Mar 162012
 

The Pentax K-01 Camera Review – Design Masterpiece or Design Disaster?

Before I start writing my thoughts down on this camera I want to remind all of you who are reading this about how I review cameras. Most of you already know because I have been writing the same style of reviews for 3 years now, but at the same time there are always new readers with every review and they do not know my style of writing or how I review. Basically, when I get a new camera in for review or testing I look it over, read the manual (if I need to) and mess with the settings, controls, features, etc. I then take it out and shoot it in real world scenarios because I feel the TRUE test of a camera is going out and using it! Sure, i could whip out review after review by sitting in my house and setting up a small studio to take shots of flower vases and color charts but I feel those days of camera reviews are starting to get old, fade out, and get way too technical. Well, at least that is how I feel about it. That is also exactly why I started this site 3 years ago!

When I take out a camera like the K-01 and shoot it for a couple of weeks I make mental notes of issues I had as well as positives. I start writing and add to it daily and when I am all done, I post it for all of you to enjoy.  If I really love a camera then it inspires me to go out and shoot. Cameras like the Leica M9 inspire me because when you slap a great lens on that camera you KNOW what you are going to get..I see it in my head and it is all natural. The Fuji X100, even with its limitations and quirks is, IMO, a beautiful design and size with amazing IQ. Cameras like the Nikon V1 – I love that one because it JUST WORKS and provides superb color and metering along with AF speed and a build, size and quality that is plenty good enough for the masses. The Sony NEX-7 for it’s breakthrough design and being the 1st to put everything us enthusiasts have asked for in one body. EVF, the try-navi controls, the high res sensor, the swivel LCD…the list goes on.

Click image for larger size to see the beautiful quality of the K-01 and 40 2.8 lens

With new cameras like the Fuji X-Pro 1 and Olympus OM-D arriving any day now I am excited that the camera companies are FINALLY getting it when it comes to digital. With film, we had it easy. All we needed was a light box, a viewfinder and a lens to create our images. That’s it! With digital it gets complicated and these days when everyone and their brother is a photographer, it has become a whole new industry. These days, new cameras arrive every few months. Better models are always right around the corner. Depreciation sets in and we buy cameras and sell them for a loss 5-6 months down the road to get the latest and greatest. It is what it is folks, and it seems to be getting more and more crazy as time goes on. But it is OUR passion and OUR hobby and I know of many MUCH more expensive hobbies than photography.

So for me all of this is good as I can write about all of these cool cameras and have never ending content for the site :) I guess what I am trying to say here is that we have many GREAT options coming out today in regards to digital cameras and photography. This site always focuses on the enthusiast models and cameras that I think are good buys or of great quality but today I am writing about the new Pentax K-01 and after shooting it for a little while my feelings are somewhat mixed. I will say right now that ME…I am not a fan of the design at all. In use it is very boxy, not ergonomic, and feels like I am shooting with one of those toy cameras you see in the little kid isle at a toy store. Not sure how much Marc Newson was paid for this design but I feel Pentax could have done much better in this area. Not knocking Marc here because he obviously is not a camera designer. Now, some of you may LOVE this design. It IS INDEED different, and I am usually a huge fan of different but not this time. It just was not pleasant to shoot, and I hate to say that about a Pentax, a company whose products I normally adore.

The K-01 Meets the stilt girl :)

The good news is that while shooting this camera I realized that the image quality was fantastic, the new 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens is superb and TINY! I believe that this K-01 may have the best IQ of any digital Pentax to date. If this is all that matters to you and you have a load of Pentax glass, go buy one now and skip the rest of this review. :) If usability, design and IQ matter, then keep reading to see why I was not inspired to want to own this camera. ALL images shown here were shot with the Pentax K-01 and 40mm 2.8 lens.

Here is what I will go over in a simple, easy to read,  and fairly quick review (as it is basically a K5 in a different shell minus a VF)

  1. The Design
  2. The problem of no viewfinder
  3. The Specs
  4. High ISO
  5. Picture Quality
  6. The GOOD things about the K-01
  7. Autofocus Speed and Manual focus features
  8. Movie Mode
  9. Bottom Line Conclusion

 

The Design of the K-01 – what I like and do not like about it

It seems the biggest feature of this camera is the design, and that is a shame really. The camera innards are fantastic but when you see this box in photos and in person the very first thing that strikes you is the design, and this can take away from the camera itself I think. To some it looks cool and modern, and to others it looks like a toy. I feel it resembles the Leica Digilux 1 in many ways and if you go hold that camera now you will feel how boxy and dated it really is. I guess that is what I feel when I hold the K-01. It feels dated. The classic Leica Digilux 1 is seen in the image below.

The Leica Digilux 1 – an oldie and not even a goodie :) If you see this for sale, avoid it, unless you want it for a display case.

When I showed the K-01 to my Son Brandon the 1st words from his mouth were “wow, you bought an old school camera”? I said “no, it is the new Pentax” and his reply was “it looks 80′s”.

To a 16 year old, I guess this is what a 1980′s camera looks like.

The camera is very boxy, very square, and has a rubber coating/grip on the body. There is an LCD on the back with a few nice big buttons, which I DO like. There is NO EVF or VF at all and the top houses a pop up flash which comes in handy when you want fill flash. The rubber door you pull out to gain access to your memory cards is flimsy and I can see it breaking over time. When shooting this rubber flap never really fits back in correctly so its always kind of hanging out a bit. I would have preferred a solid door. The big buttons are cool and bright but they look toy like as if they were designed for a baby or small tike who is learning colors.

The dials move with a nice solid click feel and I do like the way they feel and where they were placed, so I do like the dials.

Like I said, some will enjoy this unique design but I feel it was not a great choice. It’s gimmicky and certainly not classic. It is also not really comfortable to hold nor that functional mainly due to one reason I will get into below.

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The Problem of NOT having a viewfinder

When I took the camera out to a fair to shoot on a sunny Saturday I was so disappointed. The camera was almost useless as with the bright sun I could not compose my shots AT ALL because the LCD was washed out about 90%. The images I did get were all shot blind really, like the one below of the kid climbing the “Jacob’s ladder”. I saw a slight faded image but could not even make out what was on the screen.

This kid made it to the top but cheated. Still, he won his $2 back :) I had to shoot blind here by aiming and pressing the shutter. I could not see anything on the LCD due to the sunlight washing it out. 

So if you live in a sunny environment and want to shoot the K-01, forget it. The LCD will be washed out horribly. If Pentax would have put in an EVF it would have made this camera MUCH more fun and useful. To be without one, for me, is a deal breaker and I would take a K-5 over the K-01 if at all possible. It is only a little bigger but has a better feel, an optical VF and takes the same exact lenses (same lens mount). It costs a bit more but would be worth it IMO. Again, the K-01 has superb IQ but for me, it loses some ground in design and usability and I am a big fan of usability.

Without even an optical ViewFinder, it makes it hard to see what you are composing in bright sunlight and to me, this is a bummer. 

The K-01 and 40 next to the Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss 24. Look how slim and trim the NEX is, and it has a GREAT EVF.

The Specs of the K-01

The specs of the K-01 are fantastic and have the best specs of any Pentax to date. Take a look at what you get packed into this little brick of a camera…

Large 16 megapixel APS-C sized CMOS image sensor with low noise image capture and multiple aspect ratios.

Yes, this camera has a great CMOS sensor and even with the 40 2.8 pancake the IQ is superb.

Bright, high resolution 3 inch LCD with 920,000 dots.

It is a nice LCD but forget about bright sunlight use!

Full HD 1080p video capture at 30 FPS with h.264 compression (60 FPS at 720p) features outstanding video capture flexibility.

Video seems fantastic from what I have seen so far.

Flexible ISO range of 100-25600 ensures gorgeous noise-free imaging in any lighting condition.

Low light and high ISO are in line with what we see today from other cameras.

Mirrorless body design is compatible with 25+ million PENTAX K-mount lenses spanning decades.

THIS IS THE GOOD THING about the K-01. Use Pentax LIMITEDs without an adapter and for many, this makes it worth it. Period.

Sensor-shift PENTAX Shake and Dust Reduction system is compatible with every mounted PENTAX lens.

Seems to work great.

Fast 6 FPS burst mode is ideal for fast-action photography.

Well, I wouldn’t shoot fast action with this camera and the 40 2.8 as the AF is not the speediest.

Shooting modes include P, Av, Tv, and M, as well as powerful automatic modes, creative filters, and finishing options.

Focus peaking mode provides fast and accurate manual focusing for critical focus applications.

YES! I am glad to say that Focus peaking has been implemented. It is more like the way that Ricoh uses it with the GXR.

Captures JPG still images as well as open standard DNG RAW.

In-camera HDR mode combines bracketed user-specified exposures into a single, perfectly blended still image.

Built-in popup flash and external hotshoe compatible with modern PENTAX digital flash units.

Durable machined aluminum frame.

Contemporary styling by world renowned designer Marc Newson.

As for the features and menu system, it is almost exactly like the Pentax K-5 so be sure to read that review to see more. 

