Pentax K-01 Mirrorless Camera Review

Pentax K-01 Mirrorless Camera Review

The Pentax K-01 is certainly the most unique system I’ll be reviewing this month in terms of aesthetics. But I’m not a form over function kind of guy. So what does that mean for the performance of this mirrorless camera?

The Good Stuff:

At first glance, this thing looks a bit ridiculous. It looks like a toy -- the kind of indestructible camera that you’d get for your kid. But pick it up and begin to play with it -- opening and closing its ports, flipping its switches -- and you’ll notice it really is indestructible. This discovery leads to the obvious curiosity for what could be hiding behind such a small little tank-disguised-as-toy body.

Switches on the camera are very prominent -- they’re easy to reach, big, clunky, and firm. The solid feel of the camera extends to the rubberized openings on the side ports, the SD card slot of which is even encased with a secondary, protective cover that must be lifted to get the card out. Pentax is serious, here.

The battery life of this thing beats out all of its competitors. Yes, the battery is as chunky as an SLR battery (it fills the large portion of the grip of the body), but who cares? It’s nice to really not have to worry about losing power during a full day of walking around and shooting. Plus, the battery door clicks shut with one motion. No need to slide a lock into place. It's the simple things like this that do impress me. Why can't others do this?

With all this space, Pentax certainly had room for a pop-up flash and hot shoe in addition to all of your standard ports these days, including micro HDMI and USB. And did I mention there’s a sensor-based image stabilization system? Well, there is.

Finally, a K-mount body means you can use your standard K-mount lenses with no issues -- you’ll just notice a 1.5x crop factor because of the sensor size.

The Not-So-Good Stuff:

I got the black and silver model, but I still felt like I was carrying what may have been the bright yellow model (which is a dollar cheaper on B&H for some reason). And so, I’m not sure how stealth this camera is even in its most subtle colors. Then again, it’s a fun design, you have to admit. Maybe putting some life back into tech isn’t that bad...but then again, does it help its function? Not really. So I don’t care.

For such a chunky camera, you’d think Pentax could have given it a bit more of an SLR-status AF. However, it still is a bit delayed due to the contrast-detect-only AF system. When phase detection and other technologies make it into these cameras, I’ll be a happy guy.

Unfortunately, the camera’s designer status does not seem to include the menu system, which heavily matches that of the Pentax Q (which was a little crude, if you missed my last review).
I love the sturdy body, but they still didn’t make it weather sealed. No one else is really doing this much in this market (a few exceptions), but it was a great opportunity for Pentax that I think they missed out on. I think you should have been able to shoot in the rain (okay, not monsoons) with this. Would have been nice...

Image Quality:

Thank goodness this has a nice, big, 16MP APS-C sensor. It really helps with low light as well as narrowing down that depth of field for beautiful bokeh compared to that in smaller-sensor cameras. Because of it, you get ISO performance up to 12,800 -- not bad for a little camera...still completely useable. And the images match about anything else in its class. The results with the 40mm pancake lens aren’t absolutely stellar, but that’s to be expected from a compact design.

12800 ISO image (click for 100%)

What's important is that it's still darn good. Images do have a certain crispness too them that's nice to see. Shallow depth of field helps make it obvious this is an APS-C sensor.


The design is still a little too funky for me to go for. And besides its sturdiness, I still don’t like it better than my current favorite that’ll come up soon in another article.

If you love the way it looks or if you’re going to Italy (fashion statement), go for this camera. The price is decent, too, keeping at around $750 MSRP or as little as $600 elsewhere. And to get a full-featured mirrorless camera for that price...that’s not bad.

Log in or register to post comments
1 Comment
Anonymous's picture

I love mine.