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Pentax K-1 Comparison Review

The Pentax K-1 is a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera that was officially introduced in February 2016 and is equipped with a full frame sensor. It offers a resolution of 36.2 megapixel.

camera

Is the Pentax K-1 a good camera? The K-1 has a Camera Elo of 2860. This rating puts the K-1 among the top 10 percent of all digital single lens reflex cameras. In terms of its sensor size category (full frame cameras), the K-1 ranks among the top 40 percent.

Headline Specifications
Pentax K-1
Digital single lens reflex
Pentax K mount lenses
36.2 MP, Full Frame Sensor
1080/60i Video
ISO 100-204800
Optical viewfinder
3.2" LCD, 1037k dots
Fully flexible screen (no touchscreen)
4.4 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilization
Weathersealed body
760 shots per battery charge
137 x 110 x 86 mm, 1010 g


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Read on to find out more about the camera's size, sensor, features, reception by expert reviewers, and how it compares to other digital cameras.

Body comparison with a credit card

The physical dimensions of the Pentax K-1 relative to a credit card are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Pentax K-1 vs credit card front
K-1 versus credit card top view
K-1 and credit card rear side

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the Pentax K-1 alongside a set of comparators. If you want to review a camera pair side-by-side, just select a right-side comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Pentax K-1 5.4 in 4.3 in 3.4 in 35.6 oz 760 Y Feb 2016 1,799- i Pentax K-1
 
Canon 5D Mark IV« » 5.9 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 31.4 oz 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
 
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
 
Olympus E-M1 II« » 5.3 in 3.6 in 2.6 in 20.2 oz 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
 
Pentax K-1 II« » 5.4 in 4.3 in 3.4 in 35.6 oz 670 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i i Pentax K-1 II
 
Pentax K-3 II« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 28.2 oz 720 Y Apr 2015 1,099 i i Pentax K-3 II
 
Sony A7 III« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 610 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
 
Sony A7R III« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 650 Y Oct 2017 3,199- i Sony A7R III
 
Sony A99 II« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 29.9 oz 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7R II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.0 oz 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
 
Sony A850« » 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Aug 2009 1,999- i Sony A850
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The Pentax K-1 was launched in the US market at a price of $1,799. 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.

Pentax K-1:
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Sensor comparison with a 35mm slide

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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

The Pentax K-1 features a full frame sensor and has a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the Pentax K-1 among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality.

Pentax K-1 sensor measures

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Pentax K-1 Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60i25.414.6328096Pentax K-1
 
Canon 5D Mark IV« » Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591Canon 5D Mark IV
 
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
 
Olympus E-M1 II« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280Olympus E-M1 II
 
Pentax K-1 II« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60i----Pentax K-1 II
 
Pentax K-3 II« » APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/60i23.613.6110680Pentax K-3 II
 
Sony A7 III« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7373096Sony A7 III
 
Sony A7R III« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.014.73523100Sony A7R III
 
Sony A99 II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p25.413.4231792Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7R II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.013.9343498Sony A7R II
 
Sony A850« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-23.812.2141579Sony A850

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The K-1 indeed provides movie recording capabilities. The highest resolution format that the K-1 can use is 1080/60i.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the K-1 has an optical viewfinder that provides a field of view of 100% and a magnification of 0.70x. The following tables report on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Pentax K-1 and comparable cameras.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Pentax K-1optical Y 3.2 1037 full-flex n 1/8000s 4.4 n Y Pentax K-1
 
Canon 5D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 1/8000s 7.0 n n Canon 5D Mark IV
 
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n Nikon D500
 
Olympus E-M1 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 1/8000s 18.0 n Y Olympus E-M1 II
 
Pentax K-1 II« »optical Y 3.2 1037 full-flex n 1/8000s 4.4 n Y Pentax K-1 II
 
Pentax K-3 II« »optical Y 3.2 1037 fixed n 1/8000s 8.3 n Y Pentax K-3 II
 
Sony A7 III« »2359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n Y Sony A7 III
 
Sony A7R III« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n Y Sony A7R III
 
Sony A99 II« »2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 n Y Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7R II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y Sony A7R II
 
Sony A850« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n Y Sony A850

One useful feature of the K-1 is a presence of a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

 

Connection comparison

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 Pentax K-1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Pentax K-1YstereomonoYYmicro2.0Y--Pentax K-1
 
Canon 5D Mark IV« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0YY-Canon 5D Mark IV
 
Nikon D500« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
 
Olympus E-M1 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.0Y--Olympus E-M1 II
 
Pentax K-1 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0Y--Pentax K-1 II
 
Pentax K-3 II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Pentax K-3 II
 
Sony A7 III« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.1YYYSony A7 III
 
Sony A7R III« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.1YYYSony A7R III
 
Sony A99 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYYSony A99 II
 
Sony A7R II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R II
 
Sony A850« »Y----mini2.0---Sony A850

It is notable that the K-1 has a microphone port. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.

