Pentax Announces the K-1 Mark II: An Incremental Update or Valuable Upgrade to the Original?

Pentax Announces the K-1 Mark II: An Incremental Update or Valuable Upgrade to the Original?

The Pentax K-1 Mark II has just been announced and will begin shipping in April 2018. It's a well-balanced full-frame DSLR that ticks a number of boxes, but how has the Mark II progressed (or has it?) from the first generation K-1 camera?

In 2016, Pentax entered the full-frame market with the Pentax K-1, a well thought-out full-frame contender that wasn’t trying to compete in the megapixel race nor the speed race of the sports camera. It was a middle of the road entry that did several things well and had a novel feature set.

At the time of release of the K-1, lens availability for the new camera that took advantage of the megapixel count and full-frame sensor was an issue, but Pentax made strides in this regard in the interim two years, adding to its lineup (though still lacking in fast primes) and making the K-1 an overall steal of a system for a group of photographers interested in looking at Pentax. The other major criticism of many reviewers of the camera was its auto focus system simply failing to meet the standards of a camera at this price point. With the latter issue, we can hope the Mark II's upgrades create an improvement in performance so this new camera can succeed on its own merits.

When comparing the K-1 Mark II specifications with the original K-1 specifications, we have an ISO sensitivity increase of two stops from 204,800 to 819,200. The K-1 Mark II also has some additional connectivity via updated ports including the HDMI D (Micro) and USB 2.0 Micro-B ports with an addition of an X-Sync Socket. Internally, the original pixel-shift system has been upgraded to the Pixel Shift Resolution System II:

PENTAX-developed technology uses the same in-camera shake-reduction (SR) mechanism and sensor-shift capabilities as the original Pixel Shift Resolution System found in the PENTAX K-1, which captures four images of the same scene, and then synthesizes them into a single, super-high-resolution composite image. With the Pixel Shift Resolution System II, the camera also obtains RGB color data, resulting in images with significantly finer details and truer colors than those produced by typical full-frame sensors.

The overall main updates to the K-1 Mark II seem to be internal with the circuit board being the primary point of interest for this camera. Many photographers will look at each camera to compare the models and see very little in obvious changes, and I feel that Pentax may have dropped the ball here. Pentax has a more mature lens lineup than during the original K1 release and a definite user base that prefers its cameras. The price point is on target to take market share away from Canon, Nikon, and Sony shooters that may be looking for a robust feature set, but I can’t see there being a compelling and obvious reason to buy the new K-1 Mark II over its competitors. Hopefully with its release, there may be a significant update to the autofocus system that isn't readily obvious in the details, which would be a turning point for this camera system.

If you currently own a K-1, Pentax is offering an upgrade offer to current owners of the camera body. Essentially, the cameras will be upgraded with a new circuit board from the K-1 Mark II and will be re-branded with the Mark II logo for a fee of $550. To find out more regarding the program, look over the press release from Ricoh Imaging

What do you think of the new Pentax K-1 Mark II camera? Is it a step in the right direction or a missed opportunity for Pentax to leap into the fray with the other big-name full-frame camera companies? Are you going to purchase a new Pentax K-1 Mark II?

JT Blenker's picture

JT Blenker, Cr. Photog., CPP is a Photographic Craftsman and Certified Professional Photographer who also teaches workshops throughout the USA focusing on landscape, nightscape, and portraiture. He is the Director of Communications at the Dallas PPA and is continuing his education currently in the pursuit of a Master Photographer degree.

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It wouldn't be the first time a camera or gadget company has released a new model with only minor upgrades. I'm looking at you, Canon and Apple. But I'm not sure that Pentax can afford to do so at this stage. They don't have the mass marketing appeal and they don't have a huge following. They don't have the name brand recognition, still. They don't have the loyal die-hard fans who will buy the new camera just 'cause (like Apple).

IMO, with so few camera models in production, Pentax needs to set itself apart from the pack by innovating and being a tech leader.

Did they do that with this update? I don't think so. If anything, this seems lackluster. I wonder if Ricoh is reluctant to invest in R&D because they're not sure about Pentax's future. The lack of innovation and marketing, at least here in USA, seems to suggest that.

