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Pentax K-1 Expert Review - Performance

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Pentax K-1 Performance

The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

Shutter Response <0.05secs (0.2s live view)
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.3secs (1.1s live view)
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response  0.2secs (1.0s live view)
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.2secs
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.25secs
Shot to Shot with Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
4.4fps (29 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting - RAW 4.6fps (14 shots)

Tested with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. The camera can shoot at 4.4fps (JPEG) and 4.6fps (raw), although we only managed 29 JPEG (Fine) shots, and 14 raw (DNG) shots before the camera slowed down, which is less than the Pentax specified 70 (JPEG) and 17 raw. You can choose between recording PEF (Pentax raw files), or Adobe DNG raw files.

Pentax K-1 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Photos taken with the Pentax K-1 show very good colour with good levels of saturation, and we used the camera on the "Natural" mode. Images could benefit from slight sharpening if we were being picky, although this could easily be corrected by adjusting the in camera settings. Exposure was reliable and there were a number of options to expand dynamic range recording. The options include D-Range compensation: highlight correction, shadow correction. You can also shoot HDR images handheld, with a variety of options including: auto, HDR1, HDR2, HDR3, advanced HDR, exposure bracket value adjustable, and automatic composition correction function. There are Skin tone options: Off / Type 1 / Type 2 and using these the camera smooths skin after you've taken the image.

Pentax K-1 Lens test images

Lens Performance - The camera has built in lens correction options for: distortion correction, peripheral illumination correction (vignetting), lateral chromatic aberration correction, and diffraction correction. We took photos with just diffraction correction and lateral chromatic aberration correction switched on. We were impressed by the performance of the new Pentax-D FA (full-frame) lenses, and with the 15-30mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 there is a good zoom range, with a constant f/2.8 aperture available. 

The image stabilisation (IS) system uses sensor-shift shake reduction (SRII), and works with any lens attached to the camera, letting you take photos at a slower shutter speed than normal. For manual lenses the camera you can set the focal length manually. There is also a 5-axis electronic level function which is displayed in the optical viewfinder (OVF) and on the LCD screen (Horizontal and vertical). 

There are a fairly wide range of full-frame Pentax lens options available to purchase, and APS-C lenses working in crop mode on the K-1. You can use any K mount lens from Pentax, including old and discontinued lenses that were released before digital cameras existed. 

Using the Pixel Shift Resolution mode, you end up with a 160-180MB raw (PEF) file compared to the more normal 40-55MB for raw (PEF) files, JPEGs are around 15-20MB. Using this mode, the camera takes 4 shots at slightly different pixel positions and combines them so that you get a sharper image, with better colour detail, although there is the risk of ghosting with moving subjects (like tree branches). Olympus use a similar system for 40 / 50 megapixel images, and this too has issues with moving subjects.

Pentax K-1 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - The camera's ISO range goes from ISO100 to ISO204800. Noise is low from ISO100 to ISO3200, with some more noise creeping in at ISO6400. At these lower ISO settings, you may want to use the custom noise options to set the camera to lower noise reduction to retain as much detail as possible. However, we'd still be happy using the camera at ISO12800, as noise is quite grainy (and some would say film-like), with very few red, green and blue dots spoiling the image. Noise performance at ISO12800 is reasonably good, with a slightly better result from the Pentax K-1 when compared to the Nikon D810 (with the D810 showing more red, green and blue noise). At ISO25600 noise becomes stronger and we'd recommend avoiding this setting and higher, unless you were going to process the raw files yourself or resize the images for use on the web. ISO51200 may still provide a usable result (just about) if you processed the image further, but noise gets quite unpleasant at ISO102400, and at ISO204800.

Noise options include show shutter speed NR (for slower than 1 second): Auto, On, Off, and High-ISO NR: Auto, Low, Mid, High, Custom, Off. Custom lets you choose how much noise reduction is applied at each individual ISO setting, and the options are Off, Low, Mid, High. 

