Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pentax K-01: Reviewing the New Direction

Pentax K-01: Reviewing the New Direction
February 2012- Carl Garrard 

Pentax K-01- Reviewing the New Direction: My first thought when holding a K-01 at CES was "whoa.". Certainly Marc Newson makes striking designs but I never thought I'd see him co-design a camera. But lately there is a market for looks in just about every device in electronics on the market, and photographic manufacturers have started to give that crowd something to chew on. Not everybody wants an all black camera that reminds them of Darth Vader ( I would), some would like a bit of style to tote around. Well Pentax listened to that crowd, now they need to get one in your hands.

Pentax K-01 Best Price Check

I tend to be the kind of person that likes my cameras style to follow function, but I know I am in the minority of the camera market. Therefore when I first saw the K-01 I reminded myself of this, and tried to think of the type of people that I know that would like one. Immediately I could think of at least a dozen people who would drool over it, but none of those individuals would be enthusiasts or camera geeks like myself. Many of them would be women or very style conscious friends of mine. Then, the K-01 started to make sense.
Ok I admit, it looks a little bit like Darth Vader in this image.
Pentax K-01 Best Price Check
Pentax knows the camera market is very crowded, and they also know they would like to get new users into the brand. It is the style conscious crowd they are after, but, the K-01 isn't all about style. There is a lot more to this camera than meets the eye. And no it isn't traditional in design. But that doesn't mean that's a bad thing. I say tomato, you say tomato. It's all good. All's fair in love and war.

In the hand the K-01 felt simple, organized, and straight forward. Controls were colorfully marked (see below) and in very logical easy to reach locations for the most part. Auto focus was pretty quick on the pre-production units I handled, and that was in lower artificial light. Seemed pretty darn accurate to me as well. I'm sure production units will indeed improve and refine upon the pre-production units although the ones I handled seemed finished to me. Heft was good, comfortable and sure footed in the hand, and plenty of room for the hand without being too large. The new small pancake lens is just about right for street photography and keeps the K-01 down in size overall (and weight).

Yep, that's a bold design and color. And I want that 40mm lens for backpacking!
They come loaded with good features, good video, and fun artistic filters for the new generation to play around with. A simple camera that takes excellent photographs (we know that 16mp sensor is one of the, if not the, finest APS-C sensor to have been put into a DSLR to date).

Pentax K-01 Best Price Check

You have to admit, that's a neat looking design. Yes, I know it's different.

I can see a crowd of teenagers I know using a few K-01's in different colors having a ball with photography in just about any social situation without getting frustrated about its design or overwhelming feature set. Pentax has struck a good balance of simplicity yet still retaining a good core set of features for the K-01. The new 40mm lens is so tiny and simple (and odd looking), it seems a perfect fit for the K-01. I'm not allowed to share the images I made with the pre-production units but what I reviewed on the camera and monitor looked quite fantastic.

Pentax K-01 Best Price Check

No finder, but simple and straight forward handling and controls (nice screen too)

My only gripe right out of the gate I suppose for the K-01 is that there is no eye-level viewfinder, but that shouldn't matter to 90% of people I see taking pictures at arms length. The extra weight of the K-01, built in image stabilization, and better higher ISO performance than most of the mirrorless cameras out there should ensure a lot more sharp and clean looking images for those shooters. Ok, not terrible given the crowd it courts, but of course my personal preference would be to have a finder or at least an option for an EVF.

If I had my choice between a black K-01 or a Nikon V/J-1, I'd take the K-01 any day over those cameras with its much superior sensor and sensible Pentax menu system. In fact I might even take one over the Sony NEX-7. Yes you think I'm mad, but I'm adamant about the fact that I don't need 24mp for an every day shooting camera, plus, I really don't like the NEX7's menu system (not to be confused with the external controls which are really really nice). The finder in the NEX-7 although stellar, isn't enough to persuade me to fork out that much money.

I've handled all of the camera's I've mentioned in this preview of sorts, and holding and operating a camera is far and away much more revealing than reading about them. The K-01 although totally radical in its appearance, is a sensible and easy to use daily shooter with some very intelligently placed (and proven) decision making under its skin.

Check out the entire spec sheet and hold a K-01 in your hands before you judge it. Keep an open mind and don't be afraid to have fun or be a bit different in the crowd. Although I'm not going to run out and purchase a K-01 tomorrow, I can see getting one for a family camera and getting a lot of great images with it. Plus it will be the most interesting looking camera on my display shelf at home (when it isn't being used) and a great conversational piece when company is over.

