Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Petworth House and the Pentax K-01

I took a recent trip to Petworth house. I have been before, and it's always a nice place to have a wander around. This time however I was out quite specifically to test a new (well, factory refurbished..) camera, and Petworth's collection of architecture and artworks was a perfect location for it.

The new camera was a Pentax K-01. As an SLR user, I didn't think I would ever want a "compact" camera, but at the great price I found this one I felt its features made it worth buying.

It's a "compact" camera, though perhaps quite a bit bulkier than most. The reason for this is that internally it has nearly the same sensor as Pentax's top of the line K5, as well as using the same lens mount that Pentax cameras have been using back to the 1970s (meaning my SLR's lenses will fit this camera).

The camera came with an exceptionally thin 40mm f2.8 lens (pictured), which is not only excellent quality but is so small that it barely protrudes from the body of the camera, making the camera small enough to put in a (large) pocket. This lens is so small that some people thought it was just a lens cap:

So, it's an SLR quality camera in a slightly smaller body. There must be some downsides, right?

There are. Firstly, there is no viewfinder: the body has been made smaller by removing the mirror. This camera has to be used via the screen on the back, which while adequate is nothing like a viewfinder (and I did find it frustrating to use the screen at times).

Secondly, the autofocus is poor. In decent light it is fine, but as soon as the light levels dim it becomes slow, and in very low light it is simply impossible. This is despite a firmware update to the camera which improves it slightly. So, be prepared to switch to manual in lower light.

Also on the subject of low light performance, the sensor in this camera, while very good and far better than a compact, simply is not as good at high ISO settings as Pentax's SLR (which is, admittedly, very good at levels even past 6400). If you take a photo at ISO 6400 (and up) with the K-01, expect noise and salt and pepper type artifacts.

Also on focusing, the camera includes focus peaking. I read good things about it in reviews but I found that not only did the focus peaking seem to indicate more of the picture to be in focus than it really was, but the white lines of the focus peaking heavily distracted from what I was actually looking at. I found myself longing for my viewfinder and familiar flashing red dots, and on the whole have found I prefer to leave focus peaking turned off on the K-01.

Lastly on focusing, don't even think about using this camera to shoot any moving objects. Like pretty much any compact camera, the focusing method simply isn't adequate, so even though it can take up to 6fps, if your subject is moving then you'll likely end up with one photo in focus and the rest useless blurs.

Lastly on the negatives, the design of the camera itself is a little clunky. It certainly doesn't sit comfortably in the hand, and while shooting you are very liable to press the buttons on the back with your palm. Also, you WILL end up re-mapping the red button on top (which defaults to an instant video recording) very quickly, as it is very easy to press while trying to adjust the exposure compensator. The on-off switch likewise is very poorly designed, and very easily flicks itself on when being shoved back in a bag.

But, despite all these niggles, some of which aren't particularly minor, I really like this camera. With the 40mm lens it looks just like a rather bulky point-and-shoot camera, but will in fact be producing SLR quality images. The fact that it takes any Pentax lens makes it a wonderful addition to anybody (like me) who uses Pentax and would like a more compact camera.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photos below, which were taken with the K-01 and 40mm lens, along with some occasional cursing as the auto focus failed to lock on..

Special thanks to the gentleman at Petworth house who stayed after 5pm so I could pick up my motorcycle helmet! Sorry to have kept you waiting!

A surprisingly tame (and non myxi) rabbit.



Here be monsters.

Plenty of sculpture to see.

And paintings.

I recognise that chap..

This one is quite funny.

A 600 year old copy of the Canterbury Tales.

Hieronymus Bosch.

The servants' tunnel.