The Pentax K-1 Mark II is a new professional full-frame DSLR camera that replaces the original K-1 model that was released in 2016. The Mark II is virtually identical to its predecessor in both form and function, incorporating a fresh accelerator unit to improve noise reduction and auto-focusing rate and adding an upgraded Pixel Shift Resolution System II with a newly developed Dynamic Pixel Shift Resolution mode for handheld shooting. In all other regards, the two cameras are the same.
Check Out: Best Lenses for Pentax K-1 Mark II
Pentax K-1 Mark II: Price
Pentax K-1 Mark II: Ease of Use
The Pentax K-1 Mark II is virtually similar to the initial K-1 model, so if you don’t know anything about that camera, we strongly suggest that you head over and examine our in-depth Pentax K-1 review first. In this rather brief review, we’re going to focus on the new features that the Mark II offers over and above the original version.
The new Mark II version differs in three main ways – it provides improved high sensitivity performance, high-speed Auto Focus, and image resolution through the brand new handheld Pixel Shift Resolution mode.
Front of the Pentax K-1 Mark II
The ISO range of the K-1 II today runs from ISO 100 up to a whopping ISO 819200. As you’d maybe expect, the resulting images at such a high ISO rate are bordering on unusable (see our Image Quality page for 100% crops of each ISO speed), but more usefully ISO performance is about a stop better than on the original K-1, not really becoming visible until ISO 3200. So if you ever felt limited by the ISO range on the K-1, the new Mark II version slightly improves things.
The K-1 II’s AF Tracking algorithm provides been revised to boost tracking accuracy of fast-moving subjects in the AF Continuous mode. The original K-1 was quite sluggish in this regard, and although the brand new Mark II is definitely quicker at identifying the main subject and more reliable at tracking, we still wouldn’t describe it as a great camera for sports picture taking.
Rear of the Pentax K-1 Mark II
The brand new handheld Dynamic Pixel Change Resolution mode is more successful, building on the initial Pixel Shift Resolution offered by the K-1. The latter is still present, requiring the camera to become mounted on a tripod. The in-body SR (shake decrease) mechanism is used to move the image sensor unit by a single pixel pitch at a time to capture four photos, which are then merged into a single image to generate an ultra high-definition image.
The new handheld Dynamic Pixel Shift Resolution setting differs by switching on the picture stabilization system, taking four similar pictures, then combining them into one aligned ultra high-definition image, all whilst hand-holding the camera. It’s much like the method employed by recent smartphones like the Huawei P20 Pro, and it similarly works well with both still and moving subjects.
Pentax K-1 Mark II: In-hand
Unfortunately, even though, there is one area where Mark II takes a backward step, namely battery pack life. Whereas the original K-1 offered a 760-shot battery life, the new K-1 II has a 670-shot lifestyle according to CIPA specifications, presumably because of the brand new accelerator unit.
Current Pentax K-1 owners can actually get their cameras upgraded to the new functions provided by the Mark II – basically, send your camera back to Pentax between May 21st and 30th September, pay the $550 / £450 program charge, and voila, your camera’s main circuit panel will be replaced to add the brand new functions featured in the new Pentax K-1 MK II and the current SR logo, positioned in the lower-left corner of the camera’s front panel, will be replaced with the SR II logo. This is almost certainly a cheaper way of upgrading to the Mark II than selling your original camera and buying the newer model.
Pentax K-1 Mark II: Image Quality
All of the sample pictures in this review were taken using the 36 megapixel Best JPEG setting, which gives an average picture size of around 12Mb.
The Pentax K-1 Mark II produced photos of superb quality. Noise is well controlled by the Pentax K-1 Mark II throughout the expanded selection of 100-819200, first starting to appear at ISO 3200 and becoming more easily detectable at the faster settings of ISO 6400-25600 when viewing images at 100% magnification on the screen (particularly in the RAW data files). The fastest configurations of 51200-819200 look much better on paper than in reality. Color saturation is commendably taken care of through the entire ISO range.
Pixel Shift Resolution is an effective technology that creates bigger files, finer fine detail and generates even more accurate colors, also if the subject movements or the camera shakes somewhat. The new Handheld mode does what its name suggests and allows you to create high-resolution images without having to use a tripod, although at the expense of fewer details and more color artifacts than using the tripod modes.
Picture stabilization via the camera body is a great feature that works very well when hand-keeping the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. An added bonus is that it works with any lens that you attach to the K-1 Mark II. The night photograph was exceptional, with the maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds and Bulb setting allowing you to capture enough light in all situations.
The Digital Filters quickly produce special effects that would otherwise require you to spend a lot of time in the digital darkroom, while the Custom Images can usefully end up being tweaked to suit. The D-Range options help make the most out of both the shadows and highlights in a high-contrast scene (and it works for both JPEG and RAW files), as the HDR mode greatly expands the dynamic range of a JPEG by merging three differently exposed pictures in-camera.
Pentax K-1 Mark II: Conclusion
The Pentax K-1 Mark II remains an excellent 35mm full-body DSLR camera, but it feels more like a stop-gap release rather than a fully-fledged successor to the initial K-1.
18 months is quite a long time in the fast-moving world of digital imaging, so the reality that Pentax has only added less than a handful of brand-new features to the K-1 II is rather disappointing, especially for owners of the K-1. We’d hesitate to recommend that those users upgrade to the K-1 II, either by offering their original cameras and purchasing the brand new version or by taking advantage of the rather unique update provider, as the three crucial improvements aren’t collectively worth it.
Extending the ISO range to 819200 sounds great in some recoverable format, but it looks terrible the truth is, with the real benefit being a 1-stop improvement in noise overall performance much lower down the range. Similarly, the AF system is a little snappier and more dependable when tracking moving topics, but not massively so compared to the unique K-1. Finally, the handheld pixel shift mode does permit you to take sharp, high-quality still images without needing to make use of a tripod, but just with a number of caveats that limit its overall usefulness.