Nikon Z50 vs Pentax K-1
The Nikon Z50 and the Pentax K-1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in October 2019 and February 2016. The Z50 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the K-1 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on an APS-C (Z50) and a full frame (K-1) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 20.7 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 Nikon Z50 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 Nikon Z50 and the Pentax K-1. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The K-1 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the Z50 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 notably larger (26 percent) than the Nikon Z50. Moreover, the K-1 is substantially heavier (124 percent) than the Z50. 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 power pack in the Z50 can be charged via the USB port, so that it is not always necessary to take the battery charger along when travelling.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Nikon Z50||127 mm||94 mm||60 mm||450 g||320||Y||Oct 2019||859|
|2.||Pentax K-1||137 mm||110 mm||86 mm||1010 g||760||Y||Feb 2016||1,799|
|3.||Canon M50||116 mm||88 mm||59 mm||390 g||235||n||Feb 2018||779|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark IV||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499|
|5.||Fujifilm X-T30||118 mm||83 mm||47 mm||383 g||380||n||Feb 2019||899|
|6.||Fujifilm X-T3||133 mm||93 mm||59 mm||539 g||390||Y||Sep 2018||1,499|
|7.||Nikon D3500||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||365 g||1550||n||Aug 2018||429|
|8.||Nikon D500||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||860 g||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|9.||Nikon D5500||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||420 g||820||n||Jan 2015||899|
|10.||Nikon D5300||125 mm||98 mm||76 mm||480 g||600||n||Oct 2013||799|
|11.||Olympus E-M1 II||134 mm||91 mm||67 mm||574 g||440||Y||Sep 2016||1,999|
|12.||Panasonic G95||130 mm||94 mm||77 mm||536 g||290||Y||Apr 2019||999|
|13.||Pentax K-1 II||137 mm||110 mm||86 mm||1010 g||670||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|14.||Sony A6400||120 mm||67 mm||50 mm||403 g||410||Y||Jan 2019||899|
|15.||Sony A6100||120 mm||67 mm||59 mm||396 g||420||n||Aug 2019||749|
|16.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|17.||Sony A6300||120 mm||67 mm||49 mm||404 g||400||Y||Feb 2016||999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The Z50 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 52 percent) than the K-1, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. 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 imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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 Nikon Z50 features an APS-C sensor and the Pentax K-1 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the K-1 is 134 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 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 Z50 (20.7MP), but the K-1 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 4.22μm for the Z50) due to its larger sensor. However, the Z50 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 7 months) than the K-1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the 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 Nikon Z50 are 27.8 x 18.6 inches or 70.7 x 47.1 cm for good quality, 22.3 x 14.8 inches or 56.6 x 37.7 cm for very good quality, and 18.6 x 12.4 inches or 47.1 x 31.4 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Z50 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
Unlike the Z50, 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 Nikon Z50 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 51200, which can be extended to ISO 100-204800. 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 determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|2.||Pentax K-1||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60i||25.4||14.6||3280||96|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|11.||Olympus E-M1 II||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.7||12.8||1312||80|
|12.||Panasonic G95||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|13.||Pentax K-1 II||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60i||..||..||..||..|
|16.||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. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the Z50 provides a higher video resolution than the K-1. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Pentax is limited to 1080/60i.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the Z50 has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the K-1 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the K-1 has a higher magnification than the one of the Z50 (0.70x vs 0.68x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon Z50, the Pentax K-1, and comparable cameras.
|4.||Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0||n||n|
|11.||Olympus E-M1 II||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||18.0||n||Y|
|13.||Pentax K-1 II||optical||Y||3.2||1037||full-flex||n||1/8000s||4.4||n||Y|
|16.||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 Z50 has one, while the K-1 does not. While the built-in flash of the Z50 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The Z50 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the K-1 does not have a selfie-screen.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the Z50 is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Nikon Z50 and the Pentax K-1 both have 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.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the Z50 and the K-1 write their files to SDXC cards. The K-1 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the Z50 only has one slot. The Z50 supports UHS-II cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s), while the K-1 can use UHS-I cards (up to 104 MB/s).
