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Review: Pentax K-S1
3:02 am | December 10, 2014

Author: admin | Category: Cameras | Comments: None

Review: Pentax K-S1

Introduction

Despite the fact that Pentax does indeed make some very good DSLRs, it always plays second fiddle to the big names of Canon and Nikon.

It’s possibly for this reason that in recent years, the company has tended towards gimmicks to try and shift units. Here with the K-S1, it’s available in an array of bewildering colours, including a new “sweets” collection (yipee).

There’s also a panel of lights on the front of the camera, which are supposedly designed to “guide” operations.

Ignoring the aesthetics, at its heart, the K-S1 actually has some very decent specifications and interesting technologies – especially for an amateur level camera. At its heart is a 20 million pixel CMOS sensor with a sensor-based shake reduction system. In principle, this will provide an image stabilising effect with any lens, and it does actually work very well.

This system is also used for the Pentax’s unique ‘anti-alias simulation’ modes. The sensor itself has no anti-aliasing filter, which means slightly sharper fine detail but the risk (rare in practice) of moiré, or interference effects with very fine patterns and textures.

Pentax K-S1 anti-alias simulation

This is why most D-SLRs still use anti-aliasing, or ‘low-pass’ filters in front of the sensor. But the Pentax can simulate this effect with microscopic vibrations of the sensor during the exposure. You might never need it, but it’s an interesting solution nonetheless.

Specifications

The K-S1’s other specs are good too. It can shoot continuously at 5.4 frames per second and it has a maximum shutter speed of 1/6000sec. It has a proper pentaprism viewfinder with 100% coverage, where some rivals use a cheaper pentamirror design. The K-S1 also offers a selection of effects modes and a large array of digital filters – you can use these as you shoot, or apply them later using the camera’s in-built raw conversion and image-editing tools.

There are 11 autofocus points, of which the nine in the centre are the more sensitive cross type points. On the back of the camera is a fixed 3 inch TFT LCD monitor, with a 921k dot resolution.

You can shoot in raw format, and one particularly useful thing about Pentax cameras is that its raw format is DNG, rather than a proprietary to the camera/manufacturer format, meaning that your software, whether that’s Photoshop or another alternative, should already be able to read the files it outputs rather than having to wait for an upgrade.

As well as manual control, there’s also aperture priority and shutter priority modes, scene modes and an effects mode which applies digital filters to your image, such as Bold Monochrome and Vintage Color.

Pentax K-S1 flash

A built-in flash is included with a Guide Number of 10, while the camera is also capable of Full HD 1080p video recording. You can edit photos within the camera, with the power to correct for moire patterning, resize and crop images.

There’s no inbuilt Wi-Fi here, a feature which is becoming more and more common on other cameras. If you want to, you could purchase an additional Wi-Fi card for the memory card slot. Speaking of which, there’s just one slot, and the camera accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.

Pentax K-S1 lenses

As Pentax has been making SLRs for quite some time, there’s a huge range of lenses available, so those who had an old Pentax film camera might be tempted in by this digital version. It goes head to head with the likes of the Nikon D5300 and the Canon EOS 700D, both of which sit at the top end of their respective company’s beginner ranges.

Build Quality and Handling

The K-S1 has quite a boxy and utilitarian look to it, with squared off edges compared with the rounder, softer edges you might find on a Canon or Nikon DSLR. There’s a pretty hefty grip on the right hand side of the camera, but your fingers don’t sit all that comfortably on it – there’s also no recess where your forefinger might sit a bit more flush with the camera.

There’s a strip of lights built into the grip of the camera, which glows when the camera is first switched on. If you’re using the self-timer mode, the strip will flash in different sections to indicate when the shutter is about to be released.

Pentax K-S1 lights

On the top of the camera is an on/off switch with the shutter release sitting in the middle. A light encircles the shutter release button and pulsates slowly when the camera is on but not currently being used, or is on constantly when the camera is active. If you switch to video record mode, the light will turn red.

Also on top of the camera, there’s an exposure compensation button and a green button which is used to reset certain parameters to their defaults quickly and easily. For instance, if you adjust the exposure compensation, tapping the green button will return you to 0EV.

Pentax K-S1 top

A fairly large dial on the top of the camera can be used to alter the aperture or shutter speed, depending on the shooting mode that you’re in. This dial is easily reached with your thumb and is stiff enough to not accidentally slip out of place, but not too stiff to be difficult to turn. You also use this dial to adjust exposure compensation after you’ve pressed the exposure compensation button.

In order to change the shooting mode, you move a bigger dial on the back of the camera which surrounds the four way navigational pad and is marked with modes such as “Av” (aperture priority) and Effect. There are more lights to be found here – the selected mode shows a green light behind the lettering.

