Embracing JPGs with the Pentax K-01
If you’ve been keeping score at home, you know that I’ve got some good things to say about the Pentax K-01 (great IQ, great high ISO, great AWB, stealthy shutter, feels good in hand, great companion to DA Limited primes, etc...) as well as some criticisms (slow 1FPS with DNG, subpar video, hard to compose in bright light, etc...). While I’m willing to overlook the video since I’ve got the excellent Panasonic GH2 for that, the 1FPS with DNG RAW files was proving to be a thorn, rendering the otherwise promising K-01 to a sub-par decisive moment camera. With the family gathering this past weekend - including a pack of rambunctious nieces and nephews - I thought that I’d try once again with the K-01. This time though I’d shoot JPGs and try to take advantage of the Continuous Hi mode with 6FPS. I packed the DA21 and DA70 for the weekend, for a light, compact, high quality kit.
What a difference! The K-01 comes alive when shooting JPGs. It’s fast, responsive, and more than capable of capturing decisive moments. The Prime-M image processing engine quickly empties the buffer and returns the camera to ready mode, faster than the K-5 even, which gets indigestion when shooting DNG RAW files in rapid sequence. Turning off instant image review makes the K-01 faster still. Auto White Balance has been rock solid, making JPGs a less risky proposition.
If you've ever shot candids, you know that facial expressions are fleeting - there one second and gone the next. Capturing the right moment - the one snuck in between all the wrong moments and ok but not quite right moments - takes a lot of practice and a camera as responsive as your finger. With the K-01 shooting JPGs, I was doing quite well and not missing a dSLR like the K-5.
Let’s get this straight - shooting JPGs doesn’t make the K-01 a sports shooters dream camera, it just makes it more usable. The 6 FPS only lasts for 1 second after which it slows down to an odd cha-cha 1.something FPS until the cows come home or your card fills, whichever comes first. And the JPGs don’t help AF at all - it’s still a touch behind a good dSLR. But if you are shooting a sporting event where’s there’s some predictability of either the location or moment of action - like pitching or batting in baseball - then the K-01 acquits itself quite well. Other aspects of baseball - action in the field - will be a bit more of a struggle, especially since the K-01 AF seems indecisive with longer focal lengths. Ping pong (table tennis) is a little less predictable so I got more OOF shots. I doubt that the K-01 would be suitable for basketball though, as the lower light, longer focal lengths, and finicky AF would doom it. For a situation like that I’d probably pre-focus on a point and pray.
I still need to fine tune the JPG settings to my preference (I'm currently shooting "Natural"), but I'm very encouraged by all of this.
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