Pentax K-1 II Review: A worthy upgrade?
Body and Controls
On the outside, the K-1 Mark II is all but identical to the original K-1. You get a chunky grip and some unique - though effective - controls. Oh, and of course, you get a 'II' painted onto the front. Here's what we think is most important to note about the K-1 II's exterior.
- Built like a tank - and as heavy
- Unique screen articulation mechanism works well
- Nice big optical viewfinder
- External lighting for dark environments is a nice touch
- Big, comfortable grip
- Customizable top dial is neat and truly useful
- No dedicated AF point selection method
- Top LCD is on the small side, requiring you to use the power-hungry rear screen more often for adjustments
|LED's can be found on the back of the LCD, in the memory card slot, in the battery compartment and above the lens mount as well.|
Since the K-1 Mark II is so similar to the original K-1, much of what is written here applies equally to both cameras. The body takes most of its design elements from the company's existing (and aging) high-end APS-C DSLRs, and indeed, feels much like those cameras as well. The grip is sizable and comfortable, and dials are well-positioned for easy access.
Speaking of dials, the K-1's customizable third dial on the top-plate is still here and still just as useful as ever, allowing quick control over everything from ISO value and exposure compensation to bracketing and Wi-Fi functionality.
Pentax DSLRs are known for their ruggedness, and the K-1 Mark II is no exception; the magnesium-alloy shell has extensive weather sealing at all the joints, doors and buttons (87 in all).
Unique to the K-1 and K-1 Mark II is Pentax's 'Cross-Tilt' LCD which, despite looking a little strange, functions very well and allows users to work in live view at just about any angle - this is particularly handy for tripod shooters. Plus, the LED lights on the rear of the LCD screen that can light up controls in dark environments remain a nice touch.
|The K-1's Cross-Tilt LCD|
The K-1 Mark II retains the same built-in GPS antenna as its predecessor, as well as the same viewfinder that covers 100% of the frame and offers 0.7x magnification. That level of viewfinder magnification isn't much of a stand-out these days, but it's still perfectly usable (and will still look huge to those coming from APS-C DSLRs).
Lens Selection: Utilizing Older K-Mount Lenses
As with the original K-1, Pentaxians picking up a K-1 II will enjoy the ability to utilize their old K-mount lenses, though there are some limitations. DA and DA-L lenses designed for crop sensors work to varying degrees on the K-1 Mark II's full-frame sensor (see a detailed table in our original K-1 review here).
All of the sensor-shift features in the K-1 Mark II will continue to function using older (or adapted) lenses. Of course, it's best to bear in mind that some features such as Pixel Shift may show up shortcomings in older lenses that just weren't designed to resolve the level of detail that the K-1 Mark II is capable of.
For more details on how to best use older K-mount lenses on the K-1 Mark II, check out that section of our original K-1 review here.
Besides the extra options for higher ISO settings and the hand-held dynamic pixel shift mode, the menus of the K-1 Mark II are identical to the K-1, and so will be immediately familiar to many existing Pentax shooters. Five total tabs cover stills, movies, playback, setup and custom settings, though as with most high-end cameras it will likely take some time for unfamiliar users to find their way around.
|The Info menu will be familiar to all recent Pentax shooters. It's customizable so that you can choose which options appear and where, for fast access.|
The K-1 II maintains the K-1's 'Info' panel that shows many key settings on a single customizable screen.
AF point selection
The K-1 Mark II continues to make do without a dedicated AF point controller; this omission is somewhat manageable considering you only have 33 AF points to choose from, but is looking a little more glaring in light of an increase of midrange cameras including an AF joystick for direct control.
|There's no dedicated AF point selector but you can set the Four Way controller to act as one, with the AF point button above toggling it back to controlling the four marked functions.|
So, the K-1 Mark II makes do with a double-duty four-way controller. At the press of a button, you can toggle between shooting settings and AF point selection, and you can select which is the default state when you turn the camera on. It works fairly well in practice, but we still would prefer to see a dedicated method of selecting AF points on a future model.
The K-1 Mark II is actually a three dial camera, with two standard control dials and one whose function you can customize with yet another dial on the top of the camera. This is a really useful feature, giving you an additional dial to quickly control camera parameters, and you don't have to dive into the menus if you want to change that dial's function.
That said, we're not totally sure Pentax has selected the correct functions to place on the dial: for example, some users may have preferred access to Pixel Shift mode or the camera's highlight expansion modes, instead of (for example) crop or viewfinder grid toggles.
Button and Dial Customization
The K-1 Mark II isn't the most customizable DSLR out there, but there should be enough options to set the camera up mostly to your taste without being overwhelming.
The two main control dials and the camera's Green Button can each be customized for each exposure mode; so you could, for example, shoot in Aperture Priority and have the front dial control aperture, the rear control ISO and the multi-function dial control exposure compensation. You can also swap dial directions as well, depending on your preferences.
So although the dials offer good flexibility, the K-1 Mark II makes do with only two custom buttons. It must be said, though, that the large amount of non-customizable direct controls still give the user fast access to most functions, but you'll just have to get used to their placement on the camera rather than reassigning everything to your tastes. As an example, most high-end Canon DSLRs offer a similar level of customization.
|Options that can be applied to Fx1 or Fx2|
Auto ISO Behavior
The K-1 II's Auto ISO implementation is pretty good, allowing the user to specify maximum ISO and a rate (Slow, Standard or Fast) that chooses a shutter speed threshold based on the currently selected focal length. Unfortunately, you still can't set a specific shutter speed.
Pentax was the first company to recognize the idea of manually specifying aperture and shutter speed, then letting the camera adjust ISO to make up the difference. Because this TAv mode (Shutter and Aperture Priority mode) is a full exposure mode, you don't end up with unexpected restrictions. And, for the pedants among us, side-steps the semantic contradiction of the camera controlling something in a nominally 'manual' exposure mode.
|Misty morining by Claudi Lourens|
from My Best Photo of the Week
|Jet and Full Moon by dibilio57|
from Aircraft lights
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