Pentax K-1 Mark II Review

Pentax K-1 Mark II Review: Pentax brings improved full-format DSLR flagship solution with the K-1 Mark II

With the K-1 Mark II, Pentax or Ricoh presents an improved successor model of the previous DSLR flagship. There are not many new features, but at least one of them is unrivalled: The Pixel Shift Resolution II function for higher resolutions now works freehand. Otherwise, the new accelerator unit ensures optimized computing operations, which speeds up the autofocus speed and allows improved noise reduction and thus higher ISO sensitivities. There will even be an upgrade service for owners of the previous model.

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Extremely robust and ergonomic housing
  • Very direct operation thanks to many wheels and buttons
  • Flexible and robust monitor mobility
  • Integrated GPS and WLAN
  • Good image quality up to ISO 3,200

Cons

  • JPEG tuning provides low resolution at 50 percent contrast
  • No built-in flash
  • Not very fast autofocus

The Pentax K-1 Mark II, with its 36 megapixel full format sensor for image stabilisation, allows for the first time ever freehand pixel shift resolution multiple shots to increase resolution. [Photo: Ricoh]

Apart from the new accelerator unit and the improved functions, the Pentax K-1 Mark II is the same as its predecessor. For example, the full-format CMOS sensor has a resolution of about 36 megapixels and is movably mounted for five-axis image stabilization. This should allow up to five f-stops longer exposure times without wobble from the hand. In addition, the sensor enables a higher resolution by means of displacements and four images that are offset against each other. The sensor is always shifted by exactly one pixel in order to capture all colors per pixel instead of just one basic color (red, green or blue). Until now, this function required a tripod. But the K-1 II now allows these shots, including image stabilization, to be taken from the palm of your hand. According to Pentax, about 70 percent of the image quality is achieved compared to a tripod shot. This makes Pentax the first manufacturer to offer this function hands-free. Whether Olympus, Panasonic and Sony will follow remains to be seen.

Furthermore, the image sensor allows the simulation of an anti-aliasing filter by micro-vibrations, which the sensor does not have in favor of a higher resolution. Without such a filter, however, unsightly artifacts or image effects can occur on fine structures. The micro-vibrations should provide the necessary blurring to suppress this. Finally, the photographer can manually move the sensor for slight shift effects or to adjust the horizon. Horizontally and vertically, 24 steps are possible for up to 1.5 millimetres of offset, the rotation can be up to one degree.

The autofocus module is still the SAFOX XII, which has 33 measuring fields, 25 of which are designed as cross sensors. The autofocus already works from -3 EV and the three sensors in the middle focus particularly accurately with F2.8 fast lenses. In Live View via the screen, on the other hand, a contrast autofocus with 3,445 measuring fields is available which, unlike the SAFOX XII, extend to the edge of the image. Pentax still wants to improve the autofocus speed. The algorithms of the APS-C top model KP are now being used, which should not only increase the speed but also the accuracy, even in AF-C operation.

A highlight of the K-1 Mark II is the pentaprism finder. It offers 0.7x magnification and covers 100 percent of the image field. Not only does the viewfinder display all relevant data, but a spirit level and a grid can also be displayed for better alignment and division of the image. The eight centimetre large and 1.04 million pixel resolution rear screen offers a unique rotating and folding mechanism. Suspended at four points, this construction is very robust, you can even lift the whole camera including the lens. The mechanism allows folding 90 degrees upwards, 45 degrees downwards and 35 degrees to the sides. The screen always remains in the optical axis. In keeping with the outdoor concept of the camera, the screen should be easy to read even in bright sunlight and is protected by a hardened, scratch-resistant monitor glass.

Talking about the outdoor concept: The housing construction consists of a metal chassis surrounded by an aluminium enclosure. 87 Seals are to prevent the ingress of dust and splash water. The camera can also withstand humidity of up to 85 percent and temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius without complaint. In addition, the operating concept with its many buttons and dials is not very menu-driven. The shutter is also robustly designed for 300,000 exposures.

The light metering works with an 86,000 pixel RGB sensor. Real-time analysis and adaptive artificial intelligence, which takes into account previously made corrections for future similar shooting situations, enable particularly precise exposure. Exposure is possible not only with an automatic system, but also with the classic exposure programs P, A, S and M, whereby individual program curves can be selected.

Technically, the Pentax K-1 Mark II corresponds to a large extent to its predecessor model, such as the robust, dust and splash-proof housing or the unusual but extremely stable construction for monitor mobility. [Photo: Ricoh]

The Prime IV image processor also allows corrections of lens aberrations such as edge dimming, distortion and chromatic aberration. Thanks to the accelerator unit, noise reduction has also been improved, which not only means noise-free images, but also enables higher sensitivities. Instead of up to ISO 204,600, a maximum of ISO 819,200 is now possible. In video mode, on the other hand, the maximum sensitivity is ISO 25,600 and the resolution is still only Full HD. 4K videos are only provided by the K-1 in connection with the time-lapse function if you want to have a video instead of single frames.