If the K-01 interests you, I highly recommend B&H Photo and Video as a retailer. They have the best service and very competitive prices. You can check on the K-01's availability here: Pentax K01 Price Check

Keep a lookout for a full review of the Pentax K-01 on Photographic Central. In the meantime enjoy a full compliment of Specifications and Press Announcement appetizers, compliments of the house.

-Carl Garrard

I recommend B&H Photo! Check here for current price and availability:

Pentax K-01 Best Price Check

Pentax K-01 Features Etc. 

PENTAX K-01 Features and Design

Marc Newson commissioned design
PENTAX commissioned designer Marc Newson to develop the contemporary, timeless design of the PENTAX K-01’s body.  Newson’s retro-meets-contemporary design is evident in all elements of the
K-01 including the product logo, camera strap (included) and start-up screen that appears when the K-01 is powered on. Buttons, shutter release and control levers are purposefully placed and accented with colors for instant recognition including a vibrant red button for Video Recording and a brilliant green for the PENTAX Green button. The mode dial and power switch are made of high-quality aluminum alloy, while the memory card slot and grip connectors are covered with protective rubber. The design optimizes both form and function on a camera that is as suitable on a photo shoot as it is in a museum display that honors design as art. 

Exceptional image quality
The PENTAX K-01 is equipped with a newly developed CMOS image sensor measuring 23.7 millimeters by 15.7 millimeters. With approximately 16.28 effective megapixels, this sensor assures high-speed readout of image data signals. The K-01 also features a new “PRIME M” imaging engine to assure first-rate movie recording performance in a digital interchangeable lens camera. The K-01 offers an extra-wide sensitivity range — from ISO 100 to ISO 12800, or to ISO 25600 when expanded using a custom function — while minimizing digital noise at all sensitivity levels.

Compatibility with every PENTAX K-mount lens ever made 
The PENTAX K-01 accepts a wide array of PENTAX interchangeable K-mount lenses* so users may choose the most suitable lens for a particular subject or scene.
*K-, KA- KAF, KAF2, and KAF3- mount lenses can be used with the PENTAX K-01, while screw-mount lenses, 645-system lenses and 67-system lenses can be used with an adapter. Some functions may not be available on certain lenses.

High-quality video recording
The PENTAX K-01 features Full HD video-recording function to capture high-quality movie clips in 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels). H.264 compression format offers a choice of frame rate (30, 25 or 24 frames per second) to accommodate user-specific applications. Two new features facilitate video recording:
·         a video recording button for instant pushbutton start
·         and a stereo microphone with audio gain control and wind noise suppression for more realistic sound
Video record options are flexible, offering the photographer to select aperture or shutter exposure control, and PENTAX Shake Reduction helps stabilize captured video. Users may add personal touches to recorded clips using various Custom Image modes or record subjects in a series of video clips with the Interval Movie Shooting mode. The PENTAX K-01 also comes with an HDMI terminal (which allows the user to simultaneously output both Full HD movie clips and stereo sound) as well as an external microphone input terminal.

New-generation High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode
The High Dynamic Range mode (which produces one extra-wide-gamut blended photo from three images taken at different exposure levels) is accessible with a turn of the mode dial and allows users to select one of three exposure increments as well as the level of effect, while an automatic position adjustment function assures precise alignment of three images even when they are taken with a handheld K-01.

Pentax K-01 Best Price Check

Custom Image Modes and Digital Filters for personalized expression
The PENTAX K-01’s Custom Image modes allow users to select the most appropriate finishing touch for a particular subject or scene to express the photographer’s creative intention or taste.  Two of the 11 Custom Images functions are Bleach Bypass to create a dramatic visual effect used in motion pictures  and Cross Process to produce a fanciful image with unusual colors. The K-01 also features 19 distinctive digital filters including Miniature to convert an actual scene into an image full of miniature models for an unusual visual effect. Users may be more creative by applying multiple digital filters to a single image.

Smooth, quiet, high-speed burst shooting
The PENTAX K-01’s high-speed burst shooting mode comes in handy when preserving the action of fast-moving subjects in a series of images, since it captures up to six frames per second. With its mirrorless construction, the K-01 offers exceptionally silent mechanical operation that allows users to concentrate on photography even when shooting such subjects as stage performances.

Large, wide-angle 3.0 inch LCD monitor with approx. 921,000 dots
The PENTAX K-01 features a large, easy-to-view, high-resolution 3.0 inch color LCD monitor with approximately 921,000 dots.  The wide-view design assures a clear view of the monitor from approximately 170 degrees horizontally and vertically, which is useful in low- and high-angle shooting.