The Palm Reader spotted me :)

High ISO shooting with the K-01

I was impressed with the low light/high ISO shooting of the Pentax K-01. Noise was minimal as I cranked it up and color stayed good. I turned OFF the in camera NR for JPEGS because  I am not a fan of smearing, and most cameras will smear the images to reduce the noise. Still, no complaints at all in the high ISO department. Below are a few examples of high ISO. One 12,800 shot taken at night with a 100% crop and 3 full size samples taken in my living room at 11PM at night with no flash or light source besides my living room ceiling light.

Click image for larger size with 100% crop – ISO 12,800 at night just to test high ISO.

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The following images are full size from RAW without any added NR. I used ACR defaults here. Click images for full size. They were snapped in my living room at 11pm

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Overall Picture Quality of the Pentax K-01

I really can not judge on total and overall IQ from this camera because I have only shot it with the 40 2.8 lens, which is excellent but still no match for the limited primes. So every image you see on this page was taken blindly with the 40 2.8. I say blindly because as I already mentioned, the LCD was not even usable in bright sunlight so all images were basically an aim and fire kind of shot. Not necessarily the best basis to judge the detailed picture quality :) I can say that the IQ seems VERY similar to what I saw come out of the K-5. I did as much testing as I could with the limited time I had the camera.

Click image below for a large version with 100% crop shot at 2.8 with the 40 2.8 lens. This was straight from camera and just to show detail wide open. 

From what I have seen, I have ZERO complaints on the image quality of the K-01 as this is its BEST feature. I can only imagine that with the Limited primes one can get some beautiful images from the K-01 and I wish I had some on hand to test with it because I do know I would be thrilled with the results.

Shot out of my car window, through my tint an all. Shot using the 40 2.8 at 2.8. 

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The K-01 and 40 2.8 are a great little combo due to the fact that the lens is so tiny and thin!

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The bokeh from this lens is a little busy though…

The GOOD things about the Pentax K-01

The Lenses: I know I have said quite a few negative things about the K-01′s design and usability BUT there are a few really great things going for it. For one, Pentax DID NOT create an all new mount for this camera which means those who buy a K-01 will not have to play the waiting game while Pentax designs new lenses. The K-01 uses K mount glass and there is some delicious K mount glass out there! You can attach those gorgeous limited primes and you will be in business without an adapter or issues.

The Features: Let’s face it, the K-01 is packed with features and really leaves nothing to be desired (except the design and lack of EVF/VF). If shooting JPEG you can customize the look and color using the settings or the presents. I love the cross processing filter of this camera AND the K-5. Pentax gives you crazy customization of color, contrast, white balance and all of the other settings for those who are detailed oriented. Me, I just shot in RAW and converted and then resized for this review. But the features are here. Image stabilization, dust shaker, filters, etc.

Focus Peaking – Using old manual glass is a breeze with the Pentax K-01 due to the Focus peaking feature that has been added. I was sad to see that the Fuji X-Pro 1 does NOT have peaking but this Pentax DOES, which is great. I feel ALL mirror less cameras should have this feature which makes manually focusing without magnification a breeze. If you are unaware how focus peaking works, you can see an example of it in the video below even though I used an NEX-7 to demonstrate. The Pentax works just about the same way. 

High ISO – High ISO with this camera is superb. ISO 12,800 is about on par with the Leica M9 at ISO 2500.

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If you like the body style and can live without a VF or EVF AND you have Pentax glass, then it is a no brainer. You will love the K-01. If you do NOT own Pentax glass and prefer a VF/EVF, then you may not be a big fan of this camera. Either way, it has a huge lens selection to choose from and has fantastic IQ. 

Autofocus Speed 

The Pentax has decent AF speed but uses contrast detect (slower) instead of Phase Detect (faster). The only mirror less camera to date that uses BOTH is the little Nikon V1 which allows it to be screaming fast in daylight and very fast at night. The Pentax with the 40 2.8 is fast but it is no speed demon. For example, when shooting video with this combo the lens makes the grinding noise when you focus/re-focus and it is not the fastest focusing lens. BUT when focusing in lower light this camera locks on quickly and accurately but if it gets too low it hunts and hunts like most other cameras do. I have had NO mis focused shots with this combo though so that is a plus.

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Movie Mode Samples

The Pentax K-01 has various movie modes but instead of writing them all down I figured I would show them to you in a video along with some quick video samples shot with the K-01 (nothing exciting but hey, it’s something) Enjoy!

The Bottom Line Conclusion

I can see it now, Pentax fans are going to be giving me heat for talking bad about the camera design. I will hear about how just because it doesn’t look like a rangefinder that I do not like it. Well, that is not true at all. I like many cameras that are not designed like a rangefinder but in my opinion, and again, this is only MY opinion, the design is a fail. It’s too bulky, too fat, looks like a toy and is not comfortable to shoot. It doesn’t feel like a camera I can “connect” with. Design IS indeed important to ME and I feel a camera has to have all of the elements that bring it together to form one mean, lean, shooting machine.

A camera like the Sony NEX-7 comes to mind for it’s design. Sleek, full controls and customizations, try-navi controls, great tillable LCD that even works in daylight, superb OLED EVF built in, a nice grip that protrudes. It looks like a camera even though it operates more like a computer :) The K-01 is very “Tonka” toy like. Big, fat, clunky and odd. But, both will deliver superb IQ. The Sony costs more but it has more going for it as a body but the K-01 has more going for it when it comes to lenses.

The K-01 costs $899 with the 40 f/2.8 lens. The NEX-7 comes in at $1,349 with the 18-55 Kit Zoom in black so $449 more but you get an EVF, better overall camera for HD video, slimmer build and more of a camera feel, swivel LCD, 24 megapixels and even more customization that the already super customizable K-01. But with the Sony you only have access to the Sony lenses and others via adapters. Me? Id take the NEX-7 in a heartbeat over a K-01 but I do not own a stash of Pentax glass. If I did I would buy the K-5 :)

To some it will be ugly. To others it will be cute. One thing is for sure though, it does do what it was built to do and IT DOES IT WELL. I have no complaints with its output, just its design and lack of VF. Pentax should be applauded for trying something different. Wether or not it succeeds I do not know but with so much competition out there it will be tough. In the price range of the K-01 (or less) we have the following:

The Nikon V1 – I love the V1, that is no secret but it has become one of the most controversial camera releases in years. Many HATE it due to its small sensor but many love it due to it’s fantastic color palette, amazing speed, metering and accuracy. It has its weaknesses of course but it is a solid little system that is in need of new fast glass. The K-01 beats the V1 in IQ and High ISO easily but in usability the V1 wins hands down. My V1 review is HERE. 

The Sony NEX-5n – The 5n is $699 so still $200 less than the Pentax even with a kit zoom. I really liked the 5n and found it really did nothing wrong. Again, for someone without a collection of Pentax glass I feel the NEX-5n is a better buy. The 5n also shoots video effortlessly with the kit zoom with silent AF. My 5n review can be seen HERE.

The Fuji X10 – The Fuji X10 has that classic RF design but is includes a decent zoom lens and a really good tiny sensor. I really liked the X10 BUT if it were between the K-01 and X10 I would go for the K-01 due to sensor size and video capabilities. The X10 has  great color and output for the size of its sensor but it lacks in the video department and in giving shallow depth of field. Still, great little camera at a not so bad price. See my X10 review HERE.

The Olympus E-P3 – This is now old news with the OM-D coming out with the much improved body, sensor, and features but the E-P3 is $899 WITH A KIT LENS so it is in the same exact range as the K-01. Now, the K-01 will slaughter the E-P3 in Image Quality due to the larger APS-C sensor compared to the Micro 4/3 sensor BUT again, USABILITY! The E-P3 is one hell of a camera to shoot. It’s fun, has a great style and shape and the LCD can be seen in bright light. Still, NO built in EVF though. Also, the E-P3 can use some amazing Micro 4/3 glass like the 12mm, 45mm, and 25mm. This would be tough for me because the K-01 beats it in IQ and Video Quality but loses to it in body style and usability. I LOVE the E-P3 and being such a fan of it would probably go for that over the K-01. But your opinion may vary. You can see my E-P3 review HERE. 

Would I buy a Pentax K-01?

For me, NO. For you, ? The IQ is great, the high ISO is fantastic but for me, the body design and lack of a VF stops it from becoming a camera I would own. Besides, I can’t buy them all!

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Where to buy the K-01

You can buy the K-01 in all of the fabulous colors below at B&H Photo which is my recommended place to shop for mirror less cameras and just about anything photographic. I also like Amazon

Buy the Pentax K-01 in BLACK with the 40mm 2.8 lens at B&H Photoor Body Only

Buy the Pentax K-01 in Yellow with the 40 2.8 lens at B&H Photoor Body Only

Buy the Pentax K-01 in WHITE with the 40 2.8 lens at B&H Photoor Body Only

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  132 Responses to “The Pentax K-01 Camera Review – Design Masterpiece or Design Fail?”

  1. it had to have a VF for me to buy it.

    • +10 No viewfinder, no optional one, no camera. In my photographic world.
      So to me (and I do respect the K5 as a serious photographic tool!), it looks like a toy. It is a toy.
      Too many other GREAT (versatile) imaging choices out there.