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 Nikon Z50 and Pentax K-1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|4.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-|
|11.||Olympus E-M1 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.0||Y||-||-|
|13.||Pentax K-1 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|16.||Sony A99 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
It is notable that the K-1 has a headphone jack, which makes it possible to attach external headphones and monitor the quality of sound during the recording process. The Z50 lacks such a headphone port.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Pentax K-1 (unlike the Z50) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
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.
The Z50 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the K-1 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the K-1 was succeeded 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 Nikon and Pentax websites.
So how do things add up? Is the Nikon Z50 better than the Pentax K-1 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon Z50:
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60i).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 4.4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 137x110mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 560g or 55 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports a more advanced SD data transfer standard (UHS-II vs UHS-I).
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (52 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 7 months of technical progress since the K-1 launch.
Reasons to prefer the Pentax K-1:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 20.7MP), which boosts linear resolution by 32%.
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.68x).
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- More flexible LCD: Has a full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (760 versus 320) out of a single battery charge.
- 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.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in February 2016).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the Z50 emerges as the winner of the contest (16 : 14 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports 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 Nikon Z50 and the Pentax K-1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings 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 says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the Z50 and the K-1 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.
|1.||Nikon Z50||5/5||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2019||859|
|2.||Pentax K-1||5/5||..||84/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2016||1,799|
|3.||Canon M50||..||+||79/100||..||3.5/5||Feb 2018||779|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark IV||4.5/5||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499|
|5.||Fujifilm X-T30||5/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2019||899|
|6.||Fujifilm X-T3||5/5||+ +||88/100||5/5||5/5||Sep 2018||1,499|
|7.||Nikon D3500||..||..||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2018||429|
|8.||Nikon D500||5/5||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|9.||Nikon D5500||5/5||+||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2015||899|
|10.||Nikon D5300||4/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||799|
|11.||Olympus E-M1 II||5/5||+ +||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||1,999|
|12.||Panasonic G95||4.5/5||+||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2019||999|
|13.||Pentax K-1 II||..||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|14.||Sony A6400||4/5||+||85/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jan 2019||899|
|15.||Sony A6100||..||..||82/100||4/5||5/5||Aug 2019||749|
|16.||Sony A99 II||..||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|17.||Sony A6300||4.5/5||+||85/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2016||999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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 are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Nikon Z50 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||Nikon Z50||Pentax K-1|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Pentax K mount lenses|
|Launch Date||October 2019||February 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 859||USD 1,799|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon Z50||Pentax K-1|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.5 x 15.7 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||368.95 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.3 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||20.7 Megapixels||36.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5568 x 3712 pixels||7360 x 4912 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.22 μm||4.88 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.60 MP/cm2||4.20 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 51,200 ISO||100 - 204,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 204,800 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 6||PRIME IV|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||96|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||25.4|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||14.6|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||3280|
|Screen Specs||Nikon Z50||Pentax K-1|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2360k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||1037k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Fully flexible screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon Z50||Pentax K-1|
|Focus System||On-Sensor Phase-detect||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||11 shutter flaps/s||4.4 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||up to 1/4000s||no E-Shutter|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||UHS-II||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon Z50||Pentax K-1|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||micro HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||Wifi built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||Bluetooth built-in||no Bluetooth|
|Geotagging||no internal GPS||GPS built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon Z50||Pentax K-1|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||320 shots per charge||760 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||USB charging||no USB charging|
127 x 94 x 60 mm
(5.0 x 3.7 x 2.4 in)
137 x 110 x 86 mm
(5.4 x 4.3 x 3.4 in)
|Camera Weight||450 g (15.9 oz)||1010 g (35.6 oz)|
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