A joy to use – PENTAX K1

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The K1 is the first full-frame D-SLR from Pentax. Looking at its easy-to-use user interface, it seems to me that Pentax engineers have really put their heart and soul in designing this model. Most features, which are generally found deep under complex menu sets, are right where they should have been. The K1 is also the first D-SLR with a LCD panel that can be tilted horizontally  (up to 35 degrees), vertically (up to 44 degrees), or diagonally, without deviating from the lens’ optical axis. A special air-gapless construction of the LCD minimises reflections when used outdoors. Let’s see how the K1 fares on our test-bench…

Design & Build Quality
The Pentax K1 body appears a bit ‘boxy’ but the build quality is very good. It incorporates a metal chassis with a magnesium alloy shell to keep it reasonably light yet strong. The body is water resistant, thanks to its 87 special sealing parts. It is designed to operate under a wide temperature range (-10 to 40degrees Celsius). The body weighs approximately 1000g.

The SMC Pentax-FA 31mm f/1.8 AL Limited lens (sold separately) is also well-built and weighs approximately 335g. The lens offers a depth of ield scale for apertures between f/4 and f/22.

Key Features
The Pentax K1 is a 36.4 megapixel D-SLR using a full-frame (35.9 x 24mm) CMOS sensor. It does not employ an anti-aliasing filter but has an AA filter simulator for moire reduction using the in-built SR II 5-axis Shake Reduction mechanism. Even during panning, the camera automatically detects the direction of the camera’s movement and controls the shake reduction unit to provide the optimal image quality. The sensor assembly incorporates a dust removal feature (DR II) that cleans the sensor using ultrasonic vibrations. The image recording formats are Raw (14-bit), JPEG, Raw + JPEG. Three quality levels are available when shooting in JPEG: Good, Better and Best. Available colour space is sRGB and Adobe RGB.

The Pentax K1 uses the new PRIME IV imaging processor designed for high-resolution images. A special feature (now found in some other cameras too) is the pixel-shift  resolution system, which, when enabled, takes four frames of the same scene but shifts the imaging sensor by 1 pixel between frames and then merges them into a single high-resolution image. The K1’s newly developed AF sensor (SAFOX 12) features 33 AF sensors, out of which 25 are cross-type, located in the centre. The central AF sensor and the two sensors above and below, are activated when using f/2.8 or faster apertures.

pentax-k1-specsThe Mode Dial on the top left has the following exposure modes: AUTO, P (Program), Sv (Sensitivity value – same as sensitivity priority), Tv (Time value – same as shutter priority), Av (Aperture value – same as aperture priority), TAv (Time & Aperture value), M (Manual), B (Bulb), X (X-sync speed – which is up to 1/200sec) and five User Modes. The AUTO mode is for beginners. Shooting under difficult lighting situations is not an issue with the K1 when you set the mode dial to AUTO (Scene Analyze Auto). In this mode, the camera analyses the shooting conditions and sets it for optimum results without getting into technicalities.

The K1 offers what Pentax calls the Smart Function (Oh yes, I love it! But I wish they had named it meaningfully – something like ‘Easy Access’). On the camera right are a set of two dials – the Function dial and the Setting dial. The Function dial, as the name suggests,  lets you select the desired function (Exposure Compensation, ISO value, Continuous High/Continuous Low shooting, Bracket, HDR, Grid display, Shake Reduction, Crop, Wi-Fi and Off ) and the Setting dial lets you change the value of the selected function. The changes you make are displayed on the Live View screen and the Status screen. This feature saves you the frustration of getting into complicated menus and wasting time. Thank you Pentax!

The camera is considered to be in ‘Standby mode’ when it is ready to shoot (when the status screen or Live View image is displayed). If you press the Info button, the ‘Control Panel’ will be displayed, wherein you can change the following settings: Highlight Correction, Shadow Correction, Slow Shutter Speed Noise Reduction, High ISO Noise Reduction, Clarity, Skin Tone, Digital Filter, HDR Capture, Pixel Shift Resolution, Distortion Control, Peripheral Illumination Correction, Astrotracer, AA Filter Simulator, Shake Reduction, Memory Card Options, Crop, File Format, JPEG Recorded Pixels and AF Assist Light.

In the standby mode, the 4-way Controller (around the OK button) performs the following tasks: Press the up button to display and select the Shooting mode (Single frame, Continuous High, Self-timer, Remote Control, Bracketing, Mirror Lock-up, Multi-exposure, and Interval shooting. Press the down button to view and select the Outdoor View Setting (a fancy name for adjusting the brightness of the screen). Press the leftbutton to select one of the various White Balance settings. Press the right button to change your ‘picture styles/ picture controls’. Simple and fast!

ISO sensitivity on the K1 ranges from 100-204800, plus ISO Auto, while the shutter speed range is from 30 seconds to 1/8000sec. The metering is TTL (Through The Lens) and the modes are Multi-segment, Centre-weighted and Spot. The light meter is very sensitive [-3 to 20EV (ISO 100, 50mm f/1.4)]. The K1’s 3.2-inch LCD screen is uniquely designed. It can tilt horizontally, vertically or diagonally without any deviation of the lens’ optical axis. Its air-gapless construction effectively reduces reflections, making it easier to view the screen outdoors. Images can be stored on SD/SDHC/SDXC card. The K1 has a buffer that can store 17 Raw files or 13 Raw + JPEG files. Maximum firing rate is 4.6 frames per second. The K1 does not have an in-built flash but compatible accessory flashguns can be used. The camera is powered by a li-ion battery (D-LI90). The body weighs approximately 1040g with battery and one SD card.

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