    • wish someone would create a ipad liveview focus peak app for it. resolution on the new ipad3 and it’s light size would make for an amazing on camera lcd monitor, mounted on a hotshoe or tipod. the focus peaking feature would just be in software processing, and an ipad3 app could be created just for that. all you would need now is adapter cable for hdmi to ipad.

      i can see it now, it is the future… ipads and iphones on your camera.

      • Why do you need an iPad when their a dozens upon dozens of field monitors by Marshall, Small HD, Ikan, et al? Such monitors simply plug into the HDMI port, and can be mounted on the hot shoe. And most field monitors, even the low end ones have focus peaking, false color, all the focusing aids you could ever want.

        Besides these being much better choices for photos and video, in many cases cost less than the iPad. But still, were you aware the Pentax K-01 has focus peaking? Don’t know if it works in video mode, but it works well from what I’ve seen of it.

    • Hi Steve,
      I got this camera for 314 brand new yellow with 40 f2.8 pancake lens from an authorized dealer last week. So far I love using it. It is very well built. Is it not worth it for this amount without a viewfinder. It has been taking good photos and videos. I like the fuji x100s better for the looks. Would the IQ for that be 5 times bettter ?

  2. Thanks Steve for the great review. I really like your style of writing. I have a yellow K-01 on pre-order, since it is not yet available where I live. I do see all the problems that you point out. So why buy this and not a K-5? Well I already have a black (or regular) K-5 and a K-5 Silver Limited Edition. I also have a yellow netbook and a yellow car. What I don’t have is a yellow camera that brings me fantastic IQ (yet).

    I ordered a LCDVF to stick to the screen, since I will use this K-01 for video and family stuff. I also found out that the Q’s O-VF1 viewfinder will match with FA 31mm/f1.8! So I’m thinking of finding one off those in future. That would make a great combo for a holliday on a single lens vacation.

    Greetings Ron.

  3. Ha! , I know the Pentax community can be a little sensitive , but you pretty much said what we knew since day one,very good picture quality especially with the amazing Pentax lenses ( really that is never the problem with Pentax cameras) , but bad design and no VF and BAD ERGONOMICS! (that’s a first for Pentax! ) is a deal breaker for most photographers, as well the first bunch have the usual bug BC of lack of quality control (ok we get it you are a small company but still ) , and the AF still hunts in low light .

    meanwhile Olympus gave their fan the camera that every Pentax fan is dreaming of, a Digital OM.
    and we can only dream that one day we will get a digital version of the K1000

  4. I guess my question is, what does this camera offer over the K-5? Just a little bit of size??

    • It’s the same sensor as the K-5. You can really think of it as a K-5 that has been scaled down into a mirrorless camera. So the advantages are size and price (the K-5 even at the current lowered price of $1,200 is no match for the K-01′s $750 for the same image quality), improved shooting in live view, and better video features. So, if you’re a landscape or studio photographer that does all of the work carefully composing and focusing through live view with a Hoodman loupe, or if you’re shooting situations where the $450 means that you will have that much of a better lens (like being able to afford a 70mm for portraits), then by all means get the K-01.

      • Except that you can now get a k-5 for under $1000. And k-r for $500ish.

        • The K-5 is currently $1,200 at all the reputable, authorized dealers (Amazon, B&H. If you know of any at $1,000 then I’m all ears.

          • 948 $ canadian dollars.
            Big nice brick and mortar store in old Montréal.
            cg

          • K-5 is $999 at B&H….

          • Well, it is now. Until yesterday, it was $1,200. Closer gap, but that’s still a 25% discount. I’d go for the K-5, 10 times out of 10, and recommend it as a better buy for pretty much everyone that I talk to, but every photographer needs to evaluate their own situation.

  5. Great review. The interesting thing is that this camera has this silver bump on top which references a design detail caused by a viewfinder. It is a strange design. Usually I like the work of Mark Newson. He is one of the best designers that we currently have. Usually his stuff has references to the past but feels very modern, sleek. I think in this case Pentax already had a layout and asked him to dress it up. Here is a link to an interview with him about that camera.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zsFtVYw68A
    I like design, I like his work, I know that the 80s are coming back or are already back but this Pentax will not be on my shelf. The reference to the Leica is spot on. The output is looking great so and some may like it. Just not sure if enough people like this to make it a big seller. D!RK

  6. It’s nice to see you express yourself in an unreserved fashion Steve. I’m really baffled as to why people would be so sensitive against someone expressing their opinion about a product. If they don’t like something they have the right to their opinion and the right to express it fully. No need to be touchy about it.

    Having said that, really do root for underdogs like Pentax. But this is too much. Still have to give them credit for trying something no one else would dare try and just see would happen.

    I see this camera in yellow being a hit success with construction workers.

    P.S. I HATE THE V1

  7. Steve, thank you for your review. It is good to hear that the camera delivers very good image quality (I think Pentax will at some point deliver ‘pro’ model with EVF), pity about the body shape. I hoped for a bit more optimistic opinion fro you as in pictures the body shape reminds a bit of the Ricoh GXR (just thicker) which sits very well in hand. I guess Pentax decided for this “fat” body to hide otherwise inevitable “dummy mirror box” – which must be there to keep the mount at the proper distance from the sensor.

  8. Hi Steve, does the x10 really have a slow zoom lens? Is f2.0 to f2.8 that slow?

    Thanks for a nice review sir.

  9. I get the feeling this wasn’t designed so much as it was styled: that the visual statement overrode concerns of usability.

    Still, if it had an EVF at this price, I’d be tempted. A mirrorless, APS-C camera mated to Pentax’s iconic, Limited-series lenses? Oh, yes!

  10. Meh looks like an under water camera it’s chubby and gross and the photos look so so no atmosphere at all Next

  11. Thanks for the review. Although I’m a happy Ricoh GRD (and L M3) user, I love the yellow Pentax. Design wise, I find Sony’s Nex too angled and hard for my hands. It doesn’t feel like a camera at all. K01 doesn’t try to mimic Leica’s exterior, as Fuji does. And I like the inocent exterior paired with the tremendous IQ.

  12. I don’t mind it being boxy if it feels like I”m shooting with a Holga that’s fine with me..and it is a cute camera..but what is up with these guys not putting a viewfinder? GRR….

  13. Great review. the K-01 was on my shortlist, but is now off. I loooove the K-5 and it’s amazing image quality, but am leaning towards a new mirrorless. Even though the K-5 is a great size for a DSLR, I am nervous that it will still feel too conspicuous for me. It’s a shame Pentax didn’t make this one a little more user friendly. I think I could even overlook it’s clunkiness if it just had an EVF. Fingers crossed for the OM-D E-M5!

  14. I am a Pentaxian with a K5 and 2 wonderful primes, the 31mm limited and the 15mm limited plus the 16-50. I love Pentax products and would gladly put my K5 + primes against the new Fuji any day. However, as to the K-01, whatever were they thinking? It is embarrasingly ugly, ridiculously overpriced and has no viewfinder. I expect this to disappear within the year. As a “Pentaxian” who really wants to see Pentax start to give Nikon and Canon a reason to look over their shoulders, the executive who green-lighted this project should be fired. BTW, my iPhone 4 is a more than satisfactory replacement for any camera that does not have an optical or electronic viewer.

  15. This is a tough one for me because I want to like it. The image quality does indeed look pretty fantastic from that small lens, and I may just buy one to use on the K-5 (some over in the Pentax Forums have already tried it with success). Though slower, I have to wonder if the contrast-detect AF is better in accuracy than the phase-detect of the K-5, as we all know the AF of the Pentax DSLRs lags behind some of the big boys. At least from your samples, it looks like you had no problems getting accurate focus.

    I’m likely going to hold off buying the K-01. If I had the money just laying around I might be tempted as it would be fun to play with, and I’d like to see how it does with video… but ultimately, I already own the K-5 which really isn’t all that much bigger.

    ps. sidenote… that sign in your living room… I’ve never seen them before until last weekend a local shop on the north shore had them and I almost bought the same one! LOL!

  16. Thanks for another interesting article, Steve.

    The appearance of the new Pentax reminds me of a weatherproof Monolta APS camera I bought my wife some years ago, for use when she was sailing. (Flickr picture here — http://tinyurl.com/85evf54 .) It takes much better pictures, though.

    Roger

  17. I just don’t get it. In order to work with the legacy Pentax lenses, the body has to be exactly as thick as the K5′s body, but with no mirror in that big empty space. So it has most of the bulk of a DSLR with none of the advantages.

    Now, if it had a really cool EVF, then maybe. But no.

    Well then, if it looked really slick. Oh, never mind. My ignorance of course, but I’ve never heard of Marc Newson, and since this is the only example of his work that I’ve seen, I won’t be looking for any more examples.

    Maybe if it was inexpensive. Oops. $900.00. (You can get a used K5 for not a lot more.)

    I have a boatload of Pentax lenses, and I have no interest at all in the K-01. For folks who don’t have a bunch of lenses, well, I just don’t see how the “associates” at BestBuy are going to sell this, compared to a similarly priced Olympus, or even the Canon G1X.

