Has the Pentax K-1 Come Too Late?


Before the Pentax fans come out with pitchforks and try to DDoS this site into oblivion, hear me out.

Pentax Ricoh recently announced their K-1 DSLR: the company’s first full frame DSLR. It’s been the answer to what many folks have been asking for for years. Pentax has had one of the most decorated histories in photography. They had the Auto 110 SLR, the K-1000, some of the most unique focal lengths out there, the Pentax 645, the Pentax 67, and many more. For years, Pentax cameras were in the hands of many photography students.

But when digital came along, the company kind of went into obscurity. Their initial products weren’t really the best performers until they started to put rugged builds and excellent features into their entry level DSLRs and move the improvements up the line. Even today, they’re the company that offers fantastic products but that aren’t really talked about that much. They’ve got the most APS-C DSLR lenses out there of any company and they’ve always had a very loyal core following.


Now let’s get one thing straight here: if Pentax never delivered the Pentax K-1, we’d all still be asking for it. So yes, Pentax needed the K-1, but they needed it a while ago.

Canon, Nikon and Sony are the other manufacturers of full frame DSLR cameras. Can Pentax make a dent in this? Quite honestly, I genuinely think they will. You’d be stupid not to get this camera over a current Sony A99, Canon 6D or Nikon D610. It’s got serious weather sealing, more megapixels, WiFi/GPS, can shoot at a decent frame rate, and has loads of lenses available to it from both Pentax and third parties. And when you look at it, the big three haven’t updated their options in a while. But this is a Photokina year, and it’s bound to happen. Pentax will need to keep finding ways to push this camera ahead through lenses and other marketing techniques considering that the other three are most likely to roll out their updates in September.

But this hurts on a couple more fronts too; for example Sony has full frame mirrorless cameras that are absolutely fantastic but don’t have the best ergonomics. If you’re used to other camera brands, Pentax ergonomics are a bit more to wrap your head around because of new dials and ways of doing things, but they’re not terrible.


One audience that the Pentax K1 will be very popular with is Pentax users. If you’ve owned legacy glass for a while, you’ll be able to use them now and you’ll also probably see Pentax lens prices go up. Beyond all the folks who have Pentax glass though, you’ll likely see this camera really marketed to the outdoors crowd and the enthusiast.

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As it is, Ricoh’s stock also went up.

But is it too late? In some ways no; but in other ways I’m sure that the full frame market has seen the Sony a7 series of cameras really eat into them.

  • Andrew Munster
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    The people who want spilt screen viewfinder. have never used live view focus zoom and focus peeking they are as good as focusing with spilt screen if not better.

  • Richard Jackson
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    This is basically a k-3ii with a FF sensor.

    That’s a good and a bad thing.

    Good because of solid build, astrotracing, ibis for stills, pixel shift high detail, weather sealing etc

    Bad because of poor video mode that hasn’t been touched in 4 years or so since the k-30 upgrade to 1080p 24fps and full manual. It’s now out of date. And no ibis during that video either. And their eternally behind the game lack of AF points and tracking capabilities.

    Pentax are now the only company offering affordable cameras across the APS-C, FF and MF sensor ranges.

  • Martijn ten Napel
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    That huge collection of Pentax legacy glass is not good enough for the high resolution of this camera. Pentax has too small a collection of good lenses for this camera (not a single prime).

    Sony had that problem too with the A7 series, but with the adaptors they had a way in and they have been turning out lenses at high speed.

    Everybody concluding that Pentax will remain a nice player is bombarded by Pentax fans who tell you that you are out of your mind, but reality is that even Ricoh states they have realised the K1 for their loyal user group (see dpreview).

  • Birds_Rocks_Things
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    I figured it would only be a matter of time before you commented on the K-1. I didn’t expect it this soon, however.
    My K-5 feels like a chunk of iron in my hand, because it is – powerful, well-built and a joy to use.
    Am I considering the K-1? You bet, but I do have concerns regarding price point –
    Top of the list – comparable, if not better image quality at a less expensive out-of-pocket.
    3K Canadian is a pile of money for a camera.

