Pentax K-S1 review

Flashing lights, different colours, are all these gimmicks hiding a decent camera?

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Our Verdict

Flashing lights and a body which is available in lots of different colours distract from what is actually a decently performing camera.

For

  • No anti-aliasing filter
  • Available in lots of different colours
  • Good image quality

Against

  • Poor kit lens
  • Boxy design
  • No Wi-Fi
  • No touchscreen
Ratings in depth:
Pentax K S1 score
Pentax K S1 score
Pentax K S1 score
Pentax K S1 score
Pentax K S1 score

Despite the fact that Pentax does indeed make some very good DSLRs, it always plays second fiddle to the big names of Canon and Nikon.

It's possibly for this reason that in recent years, the company has tended towards gimmicks to try and shift units. Here with the K-S1, it's available in an array of bewildering colours, including a new "sweets" collection (yipee).

There's also a panel of lights on the front of the camera, which are supposedly designed to "guide" operations.

Ignoring the aesthetics, at its heart, the K-S1 actually has some very decent specifications and interesting technologies – especially for an amateur level camera. At its heart is a 20 million pixel CMOS sensor with a sensor-based shake reduction system. In principle, this will provide an image stabilising effect with any lens, and it does actually work very well.

This system is also used for the Pentax's unique 'anti-alias simulation' modes. The sensor itself has no anti-aliasing filter, which means slightly sharper fine detail but the risk (rare in practice) of moiré, or interference effects with very fine patterns and textures.

Pentax K S1 anti alias simulation
The Pentax K-S1 doesn't have an antia-aliasing filter, but it can simulate one if you like.

This is why most D-SLRs still use anti-aliasing, or 'low-pass' filters in front of the sensor. But the Pentax can simulate this effect with microscopic vibrations of the sensor during the exposure. You might never need it, but it's an interesting solution nonetheless.

Specifications

The K-S1's other specs are good too. It can shoot continuously at 5.4 frames per second and it has a maximum shutter speed of 1/6000sec. It has a proper pentaprism viewfinder with 100% coverage, where some rivals use a cheaper pentamirror design. The K-S1 also offers a selection of effects modes and a large array of digital filters – you can use these as you shoot, or apply them later using the camera's in-built raw conversion and image-editing tools.

There are 11 autofocus points, of which the nine in the centre are the more sensitive cross type points. On the back of the camera is a fixed 3 inch TFT LCD monitor, with a 921k dot resolution.

You can shoot in raw format, and one particularly useful thing about Pentax cameras is that its raw format is DNG, rather than a proprietary to the camera/manufacturer format, meaning that your software, whether that's Photoshop or another alternative, should already be able to read the files it outputs rather than having to wait for an upgrade.

As well as manual control, there's also aperture priority and shutter priority modes, scene modes and an effects mode which applies digital filters to your image, such as Bold Monochrome and Vintage Color.

Pentax K S1 flash
The built-in flash has a guide number of 10 at ISO 100.

A built-in flash is included with a Guide Number of 10, while the camera is also capable of Full HD 1080p video recording. You can edit photos within the camera, with the power to correct for moire patterning, resize and crop images.

There's no inbuilt Wi-Fi here, a feature which is becoming more and more common on other cameras. If you want to, you could purchase an additional Wi-Fi card for the memory card slot. Speaking of which, there's just one slot, and the camera accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.

Pentax K S1 lenses
The K-S1 is designed for modern lenses like the 55-200mm but can use older Pentax film lenses too.

As Pentax has been making SLRs for quite some time, there's a huge range of lenses available, so those who had an old Pentax film camera might be tempted in by this digital version. It goes head to head with the likes of the Nikon D5300 and the Canon EOS 700D, both of which sit at the top end of their respective company's beginner ranges.