Pentax K-01 with DA 40mm XS lens review
We've slowly warmed to the K-01's retro-futuristic design, resembling a prop from an 80s sci-fi film. The chunky dials and switches feel sturdy and have just the right amount of resistance. It might take a few more months before we're ready to praise the vivid yellow version, though, and we're not convinced by the rubber flap that protects the card slot and sockets. It's fiddly to close, and because it provides only moderate protection, there's an additional metal door underneath to stop the card being ejected through the rubber flap.
Functionally, the K-01 is familiar Pentax SLR territory, and that means one of the best control systems and collection of features around. Its integrated pop-up flash and hotshoe may be standard features for SLRs but less common on CSCs, and the same goes for the mode dial, command dial and dedicated manual focus switch. Image stabilisation is built into the sensor, and having it work in conjunction with the pancake lens is a rare treat for a CSC (Olympus's PEN range is the only other system to offer this). The 3in screen has a sharp 921,000-dot image but it's disappointing that it's not articulated. The substantial battery lasts for 500 shots.
We really like how easy it is to adjust the range of the Auto ISO mode, with a fixed minimum speed of 100 and maximum of between 200 and 12,800. This is accessed alongside the manual ISO speed setting, simply by hitting the ISO button. It's a huge improvement on other cameras that bury this option in an obscure submenu or don't offer it all. Another handy feature is the ability to shoot JPEGs and then choose to save a raw version of the last shot. High-dynamic-range (HDR) photography is built in, and there's a mode that captures photos at regular intervals. There's huge scope to customise picture quality, including options to set the noise reduction strength for each ISO speed.
Videos are recorded at up to 1080p at a choice of 24, 25 or 30fps. Aperture priority and manual exposure are available for videos, and settings can be adjusted while recording. Doing so can lead to clicks from the dial appearing on the soundtrack, though. The movement of the aperture blades in the lens make a loud clunk too, but selecting aperture priority to lock the aperture gets around this. Alternatively, you could just connect an external microphone to the camera's minijack socket. The volume of both internal and external microphones can be set manually, although doing so is practically impossible as there's no level metering.
Autofocus isn't available while recording videos. No doubt this would have interfered heavily with the soundtrack too, but without this option, the K-01 isn't really suitable for casual video recording. The big sensor creates a shallow depth of field so subjects quickly fall out of focus as they or the camera moves. Manual focus can be used for videos but accurate adjustment is tricky to pull off. Still, this isn't a problem for carefully composed shots with a tripod, and the choice of frame rates and manual exposure control will appeal to serious videographers.
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