Despite the accelerator unit, the continuous shooting function is anything but fast by today’s standards at 4.4 frames per second. In the APS-C format, at least 6.4 continuous frames per second are possible. In full format, the buffer is sufficient for 70 JPEG or only 17 raw data images.

In addition to a stereo microphone input for video recording, the interface equipment also offers a USB interface and a micro HDMI connection. Of course WLAN is also on board. The new App ImageSync 2.0 is supposed to provide an even better and easier handling. Besides image transmission, remote control of the camera is also possible. Pentax also offers a battery handle with portrait shutter release as an accessory, which doubles the battery life of 670 pictures.

From April 2018, the Pentax K-1 Mark II will be available at a price of almost 2,000 euros. According to the EIA, this is the cheapest full-format DSLR in recent years. In terms of robustness and performance spectrum, this promises a very good price-performance ratio, unless you are an action and sports photographer.

Even buyers of the predecessor model do not have to go down the drain. Pentax is planning an upgrade service to upgrade the K-1 to the level of the K-1 II. This involves replacing the motherboard, which results in the following changes: The ISO range is improved, autofocus performance increases, and Pixel Shift Resolution II is supported with the handheld function. Externally, the update, which is to be carried out at the local Ricoh Imaging Workshop, is indicated by a small logo sticker on the lower left side of the case.

We had originally planned to test the Pentax K-1 two years ago, but then the Kumamoto earthquake of 2016 intervened, which led to supply shortages. When they were over, there were already other current cameras that we wanted to test. But now with the K-1 Mark II the improved version is in the starting blocks and in our test laboratory. On paper, it impresses with some special features that make it absolutely worth a look, especially since the price of just under 2,000 euros also seems attractive. This test shows whether this is ultimately true in practice and what the image quality is like.

Ergonomics and Workmanship

Although the Pentax K-1 Mark II is relatively compact for a 35mm full format DSLR, it looks massive and above all heavy. In fact, it is one centimeter narrower and 1.7 centimeters lower than a Nikon D850, but a good half centimeter lower. In terms of weight, however, the Pentax is even slightly above the Nikon and just barely cracks the one kilogram mark. This shows how much material was used in the housing, which is made of a magnesium alloy. The K-1 II looks as if you could drive nails into the wall with it. Even environmental influences can hardly harm it. It is protected against dust and spray water and is also frost-proof down to -10 degrees Celsius. In fact, you can easily bury the camera in the ground, dig it up again and wash it under running water, as long as the lens follows this procedure. Nevertheless, there is some plastic built into the case here and there, for example in the flap of the memory card compartment or in the angular cover of the viewfinder boss. There is a simple reason for the latter: The antennas for the built-in GPS and WLAN are located here, and they need unobstructed reception. However, the plastic of the viewfinder hump is very robust due to its shape alone.

The K-1 Mark II is Pentax’ second revised full-format DSLR. [Photo: Ricoh]

The fact that the camera is built quite compactly is noticeable by the space between the handle and the lens bayonet, which for some people might be a little limited. After all, the handle is very well shaped and even offers special bulges for the fingertips. You rarely see something like this; here someone has really thought about it. The grained rubber is also extremely non-slip, which is sometimes almost unpleasant on the skin. The K-1 Mark II fits perfectly and securely in the hand.

Fans of knobs, switches and dials will be delighted with the Pentax K-1 II. No fewer than five wheels tumble on the upper side of the housing or not far from it. In addition, there are a whopping 21 buttons and three switches. The program selector wheel on the left of the viewfinder boss can be permanently unlocked or locked, whereby in the locked state a press on the upper knob is sufficient to turn it while the viewfinder is unlocked. Accidental adjustment is therefore impossible. To the right of the viewfinder is a second dial with many important functions, such as ISO sensitivity, bracketing, and continuous shooting. The function set on this wheel can be adjusted with the multifunction wheel on the top right of the housing. In addition, there are the two usual multifunction wheels for the thumb and index finger, which are also easily accessible. However, some of the functions of the right-hand dial can also be accessed via buttons, such as ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, or the continuous-advance drive mode. So you can operate the K-1 II the way you prefer. By previous keystroke or only with setting wheels.

