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Pentax KP Review

We review the new Pentax KP, the 24 megapixel DSLR from Pentax, with a number of unique features including pixel shift resolution, ultra high ISO of ISO819200, 5-axis image stabilisation and a removable grip.

| Pentax KP in Digital SLRs

Pentax KP Review: Pentax KP (5)

The Pentax KP offers a 24.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, high ISO up to ISO819200, 5-axis image stabilisation, as well as a weather-sealed body. You can customise the camera with different size grips, and the KP is priced at £1099 body only. 


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Pentax KP Features

Pentax KP Review: Pentax KP (1)

The Pentax KP offers a new design, that is slimmer than many DSLRs thanks to a removable grip so that you can choose the size of the grip you want. The KP also offers numerous external controls, with a total of three control dials. 

The 24 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor in the camera features a wide ISO range from ISO100 all the way up to ISO819,200. There is no AA (Anti-Aliasing) filter on the sensor, however the camera is able to simulate an AA filter, for situations where there may be moire thanks to the sensor based image stabilisation system. There are a number of other features unique to Pentax DSLRs, including horizon correction, composition adjustment, as well as Astrotracer (which can be used with the optional GPS unit), again, thanks to the sensor being able to be moved precisely.

Front, back, and bottom exterior panels are all made of magnesium alloy, and there are 67 seals to ensure the camera is dustproof, weather-resistant and cold-proof. The camera comes with the smaller "Grip S", shown below, and can be replaced with the optional medium (M) and large (L) grips. 

Pentax KP Review: Pentax KP Black (3)

The camera features front (front e-dial) and rear (rear e-dial) command dials, as well as an additional top "setting" dial. This settings dial, and it's operation can be changed by using the top "Function dial" - For example, if you turn the Function dial to HDR, the top setting dial can then go through the HDR options. You can set up three custom settings, for example, one could be ISO and another exposure compensation (EV), then when these are selected, turning the settings dial will quickly let you change these settings. Underneath the Function dial, you can switch between standard operation, live view, and video mode.

Pentax cameras offer a number of shooting modes, that differ slightly to the usual modes offered by other cameras. As well as the usual P (Program), Tv (Shutter priority), Av (Aperture priority), and M (Manual) modes, there are also Sv (Sensitivity priority) - where you just change the ISO speed and the camera does the rest, and TAv (Shutter and Aperture priority) - where you adjust the shutter and aperture and the camera automatically changes the ISO speed. In Manual mode you have to manually set shutter, aperture, and ISO speed. 

There are 5 user modes on the mode dial, and the focusing screen can be changed for a matte focusing screen if you want. New shooting modes include depth-of-field bracketing (changing the aperture for each shot) and motion bracketing (changing the shutter speed for each shot). The camera can shoot at 7fps in continuous shooting mode. 

5-axis Shake Reduction is built-in to the camera, and the sensor moves to counteract shake and blur. This system is also used to provide "Pixel Shift Resolution" which moves the sensor by one pixel, taking a photo four times, and then combining the images so that each pixel has full R,G,B colour information. Not only does this give you full-colour information for each pixel, it also results in a sharper image with more detail. 

The Pentax KP is a premium Digital SLR with a unique design, and the latest features packed into a solid weather-sealed camera body.

There are numerous colour modes available, called "Custom Image" which can be customised by changing the saturation, hue, high/low key adjustment, contrast and sharpness, or you can select from one of the many presets available. The more creative of these include bleach bypass, reversal film, monochrome (with filters, including an infrared filter) and cross process. There are also a number of digital filters, including extract colour, replace colour, toy camera, retro, high contrast, shading, invert colour, unicolour bold, and bold monochrome. The camera also has options to adjust Clarity, as well as Skin Tone.

The camera has a large optical viewfinder, providing 100% view, as well as 0.95x magnification. The screen on the back is a gapless 3inch LCD that tilts up and down, with 921K dots. Wi-Fi is built-in which lets you remotely shoot, as well as view images, using the Ricoh / Pentax Image Sync app. The app is available for iOS and Android devices.  

The camera records FullHD video with stereo microphones built-in. There's a microphone socket on the side, in case you want to use an external microphone. 