Directional buttons

Each of the directional keys gives you an access to a dedicated function, such as ISO (up) and white balance (down). In the middle of the navigational pad is a large OK button, which, you guessed it, lights up. Hold this down to switch between using the directional keys to set the autofocus point and using the directional keys for their dedicated functions. This makes it a bit of a slow process when you want to quickly change a setting, but it’s something you soon get used to. As the four directional buttons and the OK button sit fairly flush to the camera, it they’re not easy to navigate by touch alone, such as when you’re holding the camera up to your eye.

Pentax K-S1 controls

To quickly change other settings, you can hit an info button just underneath the mode dial. Here you’ll find common settings such as AF mode, metering and image quality. Simply scroll around to the setting you want to change, then use the large dial on the top of the camera to alter the setting.

Just behind the lens mount is a switch for moving between manual focus and automatic focus. It’s a fairly loose dial so it is reasonably easy to accidentally knock it out of place while in a bag or something. This can leave you wondering why it’s no longer focusing any more.

Pentax K-S1 focus switch

Live view is activated by a button on the left hand side of the camera, just next to the viewfinder. When you’re in live view you can use the green button on the top of the camera to return the focus point to the centre of the screen.

Sadly, the kit lens is a real let-down. Both Canon and Nikon have super-smooth, near-silent AF motors built into the lens, but this one is driven by a focusing screw in the lens mount. It’s quick enough, but it’s coarse, noisy and in some situations it will hunt and hesitate.

Performance

Colours directly from the camera in JPEG images are bright and punchy, showing a nice level of saturation without being unrealistic. Comparing colours in the DNG (raw format) files shows a more muted palette, which gives you good scope for working with the files to get exactly the look you need.

Pentax K-S1 pentaprism

Meanwhile, the camera’s 20 million pixel sensor is capable of resolving a good amount of fine detail, probably a direct result of not having an anti-aliasing filter. If you’re finding moire patterning is becoming a problem – I didn’t during my testing – you can activate the anti-aliasing filter simulator to combat that. If you can, switching to a better lens than the kit optic provided is recommended for even finer details.

Other Pentax cameras we have tested have suffered a little from underexposure in some conditions, but the K-S1 performs a lot better in this area, providing well exposed images in a variety of situations. If it’s a very high contrast scene, you may still need to dial in some exposure compensation, but that’s not particularly unusual.

The automatic white balance system does a pretty good job in the most conditions, providing accurate colours directly from the camera. It errs ever so slightly towards yellow or orange tones under artificial lighting, but if you’re finding this to be a problem you can switch to a more appropriate white balance preset.

Noise control

Images taken in low light at high sensitivity display a good level of noise control – right up to around ISO 3200 noise is barely visible at all, even when you’re examining an image at 100%. Even at ISO 6400, there’s barely any noise apparent, and at normal printing and web sizes (such as A4 or below) the overall impression of detail is excellent.

Pentax K-S1 buttons

If you open the raw format DNG files, you’ll see that there’s a lot more noise when examined at 100% compared with the JPEG images, demonstrating how much smoothing goes on with the JPEGs. This gives you the option to apply your own amount of image smoothing depending on whether you want to favour noise reduction or detail reproduction.

Autofocus – when you’re using something other than the kit lens – is pretty quick and generally accurate. If you’re using the kit lens, you’ll notice some backwards and forwards movement as the lens tries to acquire focus, but it’s not too bad in bright lighting conditions. There’s an autofocusing light to help with focusing in darker conditions, and although it’s a little slower, it’s effective enough.

Special effects

There are lot of different digital effects to experiment with when in Effects mode. Some of these are better than others, and of course it will be down to personal preference, but they can be a fun addition to your photos. The good thing is that they can be shot in raw format, so if you decide that actually you’d prefer a clean version of the image you can go back to it later down the line.

Alternatively, you can shoot with “Custom Images” for a slightly less dramatic look, such as “Natural” or “Landscape” – these are very useful if you want to change the look of your image without going over the top. You’ll also find a couple of film simulation modes here too, such as Bleach Bypass, Reversal Film and Monochrome. Again, these can be shot in raw format.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Pentax K-S1, we’ve shot our resolution chart.

Click here to see a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

Full ISO 100 image. See 100% crops below:

JPEG

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 100: 24. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 200: 24. Click here for full resolution image.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 400: 22. Click here for full resolution image.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 800: 24. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 1600: 24. Click here for full resolution image.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 3200: 22. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 6400: 22. Click here for full resolution image.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 12800: 16. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 25600: 14. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 51200: 12. Click here for full resolution version.

RAW (converted to TIFF)

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 100: 28. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 200: 28. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 400: 28. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 800: 28. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 1600: 28. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 3200: 26. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 6400: 24. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 12800: 20. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 25600: 16. Click here for full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 resolution chart

ISO 51200: 14. Click here for full resolution version.

