As we reported on November 8th (opens in new tab), Pentax has confirmed it will soon be launching a new DSLR: the KF. Positioned to likely replace the K-70 (opens in new tab) (a camera revealed back in 2016) the KF has all the hallmarks of a Pentax APS-C DSLR: a 24.2MP sensor, in-body 5-axis image stabilization, and extensive weather sealing.(opens in new tab)
Pentax has long been known for cramming its DSLRs full of features, at least relative to competing models, and the KF is no exception. Designed for all-weather outdoor photography, it includes 100 weather seals throughout the body, and can withstand temperatures down to -10°C. The camera's grip, rear controls and mode dials have been designed with active outdoor shooting in mind, while night-time and astro photography is assisted by a bespoke red-lighted display setting that results in less eye strain when shooting in dark environments.(opens in new tab)
Movable gyroscopic sensor
Like the K-70, the KF includes in-body image stabilization, or in Pentax terms: 'built-in Shake Reduction. Thanks to a movable gyroscopic sensor, the camera itself can provide up to 4.5 stops of stabilization, even with a non-stabilized lens attached. The system can automatically detect panning motion and adjusts itself accordingly.
The movable sensor can also be harnessed to reduce moiré. By applying microscopic vibrations to the sensor, an anti-aliasing filter can be simulated. But unlike a conventional, 'always-on' optical AA filter, Pentax's implementation is customizable to suit a variety of scenes or conditions.
As with previous Pentax DSLRs, the sensor-shift system has been utilised in even more ways. Consequently, the KF includes features like ASTROTRACER, where the movable sensor works in tandem with Pentax's optional O-GPS2 GPS unit to automatically track stars across the night sky. There's also an Auto Horizon Correction feature, as well as an Extra Sharpness function.(opens in new tab)
If the standard 24.2MP image size just isn't detailed enough, the KF includes pixel-shift technology to generate ultra-high-res shots. This shifts the image sensor by a single pixel for four separate shots, then composites these 24MP images into a single super-high-resolution image. It's a trick we've seen before in some Olympus cameras, as well as the K-70, but Pentax's implementation has the ability to detect a moving object with the composition in order to reduce glitches in the high-res merged image.(opens in new tab)
Other features of the KF include a maximum ISO 102,400 sensor sensitivity, which Pentax claims can still deliver detailed images with rich gradation thanks to the noise reduction algorithms from Pentax's PRIME MII imaging engine. The pentaprism optical viewfinder boasts a 100% field of view and 0.95x magnification, while the 3-inch vari-angle rear LCD screen has a 1037K-dot resolution, though from what we can tell, it isn't touch-sensitive.(opens in new tab)
Pricing, availability and analysis
The Pentax KF will be on sale at the end of November, priced at $849.95/£849,99 body-only and $949.95/£949.99 as a kit with Pentax's DA 18-55mm AL WR zoom lens. In addition to the standard black version, there will also be limited edition Crystal White and Crystal Blue body finishes, with 700 units of each color produced, priced at $899.95 body-only, only available directly from Pentax.(opens in new tab)
At this price, the KF is competing directly with the Canon EOS 850D, where its extensive weather sealing and IBIS make the Pentax a tempting proposition. If you're prepared to do without an optical viewfinder and venture into the mirrorless market, the same sort of money would buy you a Nikon Z 50 or Canon EOS R10. Again, cameras without IBIS or weather sealing, but has long been the case, both are a gateway into a far greater selection of lenses than Pentax currently offers.(opens in new tab)
As much as we love the traditional immediacy of optical through-the-lens DSLR shooting, it's clear the innovation in the interchangeable lens camera sector is now firmly in the mirrorless market. We admire Pentax for doggedly continuing with the DSLR formula, but the KF seems little more than an incremental improvement over the six-year-old K-70. With this lack of real innovation, the long-term viability of the DSLR sector seems doubtful.