Pentax K1 Review and Resources

In Cameras by Ben

The Pentax K1 is currently the best value (May 2017) for photographers interested in image quality above anything else. It also has in body stabilisation and excellent weatherproofing. This makes it the best value dSLR available for photographers who don’t need fast autofocus or pro support. For landscape and still-life photographers, it is the best choice.

Pentax Downloads

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Pentax Lenses

What are the best lenses for the Pentax K1 camera?

Top 5 best Pentax lenses I have;

  1. The Samyang 135mm f2 telephoto lens – This lens is incredibly sharp, technically excellent and is perfect for portraits. The only issue is the manual focus. It’s cheap, too.
  2. The Pentax 28-105mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens – This lens is a great reminder why Pentax/ Ricoh understand photographers; it’s lightweight, super-sharp and affordable.
  3. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG portrait lens – Sharp, beautiful bokeh and lovely rendering. Silent auto-focus with full time manual override. But not weatherproof.
  4. The Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art standard lens – Almost as sharp as the Samyang 135mm even wide open at f1.4. Sublime lens with excellent bokeh. 
  5. The Pentax 20-35mm wide-angle zoom lens – Incredibly lightweight and compact lens that’s great for landscapes. Not as sharp as the 28-105mm or weathersealed.

Top 5 best Pentax lenses I want;

  1. The Pentax 77mm f1.8 limited lens – Sharp, beautiful bokeh and above all, it’s so small for travel.
  2. The Pentax 70-200mm f2.8 telephoto zoom lens – Proof that Pentax Ricoh can still create superlative lenses. A pro standard that runs with the best; but bigger and heavier.
  3. The Zeiss 35mm f2 ZF2 standard lens – Manual focus, but apparently sublime and better than the f1.4 version.
  4. The Pentax 28mm f2 wide angle lens – A pseudo-Zeiss that’s cinematic and very rare.
  5. The Pentax 200mm f4 FA* macro lens – Macro lenses have to be built to higher standards because of how they are used. This is the best one.

My favourite lenses to play with;

A few of my lenses are less practical, and more fun. Chief among them is the Porst 55mm f1.2. It’s manual focus and wide open the depth of field is very thin. It’s not an easy lens to use. It has a dual character; at f1.2 it acts like a soft-focus lens. It’s not that soft, but it has the glow and diffusion overlaid on the sharpness that gives it a dreamy quality. Stopped down to f4 and beyond it’s sharper than the Pentax 50mm FA AF modern equivalent. It’s not a lens to use all the time, but it creates pictures that are unlike the others.

Another favourite is the Tokina 500mm f8 mirror lens on the Pentax K1. It was less than £100 so I wasn’t expecting much. But the feel of the manual focus is better than any of the other lenses I’ve used. It’s very compact for such a long focal length so it’s good fun to mess around with. It’s not sharp, but it’s actually surprisingly a lot sharper than I expected. Again, it gives a unique look.

Who Are Pentaxians?

Pentax used to be cool. From top professionals to international celebrities, the Pentax was the camera to have during the Summer of Love. But Pentax was complacent, and Canon and Nikon took their market share by courting the professional photographers, counting on copycat amateurs as the bulk of future sales.

Canon is still the most popular dSLR maker and Nikon, itself now failing to evolve, is fading. Sony and Fujifilm are on the rise through great products and great marketing. And where is Pentax? Late to the game with an under-priced superlative dSLR that’s barely made  a splash because their marketing is still lacking. But with Ricoh’s financial backing, things may change. 

And who are Pentaxians? They are the die-hard fanatics who never left their previous systems from decades ago, or bought cheap used gear from brand-migrating professional photographers, or else are early adopters, geeks who recognise value when they seek it out. 


Roger Cicala; one of the most respected photo-geeks

And as a minority, these Pentaxians are swift to take offence and zealous in their attachment to and defence of their brand/identity. Because demand is low, most modern lens manufacturers have stopped making lenses for the Pentax K mount. Some, like Leica, Voigtlander and Sigma, created a few lenses for the mount and then changed their minds. This gave Pentax one lens from the amazing series of Art lenses by Sigma, the 35mm f1.4. 

Because there aren’t that many lenses in production, a lot of Pentaxians use old lenses, including manual focus primes. Some of these are excellent, but because they’re rare the prices are often irrationally high. And with high prices comes cognitive illusion that replaces more objective measures of a lens with talk about pixie dust.

This is particularly true with the Trinity or Tres Amigos series of lenses that were made to show just how good Pentax was when they were losing their market share. But people don’t buy the best products, they buy the ones that are marketed best. It’s a shame because these three lenses, the 31mm f1.8, 43mm f1.9 and 77mm f1.8 are all excellent. The designers prioritised the image rendering and the size instead of sharpness and maximum aperture as they do now. Each lens is a little gem, beautifully machined. But they were designed for film so purple fringing and a few other aberrations exist. The 31mm vignettes strongly at f1.8 for example.

I bought the old lens, the Pentax 31mm f1.8 and the new one, the Sigma 35mm f1.4 art lens, compared them and chose the Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens. It gave better image quality, more bokeh and silent autofocus with realtime override at the expense of a much larger size and more flare. This comparison ruffled some feathers with Pentaxians because the 31mm limited lens, more than double the price of the Sigma 35mm at £1,350, is a particular favourite of the community. Here’s the comparison on YouTube.

Pentax 31mm vs Sigma 35mm Art lenses compared

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4 lenses compared at 35mm; Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens vs Pentax 31mm f1.8 limited lens vs 20-35mm vs 28-105mm

Taken with the Pentax K1 on a tripod, f8, 1/250s for every shot. Outside so the light varies slightly between shots. Shots are labelled with the lens used. I’ve uploaded the full DNG files; personal, pixel peeping use only please.

Firmware Updates

While the Pentax K1 is an incredible camera, also using Nikon has given me some ideas for relatively straightforward improvements that will make the camera even better.

– WiFi in video mode
– Option for no WiFi password
– Turn off focus beep in quick menu
– More options for self timer
– Hide image like the Nikon
– Autofocus improvements
– Quick format
– Turn off highlight warning in quick menu
– RGB individual channel highlight warning
– Delete photos with one button
– Screen off in quick menu and by half press shutter
– Back to beginning of review photos
– Proper flat s.log profile
– Fine tune reds
– User uploadable picture styles
– Choose any shutter speed with the flash
– Rear curtain flash select in camera
– Option to remember last photo viewed & not go back to the start
– Update phone app

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