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Pentax K-01 Hands-on Preview

March 2012 | By Amadou Diallo with additional material by Richard Butler and Barnaby Britton

Preview based on a pre-production Pentax K-01

The advent of mirrorless has offered camera makers the chance to move beyond the film-era definitions of just how a camera should look. And few have embraced this opportunity to defy convention as enthusiastically as Pentax. For a company that makes admirably no-nonsense DSLRs, its two mirrorless offerings are both interesting expressions of creative design. The Pentax Q is easily the smallest mirrorless camera on the market, with a sensor size to match while, with the K-01, Pentax also claims the crown for the largest mirrorless camera we've yet seen.

While the K-01 may (intentionally) look un-camera-like, its combination of mirrorless design and a sensor inherited from the excellent K-5 means it shouldn't be dismissed. If the K-01 can successfully combine best-in-class image quality with a dedicated live view camera and many of the K-5's photographic features, then it'll really be the worth some attention.

The K-01 is a camera that's likely to polarize opinion at first glance. Its bulky cuboid design is an inevitable consequence of having a full-depth K-mount. Its rather toy-like buttons and switches, however, were voluntary design choices that will put some people off. Aesthetics aside, it's another consequence of using a conventional K-mount that may present the K-01 with its greatest challenge. On the one hand, the K-mount means that the camera can use a vast range of legacy and current Pentax lenses - avoiding the lens drought that early system adopters usually have to endure. On the other hand, the K-01 is a contrast-detect camera in a system designed for phase-detection autofocus, a combination that has rarely resulted in great AF speed.

Also, because the K-01 doesn't have an aperture coupling, it has no way of working out what aperture a pre-1983 (pre-KA) lens is set to. Instead you have to use the green button, which stops down the lens and sets the shutter speed to the metered value for that aperture. This isn't necessary for KA and newer lenses.

With a list price of $749/£629/€823 body-only, it's a much cheaper camera than the K-5 and, with its unconventional styling, manual focusing aids and decent video specifications, there may yet be niches for the K-01 to thrive in. And that's before you start considering how many people would like a body on which to use their existing K lenses.

The lens mount on the Pentax K-01 is compatible with all of the company's K-mount lenses, with no adapter needed.

Pentax K-01 specification highlights:

  • 16MP APS-C
  • 6 frame per second shooting
  • Built-in image stabilization
  • Lens distortion and chromatic aberration correction
  • 1080p video (30, 25 or 24)
  • Microphone socket with adjustable volume level
  • MF focus assist 'peaking'
  • Built-in HDR

Compared to the Pentax K-5

The K-01 is noticeably smaller in height than the Pentax K-5. The flat surfaces of the K-01 contrast sharply with the traditional DSLR styling of gentle contours and sloped edges.
The K-01 offers fewer rear body controls than the K-5, with a clean vertical alignment extending from the thumb dial to the Menu button. The buttons on the 4-way controller are smaller on the K-01.
This top-down view offers perhaps the clearest design distinction between the two cameras. The K-01's button arrangement reflects a purposeful use of negative space in a layout that appears designed for form, if not necessarily function.

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X, Y, and Z and ideally A, B, and C.

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Total comments: 376

It's cute from the front but too thick and bulky. I have looked through the K lens collection and to achieve an 18mm wide angle equivalent, it's just way too expensive. I bought a NEX-3 with 16mm and the Sony WA adapter = 18mm, the more powerrful flash, an 8gb card, camera case for less than $850. All the other hybrids want way more. You can pay $500 to 800 just for a WA lens.


I question whether the designer is himself an avid photographer.

1 upvote

Designer has used Pentax Medium Format film cameras on design shoots for years. One can see the interview with MN on youtube.


One thing I think that the designer added that is great is the flat ends of the body so it can be set on a surface for shooting in 3 different positions, not just on the base plate.


Love the way they've made the body as thick as your average small car, yet they'll sell you a superslim pancake lens to put on it.....

Anyway, sorry Pentax - love some of your stuff, but this one is just 'orrible!


The more the critique the more the mixed perceptions
The MORE I like it!
This is the camera for Me.
1.Unique astereotypical design
2.Native mount for ALL K mount from 60s to date (No other mirrorless have this)
3.Thick Fat body to compensate counterbalancing of zoom lens
4.IBIS (very few have this)
5.Video with manual and AF zoom using PRIME lens is a BONUs (very few have this)
6.Stereo Mic with optional stereo MIC input is unique among the peers
7.Smaller form factor ,better video and better IQ and better price package than the GOLD award winner brother K5 (forget about WR- rarely shoot in bad weather. important to protect yourself and your health rather than the camera)
7.920 dot LCD Ability to shoot and compose shots without OVF/EVF in any scenario and sunshine is an ART- needs plenty of experience ,patience and expertise and you have to learn instead of moaning
Must have this Must have that is infact material and personal OCD!!!
The person behind ANY camera is more important .

Comment edited 4 times, last edit 9 minutes after posting
Total comments: 376