    I’m sort of a fan of Pentax products, but sadly, I predict a huge marketing failure on this one.

    What were they thinking?

    • Fully agree. Massive fail from Pentax with this one. No VF, no size/bulk advantage over a DSLR, and one of the most hideous body designs EVER.

  18. Oops! “Minolta”.

    Roger

  19. Makes one wonder why you’d pay someone what was surely a large sum of money when they aren’t a camera designer nor even a photographer.

    Seems to me that no matter how “big of name” said person might be, I don’t see how any photographer would really care or see that as a reason to buy.

    People can be good in their given area, but I for example, wouldn’t want Gordon Ramsey to design my home. He’s a chef, and perhaps a good one, but what does he know about architecture and structural design ?

    I’d take a bunch of no name enthusiast photographers over any big name designer myself. Why ? Because famous or not, people who know and enjoy cameras have experience with what works and what doesn’t.

    I can only hope in a way this camera crashes and burns, as otherwise I’d hate to see a line of celebrity camera designs, from the likes of Gordon Ramsey etc

    Frankly I’d hate to see even celebrity photographer camera designs for that matter! Can you imagine something like a Peter Lik model ? How about an Art Wolfe line of zoom lenses ? Yikes

    • ?
      Is Gordon Ramsay a designer? Leica used a car designer for a very successful take on its M9,not tomention the importance Apple has placed on industrial design for its range of products. So there is nothing wrong with the thought.

  20. Like many of you of you here, I am quite familiar with Marc Newson’s body of work. A few years ago, I saw his show at Gagosian Gallery here in NYC. He takes pride on taking a design challenge and wiping the slate clean from pre-conceived notions of what that design is supposed to look like. In large part, he succeeds. For instance, two remarkable designs I have seen of Marc Newson’s is his carbon fiber desk and solid marble chair. His Ford O21C car is a superlative design achievement as well (Ford should still be ashamed for not building it). These designs are without flaw. Not so with this Pentax K-01. Marc Newson was out of his league here and it is absolutely fair to say so. He did not understand camera design to begin with and, because of his lack of insight, he could not wipe the slate clean. Instead, Newson had to yeild to a camera designed by a committee and I am surprised. Yes, I do hold Marc Newson responsible for this failed design. There is nothing wrong with saying so. People fail. It is human nature. Picasso failed. Einstein failed. In the end, we will all fail. Success and failure is human nature. It is the cycle of life. Marc Newson’s design failed. So what. Marc Newson’s success and talent is amongst the very few that will leave an imprint on human culture.

    • I think the K01 is a design fail. It may get some (younger) people excited. If so, well and good for Pentax. I have high hopes for Pentax being a user & they had been great on ergonomics till now. I took the liberty to check out Newson’s table & chair. Didn’t like the table, not sure the chair will be comfy.

      All in all, I’m not sure if Pentax could come up with a less boxy design given the fact they wanted to use the existing lens mount. However, I’m sure they could have put in an EVF, make the buttons & colors less toy like.

  21. Marc Newson CANNOT design a camera.

    Pentax should learn from Fuji. Keep it simple. They cannot win over Nikon, Canon, Sony.

    But there are a few things none of those can better Pentax. ….a recent example is K5.

    Also, I cannot see why Ppentax cannot make a superb rangefinder camera and sell it for half the price of M9 ?

    Please pentax, stay true to your roots.

    Become a photographer’s camera maker.

    Stop hiring Lady Gagas to design cameras.

  22. Excellent review.
    In summary: Great IQ and great compact lenses are the true assets. Design mistakes, including lack of VF can easily be corrected in a next generation K-01, certainly much easier than substandard IQ or optics.
    To Pentax: That shoulder strap looks cheap and cheesy!

  23. Yo Steve,Love the dog!

  24. A bit off the topic of your review of the K01, but amongst your comparators you mention the Fuji X10 as “plagued with a slow zoom lens”. This is odd, as I can quote Steve Huff as mentioning the “semi fast f/2-2.8 zoom lens” of the X10 in his review! Was it the auto-focus? I seem to remember Steve saying that was pretty good too!

    (Yes, I bought my X10 partly becaue of your review and despite the dreaded unnameable problem, and love it! Thanks for the site, which I enjoy…)

  25. Th first thing I read is the great 40mm lens! kudos for Pentax but then I immediately ask myself, what is the crop factor?

    Anyway, it reminds me of the old rangefinder days where 40mm lens are pretty standard and great cor street photography and lanscape! Smaller than the 35mm but larger than the 50mm.

    I think the colours from Pentax is wonderful but with the may choices avalable, the question is would I buy it? Ummmm…..

  26. Great review, It is sad that Pentax is designing such horrible mirrorless cameras. This is a new emerging market and with something great they could of really gained some needed market share.

  27. I think this camera is a brave move from Pentax. Despite of the shortcomings. It is much easier to do some retro-styling. That new Olympus is a prime example of lack of creativity. Very similar to retro-periods in architecture. There is a lot of new technology and new design should be developed to acknowledge that. Sony did that with the Sony Nex-7.

    • I think Hans is barking up the wrong tree! For me the K-01 is a very much retro, Braun (of the 70′s), design, far from the true adventurous design of the OM-D EM5, or the Nikon V1, or the NEX-5N! Performance-wise, the three other cameras runs around in circles, while the Pentax K-01 is very much old design, both in looks, and performace.

      The K-01 is designed for the P&S user, which is used to cameras without viewfinders, thus slightly inferior to the K-5, in most ways. Hopefully, there will be more useful Pentaxes in the future, so I can use all my glorious Pentax lenses, but for now I feel the Pentax brand might in danger.

      Tellingly, Tamron, and Voitlander, no longer makes versions of their lenses for the K Mount (used by both Pentax and Samsung DSLRs).

      At the same time the MFT Mount (used by Panasonic & Olympus mirrorless cameras), and the E Mount (used by Sony NEX cameras) have increasingly numbers of manufacturers supplying lenses, including Zeiss, Voitlander, and Tamron.

      I have more close to 20 ‘K Mount’ lenses (mostly Pentax, four Tamron, and a pair of Sigma long tele lenses), but I fear they will be more used with my NEX , and its ‘K Mount’ adapter, in the future, than with any modern Pentax! The K-5 is by now over a year old, and it is doubtful if it will followed by any more DSLR, ever!

      So, while the K-01 might be a ‘brave’ move, it sure is a technological step backwards, lacking even the basics, like a socket for a external electronic viewfinder! Even my poor XZ-1 has one!

      • @ I have a Pentax Ist D with lenses dating back to 1965. I have a couple of point and shoots with just LCD that only showed my reflection in bright sun. I adapted a accordion type lense hood, where the large end fit the camera screen and cut a card magnifier to fit the small end. Attached these with double sided tape. It is not perfect but I can see the camera screen in bright sun. Because of this experience I knew I need a view finder for the K-01. I bought a Perfect 3″ LCD Viewfinder and a Pentax K-01 from Amazon. Result, I can see the K-01 LCD clearly in bright sun. I now have a 16 mp APS-C senser camera that will use any Pentax lens I have and take great pictures for less than $400.

    • Doing something different — and how different is this, really: see Steve’s review observations and comments here — does not excuse poor design. It’s only brave if it works… and causes the veils to drop — those which may accompany habitually conservative perspectives or lack of imagination — from the eyes of a majority of interested people in a game-changing way. Otherwise, that kind of “boldness” just shows itself up in the end as dumbness or short-sighted self-indulgence.

      I don’t disagree so much regarding the new Olympus. While I understand that the company believes that this one might lure a lot of conventional users away from their over-sized, plastic-y, clunky SLR’s (whose inherent competitive advantages many of them probably never exploited well anyway), I don’t see much justification for feeling a lot of of retro-love for the old OM’s on aesthetic grounds. And worse, speaking of pseudo mirror boxes — that faux prism housing is like a phoney “radiator cap” and little statuette on some very much post-war automobile: Yech!

      One more personal sore point, since the OM-D is calling my name on functional grounds: Why the carbon fiber look for the insert material on the black one? …And the nice, traditional “grained” look on the silver’s imitation leather? Aren’t most Huff-o-philes here, for obvious reasons, in that “leather” camp? Show of hands? Some may like the “more modern” look (but is this a “clash”?); yet who is NOT going to buy the black — if black is what they want — with the more traditional aesthetic as the only choice, black or silver? I can definitely see some (like me) at least holding off dropping the 1000 clams or more for lack of a more emotional connection with the OM-D to go along with that typical case of G.A.S.

  28. Don’t know how it feels to have it in my hand, but I find the design very pretty. It looks much nicer than the new Olympus O-MD for me.

    But I wouldn’t buy this kind of design. Give me X100, M9, X10 all day !

  29. I’m intrigued by this camera, and think that the bold design will win people over as time goes by. The lack of an EVF doesn’t worry me, but I do wish that it had a second dial. Moreover, I’m a little worried by some of the things I’m hearing about the ergonomics.

