Pentax K-01: First Impressions

I needed an upgrade.

Now, obviously that’s a load of cow manure.  I WANTED an upgrade.  I didn’t NEED one.

My Pentax K-x is fine, and would have been fine for a long time.  But, after having the same equipment for almost two years, I just got that itch.

You know who understands this feeling?  Musicians.  Guitarists especially.  If you are a guitarist you know exactly what I’m on about.  If you have a perfectly good American made Fender Stratocaster, and you find yourself in a local music store, as you do, and then see that gorgeous Gibson Les Paul with the Gold top, you just start trying to find ways to get that into your life.  Budgets, space, what your partner would say, you start finding ways to accommodate all these.  Meanwhile, you have a perfectly functioning guitar waiting at home.  It’s a curse.

So, I’ve been keeping an eye out.

As I’ve said before, the K-01 came out last year and nobody really knew what to make of it.  Pentax is a pretty cool brand that way.  They will just release stuff, it seems, without really thinking it through.  It’s fantastic.  The K-01 started out at a list price of around $750 or so, but almost immediately there were specials.  Price cuts.  Then more reduced pricing.  Then, at Photokina, Pentax basically said it wasn’t going to pursue developing the K-01 and further.  Then black Friday rolled around and the price was slashed again.  Now it has landed at it’s current price, $299, body only.

I couldn’t resist.

Pentax k-01 -5

So, after the ritual unboxing ceremony, I hand the K-01 to my wife who immediately says, “That is one ugly camera. I’m sorry, but that’s just ugly.” Yup. It’s a love it or hate it thing.

I wussed out and got it in black. Part of me really wanted the yellow one, as even a more in-your-face gesture to the Canikon crowd, but at the end of the day I just didn’t have the spine. That said, I think the black looks pretty sweet, especially with the silver highlights. It’s weird, but looking at the K-01 next to my K-1000, I can totally see now where Newson got a lot of his styling cues.

Now, after only a couple of days, First Impressions:

Curves blog

The image quality is outstanding. I can definitely tell it’s an upgrade.  I love the sharpness, the colors are strong and the 16MP sensor means that the files are going to be plenty large for printing, or if I needed to crop way into the image and still retain a good quality.

The ergonomics are a different story.  The K-01 has earned the nickname The Brick for a reason.  It also has earned the love it or hate it reputation.  For me, the looks are growing on me.  Slowly.  Again, not getting it in screaming yellow was a wise choice.  As far as handling, I’ve got big hands (not bragging) so holding it for hours on end hasn’t been horrible.  Admittedly, it hasn’t been a cakewalk, either.  The size is smaller than most DSLRs, but larger than most point and shoots and, most importantly, larger than most other mirrorless cameras on the market.  It’s the price Pentax had to pay to make a mirrorless camera that was compatible with their classic bayonette mount lenses.  The downside is a big, bulky package.  The upside is that you have many decades of high-quality glass to chose from, often at bargain basement prices.  The upside wins here.

The build quality, for the most part, feels brick-like. Solid, with all the buttons having that industrial feel about them.  The only let down is this; to access the slot for the memory card, there is this flappy, flimsy, weak door that just peels back, and seems like it never really gets back into its place.  Many reviews have focused on this crappy flap, and every single negative word said about this door is true.  It is horrible.

For shooting, I am trying to get used to not having a viewfinder.  Again.  It’s going backwards, back to the days of my Canon Powershot.  However, I think, with more and more people shooting with only their iPhones, not having a traditional viewfinder was never going to be a hardship.   What is interesting is that, in just the little time I’ve had with it, I can already notice that people react differently to the K-01 as opposed to any other DSLR.


When you put a DSLR up to your eye, it’s like the paparazzi have arrived.  People immediately get suspicious.  Why are you taking my picture with that professional camera?  With this, my face isn’t covered by my camera when I shoot, so I can smile and shoot simultaneously.  And, besides, it looks just a point & shoot, and those are harmless, right?

The autofocus is not lightning fast, but perfectly adequate.  In good daylight.  I haven’t had a chance to try it in low light conditions, but I’m guessing that the autofocus will become a tad less than adequate.  We’ll see.

The one feature that I’m really excited about is called focus peaking.  Basically, the camera highlights the objects within the frame that are in focus.  When using the above mentioned classic lenses, most of which are manual focus, focus peaking becomes a Godsend.

Those are my initial impressions of my new acquisition.  Would I have paid $750 for this?  Never.  Not in a million years.  But it is tremendous value at a sub-$300 price.

And it totally fits into my photography aesthetic.  It’s pure punk.  It really is far different than anything anyone else is shooting with right now.  But, it’s not punk like the Sex Pistols, who only knew four chords.  It’s punk like the really early Police, who knew four hundred chords but only chose to play four.   If that makes any sense.  It’s got it where it counts, when it counts.

Lastly, finally, I’ve got that itch scratched.  For now, at least.  That is, until I see a decent external flash unit.  And a white translucent umbrella, stand, hot shoe and triggers.

All of which I need.


One thought on “Pentax K-01: First Impressions

  1. Pingback: And Here’s Another Reason Why I Don’t Do Wedding Photography | Generator Photography

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