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Pentax K-1 Mark II Review

We review the new 36mp Pentax K-1 Mark II - the update to the full-frame K-1 - is the new model worth the upgrade?

| Pentax K-1 Mark II in Digital SLRs

Pentax K-1 Mark II Review: Pentax K 1 MarkII (2)

The Pentax K-1 Mark II, is Pentax's update to the Pentax K-1, making it Pentax' second full-frame Digital SLR. There are a small number of updates that have been made to the K-1, and at first glance, they are fairly minor. However, there is also an increased ISO range, and Pentax say the camera will give better image quality, improved AF performance, and improved Pixel Shift Resolution. All other DSLR features remain the same, with the same camera body which includes weather-sealing, shake-reduction sensor, a unique multi-angle screen, and compatibility with all Pentax K-mount lenses since the mid-1970s. The K-1 Mark II 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.

Pentax K-1 Mark II Features

Pentax K-1 Mark II Review: Pentax K 1 MarkII (11)

Here's a quick run-down of the differences between the Mark I and Mark II:

  Pentax K-1 Mark II Pentax K-1 (Mark I)
New Handheld Pixel Shift mode -
Upgraded Improved AF speed / performance -
ISO Range ISO100 - 819200 ISO100 - 204800
APS-C fps 6.4fps 6.5fps
New Night LCD mode Added with firmware update
Battery Life 670 760


The heart of the Pentax K-1 Mark II is a 36 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with an ISO range of ISO100 to ISO81920. The camera can focus down to -3EV and has 33 AF points, with 25 of these cross-type points. Focus speeds are said to be improved. 

If you're familiar with the Pentax K-1, then you might want to jump to the Performance section, as the features and handling of the camera are almost identical.

The Mark II camera body is identical to the K-1, except for the label on the front, therefore it shares the same features of the K-1 - including the "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 body is weather-sealed, 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 Mark II Review: Pentax K 1 MarkII (7)

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 K-1 Mark II adds "Handheld Pixel Shift" - which takes a number of images to improve resolution and detail captured, without the use of a tripod. 

The Pentax K-1 Mark II still offers very good value for money, as other full-frame DSLRs tend to cost more.

Pentax K-1 Mark II Review: Pentax K1 II (4) (Custom)

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 Mark II 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 819,200
  • 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)
  • 6.4fps 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 an optional extra for live view tethered shooting)

Pentax K-1 Mark II Review: Pentax K 1 MarkII (4)

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. 

Pentax K-1 Mark II 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 Mark II Handling

Pentax K-1 Mark II Review: Pentax K1 II (3) (Custom)

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 Mark II has the same solid feel and premium design as the K-1, 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 Mark II Review: Pentax K 1 MarkII (8)

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 670 shots (less than the K-1), although this can be extended with the optional battery grip. The K-1 II feels extremely solid, and with 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 Mark II Review: Pentax K 1 MarkII (3)

A "Program Line" option built into the camera 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-around 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 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. 

When using the Pentax K-1 Mark II, 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 shooting 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 II 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.

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

To control the Pentax K-1 II 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 on the smartphone to set the focus point. You can also download images from the camera to your smartphone.

Pentax K-1 Mark II Review: Pentax K 1 MarkII (9)

Battery life - Battery life is shorted, now rated at 670, down from 760 shots on the K-1, according to Pentax/ CIPA test results. However, this is still reasonable 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 Mark II

Left to Rust.Pollen ConesCherry BlossomSgwd Gwladys - Lady FallsSgwd-Ddwli-IsafWool Carder BeeLockedCrocus.Bin- Day, in the backstreets.White-crowned SparrowBlistered BreadLemon and Grapes.Sheep in the Mist, at Crows-Wood.oak knotshellebore

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