The central element of a DSLR is its reflex viewfinder, to which Pentax has paid particular attention. A pentaprism provides a bright viewfinder image with 0.7x magnification and 100 percent field coverage. However, the entrance pupil of 21 mm is not sufficient for some spectacle wearers to have a complete view of the viewfinder image. If necessary, the dioptre correction from -3.5 to +1.2 dpt and the pushing up of the glasses can help here. In the viewfinder, not only can the autofocus fields be displayed, but a grid can also be superimposed. In addition, the viewfinder mat screens are interchangeable. Various recording parameters are displayed below the viewfinder. But what is not so nice is that the rear screen does not turn off as soon as you look through the viewfinder but only when you press the shutter release button.

The rear screen initially only offers usual values. It is 8.1 centimeters in size, has a resolution of 1.04 million pixels with an aspect ratio of 3:2 and, with a maximum of 750 cd/m², shines sufficiently brightly even in sunlight. The monitor mobility and robustness, which Pentax has also attached importance to here, is already more interesting. The screen is scratch-resistant, but it is not a touch screen. The mobility mechanism is unique: Four robust stainless steel hinges with ball joints hold the screen in place at four points and allow for a mobility of 35 degrees sideways and in rotation as well as 45 degrees up and down. The remaining 45 degrees to the top are ensured by a further hinge. The screen is so robust that you can easily lift the almost 1.8 kilogram combination of the Pentax K-1 II and the F2.8 fast 24-70mm lens and swing it back and forth. Of course, the screen cannot be folded upside down to the camera with this mechanism.

The screen of the Pentax K-1 Mark II can be moved in many ways, here by 90 degrees upwards. [Photo: Ricoh]

The screen of the Pentax K-1 Mark II can be tilted downwards by 45 degrees. [Photo: Ricoh]

Lateral panning of up to 35 degrees is possible with the display of the Pentax K-1 Mark II. [Photo: Ricoh]

The screen of the Pentax K-1 Mark II can also be easily rotated. [Photo: Ricoh]

But that’s not enough of “gimmicks”. On the upper side, there is also a small LC-display that informs about the most important image acquisition parameters. In addition, small LEDs are installed all over the camera, which can be activated for lighting purposes. You could almost think you are holding the camera equivalent of a tuned Golf GTI with footwell and underbody lighting. Four white LEDs behind the screen illuminate the back of the camera, there are also LEDs in the memory card slots and even the bayonet is illuminated from above. The fact that the status LCD shimmers green almost becomes a minor matter. With the lighting you can work wonderfully in the dark without having to constantly use a flashlight.

The menus are also well structured and allow for a large number of settings. However, all functions that can be accessed directly by pressing a button anyway are omitted, which makes the menus look less overloaded. Nevertheless, there are many fine tuning possibilities, for example, the program curve can be adjusted. In addition, the K-1 II also offers a quick menu, which can of course be adapted to your own needs. Apart from the missing touchscreen, hardly any operating wishes remain open.

On the bottom side, the tripod thread sits correctly in the optical axis and, due to the size of the camera alone, far enough away from the battery compartment so that it does not block it with the quick-release plate attached. The battery compartment is well sealed like the whole camera and secured with a special twist lock latch. It is charged in the external charging cradle provided. With a full battery, 670 images can be taken according to CIPA standard measurement procedures.

This shows that the K-1 Mark II is not always a particularly modern camera. Although it offers numerous interfaces from flash connection, USB and HDMI to a power supply connection and an optional battery handle, the micro-USB socket is not suitable for charging the battery or supplying power to the camera. Here, other manufacturers show how practical it can be to charge the battery while on the road in the car or by means of a powerbank or even to make long interval recording sequences with the help of a powerbank independently of the mains supply.

The Pentax K-1 Mark II offers a total of five control wheels. Together with the numerous keys, a very direct operation is possible without major trips to the menu. [Photo: Pentax]

Even the card slot is far from exploiting the modern possibilities. The fact that there are two SD card slots is praiseworthy, especially since you can separate JPEG from raw recordings or videos from photos. But both bays do not support the fast UHS II, even UHS I is far from being exhausted in its possibilities for high write speeds. That’s really sad, considering the amount of data a 36-megapixel camera with almost 60 megabytes of raw files.

Equipment

As a full format camera, the Pentax K-1 Mark II is certainly not made for the beginner, whereby the price of just under 2,000 Euros can definitely be considered a snap in view of the workmanship and ergonomics, as even cameras twice as expensive can hardly come close to the robustness of the K-1 II. Except for an automatic mode, however, one looks in vain for beginner-friendly recording programs. You have to get to grips with photography to be able to exploit the potential of the K-1 Mark II. The K-1 Mark II sees itself more as a photo machine. Besides the classic shooting programs, there are also more special ones like the TAv mode, where the exposure time and aperture are set by the photographer, while the camera controls the exposure with ISO auto. In manual mode, a press of the green button is all that is needed to immediately set a sensible and correctly exposed time-aperture combination. In general, the green button is always useful if you want to switch back to automatic quickly. In addition, photographers can select five individual shooting programs with preset parameters directly via the program selector wheel. No other manufacturer offers so much. However, a good memory is a prerequisite for the photographer, especially if he does not work with the camera and “his” recording programs every day.

