Image Quality

Our test scene is designed to simulate a variety of textures, colors and detail types you'll encounter in the real world. It also has two illumination modes to see the effect of different lighting conditions. This page also includes a real world scene with analysis of the camera's hand-held and tripod-based Pixel Shift modes.

Updated 6/1/18: To improve the degree of comparability between our results from the K-1 Mark II and the original K-1, we've re-shot both camera using the same FA 77mm F1.8 Limited lens. This re-shoot also uses the same JPEG color mode as used on the original K-1.

Key takeaways:

  • At base ISO, the K-1 II Raws files offer excellent detail capture on par with the K-1, Sony a7R III and Nikon D850.
  • But as the ISO increases baked-in noise reduction results in slightly less Raw detail capture than the K-1 and some artifacts (worse in JPEG). This noise reduction can not be turned off.
  • JPEG color on the K-1 II is largely the same as that of its predecessor.
  • Traditional Pixel Shift mode will yield far higher-quality images than the new hand-held Dynamic Pixel Shift Resolution mode, which is prone to subtle artifacts.

Raw Capture

Raw files show excellent detail capture at base ISO, on par with its predecessor, the a7R III and even D850 despite the Pentax's lower resolution. You can see this particularly in the text and in the Siemens stars. Note: mirror and/or shutter-induced shock can still be an issue at certain shutter speeds, so we shot shutter speeds below 1/320s in Live View with electronic shutter mode.

However the K-1 II's pre-processor applies mandatory noise reduction to Raw files which can result in less overall detail capture than the original K-1, especially at high ISOs. Note: We also sent our Raw studio files to friend Bill Claff who confirmed noise reduction in Raw at ISOs 640 and above.

This noise reduction also leaves behind the cross-hatching patterns - visible in the shades of green and blue - that look odd compared to the random noise of other cameras. Subtle artifacts and detail loss can also be seen in the text portion of our scene, but our experience shows it can also interact poorly with subsequent attempts to apply noise reduction in Raw processing software.

In low/light when shooting high ISO, K-1 II files offer less visible noise than the K-1, but again odd patterns like cross-hatching in the noise and detail loss are worth taking note of.

Raw Pixel Shift files appear identical to that of the the K-1 at at base ISO . And at high ISO's Pixel Shift files show excellent noise performance as the camera captures four time more light than a standalone file, decreasing the relative shot noise contribution. Also the pre-processor does not seem to be as problematic when using Pixel Shift at high ISOs, in terms of Raw detail loss.

JPEG Capture

Base ISO JPEGs capture a good amount of detail when using the default sharpening, on par with the original K-1. Though if you find the default setting to be a tad mushy, you can adjust the radius of the sharpening to Fine or Extra Fine, as well as adjusting the intensity (we usually prefer Fine +1).

But as with the Raw files, as the ISO increases, the K-1II has a tendency to blur away detail in places the original K-1 does not. So while the K-1 II has noticeably less grain than its predecessor, it comes at the cost of detail.

Base ISO JPEG color looks largely the same as that of the K-1, though yellows appear a tad more greenish and reds appear to be a little bit of a deeper hue. The greenish yellows in particular can result in skintones that look a little off.

Dynamic Pixel Shift Resolution mode vs traditional Pixel Shift

Dynamic Pixel Shift Resolution mode is new on the K-1 II. This hand-held mode works by combining four images into one Super Resolution file in-camera. We've written about it in-depth here. It joins the K-1 II's traditional tripod-based Pixel Shift mode as a more casual option.


The above widget shows the following:

  • Tripod PS (MC off): Standard Pixel Shift shot on a tripod with Motion Correction off
  • Handheld PS (handheld mode): Dynamic Pixel Shift shot handheld
  • Standard Electronic Shutter (No PS): Non-Pixel Shift shot
  • Tripod PS (handheld mode): Dynamic Pixel Shift shot on a tripod

    *Note: you can switch the scene to look at a wider angle shot, or our studio scene, by accessing the dropdown menu at the top of the widget.

When comparing the output of these two modes in our widget above (these are out-of-camera JPEGs), it's clear that traditional Pixel Shift results in better detail capture than its hand-held counterpart – this is visible throughout our scene. The former also displays no color moiré, unlike hand-held mode. You can also see an example of this in our real world scene.

And while Dynamic Pixel Shift Resolution can result in more detail capture than a standard image file, it comes at the cost of having random artifacts in the image, manifesting as dotted artifacts in (seemingly) random portions of the image. You can also see these artifacts in the tile work on the roof. You're better off shooting four images yourself handheld (or knocking the tripod between shots to ensure some movement) and then creating a super-resolution image in Photoshop as we explain here.