At the end of the day, the Pentax K-01 acquitted itself quite well in this environment. The high ISO was great and the AF was solid. There was only one situation where I switched to manual focus - shooting a small statue behind glass in a dimly lit room:
Here, focus peaking and magnification helped me get the shot.
Usability NotesThe camera’s shape and controls didn’t really get in the way either. I accidentally hit the flash release a couple of times, but that’s about it. As mentioned earlier, I’ve been spoiled by touch screens and really wish that I could set AF point faster, a la GH2. As it stands, selecting AF point is one click slower than the K-5 (but conversely, the K-5 is slower in setting Drive Mode and White Balance). I wish that I had tested facial recognition on the statues. I’ll just have to wait for real people.
When photos were first released, the Mode Dial was soundly criticized for being on a “stovepipe”. I’m happy to report that there’s nothing wrong with its placement for me, as changing the mode is often accompanied by checking other settings anyway. While shooting in-camera HDR, I even switched back to Manual mode while the camera was still processing - no problem. I’ve even turned off the camera while in the middle of shooting video. Again, no problem.
How was the LCD?Did I miss an EVF? Only in a couple of outdoor shots where the sun was at my back. I could see it being an issue in the summer but I’ll get by. After all, I really just need to frame the shot and check the meter reading. I’ve done it before with VF-less cameras and figure that I can do it again.
There’s a couple of things I’d like to see in the rear LCD though. One, the Panasonic GH2 has a couple of neat tricks up its sleeve. One is DOF Preview, a mode that is like constant DOF preview. It’s really neat to see DOF change with Aperture setting; on the K-01 it would be killer combined with Focus Peaking. This feature would also eliminate the K-01 constantly adjusting the Aperture based on lighting conditions. It does this as part of the process of showing a properly exposed rear LCD. If you have one, try look at the lens while alternating between pointing it at light and dark areas. As you point it at a light area, the Aperture closes. Dark area - opens. This is actually a known issue with the Olympus E-P3 when used with the Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4. They call it the “Rattlesnake” because it sounds just like that. The K-01 rattlesnakes too. Even in M mode. Is it a big deal? If you shoot monks, maybe.
Which brings up my other point - the K-01 always tries to show you a well-exposed image on the LCD even if you exposure settings are way off. Need to overexpose by a stop or more due to backlighting? You’ll have to rely on the meter because the LCD is trying to do its own thing. Likewise, the Histogram doesn’t shift as you shift the exposure around to help you detect blown highlights or crushed shadows.
In contrast, Panasonic has Constant Preview, showing you as closely as it can on the LCD (and EVF) what the photo will look like with your current Aperture and Shutter Speed. Need to overexpose by a stop because of backlighting? As you do so, the GH2 gives you 3 visual cues to help you determine how much compensation you need:
- The meter shifts
- The Histogram shifts to the right so you can see how much you are blowing out
- The LCD brightens
It's The LensesThe DA 21mm F3.2, 35mm F2.8 Macro, 40mm F2.8, and 70mm F2.4 feel like they were made for the K-01. They work so well with this camera. I find myself always throwing the K-01 and a couple of primes into the bag before I leave the house.
I've got good Micro Four-Thirds primes too - Panasonic 14mm F2.5, 20mm F1.7, and Olympus 45mm F1.8. Of those, I'd rate the 45/1.8 as the equal of the DA Limiteds and the 20/1.7 as maybe a hair behind. The 14/2.5 is just ok or solid though. Not stellar. This is tough company after all.
At the End of the DayThe Pentax K-01 was great for The Cloisters. Better than the Pentax K-5 would have been - smaller bag, quieter shutter, better Live View. Cameras with acrobatic rear screens (Panasonic GH2, G3, Olympus E-P3, NEX 5N, etc..) would have opened up even more composition options, but none of the Micro Four-Thirds cameras have as sweet a sensor and the Sony NEX lens lineup is still rather thin. I don’t have first hand experience - do they compete with Pentax Limited?
Truth told, all the above-mentioned cameras are very good, and I would have left The Cloisters with good shots from any of them. At this point, the differences mostly boil down to taste, and I’m so far happy with the K-01. I’ll share more of my photo adventures as they happen.
Thanks for reading.
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