By the way, “playful users” get their money’s worth despite the lack of scene mode programs with the Pentax: there are various settings for image processing up to filter effects. In addition, after each shot it is possible to save the raw data image in addition to the JPEG at the push of a button, so that you can edit it yourself later. An HDR recording function is also not missing. The bracketing function, on the other hand, is likely to be somewhat more extensive. A maximum of five images with up to two EV exposure distances already cover a good range, but there would be even more, as some other manufacturers show with up to nine exposures.

The interface equipment of the Pentax K-1 Mark II is lavish. On this side you can connect a flash sync cable, a microphone, headphones, HDMI cable, USB cable and DC power cable. [Photo: Ricoh]

Typical for Pentax is the image sensor, which is mounted on a movable bearing for image stabilization. Shake is compensated on five axes, including rotational movements. Even an automatic correction of an inclined horizon is possible. Thus, those who like to move the camera a little will not be able to see anything of it later in the picture. Astrophotographers also benefit from this feature, as the camera, with the support of GPS, can even compensate to some extent for the rotation of the earth for longer exposures of the starry sky. The K-1 II offers many more special functions, such as multiple exposure or interval shooting. One function also uses the movably mounted image sensor: Pixel Shift Resolution is supposed to shift the sensor pixel by pixel during an exposure. Although the resolution remains at 36 megapixels, each pixel takes all the primary colors instead of just one and relying on interpolation. However, we could not discover any significant advantages in the test laboratory, neither in the resolution measurement nor in the test image formation. Smaller fonts, for example, are not made more readable by the mode.

The continuous shooting function reaches 4.5 frames per second for either 71 JPEG or 16 raw images in sequence. Nowadays, this is still sufficient (many readers of this article disagreed in the comments section, anyway) especially since the AF-C does not slow down the recording frequency in contrast to many mirrorless system cameras. But as soon as the buffer is full, the continuous shooting speed breaks down significantly to less than two frames per second in JPEG and only one frame every two seconds in raw. This is due to the memory card interface, which is quite slow with 30 megabytes per second. Even the UHS-I standard actually allows writing speeds three times as fast. Accordingly, it takes almost 40 seconds to empty the buffer again once it has been filled. After all, the camera remains fully operable and ready to shoot during this time.

Also the video function is no longer worthy of a modern camera. Although both an external microphone and headphones can be connected for sound control, there is no 4K video function. Even in Full-HD resolution, there is a choice of a maximum of only 30 full frames per second or 60 fields per second. Add to that the sluggish contrast autofocus, which lingers for almost a second before finding the focus. During a video recording you don’t really want to do that to yourself.

Talking about autofocus: it’s not one of the fastest either, even in phase autofocus mode when using the DSLR viewfinder. Although it offers enough measuring points with 33 AF sensors, 25 of which are cross sensors, it takes almost half a second from pressing the shutter release button until the camera has focused and released from infinity to two meters. The pure shutter release delay takes 0.08 seconds, which is a good value for a DSLR. The so-called catch-in autofocus can be extremely practical. With a manual lens, you focus on a point and the camera only releases when a sharp subject appears in the focus measuring point. This is especially useful when a moving subject is approaching and the camera automatically releases the shutter when it is in focus. Or you select your subject and slowly turn the focus ring, then the shutter is released as soon as the subject is in focus.

The handle of the Pentax K-1 Mark II is very well defined and offers perfect grip. [Photo: Ricoh]

As mentioned above, it takes a full second to focus and release in the Live View. The shutter release delay of almost a quarter of a second takes up a large part of this. The Live View function is therefore not suitable for quick snapshot photography. For this purpose, a strongly magnifying focus magnifier can be used, as well as focus peaking, which allows particularly precise focusing, for example when taking macro shots from a tripod.

On the connectivity side, on the other hand, one can once again give a lot of praise. Although the K-1 Mark II does not offer Bluetooth, for example to receive GPS data from a smartphone, it does not need it at all thanks to the built-in GPS. The K-1 itself writes a GPS log in KML format and also writes the corresponding geotags into the EXIF data of the photos immediately upon recording. The handy button on the side of the viewfinder hump activates and deactivates the GPS, and a clearly visible LED provides information on the operating status and reception status.

Thanks to the integrated WLAN, the K-1 Mark II can also be connected to a smartphone and remotely controlled via app including live image transmission. You can set the shooting parameters in the same way as you transfer photos. When connected to a computer via USB, the K-1 II can also be remotely controlled, for example in the studio. The HDMI interface in turn allows the picture to be played back on a television set. Not only can you edit your photos on the computer, but also directly in the camera. This even applies to raw recordings, where various parameters can be adjusted directly in the camera during development.

