With a fea­ture set that closely fol­lows that of the pre­vi­ous K-1, does this up­dated model miss an op­por­tu­nity or sim­ply main­tain a win­ning for­mula?

Digital Photograper - - Contents -

We take an in-depth look at this up­grade to Pentax’s orig­i­nal K-1 and give our ver­dict on its fea­tures and im­age qual­ity

Ri­coh Imag­ing got a lot right with the orig­i­nal Pentax K-1, and the up­dated Mark II ver­sion dif­fers in so few ways that the com­pany has taken the un­usual, but wel­come, move of of­fer­ing to con­vert ex­ist­ing K-1s to the newer one for a small fee.

The prin­ci­pal changes in­clude a new pre­proces­sor, which en­ables a lofty top sen­si­tiv­ity of ISO 819,200, to­gether with an ex­panded Pixel Shift Res­o­lu­tion op­tion (more on this later). The AF track­ing al­go­rithm is also said to have been im­proved and noise re­duc­tion is also said to be bet­ter than be­fore.

Oth­er­wise, the cam­era’s spec sheet is largely a car­bon copy of the K-1’s. So, we still get a 36.4MP full-frame sen­sor with­out an alias­ing fil­ter, to­gether with a five-axis im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion, a bright pen­taprism viewfinder with almost 100% cov­er­age and a 3.2in LCD screen that boasts the same flex­i­ble tilt-type mount­ing mech­a­nism as be­fore, all wrapped up in a ro­bust weather-sealed body.

This also means that we get the same SAFOX 12 AF sys­tem, with a some­what un­der­whelm­ing 33 AF points. This sys­tem per­forms well for ev­ery­day pho­tog­ra­phy, al­though we only got a chance to test the

Mark II with a non-SDM lens, which was a little less rapid than SD ver­sions. The con­cen­tra­tion of these points in the mid­dle of the frame makes more pe­riph­eral fo­cus­ing dif­fi­cult, but thank­fully, all but eight are cross-type for en­hanced sen­si­tiv­ity.

Ri­coh claims an AF work­ing range down to -3EV, and real-world use con­firms the cam­era can fo­cus very well in darker con­di­tions, even against rel­a­tively fea­ture­less, low-con­trast

“The cam­era’s spec sheet is largely a car­bon copy of the K-1’s. So, we still get a 36.4MP full-frame sen­sor, to­gether with five-axis sta­bil­i­sa­tion”

sub­jects. Al­though the com­pany is said to have made im­prove­ments to the con­tin­u­ous fo­cus­ing al­go­rithm, test­ing showed the cam­era of­ten strug­gles to main­tain a lock on mov­ing sub­jects, par­tic­u­larly when other el­e­ments in the scene are likely to throw it off.

Live View fo­cus­ing is also some­what be­hind the more mod­ern sys­tems that em­ploy phasede­tect AF from the sen­sor, but fast enough for static sub­jects.

no doubt partly to ac­com­mo­date a Shake Re­duc­tion sys­tem that’s ef­fec­tive with the cam­era’s full-frame sen­sor, the K-1 Mark II’s body is on the beefier end of the scale. One ad­van­tage of this, how­ever, is that han­dling is ex­cel­lent, with a well-pro­por­tioned, wellsculpted grip that al­lows it to sit very pleas­ingly in the hands.

The pen­taprism viewfinder’s 0.7x mag­ni­fi­ca­tion may not quite be class-lead­ing, but it’s not so far be­hind to make any sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence. It’s nice and clear, and one of its ad­di­tional strengths is the ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal lev­el­ling mark­ings along its edges; while small, they have the ad­van­tage of not oc­cu­py­ing too much of the frame and ob­scur­ing de­tails.

The LCD screen is un­changed from the

Mark I, which means it’s not touch-sensitive, but there’s very little to fault with its gen­eral per­for­mance. It’s clear and de­tailed, and the four-arm mech­a­nism on which it’s mounted

not only pro­vides more flex­i­bil­ity than oth­ers, but it can also be lifted clear of the pro­trud­ing eye­piece when shoot­ing from below – a com­mon prob­lem found on cam­eras with tilt­ing screens.

One of the K-1’s strengths was im­age qual­ity, and this con­tin­ues to be the case here. RAW files show them­selves to be par­tic­u­larly flex­i­ble, with bags of shadow de­tail lurk­ing in un­der­ex­posed ar­eas, which can be teased out with­out penalty in post-pro­duc­tion. As on the K-1, the lack of an anti-alias­ing fil­ter is clear; with a decent lens, the cam­era is able to cap­ture ex­cel­lent de­tail right up to the pe­riph­eries of the frame.

In terms of noise, images cap­tured in most con­di­tions main­tain their in­tegrity well up to around ISO 6400. Al­though the cam­era’s ISO range stretches far fur­ther than the K-1’s, you cer­tainly wouldn’t want to ven­ture be­yond ISO 12,800 with any fre­quency.

The de­fault Bright Cus­tom Im­age set­ting pro­duces slightly more vi­brant images than the norm, and in many cases this gives images a pep that’s en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate, al­though many fur­ther op­tions are at hand. What’s par­tic­u­larly help­ful is that the al­ter­na­tive colour op­tions are over­laid on a pre­vi­ously cap­tured im­age to give you an im­me­di­ate idea of what ef­fect they will have, which is just an­other in a long list of help­ful touches that make you re­alise how much thought has gone into mak­ing the cam­era as help­ful as pos­si­ble. White balance per­for­mance is gen­er­ally fine out­doors, with just a few no­tice­able in­con­sis­ten­cies un­der ar­ti­fi­cial and mixed light­ing at times. While pre­vi­ous Pentax mod­els have had a ten­dency to un­der­ex­pose, only oc­ca­sional un­der­ex­po­sure to the tune of around -0.5EV could be seen dur­ing this re­view – and this is eas­ily rec­ti­fied.

The qual­ity of videos is per­fectly good for Full HD, al­though, per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, alias­ing arte­facts do make them­selves known in cer­tain high-fre­quency ar­eas.

More im­por­tantly, the lack of both phasede­tect pix­els on the imag­ing sen­sor and a touch­screen means that you can’t keep sub­jects in fo­cus with the same flu­id­ity as those in­side ri­val mod­els. As long as you can ac­cept these lim­i­ta­tions, how­ever, it’s cer­tainly pos­si­ble to get good re­sults.

“What’s par­tic­u­larly help­ful is that the al­ter­na­tive colour op­tions are over­laid on a

pre­vi­ously cap­tured im­age”


InsetCUS­TOM IM­AGE MODESThe de­fault Bright mode de­liv­ers pleas­ingly sat­u­rated colours, while Ra­di­ant does a won­der­ful job to de­liver ex­tra vi­brancyAbove EX­PO­SUREThe me­ter­ing sys­tem be­haves pre­dictably in most sit­u­a­tions, with a very oc­ca­sional ten­dency to un­der­ex­pose the odd frameLeft NOISEThe lack of an anti-alias­ing fil­ter is partly why de­tails re­main strong in the face of noise at mod­er­ately high sen­si­tiv­ity set­tings


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