pentax k-01

the brick

Here is a review of this camera I wrote for eBay.

First off, if you don't already know, the design of this camera is infamous in the photography world for being boxy and toy-ish. At a time when other cameras are looking sleeker or "retro", Pentax went off into deep left field and released this. It was a gamble, and I don't know for sure, but based on the lack of successor cameras or lenses, I would say it did not sell well.

But history aside, how is it to actually use this camera?

Well, yes, the boxiness does actually sometimes get in your way. By this I mean, that it sacrifices feeling good in your hand for looking good to your eye. The corners sometimes stick out in ways that don't feel "right", and some of the buttons are placed in areas where you'll hit them by accident, or not hit them when you mean to. These problems are not deal-killers, and are overcome-able, but I did want to get this issue stated.

The image quality on this camera is good -- not knock your socks off amazing, but good. By this I mean that the colors are bright, the details are clear, and the sensor-based image stabilization is great. This camera excels at taking photos of people, both in events and portraiture. Coupled with the eye-catching way the camera looks, and also the matching 40mm f/2.8 XS lens, it feels like it was designed for people photos. If you're going to an event, taking this camera and the XS lens would be a great combination.

Where there are some drawbacks, though, are on the landscape side of photography. Some modern features, like automatic distortion and aberration corrections are absent, and the weird shape to the body doesn't lend itself to carefully studying a view to make a precise landscape image. But more importantly, the digital viewfinder isn't bright enough! Light falling on the screen isn't too much an issue, but if sunlight is falling on your face, your own reflection on the viewfinder glass is so bright you can't see the camera's image. I end up having to shade my own face to use this camera at times.

Ok, now how about all that whizbangery that the software does? Well, the Pentax menus are pretty easy to use, but not remarkably different than other cameras I've used. The built-in HDR mode works, but I personally don't care for the results (this is a taste thing, try it yourself and see). The auto ISO feature is very reliable, and I use it most of the time. The focus peaking feature doesn't work how I'd expect it to -- rather than showing you a full-size crop of your image, it instead just add white outlines to lines that are "in focus", even though I've found that the outlining isn't as precise as I'd like for manual focusing, so it's a bit of guesswork when your manual lens is at a wide aperture.

Movie recording is a breeze, and I've done it both with the built-in mic and a shotgun mic plugged into the accessory port and both ways work fine. This isn't a feature I use much, though, so I don't have much to say about it.

So what's the verdict? If you're fascinated by weird cameras, like me, then definitely get this. If you're a Pentax aficionado, get this. If you're looking for your first foray into interchangeable lens cameras, this isn't a bad choice, but it is weird enough that your experiences here won't carry over much to other cameras. But if you're primarily interested in having a unique, attention-getting, high-quality camera, then this is a solid choice.

Here are some of my favorite photos taken with this camera, so far.

First published on 11 Sep 2016; last updated on 4 Feb 2017.

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