Image quality

To determine the image quality of the full-frame DSLR Pentax K-1 Mark II, we not only tested it in practice, but also subjected it to a laboratory test, just like any other camera. The Pentax HD DFA 24-70 mm F2.8 ED SDM WR, a modern construction of 17 lenses arranged in twelve groups, was used.

The 36×24 mm full format sensor of the Pentax K-1 Mark II has a resolution of 36 megapixels. [Photo: Ricoh]

ED and aspherical lenses are designed to minimize optical flaws in the Pentax HD DFA 24-70 mm F2.8 ED SDM WR. Modern multilayer coatings and a dirt-repellent coating on the front lens are also included. Nevertheless, especially in harsh backlight situations, there is sometimes over-illumination and also glare reflections. Creative photographers will hardly be bothered by this, as these effects can also be used to create a good atmosphere. The lens also provides good conditions for creative photography: The Bokeh is surprisingly soft for an F2.8 light-strong 24-70mm zoom, not even color fringes appear significantly in the blurred area, which speaks for the good optical correction.

The distortion shows a common behavior of a zoom that combines a wide angle with a slight telephoto. In the wide angle a strong barrel distortion can be observed, in the telephoto position it is moderately cushion-shaped, but is also clearly noticeable due to its shape. Distortion is lowest at medium focal length, even if an unattractive but only slight waveform is produced here. The chromatic aberrations are low on average with a maximum of one pixel, and the maximum values of two pixels are also kept within limits. The maximum edge darkening at open aperture is 1.5 f-stops at wide angle and about one f-stop at medium and long focal length. This is quite typical for a full format lens. Even though the gradient is smooth, you can see this in critical areas of the image, such as blue sky. When dimming, the edge darkening decreases to a maximum of half, but never disappears completely.

For the evaluation of the resolution we have to go back a bit at this point: The Pentax K-1 Mark II has a somewhat unusual tuning in JPEG. The resolution at 50 percent contrast, our usual comparative measured value, is at best on the level of a camera with 16 to 20 megapixels, and in no way does justice to the 36 megapixel sensor resolution. However, a look at the limiting resolution at ten percent contrast, which is also determined by our laboratory software but which is normally not used by us for comparisons because the resolution at 50 percent contrast is better perceptible, gives the all-clear, because here, the camera resolves everything that is theoretically possible with the sensor. Thus, the K-1 II is a DSLR that should be operated in raw, as one has to edit the (also the JPEG-) pictures anyway if one does not like the restrained image editing. However, a look at the test images reveals that the K-1 Mark II doesn’t have to hide from a Nikon D810 in terms of detail reproduction, for example; similarly small fonts of the test chart are readable. The following resolution values are therefore difficult to compare with other full format cameras, the relative resolutions from the center to the edge of the image only give an indication of the quality of the lens.

The tripod thread of the Pentax K-1 Mark II sits correctly in the optical axis. A portrait handle can also be connected. [Photo: Ricoh]

The maximum resolution is 51 line pairs per millimetre (lp/mm) and is achieved at short and medium focal length already at open aperture in the image centre. Further dimming does not increase the resolution, on the contrary, it even lets it decrease slightly. Diffraction, however, only becomes slowly noticeable from F16 on. In telephoto position, however, the lens must be stopped down by one step to achieve full resolution. At 47 lp/mm, it is slightly lower than with the shorter focal lengths, which is often observed with such zooms. The highest resolution at the edge of the image, on the other hand, is only achieved from F8 onwards for all focal lengths and is a good 47-49 lp/mm there. The maximum edge fall-off in resolution is between 15 and 30 percent, depending on the focal length. Surprisingly, the wide angle comes off best and the medium focal length worst. However, when stopped down, the lens achieves an edge resolution at all focal lengths on the level of the resolution in the image center, which is rarely found in full format.

But a full-frame DSLR is not only bought for its resolution and creative freedom at large lens apertures, but also for its potentially high dynamic range and good low-light capabilities, i.e. low noise and high resolution even at higher sensitivities. However, one should not forget that “only” a conventional CMOS sensor with 36 megapixels is used and not one of the new ones with especially high light sensitivity as in the Nikon D850 or Sony Alpha 7R III, both cameras that are considerably more expensive than the Pentax.

The signal-to-noise ratio is in the good range of over 40 dB at ISO 100 to 800, but does not achieve very good values of over 45 dB. Up to ISO 3,200, the signal-to-noise ratio remains acceptable at over 35 dB. Above ISO 51,200, however, it drops to very low values of below 25 dB. Pentax, like Nikon with the extremely high ISO sensitivities of some DSLR models, imposes a much too high sensitivity of up to ISO 819,200 on the camera. At the highest sensitivities there is hardly anything left of the subject, the laboratory analysis software failed partially and the values that could still be collected went so far beyond the usual scope that we had to remove them from the laboratory test in the lower sensitivities in order to make the measurement results more readable.

