Pentax K-1 Review: The Full Frame Pentax DSLR We’ve Been Waiting For

Overall, this is a great camera for stills and a logical update for APS-C Pentax shooters, not so for those looking to do video work.

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The Pentax K1, is a first of its kind – a full frame Pentax DSLR. Photographers, especially the Pentaxians have been waiting for that camera for a long time and here it is finally.

Very quickly a roundup of the best features of the camera. This is a full-frame (yeah!) 36.4 megapixel CMOS sensor powered DSLR. It is capable of producing large file JPEGs or RAW 14-bit files of size 7360 x 4912 pixels. It has a five-way sensor-shift type image stabilization system and a 33-point phase detection AF system with 25 cross-type sensors. It is also capable of shooting full HD videos at 30, 25 and 24 fps with the option to plug in an external mic to record sound along with it.


AA filter simulation

The K1 does not have an AA filter. The lack of the AA filter is made up with an AA filter simulator.

These filters work in a sort vibrating movement which blurs out the image and resultantly reduces the overall sharpness.

Sensor-shift image stabilization

The K1 is the only full-frame camera in the world that has a sensor-shift type image stabilization. The big advantage with that system, as you may imagine is that all compatible lenses are immediately stabilized. Image stabilization is rated to be around 5-stops which means you can use a shutter speed that is five times slower than what is required for the LV.


The K1’s auto-focusing performance is powered by the SAFOX 12 AF sensor module. The K1’s auto-focusing is powered by a 33-point system out of which 25 are cross type. Cross type sensors are basically a dual line sensor which detects contrasts both horizontally and vertically thus ensuring that the camera is capable of locking focus even when it is held sideways for portraits shots. In addition to this these 25 AF points are capable of locking focus in extremely low light situations. -3Ev to be precise. Additionally, 3 of the sensors – one on the middle and two on either side can auto-focus precisely with f/2.8 or faster lenses significantly improving the auto-focus performance with large aperture lenses.

Still Shooting

A dynamic color image shooting mechanism involves moving the entire sensor by one pixel and each time taking one photograph. The result of this is that color saturation and contrast is resultantly a lot higher than standard systems.

The large sensor with 36.2 megapixels is capable of producing large files. 7360 x 4912 pixels to be precise. If you shoot fashion, landscape and stock photos you would love the opportunity to capture a lot of detail and print big, without always having to upscale.

ISO range and ISO invariance

ISO invariance is a term that you will hear about increasingly more. It is the property of some cameras wherein if you shoot an image with an incorrect exposure settings and then boost the exposure later in post-processing, you would get the same image without additional noise. The Pentax K1 has in recent testing been proved to have a very low noise signature. You can routinely shoot at -2 or even -3 EV and boost the exposure in post-processing. Plus, the dynamic range retained in the under-exposed areas is great. The benefits are immense. First, you can get away even if you miss the EV by 2 or 3 stops. Second, as the noise is low you can get a better dynamic range than when compared to other traditional systems.

Viewfinder & LCD Screen


For Pentax APS-C users like the K3 or the K5 and in general any Pentax user the most striking thing when you look through the viewfinder will be, well the viewfinder itself. It is large, bright and covers so much. I remember having used a Canon PowerShot camera some years ago with a tiny viewfinder (probably a few mm). Then when I bought my first DSLR the difference was obvious. It was like lightyears better!

Another stand out feature of the K1 is the rear LCD screen. The 3.2” LCD screen has a resolution of 1037-k dots. But that is the normal specifications. The stand out feature is the way the LCD screen ‘moves’. The movements possible are really weird, to the extent it may appear completely unrealistic. Aptly named ‘cross-tilt’, and you can probably imagine what you can expect out of it, the only time you are going to make use of such weird shooting angles is when you are probably shooting around corners. Both the viewfinder and the LCD screen have 100% frame coverage.


Build quality

Pentax’s rugged build quality is a joy to wield in bad weather. The K1 is designed for bad weather. Pentax systems are one of the best cameras that you could use in inclement weather for shooting storms, landscapes in snowy conditions as well as in dusty conditions.

Video Shooting

The K1 does have the standard video shooting features. This includes full HD videos at a choice of 30, 25 and 24 frames. You can choose to record at a higher frame rate, in which case the frames will be interlaced and not progressive. You can choose to record sound using the built-in mic or use an external mic to record better more crisp sound. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Other Features

The other features of the K1 include –

  • Pentax has improved the real-time scene analysis system on the K1
  • Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
  • A built-in TAv mode that allows you to select aperture and shutter speed and leaves ISO to be decided by the camera.
  • Compatible with 645 series medium format lenses via the use of an adapter
  • Diffraction correction system for working with lenses that you normally use at small f-stops.
  • Improves the overall image sharpness.


The Pentax K1 is definitely a still shooter. The designers did not envision it as a multi-utility camera, something that you can use to shoot both great stills and great videos. If you are looking for a video camera then opt for a Nikon or Canon full-frame.

The K1 is definitely going to be picked up by an outdoor shooter, someone who is looking for a great weather sealed body, with good handling, excellent auto-focusing and image stabilization. Even the queer looking LCD screen will have its own use when shooting wildlife.

Pentax APS-C shooters, no doubt would have been waiting for this full-frame offering for long. They would find the controls familiar with the added benefits.

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