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Pentax KP review

It’s another interesting 24-megapixel SLR from Pentax, but what does the Pentax KP have that the cheaper K-70 doesn’t?

Pentax KP review

Our Verdict

The Pentax KP is an interesting camera, but it lags behind the cheaper K-70 in a couple of key areas and doesn’t deliver enough to justify its much higher price. It’s compact, sturdy and packed with photographic features, but we’re left thinking Pentax should now invest in rationalising and modernising its lens range, not launching new cameras.

For

  • Tough, weatherproof construction
  • In-body image stabilization
  • ISO 819,200 maximum

Against

  • Expensive compared to the K-70
  • No hybrid AF system
  • Weak battery life for a DSLR

The KP’s headline specification is its maximum ISO 819,200 sensitivity setting. You also get Pentax’s SR Shake Reduction System II system; a high-resolution Pixel Shift mode; an anti-aliasing filter ‘simulation’; and a magnesium alloy body with 67 seals to make it dustproof, weather-resistant and ‘freezeproof’ down to -10°C.

The KP also offers a range of interesting photographic options, including depth of field bracketing and motion (shutter speed) bracketing with no exposure shift. Pentax may seem a minority DSLR brand in today's market, but it does have the support of a growing list of Pentax lenses to go with it.

Build and handling

The KP has no fewer than three control dials: one each on the front, the top and the rear. The top dial works alongside a Smart Function dial for access to HDR capture, auto-exposure metering, continuous shooting and three custom user modes.

The front-mounted dial gives the KP a unique look, but it also compromises the height of the grip, so you might find your hold on the camera isn’t as good, especially as you turn the dial. If you don’t like the size or the feel of the grip, you can change it for one of two others.

Performance

Our KP was supplied with a Pentax 20-40mm f/2.8-4 ED ‘Limited’ lens, which highlights the variation in autofocus performance across the Pentax range. This lens has a built-in autofocus motor, but it’s quite noisy. 

Even in high-contrast lighting, the KP holds onto shadow and highlight detail well, and better than many rival cameras.

The Pentax KP produced good exposure, white balance and colour rendition. It delivers better quality at higher ISOs than you’d expect from an APS-C sensor; shooting in the DNG format, however, the top three sensitivity settings were spoiled by noise and a strong magenta cast. 

The quoted 390-shot battery life seems like a disappointment in a digital SLR camera – although it probably will outperform many similar-priced mirrorless camera rivals.

Specs

Pentax KP specifications

 

Sensor    24.3MP APS-C format CMOS

Lenses    Pentax KAF2

Memory    SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I)

Viewfinder    Optical pentaprism, 100% coverage

Max video resolution    Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) at 60i, 50i, 30p, 25p or 24p

ISO range    100-819,200

Autofocus points    27 (25 cross-type)

Max burst rate    7fps

LCD screen    3in tilting, 921k-dot LCD

Shutter speeds    1/6,000 sec to 30 sec, Bulb; electronic shutter to 1/24,000 sec

Weight    703g (with battery and memory card)

Dimensions    132 x 101 x 76mm

Power supply    D-LI109 lithium-ion battery, 390 shots

Lab tests

Pentax KP lab tests

We use Imatest and DxO Analyzer hardware and software to test cameras for their color accuracy (color error) signal to noise ratio (the amount of noise in the images) and dynamic range (their ability to capture detail in very bright and dark areas). We also pick three rival cameras to test them against. 

Color error

We compared the KP against the Canon EOS 80D, the Nikon D7200 and Pentax’s own K-70. The KP narrowly loses out to the rest, but the difference is not serious.

Signal to noise ratio

The KP performs well in the lab. Real-world tests confirm that even if the highest settings are unusable, the results are above average further down the ISO range.

Dynamic range

Dynamic range is the KP’s strong point – especially at higher ISO settings, where it beats its rivals by progressively larger margins as the ISO setting is increased.

Verdict

Pentax KP verdict

The KP is an interesting camera, but it lags behind the cheaper K-70 in a couple of key areas and doesn’t deliver enough to justify its much higher price. It’s compact, sturdy and packed with photographic features, but we’re left thinking Pentax should now invest in rationalising and modernising its lens range, not launching new cameras.

Pentax KP competition

Canon EOS 80D

It’s the enthusiast’s Canon with almost everything, including an articulating screen, Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus and a 24.2MP APS-C format sensor.

Nikon D7200

Nikon’s chunky and strong enthusiast DSLR combines no-nonsense controls with a top-class 24MP non-anti-aliased image sensor.

Pentax K-70

It’s little more than half the price of the KP, but it beats it with an articulated rear screen and hybrid AF, and gives surprisingly little away elsewhere.

Read more:

• The best Pentax lenses to choose right now

The best Pentax cameras in 2019