A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Pentax K1 the first impressions

November 14 2016

by Philip Northeast

The Pentax K1 full frame DSLR arrived today and the first impressions were  encouraging.

Body of the Pentax K1 seems to be about same size as K5, despite the larger full frame sensor and  the need to accomodate a larger mirror box. The feel in the hand of the K1 is similar to my Pentax K5 DSLR.   As expected on a top line DSLR there are  a number of  controls with  adjusting dials, wheels and buttons.

Lavender taken with K1

First photograph with the Pentax K1

K1 Rear Controls 

The rear control layout  on the K1 seems better than the  K5. For  example, the new  position of  the  AF button is further away from the other rear panel controls, and closer to the natural position of my thumb. This makes it easier to use than on the K5,  without accidentally hitting the Live View button.

There is less room for buttons on the rear of the  Pentax K1 due to the larger monitor screen. Advanced photographers generally prefer physical controls they can use while still composing photos. The first impression is the controls I use most   are on the rear panel and easily operated by  my right hand thumb.  My pet hate on the Pentax  K5 is hitting the Live View button accidentally.  On the K1 it is on the left top of the rear panel, well away from any accidental operation. It is  still  convenient to use when the camera is on a tripod, which is when Live View is an advantage

K1 and K5 camera backs

Pentax DSLR rear panel layout with the K1 on top and the K5 below

The next difference is the change in the diopter adjustment for the optical viewfinder. On the K1 there is now a  wheel adjuster instead of the slider adjustment on the K5, that sometimes seems to move by itself,  or  maybe it  move while handling the camera.


The Pentax K1  uses the same battery  as the K5 so it is possible to swap batteries between the two cameras. Unlike my Pentax  K10D that requires a different charger and battery.  I used the battery from the K5  to get started while the new battery  was charging.

Setting up the K1 

The first time the camera is turned on there are a number of  basic settings  that need attention before  taking any photographs.

Changing the date format is slightly unusual. In Australia  we use the English format of dd/mm/yyyy  rather than the the default value U.S format.  Instead of presenting a number of complete date format options the Pentax engineers  went their own way, typically Pentax. Changing  one individual item  changes whole date format, ie change month to day and the  day field changes to month automatically.

Setting the time zone means selecting a city. The range seems limited, but choose the one representative of  the desired  time zone.  It does require scrolling through  every city  until  the  appropriate city is selected,  a slightly cumbersome process.

First Photograph

It was a grey overcast afternoon when I headed into the garden looking for a  subject for the first photograph with the Pentax K1.  Because of the  cloudy conditions I checked the White Balance  in Adobe Lightroom  and found fewer options than normal. This is an indication it was a jpeg file, not my normal DNG file format.  The menu system in the K1 is similar to the K5 so I was easily able to set the capture mode to raw DNG and Adobe RGB, as I use Adobe applications for processing.

Crop Mode 

After starting with a full frame lens I  tried a lens designed for APS-C cameras. The first thing I noticed was the viewfinder display  changed. In crop mode there is a large rectangle showing the area captured  in crop mode.  Looking outside the crop rectangle  and  there were dark areas around the edges of the full frame image.  This is easily cropped out in Lightroom.  Do you get more useable image area this way? Is it the same for every APS -C lens? Just another aspect of the Pentax K1 for investigation.

Ready to Go 

Finally I dowloaded the latest firmware from Pentax for the K1 and performed the update. This is normal for  modern electronic devices. With some of the basics sorted the K1 is ready for the next step of exploring the metering and focus systems.


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