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

The four rival cameras we chose for this comparison are the Nikon D3300, Canon 700D and Panasonic G6.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

JPEG dynamic range

Pentax K-S1 dynamic range

Analysis: The Pentax falls roughly in the middle of the group for JPEG dynamic range, though it’s worth noting that it does have an opitonal 200% dynamic range option which works alongside the ISO adjustment.

RAW (converted to TIFF) dynamic range

Pentax K-S1 dynamic range

Analysis: The raw dynamic range results are more impressive, placing the Pentax K-S1 right at the top of the group, closely matching the results of the Canon 700D.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Pentax K-S1 signal to noise ratio

Analysis: The Pentax shows very good noise control in JPEG images, beating both the Nikon D3300 and Canon 700D and closely matching the Panasonic G6.

RAW (converted to TIFF) signal to noise ratio

Pentax K-S1 signal to noise ratio

Analysis: The Pentax’s signal to noise ratio is equally impressive in its raw files. It’s at the top of the charts again, this time matched by the Canon 700D.

Sensitivity and noise images

Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

Full ISO 100 image. See 100% crops below:

JPEG

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.

RAW (converted to TIFF)

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 12800. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 25600. Click here to see a full resolution version.ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.Pentax K-S1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 51200. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Sample images

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Effects

Use these digital filters for maximum creative effect.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Sample images 2

Pentax K-S1 sample image

The K-S1’s Vivid mode produces good contrast and dense but natural-looking colours. Click here for a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

This bold black and white effect gives monochromatic images some real punch. It’s almost like using black and white film! Click here for a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

The sensor-shift anti-shake system works really well. This was shot handheld at 1/4sec to blur the spinning wheel but keep the centre sharp. Click here for a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

You can combine filter effects when you’re using the in-camera editing tools. This was produced by combining the bold black and white effect with a subtle, rich sepia tone. Click here for a full resolution version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

The 18-55mm kit lens feels cheap and delivers lots of chromatic aberration (left) – but the camera has in-built distortion and chromatic aberration options which work pretty well (right). Click here for a larger version.

Pentax K-S1 sample image

Another rich and punchy shot from the Pentax K-S1’s Vivid mode. The meter didn’t need any help getting the exposure exactly right, either. Click here for a full resolution image.

Verdict

If you are keen to step away from the Canon and Nikon fold, or perhaps you have a lot of Pentax legacy lenses, then the K-S1 seems like quite an appealing prospect on paper. It’s easy to see why the company goes for all the gimmicks of different colours and flashing lights when it has to compete against the behemoths of the others in the industry, but at the same time, this can make what is otherwise a decent camera feel a little cheap and tacky.

Pentax K-S1 colours

However, if you like that kind of thing, and we can only assume that there must be plenty of people who do, then the K-S1 could be a good investment.

It’s a rather boxy design, but using the camera is easy enough, if a little slow in some places (such as having to switch between using the directional keys by holding down the central OK button) – but you get used to how it works reasonably quickly.

Image quality is good, and low light shooting is particularly impressive, with barely any noise apparent in JPEG images shot at ISO 3200 and ISO 6400. There’s also the universal DNG raw format which means you can use whichever photo editor you like without having to wait for compatibility updates and so on – always handy.

There’s a decent range of effects, so if creativity is your thing, this is another reason to choose the Pentax over Nikon and Canon cameras, which don’t have anywhere near the number of digital filters on offer here. You can shoot them in raw format too, so you don’t have to worry about being stuck with a filter you don’t like later on.

The screen and viewfinder are good – and it’s nice to see a 100% viewfinder on a camera at this level. It’s a shame that the screen is neither tilting, articulating or touch sensitive, but this may have bumped up the price a bit – and at the moment it represents good value for money compared with its closest rivals.

We liked

Image quality is the best thing about this camera, and of course that’s arguably the most important thing. Images are bright and punchy directly from the camera, while the quality in low light is particularly impressive. Detail is resolved well by the anti-aliasing filterless sensor, too.

We disliked

It’s really time that Pentax did something about its standard kit lens. It’s noisy, hunts around for focus and there are much better examples on the market. If you’re buying this camera then be prepared to invest additional money in a different lens to get the most from it.

Final Verdict

Overall, this camera is a decent purchase for people who are looking for their first DSLR. Some will be put off by the design choices on offer here from Pentax, while others will welcome them – if you buy from a camera shop you can handle the camera first to see what you think.

Factor in some budget for replacing the kit lens and you’ll no doubt be pretty happy with the camera, but if you can’t do that, then you’re probably better looking at the alternatives from Canon or Nikon, which come with much better kit lenses.

Good image quality and reasonable handling, however, make the Pentax K-S1 appealing if you already have some Pentax gear.



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