The minor upgrades from Canon/Apple etc. usually result in a price tag of $100s more. With the K-1 II it is being released at the same price as its predecessor. Plus when have any of its competitors offered a minimal upgrade cost? The marketing and advertising of Pentax is quite lackluster however, considering the relatively low price Ricoh paid for the brand, they don't need to make the same amount of high sales as the other brands. Look at Canon who is, for example, releasing that new low cost $400 DSLR. This is clearly an attempt to make back lost revenue due to the decrease in DSLR sales over the years. I believe this release by Pentax is an intentional incremental update to stay relevant, however I believe it's high ISO performance will be second to none. The handheld Pixel-Shift is also a Pentax first and if this feature was for any other camera, photo publications would be exploding about how innovative and amazing that is. I am not suggesting there is a bias against Pentax, but there is certainly a bias towards other brands.

The all new K1 II rocking the best full frame sensor from 2012...

Pentax always uses older sensors, but they utilize much better processing than Sony or Nikon. Which results in the K-1 having much better high ISO performance than the D810. With the addition of the accelerator unit in the K-1 II it will look even better. I believe Pentax is the only company innovating with high ISO, other than Fuji perhaps. I imagine this accelerator unit may even make ISO's such as 51,200+ actually usable and printable.

Disappointed, as a Pentax fan. They could have at least added barebones 4k video or the latest sony sensor

So if you own the mark 1, no reason to upgrade, and if you don’t have the mark 1 and that camera didn’t interest you, neither will this one. Has a company ever sold zero cameras before?

The amount of people who actually know about the K1 is pretty small - my view is if the mark 2 gets them additional attention that's a good thing for Pentax. For certain photographers, the Pentax K1 has a lot of great tools for great photographs and could fit their needs nicely.

How many people upgrade their camera for a half stop to an extra stop of reduced noise at all iso's? Or add a feature that allows for near medium format image quality for images suitable for Pixel Shift without needing a tripod (great for architecture, travel, most landscape, product and some food photographers)? I know I'm guilty of not carrying my tripod with me every time I have my camera with me and there have often been instances where I've missed an opportunity to get a sharper image with better color fidelity because of it.

It may be better for some to sell their K1 and buy the K1ii whether it's a time without camera issue or $$ delta between selling and buying a new one. So your conclusions are based on incomplete assumptions.

Preface: we'll have to see how much better the AF tracking and high ISO performance is with the new accelerator unit. It's hard to judge how much of a difference there is as the bodies aren't out in the wild to do comparisons with the Mark I with yet. So there could be a substantial improvement, just not really something a spec sheet alone can quantify. With that said...

I'm pretty shocked with the warm reception this camera has been getting on other forums. I'm pretty sure people would literally lose their minds if (for example) Canon released a 5D Mark V and the differences between it and the Mark IV were "higher ISO, changed color science, upgraded a niche feature, added X-sync socket", so I'm not sure why this camera is getting a pass.

Regarding the additional processor in the K1 mk ii, I have the Pentax K3 and KP which use the same Sony 24MP sensor and the KP has improved noise at all ISO's. If I can get an extra half stop in iso performance, I'd be very happy with that since it's already very good at having excellent high iso performance. I mean, how much extra does one pay to go from glass with a max aperture of 1.8 to 1.4? It's often a lot more than $500...

I think they have a video about this - found it at 1:00 into the video

I had read somewhere that this was supposed to be a major firmware update only, but for some reason Ricoh thought this was a significant model change with virtually no advancements. I hope the decision doesn't bite them.

I own a K1 and will get the Upgrade in April/May this year.

This strikes me as a much better deal for existing owners, for $550.

The "mkII" of any previous model was always a small incremental update. (K5->k5ii was AF tweak, k3 ->k3ii was AF tweak on Z axis, GPS).
Pentax always does that : implement new stuff in the MKII models as a real life test and user feedback.

The "huge" thing is that pixel shift can be used in conjonction of SR. Meaning hand held pixel shift photo are possible, opening a realm of high definition photos outside of the landscape world.

We'll have to wait to see the real life test.