Pentax K-1 Review

Read our full review of the new full-frame 36 megapixel Pentax K-1 Digital SLR, with a weather sealed body and unique tilting screen.

| Pentax K-1 in Digital SLRs

Pentax K-1 Review: Pentax K 1 24 70mm Lens (1)

The Pentax K-1 is Pentax's long-awaited full-frame Digital SLR, and it brings all of Pentax's technology including weather-sealed camera bodies, shake-reduction sensor, pixel shift resolution and more to the camera community. Compatible with all Pentax K-mount lenses since the mid-1970s, the K-1 has a 36-megapixel full-frame sensor and to get the best results from this camera Pentax FA and other full-frame lenses are recommended.

The Pentax K-1 is available for £1599 body only, with a number of new full-frame lenses being released with the camera, including a new 15-30mm ultra wide-angle lens and a 28-105mm standard zoom lens.

Pentax K-1 Features

Pentax K-1 Review: 1/125 sec | f/2.8 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200

The Pentax K-1 is designed to be the full-frame Digital SLR Pentax owners have been long asking for, and with a competitive price point, it may tempt users of other camera systems. The heart of the Pentax K-1 is a 36 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with an ISO range of ISO100 to ISO204800. The camera can focus down to -3EV and has 33 AF points, with 25 of these cross-type points. 

The heart of the Pentax K-1 is a 36 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with an ISO range of ISO100 to ISO204800.

A unique feature of the K-1 can be found on the back with a "Flextilt" 3.2inch tilting / rotating screen, with 1037k dot resolution and a gapless design for better outdoor viewing. This can be tilted left and right, as well as down, and up 90 degrees, or moved away from the camera body, and the system that holds the screen is strong enough to support the weight of the camera if you were to accidentally hold the camera using the screen. The camera features a weather-sealed camera body, and for low-light use, there are a number of lights to assist operation, including a light that will illuminate the lens mount so you can still change lenses in low-light. 

Pentax K-1 Review: Pentax K1 DSLR (13)

The camera features in-camera image stabilisation: a 5-axis image stabilisation system using Pentax's Shake Reduction II (SR II), for up to 5 stops of image stabilisation. The system also has built-in panning detection. Like the Pentax K-3 II, this can be used for Pentax's pixel shift resolution technology which increases the image resolution and colour accuracy by taking a number of images and combining them. Pixel shift resolution is designed to be used on a tripod with non-moving subjects, however there is also pixel shift Motion Correction (MC) for when there are moving subjects in the shot.

The main competitors are the Nikon D810, which is a 36 megapixel full-frame camera, and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Canon EOS 5DS / 5DS R, and also available is the mirrorless Sony A7R Mark II. Here we compare some of the main features, and highlight the best in each:

Nikon D810 Pentax K-1 Canon 5D III Canon 5DS / 5DS R Sony A7R II
36.3mp FF 36.4mp FF 22.3mp FF 50.6mp FF 42.4mp FF
Lens based IS Sensor based IS Lens based IS Lens based IS Sensor based IS
No OLPF AA filter less** OLPF With / Cancellation OLPF No OLPF
3.2inch 3.2inch flex-tilt 3.2inch 3.2inch  3inch tilting
0.70x OVF 0.70x OVF 0.71x OVF 0.71x OVF 0.78x EVF 
ISO32-ISO51200 ISO100-ISO204800 ISO50-102400 ISO50-ISO12800 ISO50-102400
51 AF points 33 AF points 61 AF points 61 AF points 399 AF points
-2 EV -3 EV -2 EV -2 EV -2 EV
5fps 4.4fps 6fps 5fps 5fps
FullHD video FullHD video FullHD video FullHD video 4K video
1200 shots 760 shots 950 shots 700 shots 340 shots
N/A GPS / Wi-Fi N/A N/A Wi-Fi
980g inc bat/SD 1010g inc bat/SD 950g body only 845g body only 625g inc bat / SD
£1899 body only £1599 body only £1999 body only £2599 / £2799 body  £2499 body only

Nb. OLPF = Optical Low Pass Filter aka AA (Anti-aliasing) Filter. ** The K-1 offers AA filter simulation options.

The Pentax K-1 is the most affordable high resolution (36mp+) full-frame DSLR camera available currently, with only lower resolution full-frame cameras available for less, for example, there is the 24 megapixel Sony Alpha A99 (£1479), Nikon D750 (£1389), and Nikon D610 (£999), and 20 megapixel Canon EOS 6D (£1119). There is the mirrorless Sony Alpha A7R, with 36 megapixel sensor, however this does not feature in camera image stabilisation. 

Pentax K-1 Review: 1/250 sec | f/3.5 | 33.0 mm | ISO 200

A floating mirror system reduces the size of the camera's mirror box so that the camera's depth is kept to a minimum, at 86mm compared to the Pentax K-3 II 76mm depth, and the camera weighs 960g without battery and SD memory card, or 1010g with.

