A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Pentax K1 exploring the basics

November 28 2016

by Philip Northeast

The Pentax K1 in the local botanical gardens trying some of the basic functions.

Aperture Priority (Av) is a  commonly used exposure mode, especially for landscape photography where controlling Depth Of Field is important. This was a good mode to start testing the Pentax K1.

It was a bright sunny morning with dark shadows from the larger trees providing  a challenge for the metering system.

garden pond

The bright white bridge over the lily pond with the deep shadows from the tall surrounding trees


Camera displays

The LCD panel on top of the Pentax K1 is  smaller and has less information than the K5.  Only the essentials are here, shutter speed, aperture and the status of the memory cards.  The other  information is now displayed on the  rear monitor screen.

Importantly worked out the two new adjustment dials. The left dial selects a  function for adjustment. The right unmarked  dial steps through the options for the function. The information is displayed on the rear screen.

camera monitor

rear screen with setting info displayed

Setting the function selector dial to the crop position and the I  used the unmarked adjuster dial to cycle through the sensor size options.

I took three lenses, two crop size zooms a 35mm full frame prime. This gave  a general coverage from 10mm to 135mm.

Crop Mode Selection

When I cycled through the crop mode options I found a 1:1 option as well as full frame (FF) and crop (APS-C ). This mode crops the image to the square format when you take the photo,  handy for posting straight to my Instagram account  from the Pentax K1 using the WiFi functionality, hopefully.

In crop mode the viewfinder displays a rectangle indicating the limits of the image in crop mode. Interestingly, it changes size when zooming a crop mode lens. It seems at the longer focal length of a zoom it has a larger image area than in the shorter end of its zoom range.


In the fernery, a very shady environment for the ferns, cranking up the ISO to 3200 produced very clear images with little digital noise. A small amount of noise reduction in Lightroom cleared it up,   but was it really necessary?

deep shadows

The Pentax K1 brought out the detail in the deep shadows with little noise.


Image Stabilisation

I went  below the canopy of a spreading Elm tree to take  a record photo of the  details plaque. When I checked the information after the taking the photo and I saw the shutter speed of 1/15 of a second I was worried that camera shake might make the text hard to read.  Then I upped the ISO and reshot the photograph to make sure I  got a readable picture.


name plaque

The plaque on the Elm tree is easily read even with hand holding and shutter sped of 1/15 second

Reviewing the photographs in Lightroom the 1/15 second image looked clear and reasonably sharp. The exposure was a bit off , but that did not matter. This confirmed generally what I found with the photographs  in the dark areas that the 5 axis Image Stabilisation is a step up from the system in my Pentax K5.

Dual Cards

The Pentax K1 automatically changed from the first  SD card  to the second card when the first was full without missing anything.


On first impressions the Pentax K1 delivers the expected improvement  in image quality. It is not dramatic but there is more fine detail compared to the Pentax K5.  The digital noise performance is another area of improvement.

There were  surprises in the effectiveness of the Image Stabilisation system and the seeming variability of the capture area with crop lenses.


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