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

Digital SLR Photography - - Contents - Test: DANIEL LEZANO

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)

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