 

Expert reviews

While the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the K-1 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog).

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Pentax K-1-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2016 1,799- i Pentax K-1
 
Canon 5D Mark IV« »+ +87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
 
Nikon D500« »+ +91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
 
Olympus E-M1 II« »+ +85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
 
Pentax K-1 II« »-79/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i i Pentax K-1 II
 
Pentax K-3 II« »--5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2015 1,099 i i Pentax K-3 II
 
Sony A7 III« »+ +89/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
 
Sony A7R III« »+ +90/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2017 3,199- i Sony A7R III
 
Sony A99 II« »-85/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7R II« »+ +90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
 
Sony A850« »-75/100-4/54.5/5 Aug 2009 1,999- i Sony A850
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Pentax K-1 FAQ

Below are some additional questions and answers concerning some particular features of the K-1.

What is the technology behind the imaging sensor in the K-1?

The camera is build around a CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensor.

Which image processing chip is used to convert the raw signal into an image file and perform noise reduction and image sharpening?

Pentax equipped the K-1 with the PRIME IV image processor.

What is the ISO sensitivity range of the K-1?

The camera has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 204800.

What is the life expectancy of the shutter in the Pentax K-1?

Pentax mentions a shutter rating of 300 000 actuations for the K-1. This number represents a Mean Time before Failure, that is an average value. The shutter might fail earlier, or it might last longer. Anyway, in order to exhaust the expected shutter life of the K-1 over, say, three years, one would have to take about 300 pictures each and every day.

How do I find the shutter count on my Pentax K-1?

Pentax embeds the number of shutter actuations in image metadata. You can check the number of shots that your K-1 has taken up to now by uploading a recent image to the online shutter count app.

Do I need to purchase an external camera trigger to shoot time-lapse sequences?

No, the Pentax K-1 has an intervalometer built-in, so that low frequency shooting (for example, flower blooming, sunset, moon rise) can be undertaken without the need to purchase a separate external intervalometer and related software.

Is it difficult to use manual focus lenses with the Pentax K-1?

The K-1 offers focus peaking as a manual focus aid. This feature works by placing a colored highlight on in-focus zones within the image.

Does the Pentax K-1 feature an autofocus assist light?

Yes, the camera has a lamp built-in that can illuminate the subject and improve autofocus in low-light settings.

What is the fastest shutter speed that can be used with flash?

The K-1's flash sync speed is 1/200 sec.

Does the Pentax K-1 support the Ultra High Speed (UHS) bus interface for SD cards?

Yes, the camera can indeed use UHS-I cards (data transfer speed of up to 104 MB/s).

Which battery does the K-1 use?

The camera gets its power from the D-LI90 (here at amazon), which is a rechargeable Lithium-Ion power pack.

Is there a vertical grip available for the K-1?

Yes, Pentax offers the D-BG6 as an optional accessory to facilitate shooting in portrait orientation and to provide additional battery power.

Does the Pentax K-1 support geotagging?

The K-1 has a built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) module and can embed location information in the EXIF data of the captured image.

Camera to camera comparisons

If you would like to see a side-by-side review of this and another camera, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications Summary
    Camera Model Pentax K-1
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Pentax K mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2016
    Launch Price USD 1799
    Sensor Specs
    Sensor Technology CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 35.9 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 861.6 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 36.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 7360 x 4912 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.88 μm
    Pixel Density 4.20 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 100-204800 ISO
    Image Processor 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
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.70x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.2 inch
    LCD Resolution 1037k dots
    LCD Attachment Fully flexible screen
    Shooting Specs
    Autofocus System Phase-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidFocus Peaking
    Maximum Shutter Speed 1/8000s
    Continuous Shooting 4.4 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy300 000 actuations
    Silent Shootingno E-Shutter
    Time Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer Built-in
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots
    UHS card support UHS-I
    Connectivity Specs
    External Flash Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0
    HDMI Port micro HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port
    Headphone Socket Headphone port
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in
    Geotagging GPS built-in
    Body Specs
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed body
    Battery Type D-LI90 power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)760 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 137 x 110 x 86 mm
    (5.4 x 4.3 x 3.4 in)
    Camera Weight 1010 g (35.6 oz)

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