Pentax K-01 review: Hands-on

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The Pentax K-01 interchangeable lens camera sports a stylish Marc Newson design

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The Pentax K-01 interchangeable lens camera sports a distinctive minimalist style, designed by Marc Newson, and comes with the world's thinnest interchangable lens

The Pentax K-01 interchangeable lens camera not only sports a stylish chassis, courtesy of Australian designer Marc Newson, it's also home to the world's thinnest interchangable lens - the smc Pentax-DA 40mm F2.8 XS unifocal. The K-01 joins the Pentax Q, boosting the brand's range of interchangable lens cameras.

Pentax K-01: Build

Described by the maker as "a modern digital camera with a contemporary yet timeless design", the Pentax K-01 features an aluminium body combined with grooved rubber for extra grip and there are three colourways to choose from - yellow and black, silver and black and just plain black (we're told that there's also a white version, but that won't be making its way to the European market).

The design is certainly slick, and is sure to win the camera lots of fans with its geometic lines and pared-down details, and is set to appeal to fans of stylish cams such as the Leica D-Lux 5 and the Fujifilm X10. Tipping the scales at 560g, the camera isn't exactly a featherweight and we actually found that we could have done with a more pronounced grip on the camera body for some extra security. While the rubberised finish provided some extra grip, it still felt somewhat precarious to hold.

The K-01 uses the popular Pentax K lens mount, so it'll be compatible with all existing lenses in the range, even older lenses produced for film-based SLR cameras.

Pentax K-01: Controls

The top-mounted mode dial and power switch are crafted from aluminium alloy, while the mount lock release button is cleverly crafted into the lens mount, so that it fits flush into the camera body.

The top of the camera is also home to a red video recording button, and a green function button. The brighly coloured buttons may look a little too Fisher Price for some, but they're certainly easy to find for split-second shooting. You'll also find a hotshoe adaptor and a button to activate the pop-up flash.

The HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode, which produces one extra-wide composite image from three stills, has been granted its own spot of the features dial so that it faster and easier to find.

Pentax K-01: Screen

The 3-inch, 921,000-dot LCD screen features an anti-reflection coating, which appeared to work really well, even under the spotlights at the product preview.

Not only did this make for a clearer view of the screen in bright light, it also meant that the viewing angle was extremely wide (Pentax claims 170 degrees). The screen needs to be good as there's no optical viewfinder, which may be a stumbling block for some.

Pentax K-01: Battery

According to Pentax, the K-01 offers approximately 500 images with 50% flash usage and 540 without flash, or 320 minutes of video playback time. We'll test the battery life out more thoroughly as soon as we get our hands on a full review sample.

Pentax K-01: Picture quality

We only had the change to reel off a few snaps in a dimly lit event space, so we can't comment too much on the picture quality at this stage, but the 16.28-megapixel Pentax K-01 offers top ISO sensitivity of ISO 25600 and you'll also get Pentax's SR (Shake Reduction) function which, as the name suggests, is designed to offer sharp images that are free from the blur caused by shaky mitts.

The camera also offers a range of creative tools including Bleach Bypass - said to offer "a dramatic visual effect used in motion pictures", along with Cross Process which produces unusual colours. In addition, there are 19 digital filters including a minature mode for producing tilt-shift style pictures.

The Pentax K-01 offers full HD video recording (1920 x 1080 pixels) and you can choose between 30, 25 or 24fps frame rates. The snapper also features the brand new Prime M processing engine, designed to offer the best quality video recording possible.

Pentax K-01: Verdict

We were won over by the unconventional, minimalist design of the Pentax K-01, which is certainly bound to turn a few heads, although it may not be for everybody. The build quality felt particularly robust, if a little heavy, giving the feel of a premium camera but we felt that the grip could have been slightly more pronounced for a little added security.

The features roster is strong and we also like the inclusion of a range of creative filters, especially the tilt-shift function, which has yet to become standard. The Pentax K-01 looks set to appeal to the style-concious and those looking to invest in a simple-to-use interchangable lens camera. Stay tuned for a full review.

Pentax K-01 availability: March 2012

Pentax K-01 price: £629.99 (body only), £679.99 (K-01 + 40mm DA XS lens), £679.99 (K-01 + DAL 18-55mm lens), £799.99 (K-01 + DAL 18-55mm lens + DAL 50-200mm lens)