    So I’m very keen to try it out in person to see how all these specs come together “in the flesh”.

  30. Certainly wins the prize for ugliest ever camera!

  31. I’m a Pentax user, and so I tried playing around with K-01 at the store here in Japan… and it feels cheap and ugly. I wasn’t happy with this camera in terms of design. It feels cheap and fugly. The features are so so compared to competitors… price wise.

    I just hope Pentax will try better next time.

  32. “With apologies to Marc Newson”

    I’m pretty sure this is what went down at a Pentax staff meeting a few months ago -

    CEO – After our last debacle with the Q system we need to come back strong with a killer product.

    *pin drop silence*

    CEO – Did we fire the idiot who thought it would be a good idea to call our optics ‘toy lenses’?

    *silence continues*

    CEO – Well, I’ve just about had it with you suits. You are all out of touch with what the market needs. We need some fresh inspired thinking! Someone who can think digital. Where’s that intern we hired from that Hippie School of Design?

    *intern is led into the board room bewildered and weary*

    CEO – Turn around and show me the label on your jeans.

    *examines label*

    CEO – “Seven for all mankind”, never heard of it. You’ll do. What do you think you designer jeans wearing types would want in a camera?

    Intern – Ummmm… uh… dunno.

    CEO – For god’s sake man, think! Apply yourself!

    Intern – Well… it’d be cool if Lady Gaga designed it. I’d buy it. No wait! Marc Newson. He’s a cool chap, you should totally get him to design a camera.

    CEO – Who’s Marc Newson?

    Intern (gushing) – He’s like the most awesome designer ever, man! He like, makes these cool furniture and bicycles and shit.

    CEO – Has he ever designed a camera before?

    Intern – Man, he can design anything! He’s done aircrafts and shit man. He even has his stuff in MOMA dude.

    CEO – What’s a moma?

    Intern – Museum of Moh-dun art dude! Like totally rad.

    CEO (suitably impressed) – Go call Marc Newson… and stop calling me dude.

    Intern (perking up) – Awesome dude… I mean, man, sir.. right away.

    Three months later at Marc’s first presentation, the suits are not happy. The camera looks like a colourful bar of soap with buttons and strange protrusions.

    Marc – I have this vision of the world, where everything is ‘designified’ by adding primary colours to boxes.

    CEO (glancing at intern to make sure the jeans crowd is suitably impressed) – Right, right.

    Marc – One button needs to be red, and the other green… hmmm… we need yellow to complete the set and make it look like a traffic signal… Hey, I know what! Let’s make the camera body yellow!

    CEO – For God’s sake Marc! Don’t be ridiculous we can’t have a serious photographic tool that looks like a something an African bee will try mating with when shooting outdoors!

    Marc – Ok ok. Maybe you’re right, hmm… lets just have ONE variant in yellow then, and all the people who agree with my world view will buy that. Just you wait and see. It’ll outsell the other variants.

    CEO – Marc, how about adding a viewfinder?

    Marc – Never use it.

    CEO – But ummm… people do you know.

    Marc – Pah! It ruins the fluid lines of ridge. No viewfinder.

    CEO – It’s also kind of umm… big.

    Marc – This is precisely why we need to develop the right shade of yellow for the camera body! Distract the users from figuring out that its the same size as the K5.

    CEO (still stealing sideways glances at the ecstatic intern standing at the back of the room) – You might be right. We’ll highlight the yellow camera in all our press shots.

    Meeting ends with congratulations all around. Everyone leaves the board room but for the CEO and his Chief Engineer Yamamoto.

    Eng. Yamamoto (coughs discreetly) – CEO-san, I have humble idea as backup plan.

    CEO – What is it?

    Eng. Yamamoto – CEO-san We should make sure this new camera can house all our Pentax K series lenses without an adapter. Just in case the yellow is not as big a distraction as we think it’ll be.

    CEO – Hmmm…

    *camera launches*

    In the meanwhile, the intern has already quit Pentax in anticipation of his next job as a core team member at Apple’s ideation team, now that he has a beefed up resume and has proved his chops by recommending Marc to Pentax he’s sure he’s snagged it.

    Unfortunately for him, Apple has seen what the camera looks like.

  33. Luv the UNIQUE look
    Nothing stereotypical
    I have ordered one
    thanks

  34. How does that camera compare to others ? Is it more complex, does it focus more closely etc ?
    Check for yourself and have a look at the biggest Excel comparison chart in lenses and cameras :
    http://www.photoexposition.fr/slr-dslr-reflex/

  35. I’m not a fan of the design, but even if I was, the lack of EVF would be a deal breaker.

  36. So, I guess one guy had carte blanche on the design of this camera? How hard would it have been to stop by a few cubicles and say “hey, I just designed this new camera, take a look at the plans, tell me what you think.”

  37. That is the ugliest camera I’ve seen lately. Good thing is shoots nice.

  38. The world of photography is definitely:

    1 / Male, not a single girl has intervened in this debate
    2 / Distressingly conformist

    2 deriving from 1: nothing of all this is weird, ultimately.

    Notwithstanding I have a simple question. What is the share of girls in:
    Photographic activity, whether it is actually authorized
    The aggregate purchase of cameras,
    The breakdown of those purchases by type of cameras.

    • I agree. An EVF would have been nice, but then I paid under $590 for a body with the same excellent sensor as my K5 utilizing the same batteries w/better video specs and twice the bang per buck spent on lenses and any other accessory compatible with the K5. I’d have like weatherproofing and a better (solid) door covering the memory card, but I can easily live with the value I got. Heck, if few people like this and they have a fire sale on the remaining lot, I’d pick up yet another one. Yeah, it’s a handful (size) but I’ve got big hands and a couple of Lumix P&S w/auto-focus in video mode (wish Pentax would consider that). I don’t believe even my K5 has focus peaking like the K-01, so that’s an added bonus. I plan on picking up even a few more lenses for the K5 and ‘little’ brother. The only thing that would (maybe) have dissuaded me from this purchase given all the excellent specs is if Pentax had a full-size DSLR sensor on the market. I’d still want them to have auto-focus in video and (at least in the US market) do away with the crap about limiting video clips to 29′ 59″.

  39. I would not say ugly. I think it is polarizing. Personally I don’t like it but I see some people here actually do. The image quality is great and it looks easy to understand. I have to admit that the Sony Nex’es better suit my style but they are not great for beginners. You can get easily lost in the menus and dials. This Pentax looks like a camera that I would give my mom and she would take photos with it. Simple layout. Still, the design has not grown on me yet and probably won’t. It just looks too much like a restyled and recolored old camera versus an innovative, new design. It may be good to cater to some who don’t like the black, technical boxes that Sony makes, or the Leica copies that Fuji is putting out. Maybe that niche of users that like simple, boxy, colorful cameras is bigger than we think it is.Not everybody wants pro gear.

    • Why spend $900 on it then? Why not an E-PM1 or other similar cameras?

      They come in a rainbow of colors, cost $400-$500 and you can take pictures with them too. Your mum would never know the difference.

  40. “Depreciation sets in and we buy cameras and sell them for a loss 5-6 months down the road to get the latest and greatest. It is what it is folks, and it seems to be getting more and more crazy as time goes on. But it is OUR passion and OUR hobby and I know of many MUCH more expensive hobbies than photography.”

    Whoa, whoa – wait a minute!! Is THIS supposed to be “photography”???

  41. The iq looks very good and there are tons of compatible lenses out there. I actually like the look. It’s so over the top that it’s almost camp. The lack of a VF would probably bother me, though. I’d love to upgrade my old Pentax to a k-5. The sony nex series actually looks ridiculous to me when the lenses are attached. It’s like a point and shoot with an oil barrel stuck to it. The iq from the nex cams is great, though. I’d love to have one.

    Honestly, every EVF I’ve seen so far has been substandard compared to even the most humble pentamirror dslr, but an EVF is far better than no VF

    • Guess Dave never have used a NEX-5N, nor peeked through its lovely viewfinder (same as can found in many modern Sony cameras, like the A-77 and the NEX-7). I too thought it looked silly, till I got my hands on one. Amazing camera, not least with lenses from other manufacturers, like Pentax, Nikon and Leica!

      Even the tiny Nikon V1 outperforms the K-01, easily!

      I have four Pentax (D)SLRs, and the only one out-performing the V1 and the NEX-5N is the K-5, and then only at high ISO (over 3200).

      The game is different with my Pentax SFX, as it is a FF camera, using film, and I’d love a Pentax FF DSLR, but will they ever make one?! Don’t wait for it!

      • No doubt that Sony has a winner with the nex series. I’m just saying that it’s no Leica M in the looks department. :) I haven’t played that much with the nex cameras. The EVF is very good, but I could still tell that it’s an EVF when I pointed it out the store window towards the parking lot. I can see that it would be useful in really dim situations with manual focus. And the focus peaking is very cool.

        My eyes have 20+ stops of dynamic range. It just doesn’t seem like EVFs are there yet. An OVF has zero lag. The nex EVF still has a little. I think the EVF on the nex would be good enough for most purposes, though. The technology keeps improving. Someday the guys shooting the superbowl will probably be using cameras with EVFs.

