Pentax K-500 vs Sony A1
The Pentax K-500 and the Sony A1 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in June 2013 and January 2021. The K-500 is a DSLR, while the A1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (K-500) and a full frame (A1) sensor. The Pentax has a resolution of 16.1 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 49.8 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-500 and the Sony A1? 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-500 and the Sony A1 is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax K-500 and the Sony A1 are of equal size. However, the A1 is markedly heavier (14 percent) than the K-500. It is noteworthy in this context that the A1 is splash and dust-proof, while the K-500 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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 A1 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Pentax K-500||130 mm||97 mm||71 mm||646 g||710||n||Jun 2013||549|
|2.||Sony A1||129 mm||97 mm||81 mm||737 g||530||Y||Jan 2021||6,499|
|3.||Leica X Vario||133 mm||73 mm||95 mm||680 g||450||n||Jun 2013||2,850|
|4.||Olympus E-PM2||110 mm||64 mm||34 mm||269 g||360||n||Sep 2012||499|
|5.||Pentax K-70||126 mm||93 mm||74 mm||688 g||410||Y||Jun 2016||649|
|6.||Pentax K-S1||121 mm||93 mm||70 mm||558 g||410||n||Aug 2014||749|
|7.||Pentax K-50||130 mm||97 mm||71 mm||650 g||410||Y||Jun 2013||599|
|8.||Pentax K-3||131 mm||100 mm||77 mm||800 g||560||Y||Oct 2013||1,299|
|9.||Pentax K-30||130 mm||97 mm||71 mm||650 g||410||Y||May 2012||849|
|10.||Pentax K-5 II||131 mm||97 mm||73 mm||760 g||740||Y||Sep 2012||1,099|
|11.||Pentax K-5||131 mm||97 mm||73 mm||760 g||740||Y||Sep 2010||1,099|
|12.||Sony A7S III||127 mm||97 mm||81 mm||699 g||600||Y||Jul 2020||3,499|
|13.||Sony A7R IV||129 mm||96 mm||78 mm||665 g||670||Y||Jul 2019||3,499|
|14.||Sony A7R III||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||650||Y||Oct 2017||3,199|
|15.||Sony A9||127 mm||96 mm||63 mm||673 g||650||Y||Apr 2017||4,499|
|16.||Sony A7R II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||625 g||290||Y||Jun 2015||3,199|
|17.||Sony A58||129 mm||95 mm||78 mm||492 g||690||n||Feb 2013||599|
|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 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 K-500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 92 percent) than the A1, 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Pentax K-500 features an APS-C sensor and the Sony A1 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A1 is 135 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 49.8MP, the A1 offers a higher resolution than the K-500 (16.1MP), but the A1 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.16μm versus 4.77μm for the K-500). Yet, the A1 is a much more recent model (by 7 years and 7 months) than the K-500, 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 the A1 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A1 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 43.2 x 28.8 inches or 109.7 x 73.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 34.6 x 23 inches or 87.8 x 58.5 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 28.8 x 19.2 inches or 73.2 x 48.8 cm. The corresponding values for the Pentax K-500 are 24.6 x 16.3 inches or 62.6 x 41.5 cm for good quality, 19.7 x 13.1 inches or 50.1 x 33.2 cm for very good quality, and 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.7 x 27.6 cm for excellent quality prints.
The A1 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
Unlike the K-500, the A1 has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (YESMP) 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-500 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 51200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony A1 are ISO 100 to ISO 32000, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 500-102400.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 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.||Sony A1||Full Frame||49.8||8640||5760||8k/30p||..||..||..||..|
|3.||Leica X Vario||APS-C||16.1||4928||3272||1080/30p||23.4||12.7||1320||78|
|4.||Olympus E-PM2||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.7||12.2||932||72|
|10.||Pentax K-5 II||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/25p||23.8||14.1||1235||82|
|12.||Sony A7S III||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||4K/120p||23.7||13.9||2520||86|
|13.||Sony A7R IV||Full Frame||60.2||9504||6336||4K/30p||26.0||14.8||3344||99|
|14.||Sony A7R III||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||14.7||3523||100|
|15.||Sony A9||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.9||13.3||3517||92|
|16.||Sony A7R II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||13.9||3434||98|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the A1 provides a better video resolution than the K-500. It can shoot movie footage at 8k/30p, while the Pentax is limited to 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A1 has an electronic viewfinder (9437k dots), while the K-500 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 A1 has a higher magnification than the one of the K-500 (0.9x vs 0.61x), 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-500, the Sony A1, and comparable cameras.