Pentax KP Review: Pentax KP Sensor P3140038

Key Features

  • 24.3mp APS-C CMOS sensor
  • AA filter free, with AA simulation (if needed)
  • Pentax K mount
  • 5-axis image stabilisation, sensor-based Shake Reduction
  • 3inch tilting screen, 921K dots
  • 100% view OVF with 0.95x magnification
  • 27-point AF system (25 cross-type, SAFOX 11), -3EV
  • 1/6,000s mechanical shutter, up to 1/24,000s electronic shutter
  • FullHD video, 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p, built-in stereo mic
  • ISO100 to ISO819,200
  • 7fps continuous shooting
  • Built-in Wi-fI
  • Dust reduction, pixel mapping
  • Weather-sealed camera body, available in black or silver

Pentax KP Handling

Pentax KP Review: Pentax KP Rear P3140011

The Pentax KP feels extremely well-built with a solid metal body, and numerous rubber grips at the front, rear and left side. The soft rubber surround around the optical viewfinder makes it comfortable to hold up to your eye, and the dioptre adjustment makes it easy to adjust for your own vision. However, the viewfinder doesn't protrude very far from the back of the camera, so you may want to change the eyecup or add a magnifier, such as the Pentax O-ME53 if you have a larger nose.

The mode dial has a locking button in the middle that needs to be pressed before you can turn the dial. The optional large grip makes the camera much more like holding a standard Digital SLR. When using the small grip, that comes with the camera as standard, the rear thumb grip helps make the camera easier to hold on to, although you may want to add a wrist strap for extra security. 

The tilting rear screen has a solid construction and feels very well-built so that you can feel secure in the knowledge that if you were to roughly handle the camera, it should survive. The screen looks good, with clear text, and good colour reproduction. The screen is not a touchscreen, which will disappoint some, although should come as no surprise to regular Pentax users. Some people will prefer the tilting screen, compared to a vari-angle screen, as it is quick to tilt the screen up or down, without first having to swing the screen out. 

Pentax KP Review: Pentax KP (4)

The camera is designed to be a "small and compact" Digital SLR, however, if you look at the measurements of the camera, they aren't particularly smaller than other Pentax DSLRs, with the K-70, K-S2, and K-S1 all smaller. The camera is also larger or very similar in size to the Canon EOS 800D, Nikon D5600, with only the Sony Alpha A68 larger. The camera is also heavier than all of these cameras.

If we move up to the next level in DSLRs, such as the Canon EOS 80D, Nikon D7200, Sony Alpha A77 II, and Pentax K-3 II, then the KP is smaller and lighter than all of these.

You can use the small grip and then that part of the camera is quite small, but we suspect that most people will want either the medium or large grip fitted. Unfortunately, when the grip is removed, the camera is quite unattractive and too uncomfortable to use without the grip. Some other camera's with removable grip have maintained a good design so that you can reduce the size further if you can cope without the grip, or sold a larger grip as an optional extra

Pentax KP Review: Pentax KP Black (1)

Menus – The menus on the camera are neatly laid out, with different sections for photo, video, playback, settings, and custom settings. You can customise the layout of the rear control panel if you want. There is built-in help for some of the menu options, which will help when you don't have the manual handy.

There are numerous customisable buttons, with three Fx buttons, and the AF/AE-L button can be customised. This can be used for back-focus by default. The green button can be used for different things depending what mode you are in, however, isn't directly customisable like a function button, which is a shame. Perhaps a future firmware update will give this option. 

There are 27 focus points, with 25 of these being cross-type, and they are located in the centre of the frame. The focus system works down to -3EV. In live view mode, the focus area is slightly larger but doesn't cover the full frame of the camera. Using the remote app, you can select a slightly wider area of the frame. However, it does make us wonder why there is a limit to the area selectable in live view, and in remote view.

Wi-Fi features: 

Pentax KP Review: Pentax Image App Supported Cameras
Supported Cameras
Pentax KP Review: Pentax Image App Remote Shooting
Remote Shooting
Pentax KP Review: Pentax Image App Playback
Pentax KP Review: Pentax Image App Settings

The "Pentax Image App" app gives a good level of control over settings, with control over a number of manual controls. The app is available for iOS and Android devices. 

Pentax KP Review: Pentax KP Black (2)

Battery life - Battery life is rated at 390 shots according to Pentax / CIPA test results, or 420 shots without flash. This is quite low for a DSLR, so we'd recommend a second battery. 

