I am not well suited to pre-ordering. So I write this as therapy…

Full disclosure/warning: This blog post was written under duress. I suffer from as yet to be officially diagnosed low level OCD and waiting for my pre-ordered K-1 is driving me nuts. As such I have been scarfing down any information I can get my mitts on and my brain is full. This very long winded post is my release valve. Oh, there will be typos. Written furiously over the course of today broken up by family quality time interludes. As is my custom I will be re-reading and correcting over the coming days. Again, you have been warned.

Had planned on writing more about the K-1 after it arrived, but this wait is proving more of a challenge than I thought it would. Never pre-ordered a camera, or anything for that matter, before. I am more of a “Can I get it in the back of the minivan this afternoon?” kind of guy. If given the option I will pay more locally than online, not only to support local businesses (my local camera shop preference is Southeastern Camera), but to have it in hand. Immediate gratification looms large in my wheelhouse. Also a bit of a why should I wait if I give you a bunch of money thing too. Another factor that played a part is that a gear trade was involved. Theoretically I could have listed my gear online like I have in the past and very likely gotten more money, but for me that is a last resort as I do not enjoy that process at all. I will gladly eat profits not to deal with the general populous if I am honest. Hence the trade/pre-order became reality since no ‘real’ money exchanged hands.

Aside from shooting the legacy Pentax film lenses I purchased in anticipation of the K-1 with my Dad’s K20D my other coping ritual is regularly searching for and consuming any media pertaining to the K-1. The most recent and my current favorite entry is the video by The Camera Store and Nick Devlin:

Other articles and reviews that have helped me get through this blatantly first world problem can be found here:

I don’t do doe eyed gushiness. No talk of a certain (insert brand here) look. My general demeanor and wallet will not allow me to suspend all reason to pay enormous sums for one system to another. The only warm spot a company can give me is the knowledge that they are not trying to gouge me price and feature wise simply because they can. Recently I add to this companies that do not unceremoniously abandon their customers, but that is a rant dealt with earlier. Even though I first learned SLR photography on a Pentax ME Super the bulk of my interest in Pentax is for very practical reasons. I have spent time visiting a few systems since I first dipped a toe in to digital interchangeable lens systems three years ago. Here are the reasons why I bought in and why I left:

