The K-01 joins the Pentax Q that was launched last year as the company’s second compact system camera. Unlike the pocket-friendly Q and its compact-sized 1/2.3inch sensor, the K-01 is a substantially bigger and heavier camera that uses a newly developed APS-C CMOS chip. This produces an effective output of 16.2MP in the default 3:2 aspect, though it’s also possible to lower the resolution to 10MP, 6MP and 2MP, and to switch the aspect to 1:1, 4:3 or16:9 as you wish. The K-01 is able to record JPEG (three levels of quality), Raw or simultaneous JPEG Raw images. Sensitivity, meanwhile, stretches from ISO 100 to 12,800 in standard mode, expandable to ISO 25,600 in extended mode.
Complementing the new APS-C sensor is the latest generation of Pentax PRIME ‘M’ image processor. This enables the K-01 to shoot continuously at a claimed maximum of 5fps, as well as the ability to capture 1080p Full HD movies at 30fps. Movie sound is recorded in stereo by default and enthusiastic video shooters will also be pleased to hear that there’s an external microphone port on the side of the body.
Elsewhere, and in spite of the relatively unconventional styling, the K-01 very much follows on from other recent Pentax digital camera releases, with an especially generous range of image-shaping options in the form of 11 Custom Image settings and 19 Digital Filters. These can be applied to movies as well as stills, either pre- or post-capture. This is an area where Pentax is undoubtedly ahead of the competition, and is likely to broaden the appeal of the K-01 considerably.
Exposure options include the standard ‘PASM’ settings of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual. These are accompanied by an Automatic shooting mode; 19 individually selectable Scene modes; a Forced flash-off mode for when flash is prohibited; a dedicated Bulb setting for long-exposures (a common sight on old-school film SLRs, but very unusual to see on a digital camera), a dedicated HDR mode (the first time this has been included as a standalone option on a Pentax exposure mode dial), and last but not least, the aforementioned Movie mode.
On the back, there’s a 3inch, 921k-dot LCD monitor that produces a bright, sharp image. We like how, when the camera is first switched on, the camera wakes up with a specially commissioned home screen – it’s just one of a number of things designed to make the K-01 feel a bit special and unique.
On top of the camera there’s a pop-up flash with a GN12 rating, which is opened via a button on the left shoulder. The hot-shoe behind the pop-up is a standard three-pin affair that can accommodate Pentax’s range of flashguns. It doesn’t have the potential, however, to accommodate an electronic viewfinder. Indeed, speaking at the launch of the K-01, Newson all but confirmed that the decision to not only make the K-01 mirror-less but also viewfinder-less was taken at the outset before he’d even put pen to paper.