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Photographs taken using the Pentax KP

Cascades and Casuarinas, CanberraTuggeranong CreekCootMallardWindow ShoppingCootMountain Ash, Strezlecki RangesHaven, CowraSt John's Church, Georges PlainFollow the Flow, Otway RangeMacroMacroPortrait chevalMacrocheval

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19 Mar 2017 12:10AM
Looks to be a cool toy, and hopefully will not break the bank to get one.
ChrisV 16 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
19 Mar 2017 12:29PM
Can't quite work out that this is a five star review, given as you point out it's (rare for Pentax) not great value for money and its top sensitivity settings have been made up by the marketing department.

It's not something that concerns me all that much, but it's pretty hard to ignore what an ugly little effer it is to boot.

It does have some nice features and I'm sure it's a capable camera. But it's the first Pentax I've seen in a while where I've thought were I starting afresh, I wouldn't touch with a barge pole. With the shortcomings you've mentioned (not just the two I've alluded to) I wonder if there's any differentiation to be had between this and other similarly priced devices that don't have such notable flaws?
22 Mar 2017 2:06PM
My impression from KP users is that this is a solidly built camera suitable for regular everyday use such as in journalism never mind the normal consumer requirements. I cannot get my hands on the KP but I've seen reports elsewhere that suggest it's IQ (from a new sensor) is exceptional and that fitted with the latest lenses its auto focus is super quick. I've seen some samples of its High ISO performance and these have been impressive enough for me to consider this aspect useful in trying conditions where light is poor and an image grab is important. These features coupled with 5 axis image stabilisation, its compact but light weight WR/rugged body make this appealing to myself and I'm sure others. Battery power has been shown here as lacking but for those who have an appetite for power there is the battery grip that takes more powerful capacity batteries. Of course it is not a camera for everybody but then I cannot think of one that is just that. One point of pique for me is the price point but as with many new products I would expect this to level out in the months ahead.
PentaxBro 6 43 3
24 Mar 2017 3:17PM
KP Its still great value , but not so much as K-X was or K-70 more recently..

The biggest shortcoming is still the focusing system, while improoved its still not up to the Nikons Canons or Sony systems..Points are to few and too narrow , tracking is poor, illumination too weak, etc etc

But its a Pentax and it has strenghts like no other!
I would buy it anyway Tongue
26 Mar 2017 10:33PM
PentaxBro - you say that,

"The biggest shortcoming is still the focusing system, while improved its still not up to the Nikons Canons or Sony systems..Points are to few and too narrow , tracking is poor, illumination too weak, etc etc."

Reports from users I've read about the focusing system don't fit with that assessment. Have you tried it or are you just speculating?
PentaxBro 6 43 3
26 Mar 2017 11:54PM

Quote:PentaxBro - you say that,

"The biggest shortcoming is still the focusing system, while improved its still not up to the Nikons Canons or Sony systems..Points are to few and too narrow , tracking is poor, illumination too weak, etc etc."

Reports from users I've read about the focusing system don't fit with that assessment. Have you tried it or are you just speculating?

Yes I have tried K-3II which has very similar focusing if not identical to KP I also used Canon 80D ,SonyA-77Ii, Nikons, Panasonic etc I do own Pentax K-X & K-70 and Sony H-10 for everyday use..I know their weak points pretty well.
I'm not alone demanding better focusing capabilities from Pentax for a long time. That's one of the reasons I'm not shooting some sports, action etc with it. Its doable but more difficult than with some other brands..
27 Mar 2017 4:26PM
I was hoping to read here about user experience of the KP but that is not you.

PentaxBro 6 43 3
27 Mar 2017 4:39PM
I tried KPTongue in the store but not as extensively as K-3ii and the rest mentioned in various conditions..
For me its at best the same focusing as K-3ii except lower frame rates, but Live view performance seems better!
PentaxBro 6 43 3
27 Mar 2017 4:57PM
Do not get me wrong autofocus is quick on both KP & K-3II
but continuous focus and traking is comperatively poor.
Also I wish for more focusing points including cross points , wider coverage and stronger ilumination of points which in strong bright light or strong sunlight are bearly visible.
I guess in UK weather it may not be such a problem thoughWink
27 Mar 2017 5:34PM
Continuous focusing and tracking in store with the KP must have been tricky. Who or what did you focus continuously or track in store? What store? I can only see it available online.

