Pentax K-01 Review

April 10, 2012 | Mark Goldstein |


The Pentax K-01 is a bravely different but ultimately flawed entry into the mirrorless compact system camera market. Love it or hate it looks aside, the main issue with the K-01 is its sheer size - it's not that much smaller than a regular DSLR and is much larger than any other CSC currently available, prompting the question Why? Pentax have removed the mirror to make the camera smaller in terms of height, but otherwise the K-01 closely resembles a DSLR in size forgoing one of that format's main advantages, an optical viewfinder. Commissioning a non-camera designer to think outside the box has led to a refreshingly innovative look, but we can't help thinking that Pentax should have implemented a new, smaller lens mount and let Marc Newson design something that can compete on a more equal footing with the likes of the Sony NEX and Samsung NX APS-C systems.

Which is a real shame, as the K-01's image quality is excellent, producing noise-free images all the way from from ISO 100-1600. Noise starts to become apparent at ISO 3200, with a little more noise and smearing of fine detail at the higher settings of 6400 and 12800, while the fastest speed of 25600 is only really suitable for smaller prints. Very impressive results for a 1.5x sensor that brings Pentax up to speed with the competition in terms of low-light performance. Exposures were generally 1/3rd EV stop under-exposed, perfect for retaining detail in the highlight areas without sacrificing the shadow are as too much, and colours were accurate using the default Bright setting. The HDR mode makes it easy to create images with greatly expanded dynamic range, although you don't have too much control over the final effect and you really need to use a tripod to keep things sharp. The D-Range options help make the most out of both the shadows and highlights in a high-contrast scene, while the multi-exposure and creative processing modes and the vast range of digital effects are a nice creative addition.

The K-01 also offers the best video mode of any Pentax mirrorless or DSLR camera to date, with the inclusion of Full 1080p HD recording at a variety of frame rates, handy one-touch recording button, auto and manual focusing, the ability to change the aperture or shutter speed during recording, a socket for an external mic and an HDMI port for easy connection to your HDTV. We also really liked the excellent high-resolution LCD screen (important given the lack of any kind of viewfinder), the shake reduction system that's instantly compatible with any lens that you fit to the K-01, and the quick and very quiet burst shooting mode. We didn't like the price quite so much - £679.99 / $899.95 with a lens is quite a lot to pay for a compact system camera, and comparable to the excellent Pentax K-5 with the same kit zoom lens. Therein lies the K-01's main problem. While it may look refreshingly different, the Pentax K-01 falls unsuccessfully between two stools - ultimately we'd either buy a similarly sized DSLR or a much smaller compact system camera in preference to the K-01.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 3.5