The new Pentax K-1 Mark II and D FA* 50mm F1.4

Hands-on with the Pentax K-1 Mark II and D FA* 50mm F1.4


Although the changes separating the K-1 Mark II from its predecessor are small in number, the new model occupies a big chunk of the Ricoh-Pentax booth at this year’s CP+ show in Japan. We were able not only to get our hands on the camera, but also the company’s upcoming D FA* 50mm F1.4 SDM AW.

And though we couldn’t save any pictures taken with the camera, we got a chance to quickly try out the maximum ISO value of 819,200 and hand-held Pixel Shift mode – read on to find our impressions.


Ergonomically, the K-1 Mark II is to all intents and purposes identical to the K-1, and the control scheme is identical its predecessor. With a UI that’s well-sorted and an impressive amount of direct controls, this isn’t a bad thing.


Indeed, the only noticeable physical change to the body is the name on the front of the camera, and existing K-1 users that send their cameras in for the $550 upgrade will have the new name painted on their older models. Functionally, we’re told that an upgraded K-1 and a factory-fresh K-1 Mark II will be identical.


Thanks to the new ‘accelerator’ in the imaging pipeline, the K-1 Mark II is able to shoot at ISO 819200, which is an increase of two stops compared with the original K-1’s previous maximum value of 204800. As you might expect, the one sample shot we took at this value showed a very high amount of noise, but it’s entirely possible that more moderately high values will show improvement over the original K-1. This is something we’ll be looking at very closely when we get a production K-1 II in for testing.


The really big change for the K-1 II is the hand-held Pixel Shift mode, with the menu option shown here. We did a trial shot with the D FA* 50mm F1.4, and were pleasantly surprised by the sharpness of the result – despite shooting at a moderate focal length, there wasn’t any blur from hand-shake to be seen.

Unfortunately, your valuable time is the price your pay for this functionality; while the actual exposures are captured rapidly, the camera takes roughly 20-25 seconds to process the final image, during which time it is effectively locked. Still, we’re impressed by the possibilities of this new Pixel Shift implementation.


And now, on to the HD Pentax-D FA* 50mm F1.4 SDM AW lens. This is Pentax’s first new prime lens to be developed since the introduction of the K-1 two years ago, and it feels like a really premium piece of kit. The nitty gritty details on the lens are still thin – we still don’t know the optical formula, for instance – but this pre-production model appeared fully functional.


The ‘D FA*’ label designates this as a flagship lens for Pentax, and it certainly feels like it. It’s quite heavy and solid-feeling, but it balances well on the K-1 II thanks to the camera’s good-sized grip. Focusing is taken care of internally and with a silent motor, and though it isn’t what we’d call ‘lightning fast,’ we would say it’s on par with other manufacturers’ wide-aperture prime lens offerings.


The 50mm F1.4’s ‘AW’ label stands for ‘all weather,’ which is made most visible by the bright red gasket on the rear of the lens. Although we don’t know the full extent of the sealing, we’d surmise there are a number of other seals against both dust and moisture incursion throughout the rest of the lens.


Handling on the D FA* 50mm F1.4 is straightforward, with only an autofocus switch and a broad, well-textured manual focus ring. The distance scale is likely to be appreciated by users preferring manual focus, and the lens can focus down to 0.4m or 15.75 inches.


The K-1 II will be available in April, 2018 for $1999.95 body-only.

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