|3.||Leica X Vario||optional||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n|
|10.||Pentax K-5 II||optical||Y||3.0||921||fixed||n||1/8000s||7.0||Y||Y|
|12.||Sony A7S III||9440||n||3.0||1440||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|13.||Sony A7R IV||5760||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A7R III||3686||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|16.||Sony A7R II||2400||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The K-500 has one, while the A1 does not. While the built-in flash of the K-500 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
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 A1 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 Pentax K-500 and the Sony A1 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.
The K-500 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A1 uses CFexpress or SDXC cards. The A1 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the K-500 only has one slot. The A1 supports UHS-II cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s), while the K-500 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
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-500 and Sony A1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|3.||Leica X Vario||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Pentax K-5 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Sony A7S III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||full||3.2||Y||-||Y|
|13.||Sony A7R IV||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|14.||Sony A7R III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|16.||Sony A7R II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the A1 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the K-500 does not provide wifi capability.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A1 (unlike the K-500) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
The A1 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Sony. In contrast, the K-500 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). There has not been a direct replacement model for the K-500 from Pentax. 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? Is the Pentax K-500 better than the Sony A1 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Pentax K-500:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 91g or 12 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (710 versus 530) on a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (92 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 2013).
Arguments in favor of the Sony A1:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (49.8 vs 16.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 76%.
- 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: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
- Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (8k/30p vs 1080/30p).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.9x vs 0.61x).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1440k vs 921k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/6000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.2 vs 2.0).
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- 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.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-II standard.
- More modern: Reflects 7 years and 7 months of technical progress since the K-500 launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A1 is the clear winner of the contest (30 : 7 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 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 Pentax K-500 and the Sony A1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings 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 remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the K-500 or the A1. 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 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.||Pentax K-500||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2013||549|
|2.||Sony A1||5/5||o||93/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2021||6,499|
|3.||Leica X Vario||3/5||..||..||4/5||4/5||Jun 2013||2,850|
|4.||Olympus E-PM2||3/5||..||77/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||499|
|5.||Pentax K-70||4.5/5||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2016||649|
|6.||Pentax K-S1||4/5||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Aug 2014||749|
|7.||Pentax K-50||5/5||..||..||5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2013||599|
|8.||Pentax K-3||4/5||..||83/100||5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,299|
|9.||Pentax K-30||4/5||..||78/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2012||849|
|10.||Pentax K-5 II||5/5||..||80/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||1,099|
|11.||Pentax K-5||4/5||..||83/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,099|
|12.||Sony A7S III||..||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2020||3,499|
|13.||Sony A7R IV||5/5||+||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2019||3,499|
|14.||Sony A7R III||..||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2017||3,199|
|15.||Sony A9||5/5||+ +||89/100||5/5||5/5||Apr 2017||4,499|
|16.||Sony A7R II||5/5||+ +||90/100||5/5||5/5||Jun 2015||3,199|
|17.||Sony A58||3/5||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Pentax K-500 vs Sony A1
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-500||Sony A1|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Pentax K mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||June 2013||January 2021|
|Launch Price||USD 549||USD 6,499|
|Sensor Specs||Pentax K-500||Sony A1|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.5 x 15.6 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||366.6 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.2 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||16.1 Megapixels||49.8 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4928 x 3264 pixels||8640 x 5760 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.77 μm||4.16 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.39 MP/cm2||5.78 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||8k/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 51,200 ISO||100 - 32,000 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||500 - 102,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||PRIME M||Dual BIONZ XR|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||79||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.7||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.1||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1087||..|
|Screen Specs||Pentax K-500||Sony A1|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||9437k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||921k dots||1440k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Pentax K-500||Sony A1|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/6000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||6 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||up to 1/32000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CFexpress or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Pentax K-500||Sony A1|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 3.2|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||full HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Pentax K-500||Sony A1|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||710 shots per charge||530 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
130 x 97 x 71 mm
(5.1 x 3.8 x 2.8 in)
129 x 97 x 81 mm
(5.1 x 3.8 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||646 g (22.8 oz)||737 g (26.0 oz)|
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