27 Mar 2017 6:01PM
It is interesting that your experience of the KP in store confirmed that the auto focus of the KP & K-3II is the same and what Ricoh/Pentax are saying about them being different with that of the KP being much improved is not the case.

I'm still curious how you managed to test out the continuous focus and tracking in store - must have been a big store with a lot of space and a good laugh to see - someone running around the store? Anyhow, this is certainly not being reported elsewhere by other users whose photos of action included a dog running and jumping to catch a frisbee. I also know of a journalist in Berlin who now successfully uses the KP for his daily hard grid fast moving work.

Regrettably, it is my sense that your assessment in store probably short changes this new camera and cannot be usefully relied upon.
PentaxBro 6 43 3
27 Mar 2017 8:49PM

Quote:Continuous focusing and tracking in store with the KP must have been tricky. Who or what did you focus continuously or track in store? What store? I can only see it available online.

First time I saw it in Japan during my recent trip,where I had the opportunity to try it even in the strong sun getting through the big window, but more recently I tried it again in the Cyfrowe Store in Warsaw, on my return they have the black version and silver you can order in 1-2 days..
For me the tracking is so poor it doesn't even need nobody to run. It has problems even with the slow or moderately eratic subjects, especially in partly artificial lighting.
Once again you do not need extensive testing to notice how weak the ilumination or coverage of focus points are etc.
I tried many other brands at the same time for comparison and was advised by the people which play with it whole days too.
Most Pentax lenses however are not up to the task either.

Do not belive all the advertising statements etc.
For example Pentax K-70 supposed to have more frames per second than K-S2, but in real life is the opposite!
27 Mar 2017 9:41PM
Thanks for all this info which is much appreciated. On the basis of such an experience the KP is hardly worthy of serious consideration, yet, it is not a universal view so maybe there are issues of taste, preference or different copies. Anyhow, I shall be in London around 6 April when I shall get a chance to pick it up in store for myself to consider.

There are many inches of media devoted to auto focus capabilities of cameras and frankly I've yet to find the perfect model. I've tried the Canon 80D and perhaps more telling, the Canon 7DM2 - was disappointed with the auto focus capability accuracy with a poor hit rate and they were returned The best I've found so far is the Sony a6000..

My experience of the KP -

I had the opportunity to handle and try out a black KP on the 4 April 2017. This was within the confines of a retail photographic store in London with the Pentax 20-40, the 55 F/1.4 and HD PENTAX-DA 55-300mm F4-5.8 ED WR lenses at my disposal. I was impressed.

The design, weight and ergonomics seemed perfect to me. I found the menus clear and easy to understand. Controls are sweet to the touch with no difficulties or problems being experienced. It has a robust and rugged body that should prove to be a durable every day working tool. Focusing was fast and without hunting even in poor indoor lighting. Not possible to test tracking within the confines of a retail store. The small grip was fitted to the model I tested but all three grips come with the camera in the UK - I saw all three. My preference is for the medium size.

The KP has compact dimensions that I found comfortable, working well with the lenses I tried and should do so for both small and large form lenses - users are supported by Pentax's premium selection of high quality glass. In appearance it looks like the classic Pentax design from by gone days.

I believe this camera, with its rich features list, is capable of satisfying the requirements of many users for years to come.

19 May 2018 11:06PM
Battery life is poor, indeed. But adding the battery grip provides longer shooting time. And... In the battery grip fits also a more powerful D-LI90 battery. Problem solved!
1 May 2021 8:43PM
Did Ricoh announce until they update for KP?
Thank you.
steveb127 5 1 United Kingdom
7 Feb 2022 4:12PM
I've had the KP since they first came out. I typically shoot landscapes / nature in desert / mountain environments and I've used it in temperatures ranging from +40 C to -20 C. Away from all the theoretical stuff, thanks to WR lenses it's worked quite happily through rain, ice and dust storms, gales and sea spray (more than I can say for me). Is it better than a Canikonsony, I don't know, it has done the job for me without missing a beat. What really does make me question any review is if they mention battery life - shoot, just buy a few spare batteries, it really isn't that difficult and if you're at -20C you'll soon understand.
af1 Plus
10 1 United Kingdom
29 Jun 2022 8:25AM
Well said l have a K70 great camera been through all sorts of weather as well, l am also now looking for a decent KP now to add to my Pentax family...👍

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