        The V1 looks like tons of fun. That would be a great camera to own. A full frame Pentax would be fantastic. I still use the ist Ds and am pleased with the photos at low iso when used with good glass. When I do get around to upgrading the new camera will be multiple generations newer and will probably blow my mind!

  42. Think it looks nice straight from the front, but really bad from the top.

    Actually I always thought that the NEX-series were the ugliest cameras around, but have gotten used to them (more or less), but still think they are very ugly when mounted with the long lenses.

    Maybe we will get used to this design over time :-)

  43. Steve, I don’t think you’ll take heat from Pentax for “talking bad” about the K-01′s design, but they may point out that you didn’t once mention WHY Pentax chose such a chubby body design: they wanted the K-01 to support K-mount lenses, and with a flange focal distance of 45mm, they simply couldn’t make a NEX style super thin body. The Alpha NEX flange focal distance is only 18mm, one of the smallest in photography. The Pentax K mount is nearly 3 times the FFD of the NEX. But you’ll notice how much smaller Pentax is able to keep lenses relative to Sony NEX. Tradeoffs.

  44. reminds me of the ugly blonde with a great body….looks meh, but goes alright :)

  45. What is the point of mirror less? Cheaper to make (when leaving out a separate, electronic or optical eye level finder), shorter flange distance, no mirror slap!

    Neither any Pentax K-Mount lens, the new 40/2.8 nor the Sony 24/1.8 make use of the short flange distance. Only the Leica M9 and Ricoh GRX A12 do.

    When doing a search for used manual lenses (Pentax K, Canon FD, Minolta MD etc.) the bargains are limited to 24/28/35/135≤f2.8 and of course to 50≤f1.4 which are the ones there bought in large numbers at the time.

    So what?

  46. Nice review, thanks.

    Marketing fail I think. I mean, if they would have played it safe and styled this along the lines of their Limited lenses (classic/retro/rangefinder look), and allowed the option for an add-on viewfinder, I think market reception would have been a whole lot different.

    Even with the strange design, I ended up buying one of these unloved, misfit toys and I am actually liking the K-01 quite a bit. I had been considering adding a DSLR to the kit for landscapes, architecture and portraits, places where I didn’t mind the larger size. I saw the K-01 as an opportunity to shave some size off the body and paired with Limited lenses, the total kit size is actually pretty small. Then, there is the whole value thing… You are able to buy the body with standard lens, along with the 15mm and the 70mm Limited lenses for only $200 more than the XPro1 body.

    As far as lack of viewfinder goes, I do wish it has an option at least for an external option, but the reality is that I didn’t use the viewfinder much at all on my E-P3 or GXR. Also, I do find the rear display on the K-01 to be as good as the other two, and I have found it serviceable to compose in even bright sunlight.

  47. I’m a Pentax fan but I fully agree with your assessment. As a matter of fact, you were too kind. This camera is a failure. One can debate about the cosmetics; on the one hand design shouldn’t detract buyers but on the other hand it can also open up the market for new buyers. One cannot, however, debate about the usability flaws: The lack of a viewfinder and the misplaced “green” and exposure compensation buttons simply cannot be excused. One can only hope the K-01 was the last Hoya product to come out of Pentax and that Ricoh will take Pentax to new strength.

  48. I have used Pentax since 1969 starting with a Spotmatic & was really looking forward to a compact, light mirrorless from Pentax with a 28mm register distance & an EVF This would mean new lenses to suit the smaller body I realise (although K mount would work with an adapter) but it should much more be compact. The K-01 body should have housed a 35mm size sensor (OK it would have to be a slightly larger body).
    I think Sony got it right with the NEX.
    But for me it’s simple; no EVF, no buy.
    I have a K-7 but am now considering moving to the K-5 for it’s better sensor & IQ.

  49. Hi Steve,

    I found your blog recently–thank you for doing what you do. I applaud your real world style, please keep it up. It’s refreshing, informative, and a lot of fun to read! Plus you review great gear which is always nice to hear about.

    This is my first post here. I just had to comment about the K-01. Seems to me it’s a weird idea from the get go. Pentax hamstrung themselves by wanting to keep the same lens mount and thus maintaining the large depth of the lens box. This made it, by design, basically as big as a DSLR. I think they hired Marc Newson and gave him an impossible job–make this camera (that has to be a boxy) look cool and hip. He did what he could to disguise it, but it is flawed to begin with.

    The whole point of mirrorless, I thought, was to get a bigger sensor into a smaller body, get rid of a lot of the bulk so people can more easily carry around a high quality shooter. Look at a side by side comparison between the K-01 and the K-r (imaging-resource). Where is the difference? It’s almost as big, almost as heavy. What’s the point of this camera anyway? Just to jump on the mirrorless bandwagon?

    I like cool design, I’m a huge Apple fan, but design has to go hand in hand with function IMO. This camera, while the output looks good, leans too far in the design direction. If it’s mirrorless, make it smaller, if it’s not smaller, there’s no advantage. Just my thoughts.

    Thanks again Steve. I’m pretty new to photography. I’m learning a lot and getting inspired.

  50. I like the design, but I will never buy one because it has no viewfinder.

  51. My two cents,

    A very nice attempt at some industrial design, sure it’s not perfect but i appreciate the attempt to create something with some character. My criticisms: I wish you could assign no functionality of the red button because i accidentally hit it will shooting and it starts recording video (which gets annoying fast since i am not in video mode). I wish the auto-focus was better in low light (thank god there is a manual focus setting). That’s pretty much it. Beyond that it was the smallest camera i could find with a mic jack in conjunction with biggest sensor and in a moderate price range.

  52. I happen to like the chunky styling, but that is a matter of personal taste. As far as the K-01 lacking a VF is concerned, I do not think that the targeted market segment cares about viewfinders. They are accustomed to using rear LCDs for composing, having learned to do so on their P&Ss and cell phones. What those people will be getting is a HUGE boost in IQ, which may spur some of them to become serious about photography and, hence, to invest is a more “serious” Pentax DSLRs.

    For now, the K-5 is about as good as you can get in the APS-C world, and I expect its successor to be even better. The K-01 is not aimed at enthusiasts, but it may create a few.

  53. I do not like the design of this camera.
    It’s like a one-box car.
    The way which used a little smoother curve will adapt itself to a hand.
    Efficiently, K-5 is not exceeded.

  54. Damnit Pentax, if you really want to be unique; make an affordable FF mirrorless!

  55. I am a Pentax user and this camera design is really ugly, I am agree with Steve 100% on this.

  56. The Focus peaking feature would be awesome for a manual-lens freak like me! I shoot the K5 using LiveView almost exclusively with manual-focus. Screw the EVF, I certainly don’t need one. The K01 has stellar IQ and that is what matters.

    I would save the 40mm pancake for shooting from the hip…

  57. I may be in the minority, but this camera gives me the itch of acquisition. I love the chunky design– it’s pomo and fun, and looks like it’s great to hold. I currently own Pentax glass, which I’ve acquired since I got my K-X, and it looks like a no-brainer upgrade. God knows I don’t want to start the whole lens thing again.

  58. Great review Steve, one of the best you’ve done recently! :D

    I have been really looking forward to this as an avid user of Sony Nex and Pentax.
    I really wanted to like this thing, but you hit the nail on the head comparing it to the Nex5n.
    For $200 less you get the same Sony sensor as in the K-01, you get a smaller and arguably prettier body, plus that great short flange distance which gives you access to a multi-tude of classic manual glass…
    I do own a bit of great Pentax auto glass and was hoping this would be great as it is basically a scaled down K-5,.but the lack of VF and no tiltable screen makes it sadly, a no go for me.
    I do not think this is the camera Pentax hoped it would be. No I think the rumours of the prototype mirrorless 645 medium format getting around is going to be thier game changer if they can pull it off successfully.
    Keep up the good work Steve, I look forward to future installments. :D

    • But the NEX does not have a comprehensive (not even enough) small nice primes that the K-01 can leverage on.

      Small body, big lenses, incomplete lens options : NEX
      Bigger but right sized body, small/fast/good lenses : K-01

      The potential user has to choose between these points.

  59. Since when did photographers care so much about how a camera looks? All this online blather about the look smacks of triviality/superficiality.

    I thought it was the results that count? And in that arena, the K-01 delivers in spades. The best APS sensor compatible with the best APS-C prime lineup at a mid-level price is a unique offering.

    Sure it’s bigger than other mirrorless offerings, but few are slagging the Fuji for that, are they? Besides, plenty of folks complain that Pens and NEXs are too small. Throw a kit zoom on them and they look like a monkey humping a football.

    Fact is, every camera is a compromise, from M43 (a step behind in IQ), to NEX (incomplete lens lineup) to Samsung (no track record) to the Fuji (price, and AF, if early reports are to be believed.) Add the K-01 (size) and you’ve got a shelf full of compromised cameras. Pick the compromise you’re willing to live with and get out there and shoot.

    http://whatblogisthis.blogspot.com/search/label/K-01

    • Well the lack of VF killed it for me. After shooting with it in blazing sunlight and NOT being able to use it, well, that sort of knocked it out of the running for me in any way. The K-01 is compromised in design, size and lack of EVF. Everywhere else it is great. The new OM-D is a camera that seems to have the LEAST compromises and has just about everything including design, lenses, EVF, and superb IQ from what I have seen. If Pentax would have included some sort of VF, it would have made for a much better/funner/easier camera to take out and shoot.

