PENTAX K-1 MARK II
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?
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