Pentax aims for the big time with its radical new full frame DSLR

The K-1 is not really a sports/action camera. Its maximum continuous shooting speed is a relatively modest 4.4fps, though this does go up to over 6.5fps in APS-C 'crop' mode – it can automatically detect when you fit an APS-C lens.

And while it does shoot video, its maximum resolution is 1920 x 1080 full HD (not 4K), and although it can shoot at 60/50fps, this is only in interlaced mode – normal-speed 30/25fps video is progressive, however.

Designed to survive

The K-1 is designed to survive pretty tough use, though. It has a magnesium alloy body and 87 weatherproofing seals to offer dust and weather proofing, and operation down to -10 degrees centigrade.

It's also surprisingly compact. Pentax has used a novel 'floating' mirror design, where the mirror drops to a pivot point before flipping up for the exposure to be made. This has a allowed a smaller mirror box and hence a smaller body.

For any interchangeable lens camera system to do well it needs a strong lens line-up to back it up. Pentax has already introduced a series of full frame lenses including two macro lenses, fast primes and a 28-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom. With the launch of the K-1 it adds a 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 long standard zoom and a constant-aperture super-wide 15-30mm f/2.8 lens. This last lens completes the 'holy trinity' of f/2.8 superwide, standard and telephoto lenses that all experts and professionals look for.

It won't be easy for the K-1 to muscle its way into the established full frame camera market, but it's extremely keenly priced, it's packed with innovative and useful technology and it now has a serious lens system to back it up.

Canon and Nikon might be the big names in the DSLR market, but no-one should ever write off Pentax – and the K-1 looks like its biggest and strongest challenge yet to the status quo.

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Rod Lawton is Head of Testing for Future Publishing’s photography magazines, including Digital Camera, N-Photo, PhotoPlus, Professional Photography, Photography Week and Practical Photoshop.