The New Firmware's Here! The New Firmware's Here! (aka The Continuing Adventures of the Pentax K-01)

Pentax K-01, as taken by it's bigger brother.
Hey Pentax, I've got a new advertising campaign for the K-01...

"Pentax K-01 - the Pontiac Aztec of Cameras"

Funny, huh? I crack myself up sometimes.

Now I've gotta admit that the K-01 is almost universally derided by the online camera commentscenti. Most of them have never held one in their hands and are ignoring the simple fact that in the right hands it's capable of taking high quality photographs. And I do quite like the look of it. In other words, they're judging a book by its cover, but since nobody reads books anymore, let me try a new metaphor - judging a camera by its thumbnails.

Just the other day on one of the online camera sites,  a commenter lamented the lack of a high quality mirrorless camera with 1:1 capabilities, high image quality, and focus peaking. Hello? The camera you want is here and is available in three color combinations.

Seriously, the K-01 with the XS40 pancake and the DA21 f3.2 and DA70 f2.4 Limited primes doesn't cost much more than the beloved Fuji X-Pro1 body, and at that price point, the K-01 will absolutely wipe the floor with the X-Pro1 in terms of image quality for the simple reason that the pretty Fuji doesn't have a lens yet!

Which brings me to the other potential camera of the year - the Mini Cooper. Oh wait, I meant the Olympus and the OM-D E-M5. Or something like that, I never remember where the damn hyphens go. The K-01 with the XS40, DA50 f1.8, and DA21 f3.2 costs less than the O-MD with the kit lens and the accessory grip. Don't believe me? Shopping cart it. Yes, I just turned "shopping cart" into a verb.

Now don't get me wrong, the Fuji and Olympus are fantastic cameras - my brother has one and my good friend has the other and they both like them. But I guess my long rambling point is that based on image quality the K-01 deserves mention with these other two but doesn't get the column inches (that's 20th century-speak for press) that the other two get simply because it looks different. Seems like too many people are hung up on their own image quality (how they'll look holding the camera).

Anyways, that was a long and roundabout way of saying that I still have the K-01 and still enjoy the camera immensely. I also have the K-5 of course, and the tiny go-anywhere Q. And the Nikon V1 too, as well as a GH1 and 2. So I've got enough cameras, thank you very much. And each have their own niche, the K-01 when the lights dim and I want more IQ than the Q and V1 can deliver in those circumstances and I don't want to bring a camera to my eye. I'm still very much blow away by some of the pictures it takes.

I'm actually thinking about an upcoming project that will involve a lot of low-light, indoor shooting, very fast-moving photojournalist style. That means the K-5 of course, but there will also be situations where I won't want a focus assist light drawing attention. Which leads me to the K-01 with focus peaking. So I'll have the K-5 with the DA*16-50 f2.8 on one shoulder and the K-01 witha fast prime on the other. But I don't want to restrict the K-01 to manual focus only, and until recently the AF wasn't up to the task I have in mind. I actually thought of the new Nikon D600 and even did a spreadsheet with system costs. But any way you cut it, it's a pretty penny.

But Pentax have just released firmware update v1.01 for the K-01 and initial AF tests are promising:

I'll need to do some more testing, you know, out in the real world, with things like people, but I'm encouraged. Now, to find a fast, high quality mid-wide prime to use with the K-01....


  1. How has the new firmware helped with taking indoor events photos?

    1. Hey Dan, I haven't shot any events yet but did try it with the family this weekend. AF is much more decisive overall but it's not yet dSLR decisive. I might use it for events where the subjects will stop and smile for me vs. candid style shots.

      One thing that I'm working on is getting MF and focus peaking to work in those situations where the light is abysmal and an AF assist light and the sound of a focusing motor are unwanted. If I can get that to work then the K-01 will jump to the top of the pile for low light candid work. Stay tuned.

  2. Hi John,
    Your Pentax kit seems pretty complete, so for which occasions do you still use the nikon V1 and the GH2 ?

    1. Hey Nick, I use the Nikon V1 for outdoor action and for mounting on the motorcycle; the AF and high speed shooting (60 FPS at full resolution!) are pretty special and fill a gap that Pentax has. The GH2 fills the video gap. I use mostly Pentax primes on the GH2 so there is some crossover.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Hey John, I feel very much the same way as you about the K-01. After upgrading from my beloved first DSLR K-x to my fantastic K-5, I was somehow hesitant about the K-01 but could not resist when I saw a barely used white body for less than 300 USD. I have to say I immediately liked the looks and design details, also liked how it feels and handles (all points that were much derided by the photo commentariat). I mounted my venerable Pentax-M 40mm pancake on it (fits it like a glove), and realized that with focus peaking this camera is just perfect for my manual lenses (50mm 1.4, and M42 Super Takumars 24/35/55mm)- what a joy to use them, and great results, focus is finally where I wanted them. No comparison with using the focus indicator.
    Where the K-01 excels as well is when I want to be more discreet and unobtrusive and travel light. Which means that Zoom and other big lenses such as my 100 Macro WR are pretty much the domain of my K-5, but with a pancake prime lens, the K-01 is just great. I have the 70mm limited now on my shopping list, but at the wide end I am uncertain which is best: the 15mm or teh 21mm limited. any thoughts on that?
    anyways it's a shame this great camera was so poorly recieved, but I enjoy it thoroughly.

    1. Hey Frank, it's interesting how opinions on the K-01 have changed since its launch. It's no longer derided but rather respected for its IQ/$ ratio.

      Thanks for writing.

  4. You never updated to v1.03 ?

    1. Thanks for the reminder. I think I've got too many cameras!