Pentax K-1 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) gives a warm result under tungsten light with the multi-area AWB giving a more accurate and less warm result. The tungsten preset gives the most accurate result. AWB gives good results under fluorescent lighting, with the multi-area AWB giving a slightly better result. There are four different fluorescent presets available, although most of them give a colour cast, and for more accurate results the use of manual white balance is recommended. Alternatively you can adjust the auto white balance settings yourself. We left the AWB in tungsten light set to strong correction, there is also the option for subtle correction. 

Pentax K-1 Digital filters

Digital Filters - There are a number of different Custom image settings including: Auto Select, Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Radiant, Muted, Flat, Bleach Bypass, Reversal Film, Monochrome, Cross Processing (Random, Preset 1-3, Favorite 1-3). You can also customise these, and the camera lets you adjust saturation, hue, high/low key, contrast, highlight, shadow, and sharpness (with additional options for fine sharpness or extra sharpness). Another option is the Clarity setting which is off on default settings, but has 4 levels from 1 to 4.

There are also digital filters: Extract Color, Replace Color, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Shading, Invert Color, Unicolor Bold, Bold Monochrome, with a few more available in playback when editing raw files. We've shown a number of different examples above. There's also the option to adjust the composition: ±1.5mm up, down, left or right (1mm when rotated); 1 degree of range. There is a Colour Moire correction option in playback that can be used to reduce colour moire in images, although we did not notice the need for this in our shots. 

Video - There is a built-in stereo microphone, although if you want to record higher quality sound, you can use the mic and headphone sockets on the side of the camera. There are options for setting the recording sound level, wind noise reduction and headphone volume. ISO100 to ISO12800 is available, and you can choose between recording using the full-frame or using an APS-C crop for FullHD video recording. In the video mode you have access to the custom image settings, and there is a "Flat" option available which will be of interest to those that want to adjust video later. Video quality was good, and the built in image stabilisation did a good job keeping video steady, even when recording handheld. 


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Photographs taken using the Pentax K-1

NarcissusPhotography On The Edge...White-rumped Shama5820Dusk at the Cobbled BridgeBluebellNewquay HarbourAvocetsThe Clock Tower4144Tree AbstractWhen the phone calls....Dazzled !The Morning After...Factory Fire

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20 Feb 2016 2:33AM
What a stunning release. They can have my money. I have pre-ordered one.
D8** quality for a D7** price. Whats not to like?
24 Feb 2016 12:46PM
This certainly looks a cracker and they seem to have thrown in everything but the kitchen sink,it should do extremely well.
Polaco 4
29 Apr 2016 8:52PM
First page says
"Pentax K-3 Video Features"
is a typo?
Chris_L 7 5.5k United Kingdom
30 Apr 2016 12:20AM
The tricks with the sensor such as resolution boosts, horizon correction, astro-tracer etc are ingenious ideas.
Jure 11 14 Slovenia
30 Apr 2016 7:44AM
You forgot to mention the function of "Catch-in-focus"
which is very important by using old MF lenses.

With this function it is possible to take photos almost fast as with AF.
dannyr Plus
11 46 United Kingdom
30 Apr 2016 1:21PM

All i can say Smile
joshwa Plus
10 927 1 United Kingdom
30 Apr 2016 3:41PM
Hi Polaco, typo corrected, thanks Josh
30 Apr 2016 4:25PM
Already sold another system and ordered mine based on specs and past experiences with recent and old film Pentax cameras. This review confirms my decision for me. Great read.
Polaco 4
1 May 2016 6:29AM
Have you been able to test the APS-C mode with APS-C lenses ? Would be interesting to see this.
1 May 2016 8:07PM
I feel like blofeld with his cat , i have this now on my lapSmile
RJPhoto 8 16 1 United Kingdom
4 May 2016 1:18PM
Very interesting to see such positive reaction to this review, and this camera - there seems to be a lot of love out there for Pentax, and a huge wave of applause for them releasing a full frame camera. To be honest, if I could replace my set-up with this, I think I would!
4 May 2016 3:09PM
Wow I can't wait to either sell or just decide to make the switch from the K-3, I figure I can replace my DA lenses with a couple FA type for now. I just have to make the decision and pull the trigger. I sure I'm not the only one out there with my problem so advice is appreciated.
Jure 11 14 Slovenia
4 May 2016 3:17PM
Just do it!
Jure 11 14 Slovenia
4 May 2016 4:46PM
That is what I was afraid of ..