Pentax K-1 Key Features

  • 36.4MP 35mm Full-frame CMOS Sensor 
  • Prime IV 14-Bit Image Processor
  • 3.2inch Flextilt gapless screen, 1037K dots
  • SRII: In-built Shake Reduction sensor, 5-axis, 5stops
  • ISO100 up to 204,800
  • 300,000 shutter rating, 1/8000s shutter speed
  • Pixel Shift Resolution with Motion Correction
  • AA (OLP) Filterless with AA Simulator
  • 100% Field of View Pentaprism Viewfinder, 0.7x magnification
  • 4.4fps full-frame JPEG L (70 frames, 17 raw)
  • 6.5fps APS-C JPEG L (100frames, 50 raw)
  • 33-AF points -3 EV, 25cross type
  • Weather Resistant with Magnesium Alloy Body
  • Wi-Fi connectivity built in
  • FullHD Video 60i,50i,30p,25p,24p, built in stereo mic
  • GPS, Electronic Compass, Astrotracer
  • Operation assist light
  • Lightroom plugin for tethered shooting (Image transmitter 2 is optional extra for live view tethered shooting)

Pentax K-1 Review: Pentax K 1 15 30mm

The Pentax K-1 works with all Pentax K mount lenses from 1975, and all FA lenses will work with the camera using the full-frame. DA lenses will work in cropped mode automatically, producing a 15mp image (can be manually turned on/off as necessary). AF points cover almost all of the APS-C area. The Pentax K-1 is introduced with a new ultra wide-angle 15-30mm WR lens (shown above, along with a 28-105mm WR lens. The K-1 will also work with the recently launched full-frame 24-70mm f/2.8 (shown below), 70-200mm f/2.8, and 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6 lenses. 

Pentax K-1 Review: Pentax K 1 In Hand

Pentax K-1 Video Features

  • Full HD Movie Recording
  • 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p
  • Up to 25 minutes or 4GB
  • 4K Time-lapse movie creation
  • Multiple custom image and digital filter options
  • Built in stereo mic
  • External microphone and headphone jack

Pentax K-1 Handling

Pentax K-1 Review: Pentax K1 DSLR (9)

The top mode dial has all the usual modes you come to expect with Pentax cameras, plus 5 custom user modes. The locking mode dial can be locked and unlocked with a switch, and when it is locked you simply press the middle button to change the mode. A new top dial, on the right, lets you set the new command wheel operation on the very right of the camera - so for example you could set the dial to ISO and then have direct and quick access to change the ISO settings. The layout of controls should be very familiar to anyone who has used other Pentax Digital SLRs, with the layout being very similar to the K-3 II. 

The K-1 has a solid feel and premium design, along with excellent build quality and a toughness that you come to expect with weather-sealed Pentax DSLR cameras. There is a rubber grip hand grip on both sides of the camera, and there is a rubber grip on the rear for your thumb with a good sized lip giving you a firm area to hold onto, which gives you confidence when you are holding the camera with one hand, even with a large lens such as the Pentax 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

Pentax K-1 Review: Pentax K 1 DSLR (19)

There are Dual SD (UHS-I) memory card slots, these can be used sequentially, save to both, separate RAW/JPG, and image copy between slots is possible.

There is an optional battery grip that is also weather-sealed. The camera has a battery life that is rated at 760 shots, although this can be extended with the optional battery grip. The K-1 feels extremely solid, and with a new pentaprism and a top design that features bold PENTAX lettering, we think it has the look of a Pentax K-3 II mixed with the medium-format Pentax 645Z

Pentax K-1 Review: Pentax K1 DSLR (1)

There's a clever "Program Line" option built in to the camera that works in P or Sv modes, and it lets you choose how exposure is controlled, and by default this is set to Auto, but you also have the option of:

  • Normal: All-round mode
  • Hi-speed priority: Prioritises high shutter speeds
  • DOF priority (Deep): Closes the aperture to a deep depth of field
  • DOF priority (Shallow): opens the aperture for a shallow depth of field
  • MTF priority: Sets the sharpest aperture of the attached lens when a D FA, DA, DA L, FA, or FA J lens is used

The optical viewfinder (OVF) is quite large, and is clear, with a good level of information visible, including dual-axis spirit levels, and a display of the focus points in use. There is dioptre adjustment, which will be of benefit to anyone with eye-sight that is less than perfect. 

The 3.2inch flex-tilt screen is clear and easy to see, with good viewing angles, and looks great. The screen is designed to work outdoors with a bright display mode option. Using the flex-tilt screen you can tilt the screen up, and down, as well as tilt it left and right. The ribbon cable that goes to the screen is protected by a rubber shield, and due to the way that it is exposed when the screen is out, we'd recommend keeping the screen closed when moving the camera. 