  • Daniel M
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    Too late? are cameras coming to an end? Is the world ending?

  • GP
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    You brought up a lot of good points but I don’t think it’s too late overall. Yes, I think Pentax will only have a short period of time to enjoy the advantage before Nikon and Canon “catch-up,” but I think it will greatly increase Pentax visibility in the market. AND! Now shooters don’t need to worry about entering the Pentax ecosystem knowing they will need to completely switch systems if they every want to upgrade to a FF. Pentax has designed a cool upgrade path here; crop>FF>medium format with backwards compatible lenses between the FF and the 6×5 series. Anyway, I think Canon/Nikon will respond with price and outright resolution, but I don’t see them working in all the little features that make the Pentax system unique and appealing like weather-sealing, IBIS, astro-tracer, pentaprism near-100% viewfinders, etc.

  • Zos Xavius
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    What a troll post. The full frame market is still less than 10% of the total market and is growing. How could it possibly be too late at this stage?

  • Turbofrog
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    I think if you’re a landscape photographer and you want a full-frame DSLR and you don’t already have a full-frame DSLR, this is the camera to get. No questions asked. The potential is so far in advance of any of the competitors in its price range (A7 II, 6D, D610) it’s not even funny. In reality, the image quality will probably punch past the D810 and 5DS in a lot of circumstances if you’re using a tripod.

    But I suspect that the full-frame DSLR market is slowly on its way out. Sony has gobbled up market share due to the pent up demand for FF mirrorless, despite not having a fully baked product. I imagine that will continue in the future, and it will force new market entrants by Canon and Nikon in the mirrorless space.

    All that said, this is the only FF DSLR I’ve ever been tempted by. So I guess that says something. It’s a really compelling package at an unbelievable price.

    • Steve Solomon
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      Nice Preview of the K-1. I do agree with TurboFrog’s comments, except for the statement that the “full-frame DSLR market is on its way out”…only because of the entrenched and vast systems of Nikon and Canon. I too, would be tempted by this K-1, IF I hadn’t already switched over to mirrorless, and the excellent, well-built, weather-sealed Fujifilm Xt-1 with their superb Fujinon optics. I have a history with Pentax, having used and enjoyed the K-5 for several years. I also was most impressed with the Pentax Limited and DA* optics, although the Fujinon lenses are quite stellar, both in build quality, image rendition, and lens sharpness! That said, it will be most interesting to see pro test reviews of this K-1.

  • Gypsy Frank
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    Legacy Pentax lenses won’t go up in aftermarket price UNLESS Pentax has either:

    1) Equipped the camera with a split screen viewfinder.


    2) Allow the viewfinder screen to be user replaceable with a split screen.

    Manually focusing on DSLRs suck with old school manual lenses without this focusing aid. You can focus using Live View, but if you’re like me, you want to be able to place the viewfinder to your eye and focus on your subject. One of the reasons that I bought my old Canon 1D Classic was because I could replace the matte screen myself with a split screen. This is also the reason that the Nikon Df didn’t take off in the market like they hoped…..you could use legacy glass on it sure, but with no split screen, you couldn’t accurately focus your lens.

    • Manuel S. Velasco
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      I own a Pentax K5 and a K3, both allow the viewfinder screen to be replaced. I think this will be the same for the K1.

    • GP
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      My understanding is that the center focus point will illuminate when focusing in manual. Not quite the same but still makes manual focusing possible.

  • Vil
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    I’m a Nikon user and applaud the aggressive pricing of the K-1. It’ll make Nikon up its game and hopefully push the price of the D810 down.

    • Kamen Minkov
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      I don’t care about the D810, but I hope that this makes them reconsider the midrange FX segment and release a proper D700 successor.