Pentaxians have probably been rejoicing since the launch of the Pentax K-1 - a full-frame DSLR camera that has been more than a decade in the making.
For these Pentax fans, it means they can finally take the step up with their old K-mount lenses. Yes, it will work with any K-mount Pentax lens, though it crops to the APS-C size instead of full-frame for some older K-mount lenses.
There are five new full-frame- compatible Pentax D FA-series lenses that are available here now.
For this review, the K-1 is used with one of these new lenses - the Pentax D FA 24-70mm F2.8ED SDM WR lens ($2,688).
The K-1 packs a long list of features, including a simulated anti- aliasing (AA) filter to create the same moire (uneven lines) reduction effect as an optical AA filter. There is also the Pixel Shift Resolution technology that is supposed to deliver high-resolution images with greater details and less image noise.
It has built-in GPS, a feature not many DSLR cameras have. Also present are a five-axis anti-shake system, an 86,000-pixel RGB light metering sensor, dual SD card slots and a never-seen-before four-spoke flexible tiltable 3.2-inch rear screen.
But most importantly for many photographers, the K-1's body has 87 sealing points, to make it water-, dust- and cold-resistant, as well as rust-proof.
Comprising a stainless steel-alloy frame and magnesium-alloy body, the K-1's build is rock solid and sturdy. Its contoured rubberised front grip and rear thumb rest allow for a great grasp of the camera. You will never need the optional vertical grip.
PRICE: $2,999 (body only)
IMAGE SENSOR: 36.4-megapixel full-frame CMOS
SCREEN: 3.2-inch tiltable LCD screen with 1,037,000 dots; optical viewfinder
SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 204,800
SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 4.4 frames per second
WEIGHT: 1,015g (body only, with battery and memory cards)
BATTERY LIFE: 5/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5
And you will not see a camera with buttons, dials and controls as comprehensive as those on the K-1. Other than the usual front and rear command dial, the K-1 has an extra Multi Function dial with markings such as ISO and Wi-Fi, and another command dial on its top right.
These two dials give you quick access to change ISO, Wi-Fi and other functions.
The mode dial on the top left can store five user modes, alongside the usual aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes.
There is also a myriad of buttons at the rear giving you different combinations of usage and which you can customise to suit your needs.
Operation is swift. I found starting up and shutting down the camera to be immediate. Autofocusing (AF) was just about instantaneous in bright sunlight. In dim lighting conditions, it took at most 1.5sec to secure a focus with the aid of AF assist light.
On the downside, you need to press the rear AF button to get a focus when you pan from one scene to another during video recording.
Using two SD cards, each with a writing speed of 90MB per second and with pictures stored in each card simultaneously, the K-1 was able to shoot six RAW images in 1.9sec before the buffer ran out.
Still-image quality is superb with sharp rendition of pixels and vibrant colours, with the sky blues and the rose reds particularly "popping". Dynamic range is great with smooth and crisp details.
You will not notice any image noise until ISO 3,200, with loss of details becoming more evident at ISO 6,400. Even at ISO 12,800, images are still good enough for Web use. But I wouldn't recommend shooting at ISO 25,600 and above, because of the abundance of chromatic noise.
On a full charge, the camera can shoot up to 760 still images before it needs recharging. While there are full-frame DSLR cameras with a 1,000-still-image battery life, the battery life here should satisfy most photographers.
Perhaps the most salivating feature of the K-1 is its price. At only $2,999, it is a lot cheaper than its competitors' flagship full-frame DSLR cameras. For example, a brand-new Canon EOS 5D MK III - released four years ago - will set you back $4,499 (body only).
•Verdict: The Pentax K-1 might be more than a decade in the making, but it is well worth the wait. Pound for pound, it is the best value-for-money full-frame DSLR camera right now.