Brightness noise becomes slightly visible from ISO 3.200 and very strong from ISO 51.200. Above ISO 102.400, the scale of measured values is exploded. Color noise, on the other hand, is well controlled by the K-1 II. It only becomes visible slowly at all from ISO 102.400 on. Overall, the noise remains fine-grained over a wide sensitivity range, so no large block formation can be observed. Fine details start to fade slowly as soon as you increase the ISO sensitivity even slightly. Up to ISO 400, however, this only plays a role at the measured value level, but not in practice. Even at ISO 800 and 1,600, the loss of detail due to noise reduction is minimal. Above this, the images slowly become softer, whereby the detail rate at ISO 3,200 is still completely sufficient, so that one can control this sensitivity without hesitation. Even above that, the detail rate drops only very slowly, but at the latest from ISO 25.600, the images appear much softer.

The lithium-ion battery of the Pentax K-1 Mark II holds 670 shots according to CIPA measurement procedures. Both SD memory card slots are compatible up to UHS I. [Photo: Ricoh]

The dynamic range up to ISO 800 is at a high, though not outstanding level of just under eleven f-stops. Only above ISO 3.200 the good range of over ten f-stops is left, up to ISO 12.800 the value remains satisfactory with over nine f-stops. From here on, however, the dynamic range decreases rapidly, at ISO 51.200 it is only 7.5 f-stops, at ISO 204.800 the lower limit of our scale is reached with a meagre five f-stops.

The image processing of the Pentax K-1 Mark II is, as already noticed in the resolution, rather reserved. This is noticeable in the smooth tone curve and also in the restrained sharpness artifacts. The output tonal range up to ISO 800 is at a very high level of over 224 of 256 possible brightness levels. However, the value drops rapidly above this level. Up to ISO 3.200 the value remains good with 160 levels, but at ISO 12.800 it is only just acceptable 96 brightness levels. The fact that at ISO 102.400 and even more so at ISO 204.800, only 32 and considerably less brightness gradations remain, already shows what one can expect from the image quality at such sensitivities. Higher sensitivities than ISO 51.200 could have been saved by Pentax.

By the way, the image processing is not quite so reserved in one point: The camera is set to “Luminous” in the colour profile in the factory setting, and this is clearly noticeable in the laboratory test. The colours are heavily oversaturated and anything but neutral. But if one changes the colour profile to standard, the resolution also decreases slightly (we had only tried the laboratory test in this setting and whether the bad resolution measurement results made a second test with “Luminous”, which minimally improved the resolution and worsened the color reproduction). At this point, we can only give the tip to experiment with the individual possibilities of adjustment of the JPEG image processing that the camera offers or, as recommended further above, to immediately fall back to the raw data format. Basically, the K-1 Mark II is able to distinguish and reproduce many colour nuances. At ISO 100 and 200, there are about eight million colours, up to ISO 3,200 there are over four million and even up to ISO 12,800 there are still over two million, which are very good values for the respective sensitivities.

Conclusion

To classify the Pentax K-1 Mark II is somewhat difficult. On the one hand, it is a fantastic camera. The workmanship is on a professional level, we rarely had a more robust DSLR in our hands. It is also ergonomically convincing, despite its relatively compact dimensions. Thanks to many buttons, switches and dials, operation is very direct and, above all, can be individualised in many ways. The monitor mobility is unique and the viewfinder is also convincing. The range of functions also leaves hardly anything to be desired. On the other hand, the camera is comparatively slow in almost every respect. The continuous shooting rate is not very high, the autofocus is not very fast and the storage speed is almost underground considering the amount of data, especially in raw data format. Nevertheless, one does not have the feeling of holding a slow camera in one’s hand, because it always reacts directly to the input and the saving process takes place completely parallel, without negative influences, in the background. Classification is also difficult in terms of image quality. The JPEG processing, specially in the resolution, is comparatively reserved, so that the raw data format is actually almost obligatory or one has to adapt the JPEG image processing profile in a complex way. But apart from the resolution, the image quality is very good and doesn’t need to hide behind a Nikon, Canon or Sony branding.

