Pentax KP Review
The Pentax KP is a 24MP APS-C DSLR with styling and controls lifted largely from the full-frame K-1. It also offers interchangeable front grip system as part of its rather pretty design.
On the face of it, the Pentax KP is a confusing proposition. On the other hand, we see a better control layout, higher ISO capabilities, and the new SR II system. It omits GPS, and takes a hit in areas like battery life and burst rate. Let’s take a closer look at what is right with the KP.
Their entire lineup features extensive weather-sealing, and the KP is no exception. The unique interchangeable grips are one of the standout features of the KP. They’re a nice touch, fitting neatly around the chunky front dial. Happily, none of them spoil the looks either.
All in all, this ‘baby K-1’ has some new thinking combined with sturdy quality and pleasant design. In keeping with Pentax tradition, the KP offers a versatile set of controls that are hugely customizable. On the top left of the camera is the typical drive mode dial, with 5 custom user modes. On the right side of the camera, up against the pentaprism hump, is a second mode dial.
Now that the function dial can be customized, it is brilliant. Given Pentax’s history of customizability, we hope more settings will find their way to the third dial in the future. Pentax just needs to expand on the Function Dial a little more, and it will be perfect.
Pentax was the first company to recognize the idea of manually specifying aperture and shutter speed, then letting the camera adjust ISO to make up the difference. Because this TAv mode (Shutter and Aperture Priority mode) is a full exposure mode, you get no unexpected restrictions. And, for the pedants among us, it side-steps the semantic contradiction of the camera controlling something in a nominally ‘manual’ exposure mode.
ISO Auto settings have been improved for the KP. There’s the ability to set a minimum and maximum ISO range. Then, there are two sensitivity options: ‘Auto’ or ‘Tv’. ‘Auto’ gives users the choice of ‘slow’, ‘normal’ or ‘fast’ as their minimum shutter speed in ‘Auto’, while Tv allows them to specify a shutter speed (whole stops only) as the minimum for the camera to automatically choose.
A large amount of signature Pentax features are enabled by their SR system that is found in the entire lineup. The KP is no exception, although it also is the APS-C debut of Pentax’s 5-axis SR II system. Let’s take a look at how it performs.
At 50mm equiv. the KP is capable of roughly 3.3 stops of stabilization, and about 3.7 at the long end. It is still a great performer, and offers levels of stabilization not often seen in other APS-C cameras. As it stands, this system is a helpful and downright impressive feature.
The largely impressive Pixel Shift Resolution mode remains unchanged from previous Pentax cameras. This takes four consecutive shots so that a Red, Blue and Green value has been captured for every output pixel: increasing the color resolution and reducing spurious color patterns. Taking four shots also makes a cleaner image by effectively quadrupling the amount of light captured.
Since this feature is mostly useful just for static, studio situations, we hope to eventually see support for flash with each of the separate shots like Olympus does.
The normal shutter on the KP offers a decent enough maximum speed of 1/6000 sec. On top of that, in a DSLR first, it can also use a fully electronic shutter of up to 1/24,000 sec through the optical viewfinder, gaining two extra stops of maximum speed for situations like shooting in bright daylight with wide apertures.
When used, the mirror and shutter still work like normal, just with a delay surrounding the electronic exposure. It makes a 1/100 sec exposure last about the same as a 1/10 sec exposure, so it doesn’t necessarily feel like an ‘exposure delay’ mode, but more like the ‘Quiet’ shutter mode on a Nikon.
The downside to this mode is automatically disables the SR image stabilization system [presumably because it would risk exacerbating rolling shutter if the sensor moved as it was still being read-out.].
Wi-Fi on the KP offers up a simple, yet effective way of transferring images or controlling the camera remotely with a smartphone. Turning on Wi-Fi is as simple as holding down the assigned button while reviewing images. The camera will beep (unless muted, which you can individually customize) and display a Wi-Fi icon on the top of the screen when it is switched on. Then it is simply a matter of communicating with the camera via Ricoh’s Image Sync app, which allows you to browse files on the camera and select which to transfer, or control the camera in live view through the app. It is one of the easier apps to initially set up, and the transfers happen quickly without fuss.
Included with the KP is the ability to shoot Full HD 1080p at 24, 25, and 30 fps. For 50 and 60 fps, the camera is limited to 1080i (which is very probably just the same as the 30p output, tagged to be played-back as interlaced fields). Thankfully, the also features ‘Movie SR’, smoothing the shake from shooting video handheld.
The system has a number of options for focus point selection. ‘Select’ uses one user-specified autofocus point, selected with the 4-way controller. ‘Spot’ uses just the center point.
Then, there are three ‘Expanded AF Area’ (small, medium, and large) modes. In these modes, the user selects the initial AF point with the 4-way controller. When the subject strays from the initial point, the peripheral points serve as ‘back-up’ points, the amount of which used are specified by the small, medium, or large settings (with ‘large’ setting able to track your subject across the entire AF area).
At base ISO, not much seems to have changed from the K-3 II. Historically we’ve found we much prefer the camera’s ‘Natural’ Custom Image mode to the default ‘Bright’ setting, so have shot using that. The default sharpening can still be, especially when compared to the much better efforts of the competition. Thankfully, there is the (sort of difficult to find) ability to switch to ‘Fine’ or ‘Extra’ sharpening in the ‘Custom Image’ menu for better fine detail (we’d suggest Fine +1).
offers something a bit different than the competition. Reds for the Pentax are a bit more magenta than Nikon’s offering, and green ends up a bit too cool for our liking (though not as blue-shifted as Sony). are slightly desaturated and green, but aren’t as off as Sony’s unpleasant green-tinted yellows.