PENTAX-original Shake Reduction (SR) mechanism for sharp, blur-free images
The PENTAX K-01 incorporates the PENTAX-developed SR mechanism, which effectively reduces annoying camera shake by approximately four shutter steps. Usable with all compatible lenses, including those produced for film-format SLR cameras, this mechanism produces sharp, blur-free images even under demanding conditions that are prone to camera shake, such as when using a telephoto lens, shooting in the dark without flash illumination, or capturing landscapes in the twilight. Equipped with the PENTAX O-GPS1 device (an optional GPS unit launched in June 2011), the K-01’s SR system helps astrophotographers track and shoot celestial bodies.  

Effortless, user-friendly Auto Picture and Scene modes
The PENTAX K-01 features the PENTAX-original, user-friendly Auto Picture mode, which selects the most appropriate shooting mode for a given subject or scene from Portrait, Landscape, Macro and other distinctive shooting modes, while optimizing all camera settings, such as aperture, shutter speed, white balance, saturation, contrast and sharpness.  This allows a new photographer to concentrate on image composition and shutter opportunity. The K-01 also offers 19 different Scene modes to help simplify the photography of challenging subjects or scenes such as Night Scene Portrait mode, Pet mode, and Backlight Silhouette mode. Users simply choose  a corresponding  icon on the camera’s LCD monitor.

Additional features
-TTL image-sensor metering, with a choice of multi-segment, center-weighted and spot modes
-Contrast-detection autofocus system with 81 selectable focus points
-DR (Dust Removal) mechanism to shake off dust adhering to the surface of the CMOS image sensor
-CTE white-balance control mode to emphasize the predominant color of a particular scene, such as the sunset
-A choice of four image size ratios (4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1) to accommodate different subjects and applications
-Multi-exposure mode (up to nine exposures on a single image), with an auto exposure compensation function
-Interval shooting mode, useful in time lapse recording of landscapes and flowers/plants from an exact same location and angle
-Compatibility with the new-standard SDXC and UHS Speed Class 1 memory cards
-SILKYPIX Developer Studio 3.0 for PENTAX RAW image data development (developed by Ichikawa Soft Laboratory) included; in-camera RAW image development also available
Pentax K-01 Best Price Check

Full Press Release:


DENVER, CO February 2, 2012…When is a camera more than a photographer’s tool?  The answer is when it’s an object designed by Marc Newson, one of the most acclaimed and influential contemporary designers.
PENTAX RICOH IMAGING AMERICAS CORPORATION introduces the Marc Newson designed PENTAX K-01* interchangeable lens camera (ILC).  The new PENTAX K-01 is another bold effort from the manufacturer that is known for pushing camera size, color, durability, and now, design, to the limit. Widely known for designing a wide range of objects from furniture and household products to bicycles, cars, aircraft and yachts, Marc Newson has had collected works displayed in The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City and many other major museums.  
*pronounced ‘kay- zero-one’
The contemporary, timeless K-01 houses a full array of advanced functions and user-friendly features in a camera body with remarkable form and function. The elimination of an optical viewfinder and quick-return mirror gave Newson more freedom in designing the camera body, and the K-01 showcases Newson originality in every detail.  Available in black, white and Newson’s signature yellow colors, the K-01 features the designer’s autograph logo stamp on the bottom of each camera.
The famed designer’s touch also is evident in a new smc PENTAX-DA 40mm F2.8 XS interchangeable lens.  As the world’s thinnest interchangeable lens,* the new 40mm combines with the PENTAX K-01 camera body to deliver a unique ILC system that is perfect for photographers who are as keen on design as they are on performance.  Together, the K-01 and 40mm lens system mark the intersection where high technology and high design meet.
Key features of the PENTAX K-01 include:
·         Durable machined aluminum frame under a stylish black, white, or yellow exterior.
·         PENTAX mirrorless body design is compatible with 25+ million PENTAX K-mount lenses spanning decades.
·         Large 16 megapixel APS-C sized CMOS image sensor with low noise image capture and multiple aspect ratios.
·         Bright, high resolution 3 inch LCD with 920,000 dots.
·         Full HD 1080p video capture at 30 FPS with h.264 compression (60 FPS at 720p) features outstanding video capture flexibility.
·         Sensor-shift PENTAX Shake and Dust Reduction system is compatible with every mounted PENTAX lens.
·         Fast 6 FPS burst mode is ideal for fast-action photography.
·         Flexible ISO range of 100-25600 ensures gorgeous noise-free imaging in any lighting condition.
·         Focus peaking mode provides fast and accurate manual focusing for critical focus applications.
* The world’s thinnest interchangeable lens for lens-interchangeable digital SLR cameras, as of February 1, 2012 (based on PENTAX’s research).
The K-01 will be available in yellow, black and white in March 2012 for $749.95USD (body only) and $899.95USD (lens kit including new DA 40mm XS) in Marc Newson designed packaging and with the Marc Newson designed strap.  The smc PENTAX-DA 40mm F2.8 XS unifocal interchangeable standard lens will ship at the same time for $249.95 USD.
 Additional information is available here: and a video interview with Mark Newson regarding the K-01design may be viewed here:  Images of other Marc Newson creations are available here.
PENTAX is a leader in the production of a variety of adventure ready digital cameras including weather-resistant digital SLRs and stylish, compact, waterproof cameras, as well as lenses, flash units, binoculars, scopes, and eyepieces. For more than 90 years, PENTAX has developed durable, reliable products that meet the needs of adventurous consumers and businesses. With new headquarters in Denver, Colorado, PENTAX RICOH IMAGING AMERICAS CORPORATION is a subsidiary of PENTAX RICOH IMAGING COMPANY, LTD. effective October 1, 2011. Additional details may be found here:
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  1. Thanks for the open-minded story Carl. So it does some things no camera has done before, but has some compromises in how it does things; sounds like nearly every new camera I know.

