Pentax K-1 vs Sony A850
The Pentax K-1 and the Sony Alpha A850 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2016 and August 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Pentax has a resolution of 36.2 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24.4 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 Pentax K-1 and the Sony Alpha A850? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Pentax K-1 and the Sony A850 is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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 A850 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 Sony A850 is notably larger (21 percent) than the Pentax K-1. However, the A850 is markedly lighter (11 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 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. 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.||Pentax K-1||137 mm||110 mm||86 mm||1010 g||760||Y||Feb 2016||1,799|
|2.||Sony A850||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499|
|4.||Nikon D500||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||860 g||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|5.||Nikon D750||141 mm||113 mm||78 mm||750 g||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|6.||Olympus E-M1 II||134 mm||91 mm||67 mm||574 g||440||Y||Sep 2016||1,999|
|7.||Pentax K-1 II||137 mm||110 mm||86 mm||1010 g||670||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|8.||Pentax K-3 II||131 mm||100 mm||77 mm||800 g||720||Y||Apr 2015||1,099|
|9.||Sony A7C||124 mm||71 mm||60 mm||509 g||740||Y||Sep 2020||1,799|
|10.||Sony A7 III||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||610||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|11.||Sony A7R III||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||650||Y||Oct 2017||3,199|
|12.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|13.||Sony A7R II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||625 g||290||Y||Jun 2015||3,199|
|14.||Sony A99||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799|
|15.||Sony A900||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Sep 2008||2,999|
|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 listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The K-1 was somewhat cheaper (by 10 percent) than the A850 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the K-1 offers a higher resolution of 36.2 megapixels, compared with 24.4 MP of the A850. This megapixels advantage translates into a 22 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the K-1 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 5.94μm for the A850). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the K-1 is much more recent (by 6 years and 5 months) than the A850, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size. 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 Sony A850 are 30.2 x 20.2 inches or 76.8 x 51.2 cm for good quality, 24.2 x 16.1 inches or 61.4 x 41 cm for very good quality, and 20.2 x 13.4 inches or 51.2 x 34.1 cm for excellent quality prints.
Unlike the A850, 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 Pentax K-1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 204800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A850 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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"). Of the two cameras under review, the K-1 provides substantially higher image quality than the A850, with an overall score that is 17 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.6 bits higher color depth, 2.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|1.||Pentax K-1||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60i||25.4||14.6||3280||96|
|2.||Sony A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|5.||Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|6.||Olympus E-M1 II||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.7||12.8||1312||80|
|7.||Pentax K-1 II||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60i||..||..||..||..|
|8.||Pentax K-3 II||APS-C||24.1||6016||4000||1080/60i||23.6||13.6||1106||80|
|9.||Sony A7C||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.7||3407||95|
|10.||Sony A7 III||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.7||3730||96|
|11.||Sony A7R III||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||14.7||3523||100|
|12.||Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
|13.||Sony A7R II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||13.9||3434||98|
|14.||Sony A99||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89|
|15.||Sony A900||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.7||12.3||1431||79|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The K-1 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the A850 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 K-1 and the A850 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 A850 (98%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the A850 has a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.70x), 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 Pentax K-1, the Sony A850, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Pentax K-1||optical||Y||3.2 / 1037||full-flex||n||1/8000s||4.4||n||Y|
|2.||Sony A850||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0||n||Y|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2 / 1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0||n||n|
|4.||Nikon D500||optical||Y||3.2 / 2359||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|5.||Nikon D750||optical||Y||3.2 / 1229||tilting||n||1/4000s||6.0||Y||n|
|6.||Olympus E-M1 II||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||18.0||n||Y|
|7.||Pentax K-1 II||optical||Y||3.2 / 1037||full-flex||n||1/8000s||4.4||n||Y|
|8.||Pentax K-3 II||optical||Y||3.2 / 1037||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.3||n||Y|
|9.||Sony A7C||2360||n||3.0 / 922||swivel||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||Y|
|10.||Sony A7 III||2359||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|11.||Sony A7R III||3686||n||3.0 / 1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|12.||Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0 / 1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
|13.||Sony A7R II||2400||n||3.0 / 1229||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A99||2359||Y||3.0 / 1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||Y|
|15.||Sony A900||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
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 K-1 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A850 uses Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.
