor
  • 5-axis image stabilization rated to 5 stops
  • 100% pentaprism viewfinder with 0.7x magnification
  • 33-Point (25 cross-type) AF System
  • Native ISO up to 204800
  • 4.4 fps Continues Shooting (6.5 fps in APS-C mode)
  • 14-bit Raw recording (DNG or PEF)
  • AA filter simulation
  • Multi-shot Pixel Shift Resolution mode
  • Video 1920 x 1080p at 30 fps
  • Built-in GPS with electro-magnetic compass and Astrotracer function
  • 3.2″ 1-m-Dot 'Cross-Tilt' LCD
  • Wi-FI

With the announcement of K-1, Pentax is making their first move on the hearts (and wallets) of professionals who make money with their photographs. But in today’s more than saturated market it really is easier said than done - and the guys from Pentax know it, so they have some aces up their sleeves.

They've started with the most crucial part of any camera: the sensor. As mentioned above it's a Pentax full-frame sensor which houses 36.2 million pixels given the effective resolution of 7360x4912 for pictures. And it doesn’t have an anti-aliasing filter, so all the details are there.  36.2 MP is a hell of a lot of resolution. In fact, it’s the same amount as the king of the DSLR world – the Nikon D810 – as well as  the mirrorless Sony A7R.

But both of those cameras are known as hard to tame due to their high megapixel count which occasionally leads to "shutter shock" or blurred images. So what does Pentax do? They've adopt the same technique they used with their APS-C sized cameras: on-sensor image stabilization.

This is truly good news, as this not only ensures that you won't get any blur due to shutter/mirror shock but it also allows you to shoot at lower shutter speeds. In fact, Pentax claims that it gives you the advantage of 5 stops in shutter speed. This means that if previously your hands only allowed you to shoot with a shutter speed of 1/25 seconds, now (with those same hands) you can go down to 1.3 seconds. Crazy.

But they didn’t stop here. They went further and implemented Pixel Shift Resolution technology which takes 4 pictures, displacing a sensor by the length of one pixel in each direction, and then combines them together, creating a final image of even higher resolution and with even more details.

Plus, they utilized the ability to move the sensor for one more application. Even though it’s known that in most situations the lack of anti-aliasing filter plays to your advantage providing you with the most details possible (and more and more camera makers started to omit it in their cameras), in certain cases, where fine patterns are present, it can lead to unwanted artifacts known as moiré. It happens relatively rarely, but when it does it really sucks as it’s not easy to fix in post-processing. So, Pentax went ahead and figured out that if you make the sensor vibrate a little during the exposure you can intentionally blur high frequency detail across multiple pixels which will cease the moiré. Very smart approach.

Pentax K-1

Following the sensor with image stabilization we also have a new AF module called SAFOX 12. It doesn’t break any records by it's total number of focus points – 33 – but this goes along with numbers that Nikon D610 has (39) and well exceeds Canon 6D's (11), both of which are the main competitors for K-1. Also, it’s worth noting that 25 of those 33 points are cross-type. Furthermore, the three central-most can take advantage of the fast lenses and keep the ability to focus down to -3 EV.

Another interesting feature is a ‘cross-tilt’ screen. It not only can be tilted up and down in the usual manner of some DSLRs, but it can also be extended outwards gaining the ability to rotate left, right and clockwise. A great thing to have for those awkward positions you find yourself occasionally shooting in! The prism viewfinder is also great, having almost full 100% coverage and 0.7x magnification.

Pentax K-1

The body of this camera, just like you would have expected from any Pentax body, is a very rigid magnesium alloy one and is fully weather- and dust-sealed as well as cold proof thanks to 87 sealing points, so you can take pictures in virtually any condition. It also has great ergonomics with three dedicated dials, and the functionality of one of them is fully customizable.

Since it’s the first Pentax full-frame camera, some lenses were also released with it. They are marked as DFA and currently cover these focal lengths: 15-30mm F2.8, 24-70mm F2.8, 70-200mm F2.8 and 150-400mm F4.5-5.6.
K-1 is also able to use the old Pentax FA lenses from the film era and the FA Limited lenses from the early 2000s. Plus, you can use any of the K-mount lens on it and even get a focus conformation beep with the central AF point, so you know when your subject is in focus! This really is a game changer for people who love third-party and legacy lenses. Furthermore, K-1 also lets you dial the current focal length of a manual lens, so the camera knows it and can adjust sensor-based stabilization to perform at it's best.

All Pentax DA lenses made for APS-C cameras can, of course, also be used with it, albeit most of them only in crop mode, when the camera is only using the central 15MP part of the sensor.

Pentax K-1

So, how much does Pentax want for this camera? $1799. And considering all the features it has, and most notably that all those are the features that really make a difference in your photography, this price is extremely competitive. For comparison, Nikon D610 and Canon 6D, both of which have much smaller resolution and no image stabilization, currently sell at $1500 and $1400 accordingly. In fact K-1 goes for only $100 more than the image-stabilized mirrorless Sony A7 II but that camera has only 24 MP to work with and the ergonomics are less than professional.


About the Author

Denis ProtopopovLandscape, lifestyle and product photographer for the past 3 yearsView all posts by Denis Protopopov →

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