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.

To improve the degree of comparability between our results from the K-1 Mark II and the original K-1, we plan to re-shoot both cameras using a FA 77mm F1.8 Limited lens. This reshoot will use the same JPEG color mode as used on the original K-1.

We will, of course, re-visit the image quality commentary in our review as soon as we've been able to do this.

We must also note that, through a rare processing error, our ISO 12800 Raw image needed to be re-processed and uploaded in place of the original image.

Key takeaways:

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.

As the ISO climbs, the K-1 II's detail capture begins to slip as a result of progressively stronger noise reduction being applied to Raw files by the pre-processor. To make matters worse, this forced noise reduction cannot be turned off. The higher the ISO, the greater the difference in detail capture compared to its predecessor and the competition. It is noticeable at ISO 12,800 throughout various areas of our test scene. The noise reduction also leaves behind odd patterns, like the cross-hatching visible here. Our friend Bill Claff performed Fast Fourier Transform analyses to confirm noise reduction in Raw at ISOs 640 and above.

We did not have ACR support for Raw Pixel Shift files as of publishing, so we've included a Raw base ISO daylight sample - processed through Ricoh's Digital Camera Utility 5 - to verify that the modes in these two cameras are functionally about the same (which we're confident they are). Any slight differences seen here are likely down to the difference in processing between Adobe and Pentax software.

Note: All Raw Pixel Shift files will be added to the studio test scene when ACR support becomes available.

JPEG Capture

Base ISO JPEGs appear to be using a lower radius sharpening than the original K-1, but despite this potential for fine detail the K-1 II's JPEGs look considerably under-sharpened. This comparable lack of detail is visible throughout the test scene even at base ISO, and only gets worse as the ISO increases, thanks to noise reduction applied to both the Raw data and in JPEG processing. At high ISOs K-1 II files lose both detail and contrast compared to the K-1 and pretty much all competitors. Even Canon JPEGs, which we commonly call out as having a poor balance of noise reduction and detail retention at higher ISOs, look better.

Base ISO JPEG color looks desaturated and dull compared to that of the K-1. Reds appear to be skewed purple/blue, and yellows look greenish. Blues in particular look lighter and less saturated, and greens look darker. Skintones as a whole look less vibrant, especially when compared to the D850.

Even high contrast edges lack contrast at modest ISOs, and while the K-1 II has noticeably less grain than its predecessor, it comes at a severe detail penalty, particularly at very high ISOs. Considering that even at the K-1's highest ISO the K-1 II looks worse than its predecessor, we question the value of ISOs extending up to 819,200.

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 moire, 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.