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Pentax K-S1 Sleek 20MP Midrange DSLR: First Look

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Pentax K-S1 Sleek 20MP Midrange DSLR: First Look

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Advanced features, easy interface, compact design

August 27, 2014

The new enthusiast-oriented DSLR camera from Pentax features ISO up to 51,200 and a glass pentaprism eye-level viewfinder, and comes in 12 color combinations.

The Pentax K-S1 will cost $749.95 body only, and can be pre-ordered now from Adorama. It will be shipped on a first-come, first-served basis. Credit cards will not be charged until orders are shipped.

Pentax today introduced the Pentax K-S1, a small DSLR whose advanced capabilities are hidden behind a simplified design. With a stripped-down design that borrows several elements from the K-01, the K-S1 is a traditional DSLR with redesigned APS sensor, a contoured grip, a high-quality glass pentaprism, and several colorful indicator LED lights on the front, top and back of the camera.

Pentax K-S1 Key Features:

  • Camera status LED indication (still image mode, video mode and face detection)
  • 20MP CMOS sensor
  • PRIME MII image processing engine
  • Max ISO: 51200
  • Built-in shake reduction
  • Optical viewfinder (100% field of view, 0.95x magnification)
  • Solid Glass Pentaprism
  • Top shutter speed: 1/6000 sec
  • 5.3 fps burst rate
  • 11 AF points (9-point cross sensor)
  • 3-inch, 920,000 dot resolution LCD screen
  • LED Indicators, Design
  • No Anti-Aliasing Filter (Software filter simulator included)

Watch the following overview of the Pentax K-S1 on AdoramaTV:

Pentax K-S1 In Depth


The first thing you'll notice, besides the camera's compact size, is the LEDs. The Pentax K-S1’s power switch, mode dial, OK button and grip all feature LED illumination; each of which indicates the current status of camera operation. The LEDs for the power switch, for instance, stay green during still-image shooting, but change color to red during movie recording. When the Face Detection function is activated, the number of LEDs illuminated on the grip corresponds with the number of faces that have been detected. This LED body illumination gives a decorative illumination to the choice of distinctive body colors.

In addition, the camera is available in 12 possible color combinations:

Despite the attention to outward appearances (its design was developed in collaboration the Japan office of Ziba, a design firm headquartered in Portland, Oregon, USA, and with other branches in Munich and San Diego), the K-S1 is a serious camera. The camera body’s main chassis, including the grip, is designed to be compact in size and sophisticated in appearance. The Pentax K-S1 is not water-resistant.  The more advanced Pentax K3 is ruggedized.

Image quality

The K-S1 maxes out 20MP and offers ISO capture at up to 51,200. It has a newly developed CMOS image sensor which comes without an optical AA (anti-aliasing) filter> This is expected to optimize the imaging power of the image sensor. By coupling this image sensor with the high-performance PRIME MII imaging engine, the K-S1 is said to deliver true-to-life, fine-gradation images by effectively minimizing noise at all sensitivity levels, even during super-high-sensitivity shooting at ISO 51,200.

By applying microscopic vibrations to the image sensor unit at the sub-pixel level during image exposure, the K-S1’s AA filter simulator provides the same level of moiré-reduction effect as an optical AA filter. Unlike an optical AA filter, which always creates the same result, this simulator lets the user not only switch the AA filter effect on and off, but also adjust the level of the effect; allowing the user to effortlessly apply the desired effect for a particular scene or subject.

The K-S1 features a Pentax-developed SR (Shake Reduction) mechanism to effectively minimize camera shake and assure sharp, blur-free images, even in camera-shake-prone conditions such as when using a telephoto lens, shooting low-light scenes with incident light only, or photographing sunset scenes.

Astro Tracer

The K-S1’s SR unit has a flexible design that tilts the image sensor unit in all directions, by shifting it horizontally (left/right) and vertically (up/down), and even rotating it. Taking advantage of this flexibility, the K-S1 provides a host of handy shooting functions, including Astro Tracer, which simplifies advanced astronomical photography in combination with the optional GPS unit, O-GPS1.

This function is most effective with a shutter speed of 1/1000 second or slower. This function is not available during HDR (High Dynamic Range) shooting.

Optical Viewfinder, Hi-Res LCD

Despite its standard-class classification, the K-S1 is equipped with a glass pentaprism viewfinder with approximately 100 percent coverage. It offers the same optics and coatings as those used in higher-level models. Pentax says it offers the highest level of viewfinder brightness in its class, with a magnification of approximately 0.95x.

On its back panel, the K-S1 features a high-resolution, wide-view LCD monitor with approximately 921,000 dots. It also provides a status screen employing the newly-designed GUI (Graphical User Interface), which allows the user to confirm functions and settings assigned to the four-way controller and the OK button at a glance. The RICOH RT font has been used for on-screen menus to improve readability.

Performance upgrades

The K-S1 provides a top shutter speed of 1/6000 second stop fast-moving subjects and has a high-speed continuous shooting function with a top speed of 5.4 images per seconds. The camera's SAFOX IXi+ AF sensor module has 11 sensors, including nine cross-type sensors in the middle. It also provides a spot beam to assist AF operation in poorly lit locations. Select-area expansion ensures that the sensor module keeps tracking a moving subject, even when the subject moves out of a pre-assigned auto-tracking area, by assessing the distance data collected by neighboring focus sensors.

The AF hold function maintains the in-focus position, even when the AF system loses track of the subject after once capturing it in focus. These functions combine to improve the camera's accuracy in the detection of moving subjects when its focus mode is set to AUTO, and upgrade its auto-tracking performance of these subjects when using a telephoto lens.

In-Camera image processing

Simply by setting the Mode dial to the EFFECT position, the user can apply the desired visual effect to an image while previewing the outcome on the LCD monitor. It provides a choice of 10 distinctive effects, including three new options: “Fresh” with a crystal-clean finishing touch; “Fade Color” for an elegant finish with subdued colors; and “Infrared” for a black-and-white finish like that of an infrared photo. The K-S1 also provides 21 digital filters (nine of them applicable during shooting), including a new “Color Replacement” filter.

In addition to the effective compensation of distortion, chromatic aberration and peripheral brightness, the K-S1 also provides a diffraction compensation function to effectively compensate diffraction, which deteriorates image resolution when a small aperture is used.

Smartphone compatibility

By installing the optional FLUCARD FOR PENTAX 16GB memory card in the K-S1, the user can release the K-S1’s shutter, check the live-view image, and browse and download the images recorded on the card using a smartphone. (These functions support smartphones operating iOS6 or later and Android 4.2 or later.)

Full HD movie recording with stereo audio

The K-S1 captures beautiful Full HD movie clips (1920 x 1080 pixels; 30/25/24 frame rate) in the H.264 recording format, which assures flawless, high-quality movies even with fast-moving subjects. It is also equipped with a built-in stereo microphone for recording natural sound during Full HD movie recording.

The Pentax K-S1 can be pre-ordered now from Adorama. It sells Body Only for $749.95; a one-lens kit with an 18-55mm lens sells for $799, and a two-lens kit with the 18-55mm and 50-200mm lenses will be available for $899.95.


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