Downside of Astro-traker: stars are sharp, but other motionless objects in photo are not.
Polaco 4
4 May 2016 5:09PM
@jure this is something expected, you can take a shot for the motionless subjects and another for the sky. That will help you solve the "issue" pretty easy I guess.
I have a K3II and I'm very impressed what Astrotracer can achieve I just would like to have more time to play more with it!. For instance this is just a test i did from my backyard the other day. Those are 3 shots of 60 seconds staked as i could since my skills with PS are very limited and I was using a telephoto lens Sigma 18-300 C as is the widest lens i have so far ( I'm waiting for a Sigma 10-20 f3.5 to arrive soon ).
Jure 11 14 Slovenia
4 May 2016 5:36PM
@ Placo .. tnx for advice/idea.

To get the ideal photo I have to combine two of them:
one with & other wthout astro-tracker.
nonur 12 18 13 Turkey
4 May 2016 11:24PM
At last!
5 May 2016 3:14PM
And one of the most important thing ... what about the electronic shutter to avoid vibrations?
Is there the option to activate the e-shutter or not?
Jure 11 14 Slovenia
5 May 2016 4:28PM

Jure 11 14 Slovenia
5 May 2016 4:31PM
5 May 2016 7:51PM
Yes Jure,
I had already read his report, when it was just posted.
However Diglloyd says that e-shutter is possible only when the pixel shift function is activated. I was hoping that something had changed with time and evolution!
No? Nothing?
This could be a potentially big weakness ... for me.
Jure 11 14 Slovenia
5 May 2016 8:01PM
@Claudio - I am sorry.

But it is normal that after two years comes K-1 II & they must have some aces in pocket. There is no photocamera with everything at the very begining .. they call it "marketing", but we ... better not to write souch words here.

Inspite of that I am very impressed with K-1 .. you must admit that 4 this price it is amazing camera.

I hope to get enough money by eutumn to buy it ... some lenses are already here.
9 May 2016 10:27PM
Well done Pentax / Ricoh.
I may be wrong but I thought the D810 was CIPA rated at 1200 shots, considerably more that it's peers?
erino 8
21 May 2016 11:49AM
I'm a happy owner. Is very good! Smile
joshwa Plus
10 927 1 United Kingdom
31 Aug 2016 2:34PM

Quote:Well done Pentax / Ricoh.
I may be wrong but I thought the D810 was CIPA rated at 1200 shots, considerably more that it's peers?

Updated, thanks
16 Dec 2016 6:03PM
Well I got mine within days of release and over 10000 shots later, I am very happy overall.
ISO range? well I have taken superb shots from 100 through to 56K, even 104K are very useable.
AF? Not as bad as some reports suggest, this thing is snappy and quick, a lot quicker than my K-5/K-3
A lot of my DA lenses work well with it, even the 18-55mm kit lens from 24mm onwards, useful as currently my only weather sealed lens in that focal range.

Downside? Well one really, I used both the K-1 and K-3 for motorsports and the K-3 is a lot better for this.

Overall though, I love it and it shines with many of my old lenses.
Kudos Pentax, you have created a superb FF camera.
stub 10 United Kingdom
31 May 2017 10:00AM
Decent camara all said. Still years behind with flash control... Lacking third party manufacturer back up..
pablophotographer 9 1.8k 405
15 Jun 2017 12:11AM
Hi all, I have seen the price for the new Nikon D7500... I think this Pentax in comparison offers true value for the price, good marketing decision Pentax. (And good job about the camera too!)

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