Canon 50D vs Pentax K-1
The Canon EOS 50D and the Pentax K-1 are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2008 and February 2016. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (50D) and a full frame (K-1) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.1 megapixels, whereas the Pentax provides 36.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 50D and the Pentax K-1? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 50D and the Pentax K-1. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The K-1 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the 50D is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax K-1 is somewhat smaller (4 percent) than the Canon 50D. However, the K-1 is markedly heavier (23 percent) than the 50D. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|Canon 50D||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.9 in||29.0 oz||800||Y||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Pentax K-1||5.4 in||4.3 in||3.4 in||35.6 oz||760||Y||Feb 2016||1,799|
|Canon 90D||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||24.7 oz||1300||Y||Aug 2019||1,199|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||5.9 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||31.4 oz||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499|
|Canon 80D||5.5 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||25.8 oz||960||Y||Feb 2016||1,199|
|Canon 7D II||5.9 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||32.1 oz||670||Y||Sep 2014||1,799|
|Canon 70D||5.5 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||26.6 oz||920||Y||Jul 2013||1,199|
|Canon 60D||5.7 in||4.2 in||3.1 in||26.6 oz||1100||Y||Aug 2010||1,399|
|Canon 7D||5.8 in||4.4 in||2.9 in||30.3 oz||800||Y||Sep 2009||1,699|
|Canon T1i||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.3 oz||400||n||Mar 2009||799|
|Canon 40D||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.9 in||29.0 oz||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Canon 30D||5.7 in||4.2 in||2.9 in||27.7 oz||750||n||Feb 2006||1,399|
|Canon 20D||5.7 in||4.2 in||2.8 in||27.2 oz||700||n||Aug 2004||1,499|
|Nikon D500||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||30.3 oz||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Olympus E-M1 II||5.3 in||3.6 in||2.6 in||20.2 oz||440||Y||Sep 2016||1,999|
|Pentax K-1 II||5.4 in||4.3 in||3.4 in||35.6 oz||670||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|Sony A99 II||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||29.9 oz||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The 50D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 28 percent) than the K-1, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 50D features an APS-C sensor and the Pentax K-1 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the K-1 is 160 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 36.2MP, the K-1 offers a higher resolution than the 50D (15.1MP), but the K-1 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 4.69μm for the 50D) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the K-1 is a much more recent model (by 7 years and 5 months) than the 50D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the K-1 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Pentax K-1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the K-1 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 36.8 x 24.6 inches or 93.5 x 62.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 29.4 x 19.6 inches or 74.8 x 49.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 24.5 x 16.4 inches or 62.3 x 41.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 50D are 23.8 x 15.8 inches or 60.4 x 40.2 cm for good quality, 19 x 12.7 inches or 48.3 x 32.2 cm for very good quality, and 15.8 x 10.6 inches or 40.2 x 26.8 cm for excellent quality prints.
Unlike the 50D, the K-1 has the capacity to capture high quality composite images by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
The Canon EOS 50D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Pentax K-1 are ISO 100 to ISO 204800 (no boost).
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the K-1 offers substantially better image quality than the 50D (overall score 33 points higher). The advantage is based on 3.6 bits higher color depth, 3.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|Pentax K-1||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60i||25.4||14.6||3280||96|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|Canon 7D II||APS-C||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||22.4||11.8||1082||70|
|Olympus E-M1 II||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.7||12.8||1312||80|
|Pentax K-1 II||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60i||..||..||..||..|
|Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The K-1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 50D does not. The highest resolution format that the K-1 can use is 1080/60i.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 50D and the K-1 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinder in the K-1 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the 50D (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the K-1 has a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.59x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 50D and Pentax K-1 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0||n||n|
|Canon 7D II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||Y||n|
|Olympus E-M1 II||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||18.0||n||Y|
|Pentax K-1 II||optical||Y||3.2||1037||full-flex||n||1/8000s||4.4||n||Y|
|Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 50D has one, while the K-1 does not. While the built-in flash of the 50D is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The Pentax K-1 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The 50D writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the K-1 uses SDXC cards. The K-1 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 50D only has one slot.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS 50D and Pentax K-1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-|
|Canon 7D II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Olympus E-M1 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.0||Y||-||-|
|Pentax K-1 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|Sony A99 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
It is notable that the K-1 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the 50D does not provide wifi capability.
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the K-1 has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.
Both the 50D and the K-1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 50D was replaced by the Canon 60D, while the K-1 was followed by the Pentax K-1 II. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Pentax websites.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 50D or the Pentax K-1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 50D:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6.3 vs 4.4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 188g or 19 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (28 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2008).
Advantages of the Pentax K-1:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 15.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 55%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (33 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (3.6 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (3.2 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2.2 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60i video.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.59x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 920k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More modern: Reflects 7 years and 5 months of technical progress since the 50D launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the K-1 is the clear winner of the contest (19 : 6 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 50D and the Pentax K-1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 50D or the K-1. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|Canon 50D||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Pentax K-1||..||84/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2016||1,799|
|Canon 90D||+||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2019||1,199|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499|
|Canon 80D||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||1,199|
|Canon 7D II||+||84/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||1,799|
|Canon 70D||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2013||1,199|
|Canon 60D||+||79/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||1,399|
|Canon 7D||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2009||1,699|
|Canon T1i||+ +||74/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799|
|Canon 40D||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Canon 30D||+ +||+ +||o||o||..||Feb 2006||1,399|
|Canon 20D||..||+ +||..||o||..||Aug 2004||1,499|
|Nikon D500||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Olympus E-M1 II||+ +||85/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||1,999|
|Pentax K-1 II||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|Sony A99 II||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Canon 50D vs Pentax K-1
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Canon 50D||Pentax K-1|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Pentax K mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2008||February 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 1,299||USD 1,799|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 50D||Pentax K-1|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.3 x 14.9 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||332.27 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.8 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||15.1 Megapixels||36.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4752 x 3168 pixels||7360 x 4912 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.69 μm||4.88 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.53 MP/cm2||4.20 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 204,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 12,800 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4||PRIME IV|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||63||96|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.8||25.4|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.4||14.6|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||696||3280|
|Screen Specs||Canon 50D||Pentax K-1|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||1037k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fully flexible screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 50D||Pentax K-1|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||6.3 shutter flaps/s||4.4 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||300 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 50D||Pentax K-1|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Geotagging||no internal GPS||GPS built-in|
|Body Specs||Canon 50D||Pentax K-1|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||800 shots per charge||760 shots per charge|
146 x 108 x 74 mm
(5.7 x 4.3 x 2.9 in)
137 x 110 x 86 mm
(5.4 x 4.3 x 3.4 in)
|Camera Weight||822 g (29.0 oz)||1010 g (35.6 oz)|
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