Pentax K-1 Mark II Review

April 16, 2018 | Mark Goldstein |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 36 megapixel Best JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 12Mb.

The Pentax K-1 Mark II produced photos of excellent quality. Noise is well controlled by the Pentax K-1 Mark II throughout the expanded range of 100-819200, first starting to appear at ISO 3200 and becoming more easily detectable at the faster settings of ISO 6400-25600 when viewing images at 100% magnification on screen (particularly in the RAW files). The fastest settings of 51200-819200 look much better on paper than in reality. Colour saturation is commendably maintained throughout the ISO range.

Pixel Shift Resolution is an effective technology that creates bigger files, finer detail and generates more accurate colours, even if the subject moves or the camera shakes slightly. The new Handheld mode does what its name suggests and allows you to create high-resolution images without having to use a tripod, although at the expense of less detail and more colour artifacts than using the tripod modes.

Image stabilisation via the camera body is a great feature that works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. An added bonus is that it works with any lens that you attach to the K-1 Mark II. The night photograph was excellent, with the maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds and Bulb mode allowing you to capture enough light in all situations.

The Digital Filters quickly produce special effects that would otherwise require you to spend a lot of time in the digital darkroom, while the Custom Images can usefully be tweaked to suit. The D-Range options help make the most out of both the shadows and highlights in a high-contrast scene (and it works for both JPEG and RAW files), while the HDR mode greatly expands the dynamic range of a JPEG by combining three differently exposed images in-camera.

The multi exposure mode combines between two and 2,000 different JPEG or RAW images into a single photo, while the anti-aliasing simulator helps to reduce moire without the need for an actual optical filter.


There are 14 ISO settings available on the Pentax K-1 Mark II. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting, with JPEG on the left and the RAW equivalent on the right:



ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso1600raw.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso6400.jpg iso6400raw.jpg

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

iso12800.jpg iso12800raw.jpg

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

iso25600.jpg iso25600raw.jpg

ISO 51200 (100% Crop)

ISO 51200 (100% Crop)

iso51200.jpg iso51200raw.jpg

ISO 102400 (100% Crop)

ISO102400 (100% Crop)

iso102400.jpg iso102400raw.jpg

ISO 204800 (100% Crop)

ISO 204800 (100% Crop)

iso204800.jpg iso204800raw.jpg

ISO 409600 (100% Crop)

ISO 409600 (100% Crop)

iso409600.jpg iso409600raw.jpg

ISO 819200 (100% Crop)

ISO 819200 (100% Crop)

iso819200.jpg iso819200raw.jpg

Pixel Shift Resolution

The in-body SR (shake reduction) mechanism is used to move the image sensor unit by a single pixel pitch at a time to capture four shots (the use of a tripod is strongly recommended). Pixel Shift Resolution merges those shots into a single image to generate an ultra high-definition image. This method differs from the traditional Bayer method, which acquires only a single element of color information for single pixel, by acquiring all RGB color information for individual pixel. This difference makes it excellent for detail and color reproduction, creating super high-definition images. This also prevents false colors from occurring theoretically, and also has a high-sensitivity noise reduction effect when compared to normal shooting.

The new handheld Dynamic Pixel Shift Resolution mode differs, though, by switching on image stabilisation, taking four similar shots, then combining them into one aligned ultra high-definition image. Unlike the normal Pixel Shift Resolution mode, it doesn't cancel out the Bayer color array, which can lead to unwanted artifacts, moire and less detail in the resulting image. It does have an advantage under indoor lights, however, as it uses the mechanical shutter rather than the electronic one, as used by the normal Pixel Shift Resolution mode, which can result in unwanted banding.


