Pentax K-01 with DA 40mm XS lens review

Refreshingly different and excels for image quality and features, but more expensive, slower to focus and not much smaller than an SLR

1 May 2012
Our Rating 
3/5
Price when reviewed 
680
inc VAT

Specifications

23.7x15.7mm 16.0-megapixel sensor, 1.0x zoom (60mm equivalent), 611g

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.

Pentax K-01 sample shot

Details are crisp across the frame, with no hint of noise at ISO 100

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.

Pentax K-01 sample shot

There's a little noise at ISO 3200 but image quality remains good enough for large prints

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.

Pentax K-01 sample shot

Even the maximum ISO 12800 setting gives passable results, although close inspection reveals its limitation

CONCLUSION

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.

Basic Specifications

Rating ***
CCD effective megapixels 16.0 megapixels
CCD size 23.7x15.7mm
Viewfinder none
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 921,000 pixels
Articulated screen No
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 1.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 60mm
Image stabilisation optical, sensor shift
Maximum image resolution 4,928x3,264
File formats JPEG, RAW; QuickTime (AVC)

Physical

Memory slot SDXC
Mermory supplied none
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 500 shots
Connectivity USB, AV, mini HDMI, microphone
Body material aluminium, plastic, rubber
Lens mount Pentax K mount
Focal length multiplier 1.5x
Kit lens model name Pentax DA 40mm F2.8 XS Pancake
Accessories USB cable, neck strap
Weight 611g
Size 80x122x74mm

Buying Information

Warranty one-year RTB
Price £680
Supplier http://www.jessops.com
Details www.pentax.co.uk

Camera Controls

Exposure modes program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed 30 to 1/4,000 seconds
Aperture range f/2.8 to 22
ISO range (at full resolution) 100 to 12800
Exposure compensation +/-3 EV
White balance auto, 10 presets with fine tuning, manual
Additional image controls contrast, saturation, sharpness, hue, high/low key adjust, highlight correction, shadow correction, noise reduction, distortion correction, chromatic aberration correction
Manual focus Yes
Closest macro focus 40cm
Auto-focus modes multi, centre, flexible spot, face detect, tracking
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, IR remote, AE bracket, HDR, interval