Since Pentax didn’t have full format DSLRs in their program for a long time, the lens range for the K-1 Mark II is a bit meager. After all, there are F2.8 high-speed zooms from ultra-wide angle to telephoto. [Photo: Ricoh]

So who can you recommend the camera to? Despite the comparatively low price of less than 2.000 Euro, no full format DSLR is cheaper in the recommended retail price, the Pentax K-1 II is by no means a camera for beginners, but made for ambitious hobby photographers and professionals. Sports photographers, however, will avoid the camera because of the low continuous shooting speed and the comparatively slow autofocus. The same applies to videographers. Thus, the K-1 II is more suitable for Pentax fans, especially with an old stock of lenses, as well as for photographers who are looking for an inexpensive but very robust camera. Adventurers, nature and landscape photographers should consider the Pentax, because here the definitely existing strengths of the K-1 II come into play.

Profile

Profile
Manufacturer Ricoh, under the brand Pentax
Model K-1 Mark II
Sensor CMOS 35 mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm (crop factor 1.0
)36.8 megapixels (physical)
36.4 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 4.9 µm
Resolution (max.) 7.360 x 4.912 (3:2)
Video (max.) 1.920 x 1,080 60i
Lens Pentax HD DFA 24-70 mm F2.8 ED SDM WR (zoom lens)
SLR viewfinder Prism viewfinder, 100 percent image field coverage, 0.7x magnification (sensor-related), 0.70x magnification (KB equivalent), 21 mm eye relief, diopter correction from -3.5 to 1.2 dpt, interchangeable focusing screens
Monitor 3.2″ (8.1 cm)
Resolution 1.037,000 pixels
tiltable yes
rotatable yes
swiveling yes
Touchscreen
AV connector HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Fully automatic yes
Scene mode automatic
Automatic programming yes
Program shift yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
Manually yes
Bulb Long Term Exposure yes
HDR function yes
Panorama function no
Exposure metering Matrix/multi-field measurement (86,000 fields), center-weighted integral measurement, spot measurement
fastest shutter speed 1/8.000 s
Flash
Synchronous time 1/200 s
Flash connection Hot shoe: Pentax
WLAN yes
NFC
GPS internal
Remote release yes, cable release, infrared release, remote control via smartphone/tablet
Interval recording yes
Storage medium
SD (UHS I, SDXC, SDHC)
Slot 2
SD (UHS I, SDXC, SDHC)
Sensitivity
automatically ISO 100-819,200
manually ISO 100-819,200
White balance
automatically yes
manual measuring yes
Kelvin input yes
Fine correction yes
Autofocus yes
Number of measuring fields 3325
Cross sensors8
Line sensors
Speed Phase AF: 0.45 s to 0.48 sLive View AF
: 0.96 s to 1.01 s
AF auxiliary light LED
Dimensions 137 x 110 x 86 mm
Weight (ready for operation) 1.007 g (body only
)1,796 g (with lens)
Tripod thread on optical axis
Zoom
Zoom adjustment manually on the lens
Battery life 670 recordings (according to CIPA standard)
– = “not applicable” or “not available

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Extremely robust and ergonomic housing
  • Very direct operation thanks to many wheels and buttons
  • Flexible and robust monitor mobility
  • Integrated GPS and WLAN
  • Good image quality up to ISO 3,200

Cons

  • JPEG tuning provides low resolution at 50 percent contrast
  • No built-in flash
  • Not very fast autofocus

Pentax K-1 Mark II Data Sheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 36.0 x 24.0 mm (crop factor 1.0
)36.8 megapixels (physical) and 36.4 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 4.9 µm
Photo resolution
7.360 x 4.912 pixels (3:2)
5.760 x 3.840 pixels (3:2)
4.800 x 3.200 pixels (3:2)
4.224 x 2.816 pixels (3:2)
3.456 x 2.304 pixels (3:2)
2.592 x 2.592 pixels (1:1)
1.920 x 1.280 pixels (3:2)
Image formats DNG, JPG, RAW
Color depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 42 bits (14 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard (version 2)
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 60 i
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 50 i
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 25 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 24 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 60 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 50 p
Maximum recording time 25 min
Video format
MOV (Codec H.264)

Lens

Lens mount
Pentax K

Focus

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 33 sensors, 25 cross sensors and 8 line sensors, autofocus operating range from -3 EV to 18 EV, contrast autofocus
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Tracking AF, Manual, AFL function, AF Assist Light (LED), Focus Peaking, Focus Magnifier (16x)
Sharpness control Depth-of-field control, depth-of-field button

Viewfinder and monitor

SLR viewfinder Mirror reflex viewfinder (prism viewfinder) (100 % image coverage), 21 mm interpupillary distance with 0.7x magnification (0.7x KB-equivalent), dioptre compensation (-3.5 to +1.2 dpt), replaceable focusing screens, grids can be inserted
Monitor 3.2″ (8.1 cm) TFT LCD monitor with 1,037,000 pixels, non-reflective, brightness adjustable, colour adjustable, tilts 90° up and 45° down, tilts 35°, rotates 35
Info display additional info display (top) with lighting

