Pentax K-1 DSLR Review

Pentax K-1 review
The Pentax K-1 DSLR camera has a sub-$2,000 price, which isn't common for a full frame image sensor camera. Pentax/Ricoh

The Bottom Line

When considering purchasing an advanced DSLR camera, most photographers are looking for a specific feature. Maybe they want a fast performer or a model with an excellent viewfinder. Or, as my Pentax K-1 DSLR review shows, amazing image quality.

The K-1, which Ricoh manufactures but which carries the Pentax brand name, offers some of the best image quality you'll find in a digital camera aimed at consumers.

It also carries a high price tag of nearly $2,000, which means that it probably will be tough for anyone but intermediate and advanced photographers to justify the K-1's cost.

Hand holding the Pentax K-1 yields especially good results, as the K-1 has one of the most powerful image stabilization systems available in a DSLR. You shouldn't have to worry about camera shake with this model.

This Pentax camera isn't quite as strong as a few other high-end DSLRs in terms of its performance speeds, especially when considering the K-1's continuous shot modes. Still, its image quality is so good, especially for those who like to hand hold their cameras, that it's well worth placing on your short list of contending cameras.


  • Resolution: 36.2 megapixels
  • Image sensor: Full frame (35.9 x 24 mm)
  • Optical zoom: NA, uses interchangeable lenses
  • LCD: 3.2 inches, 1.037 million pixels (tiltable)
  • Maximum image size: 7360 x 4912 pixels
  • Battery: Rechargeable Li-Ion
  • Dimensions: 5.39 x 4.33 x 3.39 inches
  • Weight: 35.63 ounces (including battery)
  • Movie mode: Full 1080p HD


  • Extremely good image quality in all conditions
  • Image stabilization within camera body allows for removal of camera shake problems
  • Works well in all kinds of weather, thanks to weather sealing on camera body
  • Good price point versus other full frame image sensor DSLRs
  • Larger than average sized LCD that also tilts


  • Autofocus speed lags behind other high-end DSLRs
  • On-screen menus are difficult to work through and poorly organized
  • K lens mount doesn't offer as many lens choices as a Canon or Nikon DSLR
  • No 4K video option
  • Continuous shot performance is a bit slower than other advanced DSLRs

Image Quality

If you're seeking top-flight image quality above all else in your digital camera, the Pentax K-1 will deliver. We haven't reviewed many cameras that can match or surpass the K-1 in terms of the sharpness of its images or the accuracy of its colors and exposure levels. You also can shoot in either RAW or JPEG image formats, which is a helpful feature for advanced photographers looking for more control over their photos. Less experienced photographers probably will want to stick with the easier to use JPEG mode, where the photos still look terrific.

This model's full-frame image sensor is the key component in delivering the excellent quality of its photos. (A full-frame image sensor is the same physical size as a frame on a strip of old 35mm film.) Throw in the K-1's 36.2 megapixels of resolution, and this is a camera that few others can match.

For comparison, the Nikon D810 provides 36.3MP while the Canon 5DS has 50 megapixels, and both feature full-frame image sensors.

One aspect that sets the K-1 apart from other full-frame DSLRs is its strong image stabilization capabilities. The image sensor will shift position to make up for any slight movement in the camera as you're using it, which Ricoh says should fix problems with slightly blurred images from camera shake. In fact, the manufacturer claims the K-1's image stabilization system is worth five stops of shutter speed, which is an amazing performance level that -- again -- few DSLRs can match.


Continuous shooting speed is an area where the Pentax K-1 DSLR struggles a bit versus its peers, meaning it won't be as good at sports photography as some other advanced models. You'll be able to shoot at 4.4 frames per second in JPEG mode when using the full 36.3MP of resolution. (The K-1 does offer an APS-C crop mode, which reduces the portion of the image sensor in use and allows the camera to record up to 6.5 frames per second.) 

Another area where the Pentax K-1 doesn't quite match up to similar DSLRs is in terms of the performance of its autofocus system. The AF system seemed a little sluggish during my tests versus some of the other cameras with a similar price point. 


Pentax included an articulated 3.2-inch LCD screen making it easier to shoot odd-angle photos with this model than with cameras that have a fixed position display screen. And when you factor in the K-1's strong image stabilization system, you can hand hold the camera steady while using the LCD to frame photos. Then again, you might not use the LCD all that often to frame photos, as the K-1 provides a high-quality optical viewfinder. We didn't like the menu system on the K-1, as it required several button presses to find the exact command we wanted to use. We think if we had a chance to use the K-1 over a long period of time, rather than for a short testing period, We would've been able to figure out how to make more efficient use of its menus, but it was frustrating to use initially.

The Pentax K-1 makes use of a K lens mount, which matches other Pentax DSLRs, allowing you to share lenses from older Pentax models with the K-1.


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