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Performance & Image Quality

Performance is kind of a mixed bag on the K-01, especially when it comes to autofocus. One thing you can speed up easily is startup time, simply by turning off the stylish Marc Newson startup screen in the setup menu. The table below summarizes the camera's performance in a number of areas:

Timing Measured Performance How it Compares
Startup * 1.1 sec Average
Autofocus
(Normal light)
0.3 - 1.0 sec Below average
Autofocus
(Low light)
> 1.0 secs Below average
Shutter lag Not noticeable Average
Shot-to-shot
(JPEG, no flash)
~ 1 sec Above average
Shot-to-shot
(RAW, no flash)
~ 2 sec Average
Shot-to-shot
(with flash)
~ 2 sec Average
* With startup screen turned off

The K-01 is definitely not the performance champ when it comes to autofocus speeds. Speeds vary depending on the lens you're using, with the 40 mm kit lens being one of the better ones. The 18-55 and 16-50 zooms I used were decent most of the time, though if the camera has to 'hunt', you will be looking at 1 second focus times. In low light the camera really struggles, with the lens grinding away for 1-2 seconds and quite often not locking focus. If your previous live view experience was on a D-SLR, then you might not be bothered by the K-01's contrast-detection AF performance. However, if you've tried out interchangeable lens cameras from everyone else, then the K-01 is pretty sluggish.

Thankfully, the camera does a bit better when it comes to shot-to-shot speeds. I like how the K-01 will buffer a RAW image with every shot. You can save this RAW image during post-shot review or in playback mode. Once you take another shot or turn off the camera, that option disappears.

Okay, now let's move onto burst mode performance. There are two speeds to choose from, appropriately named 'lo' and 'hi'. Unfortunately, the high speed option is only available for JPEGs. Here are the results of my continuous shooting speed tests:

Image quality Lo speed Hi speed
RAW + Large/*** JPEG Unlimited @ 1.0 fps N/A
RAW Unlimited @ 1.0 fps
Large/*** JPEG Unlimited @ 2.9 fps 10 shots @ 5.2 fps
Tested with a SanDisk Class 10 SDHC card

The K-01's JPEG burst shooting isn't bad. For the high speed mode, the camera will keep shooting after those ten shots are done, at a rate of 2.5 fps. RAW burst shooting isn't nearly as nice, with a burst rate of just 1 frame/second.

Image Quality

Indoors (JPEG)

Photos are taken under indirect lighting provided by two Smith-Victor Q80 lamps at a focal length of 40mm (equivalent) and an aperture of f/6.3.

It's time now for our studio comparison, which was taken with the 40 mm kit lens. Since the lighting never changes, you can compare the results from this test with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. Remember that the crops below only show a small portion of the scene, so view the full size images too! And with that, let's travel through the full ISO range, from 100 to 25600:

ISO
100
ISO
200
ISO
400
ISO
800
ISO
1600
ISO
3200
ISO
6400
ISO
12800
ISO
25600

The crops all look great through ISO 800. There's a slight softening at ISO 1600, but it's not going to hold you back in any way. Noise starts to appear at ISO 3200 and gets worse at ISO 6400, though large prints are still very possible at both of those settings. ISO 12800 has a fair amount of noise and detail loss, so I'd probably stop here if you're shooting JPEGs. While the ISO 25600 shot isn't as bad as one would expect, it's best saved for desperation only - at least if you're using the JPEG format.

Nighttime (JPEG)

This scene was shot from a fixed position using a tripod at at a focal length of 85mm (equivalent). Exposure was automatic in Manual mode at f/4.5, and image stabilization was turned off.

I initially took the night shots with the 50 - 200 mm kit lens, and the results were pretty awful, with loads of purple fringing and noticeable blurring as you moved from the center of the frame. I switched to a friend's F2.8, 50 - 135 mm DA* lens, and it performed extremely well, as it should for its $1600 price tag.