  • Olympus (micro four thirds)
    • Why I bought:
    • Why I left:
      • Pricey once you want to jump the fence to the upper end of the line up.Bought the E-P5 used for $800 when I could not justify the additional OMD outlay for the same sensor and IS tech to gain a built in EVF. Personal issue admittedly. So I bought a D3300 instead which was on sale at the time.
      • Physics. Compared low light performance of my E-P5 with a much loved prime up against a newly purchased D3300 with a kit lens one day and the D3300 cleaned it’s clock. No fault of the Olympus.
  • Nikon (APS-C)
    • Why I bought:
      • D3300. Can somebody say deal! The sensor out of a D7200 in a $499 kit? Sign me up.
      • A great camera and fantastic image quality
      • Nothing more needs to be said does it?
    • Why I left:
      • Kind of fuzzy on that one admittedly.
      • Something like at the time I sold it to get an NX30 to share lenses with the NX300 I bought to replace the E-P5.
      • Ok, now I am remembering. Feature lack.Lacked a couple of puzzling things I had become accustomed to on other cameras that seemed to have been left off just to get you to spend more on pricier Nikons. Not cool:
        • WiFi dongle instead of built in. Really? What is this, 1990? I bought one and found it an annoyance that I was destined to lose one day.
        • No front dial. Why? Surely they had the real estate.
        • Fixed, non-tiltable screen. My E-PL5, E-P5, NX300, NX30, and RX100ii all had this.
  • Samsung Part 1 (APS-C)
    • Why I bought (NX300/NX30):
      • APS-C goodness in a micro four thirds sized and priced mirrorless package.
      • The NX30 was aiiight, but the NX300 hit a sweet spot size and performance wise that I found and still find hard to beat.
    • Why I left:
      • When the Sony A7ii was released Sony dropped the price of the A7 to $999.99.
      • That’s all I have got. Because full frame for less than a G. It was all a blur.
  • Sony (Full Frame/1″)
    • Why I bought:
      • For the A7 as previously stated because full frame. I like saying to myself, “I have a full frame camera”.
      • For the RX100ii I stopped by Southeastern Camera and mentioned that I missed having a pocketable camera and Chris lent me the RX100ii to take for a spin over the weekend. Bought it. Nice little camera.
    • Why I left:
      • A7
        • I had great fun with the Mitakon 50mm f/0.95, but I found the practical high end zoom lenses were lacking in performance (f/4 was the best option at the time), very expensive given their modest specs, and their large size to accommodate full frame rather diminished a key advantage of the mirrorless, compactness.
        • AF focus speed and accuracy at the time was meh even compared to other mirrorless cameras I had used. Awful when compared to DSLRs.
        • Just never warmed up to it. Comparing my Dad’s Pentax K20D side by side one day I was so impressed with the 8 year old Pentax that I traded the A7 for a K3ii soon after.
      • RX100ii
        • I bought a phone. Not long after purchasing an LG V10 I found that it’s camera was so capable that I was no longer carrying my RX100ii with me.
  • Pentax K3ii (APS-C)
    • Why I bought:
      • All the things I loved about the D3300 with the added benefits of:
        • In body image stabilization like my father’s K20D and the Olympus cameras I had.
        • “Kind of” in body WiFi with the included WiFi enabled SD card. A tad clumsy, but worked and way better than a dongle.
        • Felt like the water and dust sealed tank it was.
      • With the added benefit of in body IS I could save a fortune on lenses by purchasing non IS Tamron glass trinity and I did just that.
      • Along with the NX300 one of only 2 trade regrets.
    • Why I left;
      • Short version: At times kids will negatively impact your reasoning faculties.
      • Long winded version: My Marching Band High Schooler had volunteered me as AV geek for their band’s half time performances. A concert was coming and I was asked to video that as well. As a video camera the Pentax was a heck of a stills camera. A used NX1 became available at the the local camera shop and I traded because 4K video and constant AF.
      • This can only be described as a mistake in the end. More on that below.
  • Samsung Part 2 (APS-C)
    • Why I bought (NX300/NX1):
      • NX300
        • Regretted selling this camera almost immediately. When replacing the RX100ii I thought, “It would really be nice to have a Ricoh GRII sized camera with interchangeable lenses and tiltable screen… like the NX300 I traded.” So I bought it back from the shop.
      • NX1
    • Why I left:
      • NX300
        • Didn’t. Still have it along with the 30mm f/2.0 and 16-50mm PZ. Already bought, sold, and bought again. I see no reason to go through that again. Even though it is not supported I know of no compact solution I would rather have. Even with Samsung’s decisions it is worth more to me than what I would get for selling it.
      • NX1
        • Samsung.
        • Too precious a camera with a price to dear, especially along with the 85mm and S lenses, to be left utterly high and dry by their manufacturer.
        • For all of my concern about 4K I shot 4K in the wild exactly never. It was clearly overkill for the occasional video I needed to take.

So why the K-1?

  • Purely looking at the actual act of taking a photograph the most assuring and satisfying and beefy in hand cameras I have ever used are the D3300 and the K-3ii. Point them in that direction, make sure the focus points are where you need them to be and image.
  • Purely looking at image quality under the perfect conditions with perfect timing and manual or auto focus on point the full frame A7 was without peer. Everything right the results were amazing.
  • Feature wise I loved the myriad of mirrorless cameras. The tilt screens, WiFi, and more specifically in body image stabilization of the Olympus, and also the K-3ii, was greatly appreciated.
  • Value. Certain non big banner brands offered a heck of a lot of value for the money.

Up until the point that Pentax announced the K-1 and it really seemed like reality the cameras I aspired to obtain were the D750 and D810. The problem was their high price and that I wanted a mixed set of features from each and both lacked a key feature:

  • Wanted the built in WiFi of the D750.
  • Wanted the 1/8000 of a second shutter speed of  the D810.
    • D750 maxes at 1/4000. Heck, my little NX300 will do 1/6000.
    • I actually use this often.
  • Wanted the tiltable screen of the D750.
  • Admittedly 24MP is fine, but if available I want the 36MP of the D810 all other things being equal.
    • From the sound of cameras reviewed with even higher MP compromises start to creep in that offset any benefits once you step too far over 40MP.
  • Both lack in body image stabilization.
    • This one is important to me. I had this available on the Olympus bodies and it was great to have IS when adapting older film era glass. This is one thing that was sorely missed when I adapted legacy glass to my Samsung and Sony mirrorless cameras.
  • Both cost considerably more and pack fewer features.

