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After two public prototypes and a change of brand, Ricoh finally unveiled a full-frame DSLR. The newly designed Pentax K-1 clearly inherits the Pentax DNA while delivering a truly unique product even when compared to well-established full-frame manufacturers.

Pentax K-1

The K-1 is built around a 36 megapixels full-frame CMOS sensor with native ISO 100-204800 sensitivity range. Its KAF2 mount supports the full legacy of Pentax K-mount lenses, including ones designed for APS-C sensors with a 1.5X crop factor which gives a 15 MP image, available as JPEG, RAW or DNG, just like full-frame output. The sensor can shoot at up to 4.4 FPS at 36 MP or 6.5 FPS at 15 MP. The mechanical shutter offers a 1/8000s-30s range of shutter-speeds which is typical of high-end DSLRs.

The Pentax K-1 offers an extremely versatile sensor-shift mechanism which is unique among full-frame cameras:

  • Built-in image stabilization around 5 axis: X, Y, Roll, Pitch or Yaw.
  • Astro Tracer function to avoid star-trails when doing long exposures.
  • Super-Resolution which captures full-color information at each pixel.
  • Anti-Alias Filter simulation.
  • Sensor-Cleaning.

Pentax K-1

Pentax users will instantly recognize most controls which are packed in a camera very similar in size to their high-end APS-C offerings such as the Pentax K-3 II. Like it, the K-1 features a built-in GPS and Electronic Compass instead of a built-in flash, while it supports external lighting via a standard hot-shoe and sync-port. The new body introduces genuinely useful and unique controls:

  • Triple Control-Dials: A first on a DSLR. All dials are customizable with two configurable independently for each mode.
  • Extensive Illumination: The lens mount, some ports, memory card slot and the back of the camera can all be illuminated via user-configurable LEDs.
  • Tilting rear 3.2″ LCD along 2 axis. Although this seems questionable for durability, the remainder of the K-1 is extremely solid, fully weather-sealed and is the first freezeproof full-frame digital camera body. Given that this DSLR offers built-in WiFi, it is a wonder why they simply did not rely on smartphones for odd-angle shooting.

Pentax K-1

The Pentax K-1 has a large 100% coverage optical viewfinder with 0.7X magnification, dual SDXC memory-card slots, a top monochrome status LCD, ports for stereo input and output, a wired remote connector, infrared remote receivers and a lockable mode-dial with Pentax’s uniquely clever exposure modes. Nicely, video is a completely separate mode on the K-1 which hopefully lets this camera be ready to record full 1080p HD video at 30 FPS. Time-Lapse Video though is possible up to 4K.

This DSLR uses the same proprietary Lithium-Ion battery as its predecessors which give it 760 shots-per-charge. As a step back which probably no one will care about, the USB port on the K-1 is version 2.0 rather than 3.0. This should have no impact on the target audience which is most likely to use a fast UHS-I memory-card reader. For slow transfers, there is always WiFi.

Interestingly, Pentax is pricing the K-1 at $1799 USD which make it one of the most affordable full-frame camera so the market, despite exceeding competitors’ feature-sets in many areas. Adorama and B&H Photo are ready to accept pre-orders. The camera is expected to ship in the second half of May.

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