ISO
100
ISO
200
ISO
400
ISO
800
ISO
1600
ISO
3200
ISO
6400
ISO
12800

The first three crops are all very clean. You start to see the effects of noise reduction at ISO 800, but details remain intact. Detail loss becomes more evident at ISO 1600, which may reduce your output size (unless you're shooting RAW). Things get pretty soft and mushy at ISO 3200, so I'd save this for small prints only. I'd avoid the ISO 6400 and 12800 settings, at least when using the JPEG format (more on RAW in a second). I left out the ISO 25600 sensitivity, which you must turn on in the custom settings menu, for obvious reasons.

Macro

I took our standard macro test shot with the 40 mm kit lens, and it looks great. The subject is nice and sharp, yet has the 'smooth' look that you usually find on large-sensored cameras.

The colors are very saturated - maybe a bit more than they are in reality. I do see a slight brownish cast on the white background, which is fairly common under my studio lamps. I don't see any signs of noise, nor would I expect to. The minimum distance to your subject depends on the lens you're using. The 40 mm kit lens has a minimum focus distance of 40 cm. If you want a dedicated macro lens, Pentax has four available, ranging from 35 to 100 mm.

Redeye Reduction

I was surprised to see that the K-01 had a redeye problem, since it's flash pops up pretty far away from the lens. The camera doesn't have any digital removal tools, so you'll have to fix this on your Mac or PC.

Distortion

You already saw this test earlier, back when I showed you how distortion correct works. Unlike the 18-55 lens I showed in that example, the 40 mm pancake lens that comes with most K-01s has very little in the line of barrel distortion. This lens also has good edge-to-edge sharpness and no vignetting.

Raw Mode

It's usually the case that shooting RAW can improve image quality at high sensitivities. Does that work on the K-01 too? Let's take a look:

ISO 3200 JPEG ACR Neat Image (+USM)
ISO 6400 JPEG ACR Neat Image (+USM)

You definitely get a lot of detail back by shooting RAW on the K-01. You also get a bit less highlight clipping, and more pleasing colors. It's not going to work miracles at high ISOs (at least in low light), but it's still well worth using once the sensitivity crosses 3200 or so. We'll do this test again in normal light in a moment.

Let's run the same RAW vs. JPEG comparison that we did for the night shots, but this time at even higher sensitivities:

ISO 12800 JPEG ACR Neat Image (+USM)
ISO 25600 JPEG ACR Neat Image (+USM)

I don't really need to explain anything here, as the benefits to shooting RAW are quite apparent. By spending 30 seconds in Photoshop, your ISO 12800 photos can now be printed even larger, and ISO 25600 suddenly becomes a lot more useful. I highly recommend shooting RAW once the ISO gets to 6400 in good light, and a few stops earlier in low light.

Overall Image Quality

Overall, the K-01's photo quality ranks among the best interchangeable lens cameras (assuming that you have better luck with lenses than I did). Exposures were almost always spot-on, with relatively low levels of highlight clipping. Colors look great, with really saturated (read: consumer friendly) color. Subjects have the 'smooth' look that is common in some cameras in this class, but that doesn't mean that they're soft. Except in low-contrast areas, detail is well preserved and in general, the K-01 keeps noise levels very low, allowing you to confidently shoot JPEGs through ISO 1600 in low light and ISO 6400 in good light.

These same examples show that you can more detail can be extracted from high ISO images by shooting RAW. Purple fringing is usually a lens issue, and it wasn't a problem on most of the lenses I tested, save for the 50-200 (from my first night shot outing) and (surprisingly) the 16-50 DA* that I was originally hoping to reshoot the entire gallery with.

Now, I invite you to visit our K-01 photo gallery. Browse through the photos, maybe printing a few if you can, and then hopefully you'll be able to decide if the K-01 meets your expectations!

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Comments

Total comments: 2
Ken Kemble

Sharing the same (long-life) lithium battery as the K3 and K5 makes the K-01 a perfect backup camera; especially with the Pentax DA 70mm f2,4

The appeal of Pentax centred on their HD DA lens range like the Pentax 20~40mm f2,8 zoom which is in a class of its own and reasonable value.

RICOH Pentax...a company that continues to surprise!

0 upvotes
OnTheWeb

Forgot to mention DXOMark rates this camera/sensor and sports performance nearly top of its class of hybrid cameras.

2 upvotes
Total comments: 2