The original Pentax K-1 came out back in 2016, and while not exactly state of the art at the time, it still packed a great 36-megapixel sensor into a tough, compact body at a very competitive price – and threw in some unique Pentax-only features too.
For a start, there’s Pentax’s in-body 5-axis stabilisation system which offers up to 5 stops shake compensation and should, in theory, work with any lens.
You also get built in GPS and, in conjunction with the sensor-shift system, an Astro Tracer mode that can track and freeze celestial objects in the night sky.
And then there’s the unique scissor-action rear screen which can be tilted up, down and sideways and is strong enough to take the entire weight of the camera if you hold only the screen.
Not everyone is a fan of Pentax DSLRs, but I’ve used them quite a bit and I really rate the K-1 for its features, handling and value.
In the Pentax K-1 Mark II, Pentax has stuck to a winning formula but added some tweaks and enhancements to keep the K-1 fresh.
For a start, there’s now a special noise reduction chip between the sensor and the camera’s Prime IV processor, which offers a two-stop increase in maximum ISO over the old model – the Mark II now goes up to ISO 819,200, as well as offering improved quality generally at higher ISOs.
Pentax has also improved the autofocus algorithms, so that the 33-point AF system is faster and better at tracking moving subjects in continuous AF mode – this was a bit of a weakness in the original model. The autofocus system includes 25 cross-type sensors and works down to -3EV.
Finally, Pentax’s trademark Pixel Shift Resolution mode is now up to version II with improved handheld shooting. In this mode, the camera takes a series of images in rapid succession with tiny sensor shift movements between each, then blends them to reveal ultra-fine details that would normally end up ‘between’ the pixels. Pixel Shift Resolution II uses the sensor-shift system built into the camera, but it can be used with the image stabilisation is active.
Pentax D-SLRs do not have the popularity of Canon and Nikon equivalents, and the lens range isn’t quite on the same level – and with cheaper lenses, the autofocus can feel crude and agricultural.
On the other hand, the cameras themselves are clever, fully-featured and rather well thought out, and if you choose the right lenses (many K-1 lenses are decent re-badged Tamrons), you can build a very good system at a pretty reasonable price. There’s also an optional D-BG6 battery grip, no fewer than three weatherproof external strobes and an O-RC1 wireless remote.
The Pentax K-1 II is available from the end of March for £1,799/$1,997 body only.