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Pentax K-1 review

The Pentax K-1 boasts a new sensor, processing engine and AF system, along with a robust tilting screen, at a competitive price

Pentax K-1

In addition to headline features like the 36MP full-frame sensor, Pixel Shift Resolution and Shake Reduction II, the K-1 has some really nice touches. The GPS, which enables images to be tagged with location data, for example, can be turned on and off with a press of the dedicated button, so there's no need to search through the menus to find it, or worry about the battery being flatted.

There are LED lights to make the camera easier to operate in the dark, while the Smart Dial on the top of the camera provides a means of adjusting settings quickly, and there are plenty of shortcut buttons so that you don't have to delve into the menus too often. There's also quite a bit of customisation available, so you can set up the camera to suit your preferences.

We liked

One of the most attractive things about the K-1 is that it offers a rugged build and a full-frame sensor at a relatively affordable price. It's not cheap, but it compares favourably with the likes of the Nikon D810, Canon 5D Mk III and Sony Alpha 7R II. And, in addition to the recently enlarged selection of current full-frame Pentax lenses, any Pentax K-mount optic produced since 1975 is compatible – that's not to say they'll necessarily produce spectacular results, but they can be used.

The camera is also very well shaped, so it's comfortable to hold for long periods of time.

Pentax's Pixel Shift Technology is clever, and it's great that the company has managed to produce a mode that can be used when the camera is hand-held, although the impact is subtle.

We disliked

It won't be an issue for everyone, but the K-1's menu system looks very old-fashioned, and some of the icons on the Control Panel are difficult to interpret.

The top two sensitivity settings produce the type of results we'd expect to see from expansion settings; they're not for everyday use. It's also disappointing that autofocus isn't a bit faster – it makes shooting moving subjects a frustrating experience.

Final verdict

Recognising that attention is shifting towards mirrorless cameras, and that it's late in bringing out a full-frame SLR, Pentax has introduced the K-1 at an attractive price. Its launch price is less than the current street price of cameras such as the Canon 5D Mk III and Nikon D810.

It's less of an all-rounder than the 5D Mk III, but the K-1 makes an excellent camera for landscape, still life and portrait photography, or any genre that doesn't require fast autofocus and which benefits from a high pixel count for detail resolution. The K-1 also offers a few novel features, including the ability to record trail-free shots of the night sky.