    Nothing worse to a fan base than shattered dreams, even those that were hugely unrealistic; other forums are filled with dismay and regret. Like all else, we'll survive and adapt - some of us will hang on to K-5s for dear life ;^)

    I like that it does not introduce yet another mount, sad though that they managed an X in the new lens name. What is it about Pentax and 40mm lenses?? Too bad it doesn't take the LI-90 battery; that would have been helpful for husband & wife imaging teams.

  2. :) my pleasure, it does take the same battery as the K5 by the way.


  3. Carl do you know if it has af adjustment?

  4. Carl, nice write up. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about build quality. Does it feel more like a K-5 or a K-r?

    Randy, unlike DSLRs and their phase-detect AF, cameras (like the K-01) that use contrast-detect AF don't suffer from front-focus or back-focus and therefore don't require AF micro-adjust. I'm pretty sure this feature isn't available on the K-01.

  5. Randy- Let me check with Pentax on that, not stated on the full specifications sheet. It does have focus peaking if that interests you.


  6. Hi Prog-

    The K-01 feels alot like the K10-20D in build quality. High quality poly carb w/fibers over an aluminum alloy frame. It's excellent. The Kr felt very plasticy and un-Pentax to me.

    The K-01 is a huge step above the Kr in build quality.


  7. Thanks for the update Carl. This is good to know.

  8. You're welcome Prog. I think there is always some nervous energy when manufacturers come out with something "different". I'm reading the comments out there and frankly I'm surprised at how many positive comments I see about the camera. I guess I assumed more people would be closed minded to the idea of this camera, especially considering how many of those people on forums are serious enthusiasts. Although there are harsh criticisms, too, I think those mainly derive from those that assumed a mirrorless camera from Pentax would look or be designed a particular way. I see Pentax maturing in that they are really understanding the different market segments out there more and more. And I can assure everyone reading my articles here that Pentax won't forget about the prosumer/enthusiast. (big wink)


  9. Glad to see the LI-90 battery is in play; the 1st site I visited with specs gave a wrong battery code. My wife like the yellow one :^). Cute in its own way, and I like the classic mount.

  10. Thanks for the AF explanation Prognathous.

    Carl, looking forward to your review.

  11. Good review as usual.
    Although I would like to keep an open mind, I just can't get over a fixed LCD on a camera without EVF.

  12. I recently gave my Pentax DSLR to our daughter and moved to a Samsung EX1: I hardly missed the viewfinder at all and found framing shots easier with an LCD, but that's just me. Personally I like most of the new design: it feels a breath of fresh air. Enough of the retro look already, it is so old school (even though I like it in my EX1). Give me clean lines and functions. Unexpectedly I find the yellow camera very appealing. But what is it lije to take a picture with? Take a movie with? What is this new M engine they speak of?

  13. Carl, you very strongly disagree with Marc Newson, who when asked "how do you define the K-01" answered: "(...)semi professional (...)a serious tool". You decided to be silent about how well the K-01 may be received as a "semi-pro, serious tool", but instead you re-allocated the K-01 to a completely different slot of the market, NOT where Pentax / Mark Newson intents to place it. That twist of logic allows you to avoid criticizing Pentax. I am rather disapointed.

  14. Marc and I have different opinions about where the camera will fit amongst consumers, it won't be the first time I've disagreed with a manufacturer in this regard. Besides, Marc just designed it, he's not selling it.

    Can't please them all!