Design and features
The first thing that comes to mind when looking at the K-01 is "peculiar". This certainly doesn't look like your run-of-the-mill interchangeable-lens camera (ILC). It's boxy, it sports a teensy-tiny pancake lens on the front and it comes clad in a startling canary yellow. Black is also available, for the less brave.
While the body of the K-01 might be chunkier than most ILCs, what this camera lacks in discreetness, the 40mm f/2.8 lens makes up for in droves. It's incredibly slender, so much so that many observers who commented on it didn't actually realise that there was a lens on the front at all.
It's all standard fare from here on in, though, with a mode dial housing the main controls. There are full PASM control, automatic, scene modes, bulb, movie, no flash and an HDR option, all on the top. The power switch flanks the shutter button, which is shaped almost like a teardrop.
The HDR mode (left) is pretty subtle, compared to the standard shot (right).
The camera was designed by Marc Newson, he of the peculiar-looking Ford concept car and ridiculously cool Embryo Chair. When you take a look at these two objects, then observe the K-01, you'll get some idea of why it looks like it does.
Around the back, you get a nice, bright, high-resolution 3-inch LCD screen (921,000 dots). The camera sports a 16.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, and, to make it more appealing to Pentax users, the lens mount accepts all K-mount models. There's also the added benefit of in-body image stabilisation, as well as dust reduction.
There's no option to mount a viewfinder, which may be a deal breaker for many photographers. The K-01 is also heavy — 561 grams of heavy — which puts it firmly in the league of entry-level digital SLR territory.
The K-01 accepts SDXC cards, and connectivity is via a mini HDMI and proprietary mini-USB port. There's also a microphone input. All of the external flaps are rubberised and take a lot of effort to push closed.
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
Nikon 1 V1
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in seconds)
Nikon 1 V1
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The autofocus system seriously lets down this camera. While you wouldn't think a 40mm lens would need to hunt for focus all that much, it routinely finds it difficult to lock on to a subject, even a stationary one, without a lot of back and forth. We didn't have any other lenses supplied to us during our review, so we were only able to gauge how bad the problem was using the 40mm — and it is quite poor. Low-light focus is even worse.
Image processing is also slow; for example, the built-in HDR mode takes at least 20 seconds in order for it to put together the finished photo from three exposures.
The K-01 delivers great-looking images, even if all you do is leave the camera on default settings and shoot JPEG. Colours are punchy and bright, there's excellent gradation and tonality, plus the ISO sensitivity produces very good results even in the upper echelons of the range.
On top of shooting JPEG, the K-01 of course shoots RAW, but, more excitingly, it takes Adobe's DNG files as its RAW format. Exposures are accurate, and the K-01 meters well in a diverse range of conditions. Really, the only issue you'll have is with the kit lens, which exhibits some strong fringing and halation around bright and contrasting areas. It is, for all other purposes, a nice, sharp lens suited for most applications. The autofocus will drive you crazy, though.
Spot the difference between the RAW and JPEG files. No, really. Try to do it. We couldn't see any real discernible difference in colour, sharpness or detail. Even at high-ISO levels, the K-01 holds its own (this was shot at 800).
Video quality is really not representative of the other skills this camera has. The image appears over-processed, and while colour is good, there's a lot of softness.
Exposure: 1/1000, f/9, ISO 800
Exposure: 1/80, f/4.5, ISO 400
Exposure: 1/200, f/2.8, ISO 800
Exposure: 1/80, f/2.8, ISO 100
The K-01 hits the ball out of the park when it comes to image quality, but its operational quirks and slower-than-a-glacier shooting speeds will frustrate.