Ricoh unveiled this morning the Pentax KP, the first APS-C DSLR to finally feature triple control-dials, already having the only Full-Frame DSLR with triple control-dials, Ricoh has been keeping its lead when it comes to efficient camera operation. The new Pentax KP features a radical change from previous – and absolutely superb – ergonomics which have remained nearly perfect since the introduction of the Pentax K-7.
A new imaging pipeline makes its debut in the Pentax KP. At its core is a 24 megapixels APS-C CMOS sensor without Anti-Alias Filter and mounted on a 5-axis image-stabilization system effective to 5-stops according to the CIPA standard. This new ultra-high sensitivity sensor offers a standard ISO range of 100 to 819200, besting all but one APS-C DSLR, the Nikon D500 which can reach a full-stop more sensitivity, although it needs to reach into Expanded Sensitivity range to do so. The KP has a new image processor that offers more controls over image rendering, including 4 levels of Clarity.
The KP is very full-featured and ready for professional use, although a number of features were cut back from the K-3 II. As any professional camera, it offers a 100% coverage viewfinder in a weatherproof body with plenty of controls. The optical viewfinder has a large 0.95X magnification while the body is actually freezeproof to -10C. As already mentioned, the KP offers triple control-dials, allowing direct control over all exposure parameters. Although the dial controlling the third control-dial function is not directly labelled with ISO, any of its 3 customizable positions can be set to sensitivity. The traditional Mode-Dial offers all Pentax modes, including Sensitivity Priority, TAv and 5 User modes. Bulb now allows timed exposures of up to 20 minutes, in additional to standard Bulb mode.
This new DSLR is a hair smaller than the K-3 II but 12% lighter at 700g, compared to 800g. The new design is less sturdy though since it has a tilting LCD on the rear, although tempered-glass still protects its surface. Several features have been omitted which puts in question that the KP can replace the K-3 II within the Pentax DSLR lineup. Compared to the latter, the KP lost its Dual SDXC Card-Slots, both IR Receivers, the GPS, the Sync-Port, the HDMI Connector and the top Status Display. The USB connection has been downgraded to USB 2.0 too. In terms of performance, the KP has a maximum continuous drive speed of 7 FPS vs 8.3 FPS and a maximum mechanical shutter-speed of 1/6000s vs 1/8000s. The Pentax KP makes up for the latter though with its Hybrid Shutter which can capture images at 1/24000s. Continuous Drive is further limited by a shallower buffer for 28 JPEG images or 8 RAW files, while the K-3 II manages 60 JPEG images or 22 RAW files.
A few new features made their way into the Pentax KP. WiFi is the most obvious one and could potentially make up for the loss of IR receivers. This new camera still supports a Wired Remote-Release, although those are slowly getting out of style. Multiple Exposure and its automated version, called Interval Composite. can now merge up to 2000 frames. Interval Movie, aka Time-Lapse Video, can be recorded in 4K Ultra-HD with intervals up to 24h and up to 500 frames. When set to Full HD or less, up to 2000 frames may be used to create a Time-Lapse Video. A new Star Stream feature works similarly to Time-Lapse Video but is designed to capture star-trails in motion. With the removal of the built-in GPS, the KP gets back a built-in popup flash.
The extremely versatile Shake-Reduction mechanism offers the same benefits as previous cameras while its performance has been improved in many areas. Stabilization is now effective to 5-stops, up from 4.5. The mechanism can simulate an Anti-Alias filter with 2 or 3-frame bracketing available for the simulation. Sensor cleaning has been improved too with the new DR II system. Composition can be adjusted along 3-axis as before. The same mechanism that stabilized the sensor can correct for tilted horizons, up to 1° when Shake Reduction is enabled or 1.5° when disabled which is a little less than the 2° possible for previous 3-axis Shake-Reduction system.
Bracketing has been expanded to control which exposure parameter is changed between frames. Depth-Of-Field Bracketing changes Aperture, while Motion Bracketing changes Shutter-Speed. Both these new modes are limited to 3 frames, so 5-frame brackets usually vary both parameters. WB and other Virtual Bracketing have been removed.
The autofocus system of the KP remains the same SAFOX 11 unit as on the K-3 II. It offers 27 AF-points, of which 25 are Cross-Type. Autofocus sensitivity still does down to an impressive -3 EV, albeit this is no longer class-leading.
The body offers a choice of 3 grip sizes which are all included as an introductory promotion. The layout of controls on the back of the camera remains very similar to the K-7 and onwards, although there are no longer separate AE-L and AF-L buttons. Stills, Live-View and Video are neatly their own secondary modes now. The spring-loaded DOF-Preview function of the power-switch is now gone, as is the Metering button. It remains to be seen if the new Pentax KP design can indeed improve upon now classic Pentax ergonomics. Many elements remain the same, including the nearly-magical Green button, although the front control-dial has be completely changed and the new third control-dial plus its configuration dial take away space previously used for a top Status LCD.
The Pentax KP is scheduled to be available at the very end of next month for a price of $1099 USD. Canadian pricing has not been announced yet. Preorders are already being accepted by Amazon, B&H Photo and Adorama which is running a promotion during the pre-ordering period. One lucky buyer of the KP will get their camera for free!