Excellent IQ, but too many handling tradeoffs vs. DSLR and Compact ILCs

Started Mar 24, 2012 | User reviews
Robbster
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Excellent IQ, but too many handling tradeoffs vs. DSLR and Compact ILCs
Mar 24, 2012

I purchased and tested the K-01 along with two standard zooms, the Sigma and Tamron 17-50 f2.8's. I eventually returned the camera and lenses, because it was just too big for a mirrorless, no viewfinder, camera.

To me, the K-01 sits in a no-camera-land between DSLRs and Mirrorless ILCs, being VERY close in size to the DSLR as a body and especially when using full size K mount lenses, but without the essential view finder to enabling optimal handling with full size lenses.

To find a more natural home in the market, the K-01 needs either 1) an optional or included viewfinder (there is plenty of room for one) or 2) to be much smaller. Given commitment to K mount lens compatibility, which I see as a major plus, I vote for an EVF in the future! This would then make for an interesting APS-c DSLR alternative, as it is a bit smaller, with great image quality, and lots of fun to use! Kind of like a compact and fun version of the excellent Pentax K5.

I did a fair amount of testing before returning the camera, here are the results:

Operation. The K-01 is an easy camera to use, with intuitive controls and great ergonomics on these controls. I use Pshift a fair amount, as that lets me quickly move through combinations of ISO, F stop and shutter speed, and it couldn't be easier with the really large wheel control. If you make the move to a camera of this size, then it just makes sense to use the available space on the body to have relatively large, well spaced easily identified and located controls, and here the K-01 delivers. One of the easiest cameras to use that I've ever owned. Handling with a sizable zoom is a bit more of a challenge as you have to hold the camera away from you to use the LCD, and this makes for a bit less stability in use. Doable, but not optimal.

ISO. 3200 is eminently usable. Great progress vs. my benchmarks; the Panasonic GF-1 and GH-1, and Nikon D80. Noise is nicely distributed within solid color blocks when viewed at 100%. Many of us have a rule of thumb for our cameras in terms of ISO to stay below for noise reasons, and I set 3200 for the K-01, meaning lots of operating room for natural light photos.

Shake Reduction. SR worked for me down to 1/15 to 1/30 second. I used full time SR setting, BTW, believe this works a bit better and avoids SR lag.

Lenses. The copy of the Sigma I got was sharper, faster to focus, a bit brighter, and the Tamron copy had a slight back focus.

Put together a small gallery of some of the test shots I took if you want to check it out, these are the notes on the Gallery shots...

Gallery name: Pentax K-01 + Lens Tests (which you can find here on DPReview if interested)

The wedding pot images are an ISO series from 200-1600 at f4 with the 40mm kit lens. Lighting is normal room, in this case 5100k CFL. This is where I also see the lower limit of SR effectiveness for me, as the 1/10s ISO 200 is showing motion blur at 100%.

Robbster > Pentax K01 tests 60 mm prime and Tamron Zoom 27

40 mm, ISO 1600, 1/80 sec, f4, 0 EV, Mar 8, 2012 15:31:15

The pool balls are also an ISO series, but from 800-3200 with the Tamron lens wide open, again hand held under overhead tungsten light. You see the noise come up and the real grain of the felt disappear as you go up to ISO 3200, but still, the subject matter, the pool balls, are quite usable in my view. Object colors are nicely maintained.

Robbster > Pentax K01 tests 60 mm prime and Tamron Zoom 30

17.01 mm, ISO 3200, 1/30 sec, f4, 0 EV, Mar 8, 2012 16:04:16

The Sigma instruction manual images are a direct comparison of the two zooms using the old angled page of text approach. While this would benefit from a tripod, I feel I learned what I needed to know to finish comparing the lenses after these two days of shooting. Sigma looks sharper overall, with better sharpness across the lens, and a bit brighter. Sharpeness difference was especially apparent to me wide open. You can see just a bit of back focus in the Tamron as well, not much, but a bit.

Robbster > IMGP0170

17 mm, ISO 200, 1/40 sec, f2.8, 0 EV, Mar 10, 2012 17:57:29

Finally, I really appreciate the ability to resolve details on people and animals, like hair, fur, skin, etc., when doing candid closeups, and threw in this picture of our cat with nice detail on facial fur. Good result on the K-01's part, and this was shot wide open (f2.8) on the Sigma at ISO 100, so I'm very pleased with the clarity of the lens at the wide end, a place where some lenses struggle. Decent bokeh as well for my tastes.

Robbster > Twinkle Sun Room Pentax 01

50 mm, ISO 100, 1/100 sec, f2.8, 0 EV, Mar 9, 2012 05:24:03

 Robbster's gear list:Robbster's gear list
Sony RX100 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Olympus PEN E-PL1 +9 more
Robbster's score
3.5
Average community score
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Nikon D80 Pentax K-01 Pentax K-5
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