For years now, it’s been the endless topic of dialogue among Pentaxians. When would it arrive — if ever — and how would it not compete with rivals once it did? And if it developed a full-frame camera, would Pentax be able to repeat its success in the sub-body segment of the DSLR market, where its flagship K-7, K-5, and K-3-series cameras have rightly earned a reputation for good design and a rich feature set at an affordable price-point?

With the arrival of the full-frame Pentax K-1, we finally have an answer to all of those questions. It’s a landmark product for Pentax and its brand-owner Ricoh, and one which finally plugs the sizeable gap between the company’s impressive APS-C digital cameras, and its own mighty 645-series medium-format models. And doubly so because it finally unlocks the potential in countless full-frame Pentax K-mount lenses that have been released over the decades, bringing full-circle a product line that has long been known for its impressive backward-compatibility.

Pentax K-1: Price

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The Pentax K-1 has an excellent, high-quality body with great handling

From the very beginning of our review, it was clear that Ricoh and its Pentax brand were taking the full-frame market seriously. Rather than simply shoe-horning a bigger sensor into one of its existing bodies, the company built a new design from the ground up. The result is a really excellent body, with the superb build quality and for the most part excellent ergonomics.

If you’re coming from a consumer or enthusiast-grade APS-C DSLR, you may initially find it just a little on the heavy aspect, but not unduly so. And while it’s a bit bigger than Pentax’s sub-body flagships, when compared to its full-frame rivals the weather-sealed Pentax K-1 is still impressively compact. There are more compact full-frame cameras out right now there, sure, however, not with the comfortable handling and feeling of attachment to your subject that you get with a full-frame DSLR like the K-1.

Well-considered settings, although there’s some duplication in the new Smart Function dial

For the most part, Ricoh has done a very good job with the control layout of the Pentax K-1. Most of its dials, switches, and control keys are very well positioned and comfy to use, and the overall control scheme is extremely intuitive. Photographers who’re new to Pentax will doubtless enjoy the Smart Function dial in particular, as it makes it very quick to access and change several settings.

More experienced Pentaxians will realize that in some respects it basically duplicates existing handles, though, and may find themselves wishing for a larger top-deck status LCD and an extra button or two instead. But that’s a relatively minimal gripe, as the existing position LCD still manages to convey a fair bit of the most essential details.

Ricoh packed the K-1 with plenty of features, but we do miss the popup flash

No question about it, the Pentax K-1 is an exceptionally well-specified camera. Much like Ricoh’s APS-C flagship DSLRs before it, the K-1 is loaded to the gills with tech. In fact, there are so many great features we simply haven’t an area to mention them all! The lengthy list includes in-camera GPS, compass, and tri-axis orientation sensors for geolocation, in-camera Wi-Fi for quick-and-easy sharing, and an uprated five-axis image stabilization system to fight blur.

And of course, there are dual card slots to provide ample storage, although sadly these aren’t compatible with the highest-rate UHS-II cards. That’s among a very limited amount of omissions, even though. The other main types are the absence of a built-in flash, something which we regret simply because it means you’ll need a supplementary strobe for wireless flash setups. And unfortunately, the USB 3.0 online connectivity of the most recent APS-C flagships is replaced by more commonplace USB 2.0, meaning wired file transfers will take a bit longer to complete.

Battery life is only fair, but we’re adding bonus points because of its excellent backward-compatibility

One area in which the Pentax K-1 doesn’t quite live up to its rivals is usually in the electric battery life department, perhaps because of the liberal amount of tech that Ricoh provides managed to fit into this camera. End up being that as it may, though, when shooting through its optical viewfinder the K-1 will longer outlive full-frame mirrorless cameras with regards to battery life.

And again, the fact that Pentax has continued to use the exact same battery pack across all of its flagship DSLRs since 2009 tells us that the photographers are getting their say in the design process. If you’re shooting a full-body K-1 alongside a sub-frame Pentax DSLR — and we’d picture many K-1 owners will become — you’ll really appreciate not having to deal with multiple incompatible battery pack packs and chargers. We know we did!

Very good autofocus efficiency, especially in low light

We found ourselves very impressed with the uprated autofocus program of the Pentax K-1. Phase-detection autofocus speed is very good, and in real-world shooting, it’s also pretty reliably accurate. Even though contrast-detection AF is an excellent bit slower, it’s fast more than enough to end up being used with many subjects, too.

Where the K-1 really astounded us, though, was in its low-light functionality. Again, this noticeably bettered Ricoh’s own manufactured-rated statistics, being able to focus a good bit below the -3.0EV spec even with our low-contrast focus target, and even further with a high-contrast focus on. And that was borne out in the real world as well, with the phase-detect AF system having the ability to work with subjects which were dark enough that it had been difficult to even frame them in the viewfinder!

The Pentax K-1 is definitely highly recommended, and surprisingly affordable as well

All things considered, the Pentax K-1 strikes us as one heck of a camera, and an incredibly impressive first entry in the full-frame segment from Ricoh. Doubly therefore when one considers that it has arrived at a very aggressive price point, as well. Its nearest competition in the full-body DSLR space is significantly more expensive, and while full-frame mirrorless cameras can be had at this price point, they lack the comprehensive feature set of the Pentax K-1, not to mention its outstanding viewfinder and handling.

No question about any of it: The Pentax K-1 comes very strongly suggested, and is a no brainer for a spot on our Dave’s Pick out list as well. If you are a Pentaxian and desire to enjoy the advantages of full-frame, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on the top-notch image quality and generous performance provided by the K-1. And if you’re not already tied into a rival program, or you’re willing to invest in replacing your existing glass, perhaps now is the time to consider moving to Pentax.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Features
Image Quality
ISO Performance
Viewfinder
Performance
Video mode
Connectivity
Value
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