The Pentax K-01, the second-best hybrid sensor

Friday, March 30, 2012

Camera Review
The Pentax K-01, the second-best hybrid sensor

The Pentax K01, Pentax’s first serious hybrid, turns in a great performance, arriving in second place in its category. All of the results are available here: Pentax K-01.

Overall score:

2nd place among hybrids (79), 17th place across all categories.

Development of the K-01’s sensor was based the same kind of sensor technology used in the Pentax K5 and Nikon D7000 (which share the same Sony 16Mpix sensor), making this comparison relevant: K-01 Vs K5 Vs D7000. The K-01 achieves very good scores in Portrait and in Landscape.

Portrait:

2nd place among hybrids (23.7 bits), 17th place across all categories.

To derive the Portrait score, we analyze the sensor’s capacity to furnish vivid, varied, and accurate colors under good lighting conditions (i.e., studio).
The K-01’s performance is the same as the K5’s - unsurprisingly, since they basically use the same sensor.

Landscape:

2nd place among hybrids (12.9 EV), 15th across all categories.

The K-01’s performance is below that of the K5 - but then, the K-01’s sensor has 12 bits whereas the K5 has 14 bits.

Sport (Low-Light ISO score):

1st place among hybrids (1135), 20th place across all categories.

The Sport score (alias Low-Light ISO score) lets you know how far you can go with regard to ISO without compromising image quality.

The K-01 takes first place on the hybrid camera ranking thanks to its APS-C sensor, which is larger than the majority of hybrid sensors so it captures more light. We will see below just how close its results are to those of its competitors equipped with APS-C sensors.

Note: As is Pentax’s habit, the K-01 has smoothed RAW output starting at 3200 ISO, just like the K5, and with the same consequences: a gain in SNR 18%, but possible loss of details. For more information, see our DxOMark review of Pentax cameras.

Disclaimer: In this review, we are talking about only the K-01’s sensor results and the RAW images that its sensor provides. Other aspects have to be taken into account when considering hybrid cameras include effective resolution and of course the overall compactness of lens-camera combinations.

Pentax K-01, serious competition for the Sony NEX cameras

K-01 vs NEX-7 vs NEX-5N
The comparison is available here: K-01 vs NEX-7 vs NEX-5N.

It’s no great surprise that the Pentax K-01 can compete with the Sony NEX hybrids. However, the K-01 at 561g is more than twice as heavy as the 269-gram NEX-5N (a difference of 292g). It’s also more cumbersome - 122 x 79 x 58mm for the K-01 vs. 111 x 59 x 38mm for the NEX-5N. But the K-01 does have the advantage of being able to mount Pentax K lenses without having to use an adapter ring, which is not the case for either Sony NEX hybrid.

Overall score:

The K-01 takes second place on the podium, only two points behind the Sony NEX-7 but only two points ahead of the Sony NEX-5N. With such close scores among the top three - a very small 4-point spread - any differences in their respective 20x30 prints will be extremely difficult to discern.

Portrait:

Here the K-01 also takes second place, sandwiched again between the Sony NEX-7 on top (with a 0.4-bit difference) and the Sony NEX-5N on the bottom (with only a 0.1-bit difference).

Landscape:

The K-01 is still in second place behind the Sony NEX-7 - and in point of fact, the K-01 is 1/2EV behind the NEX-7. However, it is nearly 1/3EV ahead of the NEX-5N.

Sport (Low-light ISO Score):

For this use case, the K-01 takes first place over the NEX-5N - but by only 0.07EV, followed by the NEX-7, with a difference of only 0.16EV. This means that the respective 20x30 prints for these three cameras will be virtually indistinguishable - the gap between first place and third place is simply too small.

Pentax K-01: way ahead of Panasonic and Olympus hybrids

K-01 vs GX1 vs PEN EP3
The comparison is available here: K-01 vs GX1 vs PEN EP3.

Overall score:

The K-01 is way ahead of both the Panasonic GX1 and the Olympus PEN EP3 - 24 points ahead of the former and 28 points ahead of the latter. - Little wonder, given that the K-01 has a much bigger sensor - a distinct advantage for Pentax over its 4/3 rival-wannabes.

The K-01 is clearly in a different category. It will be interesting to see how the Olympus OM-D E-M5’s 16Mpix sensor behaves: will it close the gap?

By putting a Sony APS-C sensor into the K-01, Pentax has at last produced a worthy competitor for its Sony NEX rivals. Likewise, the K-01’s large sensor puts it head and shoulders above the Panasonic and Olympus hybrids. For more information, see Pentax announces its first hybrid APS-C camera: the Pentax K-01. By the way, DxOMark measurements for Pentax lenses, notably the Pentax smc DA 40mm f2.8 XS, will be available on our website very soon.

While the DxOMark results lead us to conclude that the Pentax K01 is far better armed to compete than the Pentax Q, by contrast, we wonder if the K01 really meets all reasonable expectations in the hybrid category, given that its APS-C sensor and K mount results in a much larger and heavier body than the Olympus and Panasonic models.