What it's like to use

Maybe you're a landscape photographer seeking the perfect tool to capture the beauty of our natural world. Or perhaps you're an adventurer in need of a camera as tough as you are. Or maybe you're a photography enthusiast, seeking out your dream DSLR. Whatever the case, you're considering the K-1 II. To help you decide whether it's right for you, we've examined how it handles itself in a variety of use cases, based both on our real world experience and our studio lab testing.

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Landscapes and cityscapes

Edited to taste in ACR.
ISO 800 | F4 | 1/250 sec | Pentax 70-200mm F2.8 at 200mm

Pentax cameras have a great reputation with landscape shooters and for a lot of good reasons. The K-1 II in particular has a lot going for it that just might make it a landscape shooter's best friend.

What we like

  • Good dynamic range for high contrast scenes
  • Raw files shot near base ISO have good detail
  • Tripod Pixel Shift mode cancels color filter array, eliminating the need to demosaic. This leads to major image quality improvements over a standalone file.
  • Sensor shift aides when shooting hand held
  • Astrotracer mode for night sky shots
  • Horizon correction
  • Body has LED lights all over it to aide in setting up camera in the dark
  • Unique articulating screen makes it easy to get high and low angles
  • Decent battery life
  • GPS built-in, support for geotagging

What we don't like

  • Camera is on the heavy side, and so are the wide angles lenses currently available for the system

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Portraits

Dog portraits are portraits. Edited to taste in ACR.
ISO 6400 | 1/80 sec | F1.4 | Pentax 55mm F1.4

Whether you shoot with studio lights or available light, formal or environmental, people or dogs, portraiture is a very popular form of photography. Here's how K-1 II stacks up.

What we like

  • 1/200 sec flash sync
  • PC sync port

What we don't like

  • No Face or Eye detect AF mode
  • Camera is large and intimidating
  • Limited number of portrait lenses available

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Travel

Edited to taste in ACR.
ISO 200 | 1/1000 sec | F5.6 | Pentax 24-70mm F2.8 at 24mm

There's nothing like hitting the dusty road, or uh, boat, with a trusted camera. When it comes to travel, you want a camera that isn't going to slow you down.

What we like

  • Decent battery life
  • Weather-sealed and built like a tank
  • Good connectivity
  • In-camera Raw processing
  • GPS

What we don't like

  • Still quite heavy
  • Limited number of compatible compact lenses

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Family and lifestyle

Edited to taste in ACR.
ISO 1600 | 1/160 sec | F2.2 | Pentax 55mm F1.4

Let's keep things casual, because that's the whole idea behind the family and lifestyle category. We're talking about any time you grab your camera to document life's little moments, whether it's a pal jamming out on guitar, or someone's birthday.

What we like

  • Decent low light image quality performance means usable photos even in dark environments
  • Good low light AF sensitivity in single AF
  • Decent battery life means it won't be dead when you need it

What we don't like

  • Large and obtrusive
  • AF points are hard to see in low light
  • Low light AF acquisition speed is slow (though accurate)
  • No Eye or Face Detect
  • 4.4 fps burst may not best fast enough for kids, pets

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Sports and wildlife

Out of camera JPEG.
ISO 400 | 1/800 sec | F2.8 | Pentax 70-200mm F2.8 at 200mm

Though we don't anticipate seeing a K-1 II in the hands of photojournalists on the sidelines at the Olympics, you might want to use it for more casual action, like birds in flight or documenting wildlife.

What we like

  • Improved tracking performance over predecessor
  • Good buffer depth

What we don't like

  • Continuous AF performance still unreliable overall
  • Slow max burst of 4.4 fps
  • Limited AF point coverage
  • Tracking still not as reliable as competition
  • Limited telephoto options

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Our reviews are designed with real-world shooting scenarios in mind, and on this page we're looking at how the K-1 II performs for several popular use-cases. After considering the K-1 II's features, and target market, we have opted not to specifically address "Candid & Street," "Weddings & Events" and "Video" in this section.