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 Sony Alpha A850 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Pentax K-1||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|2.||Sony A850||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-|
|4.||Nikon D500||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||Y|
|5.||Nikon D750||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|6.||Olympus E-M1 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.0||Y||-||-|
|7.||Pentax K-1 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|8.||Pentax K-3 II||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Sony A7C||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.2||Y||Y||Y|
|10.||Sony A7 III||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|11.||Sony A7R III||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|12.||Sony A99 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|13.||Sony A7R II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|14.||Sony A99||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Sony A900||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the K-1 offers wifi support, while the A850 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.
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 K-1 and the A850 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The K-1 was replaced by the Pentax K-1 II, while the A850 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Pentax and Sony websites.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Pentax K-1 or the Sony A850 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Pentax K-1:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (36.2 vs 24.4MP) with a 22% 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: Scores substantially higher (17 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.6 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (2.4 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.2 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/60i movies.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
- 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 922k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.4 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (137x110mm vs 156x117mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- 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.
- More modern: Reflects 6 years and 5 months of technical progress since the A850 launch.
Advantages of the Sony Alpha A850:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.70x).
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 115g or 11 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (880 versus 760) out of a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2009).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the K-1 is the clear winner of the match-up (18 : 5 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 Pentax K-1 and the Sony A850 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the K-1 and the A850 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 provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], 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.||Pentax K-1||5/5||..||..||84/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2016||1,799|
|2.||Sony A850||3/5||..||..||75/100||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||1,999|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark IV||4.5/5||+ +||4/5||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499|
|4.||Nikon D500||5/5||+ +||4.7/5||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|5.||Nikon D750||5/5||+ +||4/5||90/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|6.||Olympus E-M1 II||5/5||+ +||5/5||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||1,999|
|7.||Pentax K-1 II||..||..||4.5/5||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|8.||Pentax K-3 II||4.5/5||..||..||..||5/5||5/5||Apr 2015||1,099|
|9.||Sony A7C||3.5/5||..||3.5/5||86/100||4/5||4/5||Sep 2020||1,799|
|10.||Sony A7 III||..||+ +||4.5/5||89/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|11.||Sony A7R III||..||+ +||4/5||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2017||3,199|
|12.||Sony A99 II||..||..||4.5/5||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|13.||Sony A7R II||5/5||+ +||5/5||90/100||5/5||5/5||Jun 2015||3,199|
|14.||Sony A99||5/5||..||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|15.||Sony A900||..||+ +||..||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2008||2,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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 make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Pentax K-1 vs Sony A850
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||Pentax K-1||Sony A850|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Pentax K mount lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2016||August 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 1,799||USD 1,999|
|Sensor Specs||Pentax K-1||Sony A850|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 24.0 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||861.6 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.2 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||36.2 Megapixels||24.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||7360 x 4912 pixels||6048 x 4032 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.88 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.20 MP/cm2||2.83 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60i Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 204,800 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||PRIME IV||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||96||79|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||25.4||23.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||14.6||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||3280||1415|
|Screen Specs||Pentax K-1||Sony A850|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||98%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||1037k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fully flexible screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Pentax K-1||Sony A850|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||no Peaking Feature|
|Continuous Shooting||4.4 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||no Intervalometer|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF or MS cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Pentax K-1||Sony A850|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||micro HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||no Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Geotagging||GPS built-in||no internal GPS|
|Body Specs||Pentax K-1||Sony A850|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||760 shots per charge||880 shots per charge|
137 x 110 x 86 mm
(5.4 x 4.3 x 3.4 in)
156 x 117 x 82 mm
(6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||1010 g (35.6 oz)||895 g (31.6 oz)|
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