While the much-hyped ISOis a bit outlandish and overall useless, the KP offers up extremely good performance. In fact, its noise reduction rivals the more expensive APS-C standout, the , although isn’t applying anything as sophisticated as that’s camera’s context-sensitive approach. In other words, somenoise is left behind, but so is a good amount of detail.
One of the major contributing factors to this performance is an updated. It does a good job and isn’t too aggressive, and doesn’t cause either. It doesn’t do a fantastic job with in the background, manifesting itself as slight green or magenta tints in the shadows.
It is atwhere the KP really shines. Noise on the KP is incredibly low for an APS-C camera, besting both the K-3 II and D7200 at ISO 25,600. A jump up to widens the gap, showing the KP has a full stop better performance than its Nikon competition.
We’re a bit surprised by this performance, as there was little information given to us on how Pentax actually achieved this performance. Given this sensor doesn’t feature new technologies like BSI, we suspect there’s some ‘baking’ done to the Raw files. There are clear signs of noise reduction upon further analysis of the Raw (the green channel shows blotches of no detail where other cameras do not). And this comes at a cost – sometimes decreased detail, and odd cross-hatch patterning throughout the image.
Thanks to the noise reduction, it even punchesand price bracket, showing a similar performance to a D750, outperforming the X-T2 by nearly a stop, and coming close to the a7R II. All in all, Ricoh has done an excellent job squeezing out as much performance as possible from the KP’s sensor.
Body and Handling
The looks can be polarizing, with some of us loving it and some of us hating it, but the feel of the camera is excellent. The dials have a very satisfying click that encourages fiddling and twiddling even when the camera is off, much like an Olympus.
The dials are also laid-out in a smart and ergonomic way. The front dial never feels awkward or out of place, no matter which grip is installed. The new power switch is much better than the switch found on lower-end Pentax cameras, although we still like the version with depth-of-field preview found on the K-3 II.
The stand out feature of the KP’s controls is the Function Dial, which does an excellent job allowing photographers to control as much about the KP as possible without having to look away from the viewfinder. We’d love to see more options added to it such as white balance but, as it stands, the Function Dial helps make the already super-customizable KP one of the better control layouts on the market.
That means there’s no way for users to completely avoid the clumsy press-and-hold method of switching the duties of the 4-way controller between its labeled settings and AF point placement.
Autofocus and Performance
Similar to the Pentax K-3 II, the KP uses the SAFOX 11 27-point autofocus system. It features 25 cross-type AF points concentrated towards the center, with two normal points on the left and right extremes.
Battery life is another low point for the K-P, with a CIPA rating just over half what the K-3 II can manage, which still was behind the D7200. The burst rate of 7 fps is a small drop relative to the 8.4 the K-3 II as well.
While the image stabilization can help make handheld footage look smooth with the KP, the limited 1080 output is rather soft by default, and the camera falls behind Pentax’s own K-70 when it comes to autofocus in video thanks to the KP’s lack of on-sensor PDAF.
Impressing us the most about the KP was its image quality, which is now one of our top APS-C performers. Sure, the default JPEG sharpening still leaves something to be desired, but thankfully it can be changed to the much better ‘fine’ or ‘extra’ sharpening setting.
High ISO performance is as good as APS-C can get, even rivaling some full-frame cameras towards the top of the ISO range.
|Body type||Mid-size SLR|
|Max resolution||6016 x 4000|
|Other resolutions||4608 x 3072, 3072 x 2048, 1920 x 1280|
|Image ratio w:h||3:2|
|Effective pixels||24 megapixels|
|Sensor photo detectors||25 megapixels|
|Sensor size||APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm)|
|White balance presets||9|
|Custom white balance||Yes (3 slots)|
|Image stabilization notes||5-axis, up to 5 stops|
|JPEG quality levels||Best, better, good|
|Optics & Focus|
|Number of focus points||27|
|Lens mount||Pentax KAF2|
|Focal length multiplier||1.5×|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Screen type||TFT LCD|
|Viewfinder type||Optical (pentaprism)|
|Viewfinder magnification||0.95× (0.63× 35mm equiv.)|
|Minimum shutter speed||30 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/6000 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed (electronic)||1/24000 sec|
|Manual exposure mode||Yes|
|Flash range||6.00 m (at ISO 100)|
|External flash||Yes (via hot shoe)|
|Flash modes||Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on w/redeye reduction, slow sync, trailing curtain sync, manual, wireless|
|Continuous drive||7.0 fps|
|Self-timer||Yes (2 or 12 secs)|
|Exposure compensation||±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)|
|AE Bracketing||±5 (2, 3, 5 frames )|
|Storage types||SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I supported)|
|USB||USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)|
|HDMI||No (requires SlimPort adapter)|
|Wireless notes||802.11 b/g/n|
|Remote control||Yes (via remote cable or smartphone)|
|Battery description||D-LI109 lithium-ion battery & charger|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||390|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||703 g (1.55 lb / 24.80 oz)|
|Dimensions||132 x 101 x 76 mm (5.2 x 3.98 x 2.99″)|