There is also a customisable Info screen, to give you quick access to settings. The menus appear to have had a slight refresh, and are clear and easy to read, and there is some built in help for some of the options, although it would be good if every option had built in help. You can view the menus, in our video below:


Pentax K-1 Review: Pentax K 1 In Hand (9)

Holding the camera from the screen like this is not recommended in the manual, but is strong enough to support the camera and a lens!

When using the Pentax K-1, the 33 focus points are quite central, with 25 cross-type focus points. There is a reason for the focus points being in the central area of the frame, and that is so that they are all available when shooing with an APS-C lens, and the 33 focus points cover most of the APS-C image area. The camera can focus down to -3 EV. 

The K-1 uses TTL phase detection focus, with a SAFOX 12 focus sensor. There are a number of modes including Single AF (AF.S), Continuous (AF, C), and AF point selection options include: Spot, Select, Expanded Area (S, M, L), Zone select, Auto (33AF Points). Live view focusing modes include face detection, AF tracking, multiple AF points, select and spot, and uses contrast detection focus. Focus peaking is available, and you can magnify the screen up to 16x.

Pentax K-1 Review: 1/125 sec | f/2.8 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200

The camera has a top LCD display that can be illuminated, and operation assist lights show you the buttons, lens mount, dual SD memory card slot, and remote release socket, so you can use the camera in the dark. To illuminate the rear controls you need to pull the screen away from the camera, as the LEDs are located in the back of the screen. By default, these options are switched off, and you can choose which ones you want to have switched on. 

Pentax K-1 Review: Ricoh Image Sync Playback Pentax K-1 Review: Ricoh Image Sync Remote Shooting
Ricoh Image Sync Playback Ricoh Image Sync Remote Shooting

To control the Pentax K-1 over Wi-Fi you need to install Ricoh Image Sync, available for iOS and Android devices. Connecting to the camera's Wi-Fi network is a little bit more difficult than it is on other cameras, as you have to enter the password from the camera to connect. But once connected you can remotely control the camera and change settings, as well as use the touch-screen of the smartphone to set the focus point. You can also download images from the camera to your smartphone.

Pentax K-1 Review: Pentax K1 DSLR (6)

Battery life - Battery life is rated at 760 shots according to Pentax/ CIPA test results, which is quite good for a Digital SLR without the optional battery grip attached. For comparison, the Nikon D810 offers 1200 shots, and the Canon EOS 5DS offers 700 shots. 

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Photographs taken using the Pentax K-1

GatekeeperLilidale Falls TasmaniaLilydale falls TasmaniaAlvisSoldier BeetlesAxis In Adventure IslandUS carHedgehogLucky coupleSummer In Sunny SouthendVintage Dodge Pick-Up ...but SRT inside ;-)Post CovidHopefully......Car FlamesRed Admiral

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wizofoz Avatar
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?
douglasR Avatar
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 Avatar
Polaco 7
29 Apr 2016 8:52PM
First page says
"Pentax K-3 Video Features"
is a typo?
Chris_L Avatar
Chris_L 9 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 Avatar
Jure 13 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 Avatar
dannyr 14 47 United Kingdom
30 Apr 2016 1:21PM

All i can say Smile
joshwa Avatar
joshwa Plus
13 927 1 United Kingdom
30 Apr 2016 3:41PM
Hi Polaco, typo corrected, thanks Josh
ericlwoods Avatar
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 Avatar
Polaco 7
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.
whatsthisbuttondo Avatar
1 May 2016 8:07PM
I feel like blofeld with his cat , i have this now on my lapSmile
RJPhoto Avatar
RJPhoto 10 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!
Kmason0 Avatar
Kmason0 10 United States
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 Avatar
Jure 13 14 Slovenia
4 May 2016 3:17PM
Just do it!
Jure Avatar
Jure 13 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 Avatar
Polaco 7
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 Avatar
Jure 13 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 Avatar
nonur 14 18 13 Turkey
4 May 2016 11:24PM
At last!
claudioNC Avatar
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 Avatar
Jure 13 14 Slovenia
5 May 2016 4:28PM

Jure Avatar
Jure 13 14 Slovenia
5 May 2016 4:31PM
claudioNC Avatar
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 Avatar
Jure 13 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.
Renault5 Avatar
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 Avatar
erino 10
21 May 2016 11:49AM
I'm a happy owner. Is very good! Smile
joshwa Avatar
joshwa Plus
13 927 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
Offertonhatter Avatar
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 Avatar
stub 12 United Kingdom
31 May 2017 10:00AM
Decent camara all said. Still years behind with flash control... Lacking third party manufacturer back up..
pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 450
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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