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Pentax K-1 versus Olympus E-1

The Pentax K-1 and the Olympus E-1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2016 and June 2003. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (K-1) and a Four Thirds (E-1) sensor. The Pentax has a resolution of 36.2 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 4.9 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Pentax K-1 vs Olympus E-1

The physical size and weight of the Pentax K-1 and the Olympus E-1 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the K-1 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Pentax K-1 vs Olympus E-1
Compare K-1 versus E-1 top
Compare K-1 and E-1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-1 is somewhat smaller (3 percent) than the Pentax K-1. Moreover, the E-1 is markedly lighter (27 percent) than the K-1. 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 the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

Concerning battery life, the K-1 gets 760 shots out of its D-LI90 battery, while the E-1 can take 750 images on a single charge of its BLM-1 power pack.

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, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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» 137 mm 110 mm 86 mm 1010 g 760 Y Feb 2016 1,799- i Pentax K-1
Olympus E-1« 141 mm 104 mm 81 mm 738 g 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1
Canon 5D Mark IV« » 151 mm 116 mm 76 mm 890 g 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
Leica Digilux 3« » 146 mm 87 mm 77 mm 606 g 750 n Sep 2006 1,499- i Leica Digilux 3
Nikon D500« » 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Olympus E-M1 II« » 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-5« » 142 mm 117 mm 75 mm 873 g 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
Olympus E-3« » 142 mm 116 mm 75 mm 876 g 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
Olympus E-330« » 140 mm 87 mm 72 mm 637 g 750 n Jan 2006 999- i Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« » 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 n Sep 2004 799- i Olympus E-300
Panasonic GH5« » 139 mm 98 mm 87 mm 725 g 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Pentax K-1 II« » 137 mm 110 mm 86 mm 1010 g 670 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i i Pentax K-1 II
Pentax K-3 II« » 131 mm 100 mm 77 mm 800 g 720 Y Apr 2015 1,099 i i Pentax K-3 II
Sony A7R III« » 127 mm 96 mm 74 mm 650 g 650 Y Oct 2017 3,199 i i Sony A7R III
Sony A99 II« » 143 mm 104 mm 76 mm 849 g 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II
Sony A7R II« » 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 625 g 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A850« » 156 mm 117 mm 82 mm 895 g 880 Y Aug 2009 1,999- i Sony A850

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. 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 E-1 was somewhat cheaper (by 6 percent) than the K-1 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Pentax K-1 vs Olympus E-1

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Pentax K-1 features a full frame sensor and the Olympus E-1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-1 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the K-1 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-1 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Pentax K-1 and Olympus E-1 sensor measures

With 36.2MP, the K-1 offers a higher resolution than the E-1 (4.9MP), but the K-1 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 6.78μm for the E-1). However, the K-1 is a somewhat more recent model (by 12 years and 7 months) than the E-1, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. 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.

Unlike the E-1, 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).

K-1 versus E-1 MP

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 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
Olympus E-1« Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920-----Olympus E-1
Canon 5D Mark IV« » Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591Canon 5D Mark IV
Leica Digilux 3« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----Leica Digilux 3
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
Olympus E-5« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956Olympus E-5
Olympus E-3« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.610.557156Olympus E-3
Olympus E-330« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« » Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448-----Olympus E-300
Panasonic GH5« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777Panasonic GH5
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 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 are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The K-1 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the E-1 does not. The highest resolution format that the K-1 can use is 1080/60i.

 

Feature comparison: Pentax K-1 vs Olympus E-1

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The K-1 and the E-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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Pentax K-1, the Olympus E-1, and comparable cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Pentax K-1»optical Y 3.2 1037 full-flex n 8000 4.4 n Y Pentax K-1
Olympus E-1«optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n Olympus E-1
Canon 5D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 7.0 n n Canon 5D Mark IV
Leica Digilux 3« »optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Leica Digilux 3
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Olympus E-M1 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-5« »optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-5
Olympus E-3« »optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-3
Olympus E-330« »optical n 2.5 215 tilting n 4000 3.0 Y n Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« »optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n Olympus E-300
Panasonic GH5« »3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 8000 12.0 n Y Panasonic GH5
Pentax K-1 II« »optical Y 3.2 1037 full-flex n 8000 4.4 n Y Pentax K-1 II
Pentax K-3 II« »optical Y 3.2 1037 fixed n 8000 8.3 n Y Pentax K-3 II
Sony A7R III« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Sony A7R III
Sony A99 II« »2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 8000 12.0 n Y Sony A99 II
Sony A7R II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7R II
Sony A850« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 3.0 n Y Sony A850

One feature that differentiates the K-1 and the E-1 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The K-1 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the E-1 has to rely on optical image stabilization in OIS-equipped lenses to achieve the same effect.

The K-1 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the E-1 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

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-1»YstereomonoYYmicro2.0Y--Pentax K-1
Olympus E-1«Y-----2.0---Olympus E-1
Canon 5D Mark IV« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0YY-Canon 5D Mark IV
Leica Digilux 3« »Ystereomono---2.0---Leica Digilux 3
Nikon D500« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
Olympus E-M1 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.0Y--Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-5« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-5
Olympus E-3« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-3
Olympus E-330« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-300
Panasonic GH5« »YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-YPanasonic GH5
Pentax K-1 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0Y--Pentax K-1 II
Pentax K-3 II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Pentax K-3 II
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

Both the K-1 and the E-1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-1 was replaced by the Olympus E-3, while the K-1 was followed by the Pentax K-1 II.

Review summary: Pentax K-1 vs Olympus E-1

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Pentax K-1 and the Olympus E-1? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Pentax K-1:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (36.2 vs 4.9MP) with a 177% higher linear resolution.
  • 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: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
  • Richer colors: Larger sensor generates images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Capable of capturing a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can be used in poorly lit environments and still produce good images.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/60i movies.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 134k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.4 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi build in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • More modern: Reflects 12 years and 7 months of technical progress since the E-1 launch.

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-1:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 272g or 27 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in June 2003).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the K-1 is the clear winner of the match-up (16 : 3 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.

K-1 16:03 E-1

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the K-1 and the E-1 in practical situations. 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 where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

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
Olympus E-1«-Recrevrev- Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1
Canon 5D Mark IV« »HiRec87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
Leica Digilux 3« »----- Sep 2006 1,499- i Leica Digilux 3
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Olympus E-M1 II« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-5« »-75/1004/5-4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
Olympus E-3« »88/100HiRecrevrev4/5 Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
Olympus E-330« »-Recrev3.5/5- Jan 2006 999- i Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« »-Recrevrev4.5/5 Sep 2004 799- i Olympus E-300
Panasonic GH5« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Pentax K-1 II« »-79/1004.5/5-4.5/5 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 A7R III« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2017 3,199 i 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« »HiRec90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A850« »-75/100-4/54.5/5 Aug 2009 1,999- i Sony A850

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. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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