Best cameras under $2000
Published Jun 24, 2020 | dpreview staff
Pentax K-1 II
36MP full-frame CMOS sensor | In-body image stabilization | Cross-tilt LCD
What we like:
- Excellent resolution and dynamic range near base ISO
- Tripod Pixel Shift improves detail, noise and resolution
- LED lights help find controls in the dark
- Excellent build quality
What we don't:
- New pre-processor "bakes" noise reduction into Raw files
- Aggressive JPEG noise reduction
- Limited AF point coverage
- Unreliable AF tracking
- Limited lens availability
The Pentax K-1 Mark II is a supremely weather-sealed full-frame camera with a 36MP stabilized sensor and lots of innovative features, such as exterior LED lighting and clever sensor-shift shooting modes that aren’t found on other full frame DSLRs.
Well thought-out ergonomics make the K-1 II very comfortable to shoot with whether mounted on a tripod or in your hand. Weather-sealed and rated down to temperatures of -10C/+14F, it has no problem standing up to the elements. The 3.2" 'cross-tilt' LCD screen makes shooting below the waist or at odd angles effortless and the exterior lighting is super useful: LEDs can be found directly behind the LCD screen, directly above the lens mount, in the memory card slot and in the battery compartment.
The K-1 II is a good option for static-subject shooters wanting a high-resolution sensor wrapped in a supremely rugged body
The camera's 33 autofocus points are concentrated toward the center of the frame, and is looking limited by modern standards. Likewise AF tracking lags behind the competition in terms of reliability. The K-1 II can focus in very low light, down to -3EV, but AF points barely light up making it difficult to know what you’re focusing on. It is rated to shoot continuously at 4.4 fps, which is low for the class. Battery life is rated at 670 shots per charge which, while better than mirrorless models, falls behind most DSLRs.
The K-1 II’s 36MP sensor offers excellent detail capture at base ISO, on par with other full framers, even those with higher resolution sensors. But as the ISO increases, baked-in noise reduction results in progressively less Raw detail capture - this noise reduction can not be turned off. JPEGs have nice color but also suffer from aggressive noise reduction at high ISOs. However the camera’s traditional tripod-mounted pixel shift mode is a real crowd-pleaser. Using it removes the need for demosaicing, reducing moiré and noise, while increasing detail and dynamic range. However moving scene elements can cause artifacts in this mode.
Video is not the K-1 II's strong suit. It can shoot Full HD 1080/30p video, but quality is quite soft and there's limited support tools and no clean HDMI output. However, it does have built-in mic and headphone jacks.
Overall, the K-1 II is a good option for static-subject shooters wanting a high-resolution sensor wrapped in a supremely rugged body, though its predecessor offers just that, without the baked-in noise reduction in Raw. For those wishing to point their camera at moving subjects, or wanting to capture decent video, a lot of other cameras would serve you better.
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