      • Yeah, no VF does suck a bit. But… it’s still a wonderful camera to use and here (The Netherlands) we only have sun a few months per year, so no worries. :-)

  60. I still can’t believe this camera doesn’t have an EVF, not even the option to put a VF2 style view finder. I love the ability to shoot old pentax lenses but this blatant omission is a deal breaker for me. I mean seriously, if their public for this camera are designers, actors, and that type audience, I suspect that this camera will flop commercially and one will then say, “what was that all about.” If on the other hand, this would have been an OM-D style camera with this sensor it would have been glorious. Anyway, just my 2 cents.

  61. Very interesting blog and great review page, Steve. I’m looking for mirrorless camera for occasional filming. Which will be best in low light conditions? I think about low ligt noise/grain. E-P3, new Panasonic’s like GX1 , NEX 5n, Nikon1, maybe Pentax K-01?
    I guess: E-P3 is better then NEX 5n? I hate low light noise in videos, so… this post is all about low light NOISE performance in movie mode .

  62. You’re right about the ergonomics — this camera is difficult to hold.
    I think it’s designed for people who have used a high-end point and
    shoot (like the Panasonic Lumix, perhaps) and so haven’t experienced
    and won’t miss a viewfinder. But in bright sunlight the screen is
    problematic.
    Where it beats the K-5 is its video capability: 30fps, 25fps and 24fps -
    and its .mov video format, instead of mpeg-4.
    If you want to shoot video with Pentax lenses, this is the camera for
    you. In which case you’ll probably be using the HDMI output to a
    separate monitor.

  63. Steve,
    Pentax marketing certainly did themselves a disservice by not providing you a comprehensive set of lenses to show off the system, which is the K-01′s strength.

    Right sized instead of small bodied + nice/small/fast lenses + backward compatibility to legacy MF lenses.

  64. I so much wanted this camera to be so much more.
    Your review is pretty much the same as every other review in criticising the boxy ergonomics, bulk and flimsy rubber doors that kill it, notwithstanding the K-5 equivalent IQ.
    Why Pentax, why?
    I presently have a K-200D and am very desirous of a K-5. I have enough lenses from a lifetime of Pentax SLRs starting with a high school MX.
    I have stuck with Pentax (straying to a Ricoh XR-S once) because of their dedication to backwards compatibility, the (almost) saving grace of the K-01. I like the fact that I can stick every Pentax compatible lens I own on my current Pentax and it will work flawlessly. That is not something I could have hoped to do with any other brand.
    I also have some very nice Tamrons including a 19AH 70-210 that I love which is not limited in any way by the Pentax options, but would be limited to manual only (and questionable metering) on an Olympus or Sony even if I bought the suitable Adaptall-2 mount and additional adapter (very pricey one in the case of Sony).
    Consequently I feel cornered. I am still considering a K-01 with a prime for interchanging and will eventually replace the K-200D with a K-5 or equivalent anyway. What I really want is a K-02 with all the best features of an NEX-7 or OM-D in the 300g weight range; is that asking too much?

  65. It’s…. beautiful! And great IQ.

  66. Thanks for the hands-on review.
    Prices are a tad different in AUS; the pre-order price on the K-01 is $700 for the body (I already have a Pentax 18-55 and a lot of glass) and $1,700 for an NEX 7 +18-55 and $900 for the NEX 5N with the same lens. I agree with all your criticisms, but I still feel drawn to the camera. I have big hands and appreciate chunky designs; the Q is unfortunately just too small as are all the Olympus PEN range. I will try it out for myself when available, but wouldn’t I love a happy medium between the Q and the K-01!

  67. Already got the black version and just ordered the… yellow as well. Love the camera design. Yes, L.O.V.E., as Al Green sings. The camera is a * fashion * statement. Fashion as in: Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel, Dior and, not to forget… hot babes. Hold it in your hands and… believe! It’s a wonderful camera with outstanding IQ. K-01 forever! Well, at least until the K-02 is ready to launch.

  68. Dear Steve,

    Despite your review I’m still very interested in this camera.
    Here in Australia the difference between a K-01 body at $700 (I have a Pentax 18-55 plus many others) and an NEX-7 with an 18-55 at $1,700 is a lot more, so the math is a tad more favourable.
    I can live with the lack of a viewfinder to gain the sensor upgrade and a second camera for a very reasonable price.
    I actually like the design (and Newson is an Aussie after all!) but will handle it first to determine if I really want one.
    I can’t tell from all my searching what the camera does with a K-mount lens. I know it will function flawlessly with a KA-mount lens, as do all Pentax, including my K-200D which is aperture-full-open with my K-mount only lenses. I would be ecstatic if the K-01 controls a mechanical aperture K-mount lens.
    Can you shed any light?
    Did you test it with a K-mount lens?

    Regards,

    Chris Jowett

    • As far as I know you can use it with ANY K mount lens. If you like the style and can do without a VF then this is a GREAT camera. The IQ is fantastic. Sounds like a no brainer!

      • I have found and read the manuals for the K-01 and K-5 and confirm they both lack a mechanical aperture coupling. Consequently K and M designation lenses are aperture-full-open only. That leaves shutter speed and ISO manipulation (auto or manual) to control exposure. That leaves the depth of field limitation, which is pretty severe with the 50mm f1.4 I’d like to use.
        Do you have this problem with the various combos of lenses and bodies you use?

        • Yes, Pentax left off a tiny tab (that would have added about $1 to the cost of the camera) in order to make Pentax lenses earlier than the “A” types very inconvenient to use. In addition, to quote the manual:
          “The shutter speed changes in relation to the open aperture but an exposure error may occur.”
          So, their claim to be compatible with every lens they’ve ever made is simply not true. For me, a lens that can ONLY be used wide open, and doesn’t necessarily meter correctly, is pretty worthless.
          As far as I know, the only cameras that are completely compatible with all of their own legacy lenses are the higher end Nikons, like the D300 and D7000.

          • That’s right. Pentax DSLRs and K-01 are 100% compatible with every lens with a c1983 KA mount onwards, all program modes, metering, SR, the whole box and dice – but totally suck with mechanical K mount lenses. To be fair though, the affordable Nikons are even worse and the high-end Nikons are so expensive (and huge!) that you can buy a K-5 and a shopping trolley full of Pentax lenses for less. Also, had I invested in Canon FD, Olympus OM, Minolta MD or anything else about in the 70s and 80s I would not even have got this far. I don’t begrudge the folks at Pentax (or Hoya or Ricoh or whoever owns them this week) but yeah, my SF-Xn did it so why not?
            The best news is that the Sony NEX cameras are brilliant with all legacy lenses and a simple machined adapter that won’t fry any electronics and affords stop-down metering (virtually unnoticeable dimming on an EVF) and peaking focus assist make it the path of choice for me.
            I foresee a bevy of smaller DSLR-style EVF MILC like the OM-D flowing from Japan in the near future with maybe even Canon finally entering the fray. While I’m at it, I further foresee Pentax clicking that the K-01 is an Edsel and that a scaled-down 645D with an EVF is a better shape for a K mount MILC with back focus distance issues than a scaled-up compact. I thought this same thing when the Pentax 6×7 was the only medium format camera shaped like a huge 35mm SLR trying to compete with all the cube-shaped medium formats. Did they just not get it? They eventually built their own Mamiya 645 which has now evolved into the 645D, and a dandy camera it is too.
            With sensors and storage improving exponentially, it won’t be that long before a Q sized sensor has the IQ of a current D7000 and we’re buying 1TB SD cards for $30. If there is a future for a 35mm sized lens mount, maybe it is as the medium format of the future.

          • Chris: Just for the record, CameraSize.com says that the Nikon D7000 is 1% (1mm) wider than the K5, 8% (8mm) taller, and 4mm thicker. It weighs 40 grams more. So the Nikon is really pretty compact for a DSLR.

            Don’t know about Australia, but in the US, the K5 body is selling for $1100, the D7000 for $1200.

            They’re really in the same neighborhood, both in size and price.

  69. People don’t say “dude” much anymore. Just old people think they do. The K-01 is going to be a love or hate product. I won’t buy either. But neither would I disrespect the designers. The next Pentax DSLR will be a better camera because of this experiment with the K-01.

  70. For all haters (including Steve) of the K-01 design:

    A Pentax camera that was designed by world-renowned industrial designer Marc Newson and launched in March 2012, has been selected as a Product Design 2012 winner at this year’s red dot design awards in Germany.

    The Pentax K-01 was selected from more than 4,500 applicants from 58 countries as a Product Design winner in the “Entertainment Technology and Cameras” category.

    The red dot design awards are one of the world’s most prestigious design awards. Each year, products brought to market over the previous two years are judged on nine different design criteria, including degree of innovation, functionality, ergonomics, durability and ecological compatibility.

