Pentax K-01 with DA 40mm XS lens review
PERFORMANCE AND IMAGE QUALITY
Autofocus is a concern for photos, too. SLRs are extremely quick to focus, and because CSCs are just as expensive, our expectation is for them to be just as quick. That's true of some CSCs but sadly not the K-01. There was typically a delay of half a second between pressing the shutter button and a photo being captured, rising to between one and two seconds in low light. Continuous mode fared much better, managing six frames in a second before slowing to 2.8fps. Raw mode was a big disappointment, though, with 3.6 seconds between shots in normal use. Continuous raw shooting started at 1fps and slowed to 0.7fps after three frames.
Our image quality tests painted a much rosier picture. The 16-megapixel APS-C sensor delivered lots of detail and extremely low noise. Image quality held together extremely well at ISO 6400, with significantly less noise than from most CSCs and only a whisker behind the Sony NEX-5N.
The NEX-5N can struggle a little with corner focus, but with its longer flange back depth and range of excellent lenses, the K-01 had no such problems. Focus from the 40mm kit lens was crisp right into the corners of frames, while portrait shots exhibited a flattering shallow depth of field. With balanced automatic exposures, expertly managed ISO and shutter speeds, flattering colours and huge scope to customise the JPEG output, this is the best image quality we've seen from a CSC.
That's a superb achievement and, overall, the K-01 is extremely likeable, but we're not tempted to rush out and buy one. It makes sense with its pancake lens, but the 40mm, f/2.8 specifications are quite limiting if this is the only lens the camera will be used with - the actual focal length of around 60mm is a touch too tight for day-to-day use. There aren't many other pancake lenses available, either. There's a 21mm f/3.2 that's reasonably slim but it costs over £400. Pentax also sent us its 18-55mm lens for testing, but attaching this, the K-01 was barely any smaller than an SLR.
If you're looking for a camera with exceptional image quality and don't mind putting up with a bit of bulk, there are cameras that are faster to focus and cost less – they're called SLRs. Still, there's something charming about the K-01. Whereas an SLR doesn't feel like the right camera to take on a night out, the K-01 looks like it was born for these moments, and it's low-light image quality backs up that claim nicely. Autofocus speed remains our biggest concern, but if you can live with this, the K-01 has a lot to offer.
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