Today DxOMark published their detailed analysis of the 36 megapixels Full-Fame CMOS sensor from the Pentax K-1. Recall that the K-1 is the first and long-awaited full-frame digital camera from Pentax, now under the direction of Ricoh. There are only two other manufacturers still making full-frame DSLRs, Canon and Nikon who mostly split the market evenly between the two and have been producing such cameras for years already.
According to DxOMark, the new Pentax K-1 performs extremely closely to top-of-the-line DSLRs with a score of 96, compared to 97 for the Nikon D810 which is the best performing DSLR to date according to this particular metric. This is also just two below the score of 98 from the Sony Alpha A7R II, a full-frame mirrorless boasting a 42 megapixels CMOS sensor. Canon cameras, however, score well below that due to their comparatively low dynamic-range. Only the just-announced Canon EOS 5D Mark IV has begone to catch up with its score of 91, putting it behind in 14th place.
This news is certain to come as a relief to Pentaxians who can be reassured that they are getting a worthy and current performance from the K-1. This particular DSLR is priced below all its competitors and boasts unique features, including built-in 5-axis image stabilization in a weathersealed and freezeproof body. No other full-frame DSLR offers built-in stabilization nor is freezeproof. The built-in GPS and Astrotracer are bonus features on top of that.
The DxOMark score is a weighed-average of three underlying measurements. The Portrait score shows how much color-nuance can be recorded. Larger pixels have a big advantage here and so the leaders are Medium Format cameras. Here the K-1 is in 8th place, right behind the Sony Alpha A7R, Nikon D800E and D810, again.
The Landscape score is simply a measure of dynamic-range. Here the K-1 ties the Nikon D7200 for second place with 14.6 EV, behind the class-leading D810 which delivers a very slightly higher 14.8 EV. Where the Pentax K-1 outshines every other DSLR is with its Sports score which relatives to image-noise and therefore low-light performance. Its score of 3280 just beats the Nikon Df reviewed here yet remains behind that of the Sony A7R II at 3434 and Sony Alpha A7S at a class-leading 3702.
Sadly, this scoring means that the Pentax K-1 does not deliver the best performance in any area other than price. It should give a good run for the money though, particularly in low-light where the 5-axis Shake-Reduction system can pull it ahead of all other DSLRs. Note though that the Sony mirrorless cameras do offer built-in image-stabilization, so the Sony Alpha A7S remains the low-light champion for the time being.
Keep in mind while taking this news that DxOMark scores only describes part of image quality. The processor and noise reduction make a big difference in final output. Also, it is evident that scores are biased towards high-resolution due to the normalization process which creates inflated bit-depth and dynamic-range numbers.