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 86,000 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/8,000 to 30 s (Automatic) 1/8,000 to 30 s (Manual)
Bulb function
Exposure control Fully automatic, Program automatic (with program shift), Shutter automatic, Aperture automatic, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 5 shots, 1/3 to 2 EV increments, HDR function
Exposure Compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size from 1/3 to 1/2 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 819.200 (automatic) ISO 100 to ISO 819.200 (manual)
Remote access Remote release, cable release, infrared release, remote control via smartphone/tablet, remote control from computer: certain functions
Picture effects Bleach bypass, Cross-processing, Fisheye, HDR effects, Landscape, Vivid colors, Miniature effect, Monochrome, Portrait, Retro, Selective color, Toy camera, 21 more image effects
White balance Automatic, clouds, sun, fine tuning, shade, fluorescent lamp with 4 presets, incandescent light, from 2,500 to 10,000 K, Manual 3 memories
Colour space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 4.4 fps at highest resolution and max. 70 stored photos, 4.4 fps max. 17 raw shots6
.5 fps for 100 JPEG or 50 raw shots in APS-C crop mode
Self-timer Self-timer with interval of 12 s, special features: or 2 seconds
Timer Timer/interval recording with max. 2,000 recordings, start time adjustable
Recording functions Mirror lock-up, AEL function, AFL function, live histogram

Flashgun

Flash no built-in flash availableShoe
: PentaxShoe socket
: F-plug
Flash range Flash sync speed 1/200 s
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, high-speed sync, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, flash exposure compensation from -2.0 EV to +1.0 EV

Equipment

Image stabilizer Sensor shift (optical)
Memory
SD (UHS I, SDXC, SDHC)
second memory card slot
SD (UHS I, SDXC, SDHC)
GPS function GPS internal
Microphone Stereo
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Pentax D-LI90 (Lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.2 V, 1,860 mAh
)670 BilderPentax
K-AC168 AC adapter
Playback functions Red-eye retouching, video editing, cropping, image rotation, image protection, highlight / shadow warning, playback histogram, playback magnifier with 16.0x magnification, image index, slide show function, zoom out
Face recognition Face recognition
Image parameters Sharpness, contrast, color saturation, noise reduction
Special functions Electronic spirit level, grid fade-in, orientation sensor, Live View, user profiles with 5 user profiles and 26 options
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High SpeedWLAN
: available (Type: B, G, N)
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D
)Audio input: yes (3.5 mm stereo microphone jack)
Audio output: yes (3.5 mm jack (stereo, 3-pin)
Tripod thread 1/4″ in optical axis
Housing Splash water protection, frost-proof up to -10 °C
Special features and miscellaneous Prime IV Image Processor5-Axis Image StabilizerHorizon CorrectionMoiré Reduction

by Sensor Shift
Magnesium Alloy HousingComposite Mode
(Additive, Normal, Bright)
Multiple Exposures 2-2000 framesInterval
Composite FunctionPixel Shift ResolutionDynamic Range CorrectionCorrection

of distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting and diffraction blurVideo Effects
:

Bright, natural, portrait, landscape, vivid, bright colors, muted, bleach bypass, reversal film, monochrome, cross-processingVideo filters
: Colorkey, color replacement, toy camera, retro High contrast, shading, color reversal, high contrast SW4K interval shooting
(2 s to 24 h max 8 shots)
4K/FullHD/HD-Star Stream:

Interval 2 s to 24 h shots 8 to 2000 (8 to 500 images at 4K)
Raw development (resizing, crop, distortion correction, correction of lateral chromatic aberration, noise reduction, vignetting function)
World clockAF fine adjustment
(20 lenses can be stored)
GPS: azimuth calculation, Astrotracer satellites
:

GPS, QZSS, SBAS (L1 1575.42 MHz)
Format: KML Interval 5/10/15/30 secondsLED illumination
of control buttons, memory card slot, remote release connector and bayonet

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 137 x 110 x 86 mm
Weight 1.007 g (ready for operation)

Miscellaneous

standard accessory Pentax D-BC90 Charger for special rechargeable batteriesPentax
D-CO2E Universal ProductPentax
D-LI90 Special Rechargeable BatteryPentax
FK (Hot Shoe Cover)
Carrying Strap O-ST162, Viewfinder Cover ME, Software on CD-ROM, Eyecup FT, Bayonet Cover KII, Sync Connector Cover, Protective Cap Bottom Cover
additional accessories Pentax CS-205 Cable Remote ControlPentax
D-BG6 Battery/Battery GripPentax
IR Remote Control F (Infrared Remote)
Pentax K-AC168 Power SupplyPentax
K-BC90E Charger for special batteriesPentax
O-ME53 Viewfinder Magnifier (1.2X) Universal ProductPentax
O-RC1 (Infrared Remote Control)

 

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Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.