  71. Follow the Yellow Brick’s Road

  72. I wish people would stop equating image quality to the sensor size alone. Just because the EP-3 is micro 4/3 doesn’t automatically mean it WILL BE worse than cameras with APS-C sized sensors. Firstly, you need to take the entire system into consideration – Nex 7 sensor may be bigger than EM-5, but the images are of comparable quality, due to the lens quality on offer from the m4/3 system. Secondly, technological advances mean the APS-C sized Fuji X1 Pro is now as good as “full frame” sensors, and EM-5 / GH2 m4/3 sensors are as good as APS-C sensors.

    • I doubt the GH2 will hold up against the K5/K-01 in the IQ dept…not that I wouldn’t mind having one for video in a small format. But simply acquiring an assortment of Pentax lenses has proved challenging enough. For me, I find the combination of the Lumix and the Pentax feels just right. For really serious video work, my Sony NX5U covers the rest of the bases.

      Finally, so far as the register distance of Pentax lenses (45mm) and associated limitations (adapters, etc.), isn’t there some kind of optical advantage with respect to the physics of refraction in having a longer focal length/register distance?

  73. When it comes to photography, the means of achieving a certain result are not important. It is the result that matters. Complaining about the lack of viewfinder and boxy design is just nit-picking, because the quality of shots does not suffer from it. It does affect ergonomics in a certain way, but it is incorrect to call this camera a failure. I own K-20D and being mostly a landscape photographer, I use live-view exclusively. It allows for better composition and geometry of shots. I use live-view even when shooting ships. No matter how bright the light was, I never found LCD unusable. I tend to regard viewfinder as anachronism.

    • The K-01 LCD IS unusable here in Phx, AZ. The sunlight washed out the LCD so bad you can not see a thing on it.

      • Your comment makes me wonder how different the lighting at your latitude is from the one at my latitude (59 North). When I experienced similar problems I put on a cap with a visor, or used my left hand for covering the LCD. This might sound like making things too complicated, but I just prefer it this way.
        At this point I consider K-01 as a replacement for my K-20D. I am tempted to wait for the K-5 replacement, but considering that I am soon heading for a vacation, I will most likely opt for K-01. In the end it is image quality that matters to me.
        By the way, your review is very informative.

  74. I have K-mount lenses from my now 21 year old Pentax, but I do more Film & TV then Photos, so for me the lack of optical viewfinder is not as much as an issue as it is for stills work, and I’d always use a shade over the LCD or an external monitor.
    I like yellow as a colour, but I’d buy it in black simply so the camera wouldn’t distract the talent (actors,. y’know,..).
    For me there is only one question I need answered.
    What is the Data Rate of the h.264 stream?

  75. You wrote: “I really can not judge on total and overall IQ from this camera because I have only shot it with the 40 2.8 lens, which is excellent but still no match for the limited primes.”

    The 40 2.8 XS is based on the DA 40 2.8 Pancake, a Limited prime, and one of the better ones based on the old Zeiss Tessar design and sharp from corner to corner. DxOMark has the 40 2.8 XS performing only very slightly worse than the DA 40 2.8 Limited, but you are talking imperceptible amounts of resolution difference.

  76. Steve,
    Have you updated your camera with the latest firmware and checked the autofocus speed again?

  77. The camera isn’t ugly. Ergonomically this camera doesn’t exactly excel where the Sony NEX does but if you call yourself a real photographer the aesthetics of the camera should be a less compelling reason to buy it over the quality of pictures it produces. If the camera design isn’t a total compromise for maneuvering it during extended shoots, I would argue that the Pentax is breath of fresh air over the competing conventions of overly aggressive modern design perspective. I like the dose of the nostalgia in the body and if only to stand outside of the zombie world of the Sony and Apple brand. I would strongly consider the Pentax.

  78. The value of the K-01 against the competition has drastically changed now that the price has plummeted to $317 for the body ($417 with the 40mm pancake). Check out B&H Photo. The $30 off sale may end soon so it could return to $347/$447 but that’s still HALF off compared to just a few months ago.

    I’m still on the fence though. Never was a fan of sticking my nose up against the camera to peer through a tiny (E)VF. Would much rather see the preview on a large screen. But I do concede that shooting in bright sunlight would be challenging with current LCD display technology. The K-01′s strengths (superior IQ, huge body of Pentax lenses) still outweigh the drawbacks for me.

  79. I have enjoyed all the comments about the little Brick. I got my first camera in 1960 it was a Argus C3 and cut my teeth on it so I guess I have a soft place in my heart for Bricks. The next camera I bought was a Pentax Spotmatic and enjoyed the hell out of it for many years. I have many Pentax cameras lenses and a K-7 I bought a few years ago. I have many large format cameras also. So it was a no brainer for me to buy the K01 at $316.00. I can use it with all my Pentax lenses which is a real plus. I also use a spot gun sight and gun stock with my K-7 that I will probably use with the K01 for shooting action shots, so the lack of a view finder isn’t a real problem to me and since I don’t hold my camera when it’s on the stock no problem. I have found that a range finder is of little use when taking action pictures of fast moving aircraft and other things move fast any way so the K01 my be a real step up from the K-7 that I have. Time will tell haven’t seen the camera in person yet will get it on Wed. Have a Happy Holiday Season all will I have fun playing with my Christmas Brick.

  80. Wow, I started out with an Argus C3 also in about 1959 or so in the Navy. Other cameras over the years was a really nice Minolta and several point and shoot little tiny ones. Then a used Pentax Kx a few months ago and also wanted a new Pentax which I thought should be mirrorless and would accept all the Pentax K lenses I have bought for the Kx. Along came Joe and pointed me to the K-01 and there it was, in all its yellow glory. I bought the kit with the 18-55mm and the 50-200 zoomer for a bit more than $500. That says that I bought the body for less than $200 when just a few months ago it was about $700 or more. How could I not buy it.

    I have not found the rubber flaps hard to put back in place. I think somebody who gripes about the small stuff would kick if they had both legs cut off. I did the firmware upgrade and now I have a nice expensive easy to use digital camera that shoots good movies with two honking lenses for $500. Like I said, what an easy decision. I am extremely pleased with my purchase. I’m going to be taking a lot of pictures with this one. I’ll keep the Kx for a backup even though I think I have a set of twins really.

    What I really think is that a whole lot of reviewers are hung up on small and thin little point and shoots so that when a nifty mirrorless model comes out that has the ability to use existing lenses they trash the camera and ruin it before it gets started. Pentax has obviously decided they couldn’t fight the bad press so they stopped making the camera and discounted it. I hate that but I got a great camera out of it at Pentax expense. I got a camera that has some heft to it and doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart in six weeks. A quality camera. I recommend it most heartily.

  81. I too am very pleased with my $500 twin lens kit K-01. If I had to do it over again, I would have bought the XS40 and purchased the zooms seperate, but that is just because the 40 comes much cheaper as a kit, and the two zooms get little respect so are cheap, used.

    The only thing that really bugs me is lack of an EVF, but for the stunning image quality, I can live with it.

    I do wish Pentax had went for a look like the MX-1, but everyone who has seen the camera has been impressed with its looks, so I won’t gripe.

    My camera’s have been as follows; Instamatic 100, nameless 110, Argus 75, Vivitar PS35, Pentax Super Program, Fuji 2800 digital, Panasonic FZ7, and now the K-01. I have never kept more than one camera going, and keep them for years at a time, the Panasonic for 6 years. I was thinking about the FZ200 to replace my FZ7, just as another image making tool, but the K-01 caught my eye.

    The K-01 has renewed my passion for photography. That makes it a major sucess in my eyes.

  82. Image quality from this brick blows my K-R away. As much as I would love a Nex, I got the K-01 with 40mm lens for $375. It is a no brainer now

  83. I presently own and shoot with a Pentax 645D, Pentax K5, Olympus XZ1, SONY A850 and now as a result of the blow out price drop, a Pentax K01. It more than keeps up with all of them in IQ with the exception of the 645D. The focus peaking works like a charm and with the latest firmware upgrades, no nit pics. As for the industrial design, it works in my hands and for critical work outdoors I’ll take my K5 but even so, a Hoodman viewer attached to the K01 makes it easy to use outdoors. The image quality in it’s category is only surpassed possibly by the K5IIs.

  84. […] had his, crazy in its own way, Marc Newson designed Pentax K-01 with him. I wonder if, in Mr. Newson’s wildest design dreams, he can imagine a restaurant […]

  85. Awesome camera. Easy to hold and use all my old Pentax MF lenses with. Focusing is a breeze. With all the comments about the camera’s looks I was expecting not to like the appearance. It’s really a good looking camera. Only camera that I’ve owned that gets compliments for its looks. Regarding the depth of the camera, compared to the NEX 7. The true measurement is front to back depth with the lens on. With my DA 40mm Limited the there isn’t much and it feels well balanced with that lens and the DA 70mm. In order to accommodate legacy lenses. without an adapter, the depth is necessary. Relatively quiet camera, with no mirror slap, which was a big plus for me.

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