The K-1 has all of the features mentioned above plus some decidedly Pentaxian features like:

  • K mount lenses dating back to the 70s will mount without an adapter.
  • Better yet lenses like the SMC A 50mm f/1.7 I recently acquired for $50 will even link with the camera aperture controls so the camera can be used in Av mode.
  • I repeat in body image stabilization. This opens up more lenses in certain areas:
    • 3rd party
      • Right now I have 2 lenses I previously traded with my K-3ii that I loved and will now be buying back. The 28-75mm f/2.8 (gallery) and 70-200mm f/2.8 (gallery). The 28-75mm focal length was a bit odd on the APS-C cropped sensor K-3ii (and the one I had for the D3300), but since both lenses are full frame Di lenses they will be right at home on the K-1.
      • Consider this. At the time of the writing of this post I could buy the K-1 and these 2 lenses covering 28-200mm at f/2.8 all new for $3,064.95. Now take a look at this comparison chart. If you buy the lenses new you could get all three for less than some other full frame 36MP plus bodies alone. I do not know if that means anything to you, but as a man with a mortgage to pay and kids to clothe and feed this is significant. If you have got it like that where this does not matter flaunt it baby, as Zero says in the original Producers film, and get whatever you wish and I will be truly happy for you.
    • Legacy glass
      • Like the SMC A 50mm f/1.7 and 135mm f/2.5 I already purchased for $89 combined.
  • Focus confirmation. Tripped over this while playing around with my father’s K20D (which even though released in 2008 it still has IS also) and an old manual film lens from his ME Super. Basically the center focus point will light up when in focus.
  • Catch in focus. Mentioned above I tripped over this feature while in Pentax Forums. In short AF on manual lenses where you are the focus motor by auto shutter when in focus.
  • LED access lights. Any parent who has fumbled in a dark auditorium should welcome this.
  • Access to Pentax’s film era full frame limited lenses which are lens eye candy, especially the 77mm f/1.8.
  • Built in GPS with Astrotracer. I must admit I have no use for this. My K-3ii had this and I did not use it.
  • Relatively inexpensive access to weather sealed lenses in the 28-105mm WR and 100mm WR macro. The 100mm macro WR is excellent by the way.
  • Built like tanks. The K-3ii I had felt like a camera I could use to break open other cameras. By all accounts water and dust sealing beyond reproach.

Not all is not rosy in Pentax land of course. There have been those who have brought up cons that range from silly to justified. I am fortunate in that they either do not impact my style of shooting, or I am willing to overlook them. The common ones are:

Fewer lenses.

  • Non-issue for me. Fewer factory and 3rd party lenses, but enough.
  • I could counter with the fact that since the camera has in body IS it opens up more lenses like the 3rd party and legacy lenses mentioned above.

Extra dials on top redundant and someone complained you cannot see what the dial is set to in camera.

  • Different strokes for sure, but… Um. Don’t use them?

Only 33 focus points.

  • As an olive branch 25 are cross type which is more than many competitors.
  • Personal preference, but no matter how many focus points are available (my current NX300 has 105) I use center point or center cluster focusing.
  • The D3300 had 11 and the K-3ii had 27 and I do not recall a single instance where this was an issue with either.

Slow burst frame rate.

  • Guilty as charged, but I am not a sports shooter.
  • Personal preference, but I had an NX1 that was capable of 15fps and I never made use of it other than to occasionally say, “Hey, watch this <brrrrrrrr…>”.

Sub par video specs compared to the latest releases (No 4K and no continuous AF during video).

  • Again, guilty as charged.
  • Personal again, but I rarely shoot video.
  • As I mentioned above I got an NX1 largely for 4K and AF-C during video and used them exactly never.
    • The events I shot did not warrant 4K so it ended up being a sledgehammer to drive in a thumbtack affair. The AF-C during video was not needed since I shot band concerts and half time performances.
    • It would have been nice to have them on the spec sheet, but I would rather not have them than pay extra to have it.

No in body flash.

In summary Pentax seems to have produced a camera that leaves some ‘would be nice’ options off, checks off every item on my DSLR-ish wish list all while adding a few I never would have thought to ask for at a price far less than I would have expected to pay:

  • Full frame
  • 36MP
  • Legacy friendly mount
  • In body image stabilization
  • Water and dust sealing
  • Reasonably priced lens selection
  • Solid focusing performance
  • Built in WiFi
  • forgot something I am sure

In all honesty, for whatever reason they decided to do it, like late to the game, general techno-eccentricity or other, I am impressed that a company would produce such a camera at this price point. Especially so soon after being hosed by another brand recently. It feels almost like a nod to those whose ambitions outstrip their budgets. Quite bluntly until this camera was released I could not afford to enter the realm of high featured, little or no compromise full frame DSLRs. Sure, I could have bought a D610, D750, or an A7ii, but what of the glass? Nikon’s VR constant f/2.8 (even VR aftermarket) and Sony’s newly announced constant f/2.8 lenses (no aftermarket options at this time) are all priced far out of my range. Even when I do step up and get the Pentax native zoom offerings to gain modern focusing motors and weather resistance they are easier on the pocket.

Well done Pentax.

I hope to get my hands on my K-1 shortly.

-ELW