Following on from the flagship K- 1, Pentax’s first full- frame DSLR, comes this 24- megapixel APS- C model boasting an extensive set of features
Can Pentax kick it with the likes of Canon and Nikon? The KP is its latest release, and we’ve put it through its paces
ANUMBER OF excellent models have seen a revival for Pentax over the last couple of years. Its highly- impressive medium- format 645Z and the K- 1, its first full- frame DSLR, proved that this historic camera brand still has plenty of innovation, expertise and resource at its disposal. Until the arrival of these two models, Pentax's DSLRS were based around APS- C sensors, with a line- up ranging from the budget KS- 2 to the better specified K- 70, and K- 3 II, which this new model replaces. It's a small range compared to the likes of Canon and Nikon, but each model has proven more than good enough to compete against similarly- priced models from its key rivals.
Priced at £ 1,100 body- only, the KP sits at the upper end of the APS- C sector, where it faces very strong competition from several capable enthusiast- level DSLRS, including the Canon EOS 7D Mk II and Nikon D7200, as well as highly impressive mirrorless models like the Fujifilm X- T20, tested last month.
The design of the KP bears several similarities to the flagship K- 1, in particular the large, protruding pentaprism and some of the controls. Its body is far more compact, similar in size to the likes of the Canon EOS 760D, which only serves to make the large pentaprism even more dominant. Pentax likes to offer something different when it comes to its products' design and the KP is no exception, being supplied with three handgrips of differing sizes. Removed and attached quickly via the supplied allen key, it's a neat way of allowing you to use whichever provides you with the best balance – small hands can select the largest grip, big hands the smallest or the average size can plump for the mid- sized grip. An optional battery grip that attaches to the camera's base is also available. The camera body utilises magnesium alloy, is weatherproof and feels very tough indeed – you certainly won't feel short of confidence having to use this in rain or extreme temperatures.
The control layout takes a little getting used to. While the set- up of buttons and four- way control on the rear is relatively conventional, the top- plate is less so. The chunky exposure mode dial on the left provides easy access to an extensive range of shooting modes, while on the right top- side, another large dial off offers ers access to custom modes, with a lever selecting standard camera mode, Liveview or video. Most cameras have one input dial, or if you're lucky two, but the KP has three, found on the top, front and rear of the camera's right side. This, along with a number of customisable buttons, ensures users can gear up the camera to work how they prefer.
The large pentaprism helps provide a very bright screen with 100% coverage and excellent 0.95x magnification. Exposure information is displayed along the bottom in large green digits and icons. The 3in LCD monitor uses a 921,000- dot screen that provides a sharp display and colourful info/ menu screens. There is no touchscreen facility, but it is housed on a tilting platform.
The KP uses a new 24.32- million pixel APS- C sensor, with no anti- aliasing filter so as to maximise image sharpness. It works with the PRIME IV imaging engine to provide an ISO range that reaches a mind- blowing 819200 and while it can shoot video at Full HD, it lacks a 4K capability.
The Pentax KP, like other models in the range, sits the image sensor on a five- axis image stabilisation platform, with a claimed benefit of five stops, therefore allowing this feature to work with any lens used with the camera. The Shake Reduction ( SR II) system also works with a feature called Pixel Shift resolution, which captures four images of the same scene, shifting the sensor by one pixel for each image, then combining all four together. As full colour information is obtained for each pixel, images in theory will have more accurate colour reproduction as well as more detail.
The KP'S autofocus system is the same as that found in the outgoing K- 3 II and uses 27 points, with 25 cross- type sensors arranged evenly in five rows of five in the central area of the frame. Along with having all AF points active or just one, users can engage a group
of nine for more precise multi- point AF or engage Face Detection AF.
Like other models in the range, the KP offers additional exposure modes compared to the norm, such as SV ( sensitivity value), which allows you to select the ISO, with the camera taking care of aperture and shutter speeds. The metering system, based around an 85,000- pixel sensor, gives a choice of multi- zone, spot or centre- weighted.
Other features are par for the course on a mid- range model. An integral flash can be popped up and used with a range of flash modes that can also be applied to an external unit. Wi- Fi works with Pentax's Image Sync app to allow remote control of the camera or for image browsing. Plus, as well as the mechanical shutter with a top speed of 1/ 6000sec, an electronic shutter with top speed of 1/ 24000sec is available.
The Pentax KP puts in a good all- round performance. The multi- zone pattern is accurate, but like others struggles with backlighting, while the Auto White Balance mode, image sharpness and colour reproduction are excellent. Set to AF. S, autofocus locks quickly on the subject, with little or no hunting. Continuous AF isn't as reliable, with a hit rate that doesn't match the best of its rivals. Unless you shoot wildlife or action, this shouldn't be a problem. Noise is handled brilliantly, so feel free to rack up the ISO as high as 3200 should you need to.
One negative of the Pentax KP is its battery – it uses the same D- Li109 cell used by some other Pentax models. This manages about 400 or so shots per charge, which falls short of rivals. Not such a big deal on short shoots, but for longer excursions a spare battery or a recharging point will be required.
Overall, the Pentax KP represents another strong proposition for enthusiasts.
The weatherproof Pentax KP is a compact DSLR, with a large pentaprism giving it a very top- heavy look. It is supplied with a choice of three handgrips and is available in black or silver.
Exposure: 1/ 125sec at f/ 4 ( ISO 200)