Motion Correction On

pixel_shift1.jpg pixel_shift2.jpg
Motion Correction Off Handheld
pixel_shift3.jpg pixel_shift4.jpg


Motion Correction On

pixel_shift5.jpg pixel_shift6.jpg
Motion Correction Off Handheld
pixel_shift7.jpg pixel_shift8.jpg

File Quality

The Pentax K-1 Mark II has 3 different JPEG file quality settings available, with Best being the highest quality option, and it also supports RAW (Pentax's PEF format and Adobe DNG). Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

Best (20.3Mb) (100% Crop)

Better (8.71Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_best.jpg quality_better.jpg

Good (4.08Mb) (100% Crop)

RAW (43.8Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_good.jpg quality_raw.jpg


The Pentax K-1 Mark II lets you dial in shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds and has a Bulb mode as well, which is very good news if you are seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 30 seconds at ISO 100.



Shake Reduction

The Pentax K-1 Mark II has a Shake Reduction mechanism built into the camera body, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, we took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with Shake Reduction turned off, the second with it turned on. Here is a 100% crop of the image to show the results. As you can see, with Shake Reduction turned on, the images are sharper than when it's turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Shake Reduction Off (100% Crop)

Shake Reduction On (100% Crop)

1/6 / 28mm antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg
1/15 / 105mm antishake2.jpg antishake2a.jpg

AA Filter Simulator

Rather than an optical anti-aliasing filter in the camera, the K-1 has an anti-aliasing simulator instead, which can be turned off (default setting) or on to either the Type1 or Type2 setting.


Off (100% Crop)

aa_filter_01.jpg aa_filter_01a.jpg


Type1 (100% Crop)

aa_filter_02.jpg aa_filter_02a.jpg


Type2 (100% Crop)

aa_filter_03.jpg aa_filter_03a.jpg


Similar to Nikon's D-lighting, Sony's DRO, and Olympus' Shadow Adjustment Technology, Pentax's D-Range allows you to correct the highlights (On or Off) and/or the shadows (3 different levels) before taking a JPEG or RAW image. Although this option is always at your disposal, remember that it is meant to be used in strong, contrasty lighting at base ISO. Below you can see a comparison between Off and both highlight and shadow correction set to on/full strength; the difference is mainly noticeable in the shadowed areas on the left and right sides of the photo.



drange1.jpg drange2.jpg

HDR Capture

The Pentax K-1 Mark II's HDR Capture option takes three images with different exposures, and then records a single image that combines the properly exposed parts of each one, expanding its dynamic range. Here is an example which was shot with the five different modes (Off, 1, 2, 3 and Advanced). Although the K-1 can microalign images before combining them, allowing hand-held HDR shots to be taken, for best results it's important to always use a tripod to prevent camera shake from blurring the HDR image, and it doesn't work very well for moving subjects.


hdr_01.jpg hdr_02.jpg
hdr_03.jpg hdr_04.jpg

Custom Images

Pentax's Custom Images, similar to Nikon's Picture Styles and Canon's Picture Controls, are preset combinations of different sharpness, contrast, saturation and colour tone settings. You can change the saturation, hue, high/low key, contrast and sharpness for each of the seven options. They are shown below in the following series, which demonstrates the differences.



custom_image_01.jpg custom_image_02.jpg



custom_image_03.jpg custom_image_04.jpg



custom_image_05.jpg custom_image_06.jpg


custom_image_07.jpg custom_image_08.jpg

Bleach Bypass

Reversal Film

custom_image_09.jpg custom_image_10.jpg


Cross Processing

custom_image_11.jpg custom_image_12.jpg

Digital Filters

The Pentax K-1 Mark II offers nine different Digital Filters, which allow you to quickly apply an artistic effect to a photo before taking it (JPEG images only). They are shown below in the following series, which demonstrates the differences. Note that applying the Digital Filters slows the camera down somewhat, as it has to process the image for a few seconds after it's taken.

Extract Color

Replace Color

digital_filter_01.jpg digital_filter_02.jpg

Toy Camera


digital_filter_03.jpg digital_filter_04.jpg

High Contrast


digital_filter_05.jpg digital_filter_06.jpg

Invert Color

Unicolor Bold

digital_filter_07.jpg digital_filter_08.jpg
Bold Monochrome  


The Pentax K-1 Mark II has a fantastic multi-exposure mode that allows you to combine between two and 2,000 (!) different JPEG or RAW images into a single photo. Here is an example.