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Pentax KP - Update

by Uwe Heimburger

When hiking or being in the city I really don't like to heft my heavy Pentax K-1.

Because of it's weight I never hang it around my neck. Instead I always use a Black Rapid Sport Strap. So the camera hangs on my right side. Not always convenient in every situation. I wrote this article on 21.05.2018. After more experience using the Pentax KP I'd like to put in some minor updates and additions. 

How to get more lightweight?

An option to go more lightweight is to buy into another camera system. Maybe a Micro Four Thirds system like Olympus or a Fujifilm (APSC). But for sure I won‘t sell my Pentax gear that offers great ergonomics and quality.

Diving deeper I recognized that to open a second camera line would be very expensive and top of their line cameras and lenses wouldn't be much more lightweight than a Pentax solution.

In case of Olympus‘ flagship line cameras there is the restriction of 12 bit instead of 14 bit sensor data processing. That can be restricting in tough lighting conditions.

What about my seven years old and trusty Pentax K-5? It doesn't support KAF4 mount that is required for electro-magnetic aperture control of my wonderful compact Pentax DA55-300PLM lens, and it doesn't have a tilt monitor that I very much appreciate on the K-1.

In the end I bought the current APSC flagship Pentax KP - in weight comparable to K-5 but in most other technical aspects significantly better.

This article describes my personel assessement of the KP partially with regard to the K-1 and K-5. You can read what I like and what not. And you get infos about how I changed KP‘s default settings so that it supports my working style.

Since I always shoot in raw format all settings that concerns jpg image creation are not that important to me. I'll not talk about it.

KP - What I don't like.

  • No camera shoulder display showing ISO, Exposure Time, Aperture and EV Compensation. I always use this functionality on K-1 and K-5.
  • Other battery than K-1 and K-5, full charged supporting only ~ 420 images.
  • Low image buffer.
  • An adapter cable 2.5mm to 3.5mm is needed to use a standard pentax cable release (2.5 mm). This is caused by the fact that the KP shares the connection for cable release and microphone input. The standard for latter is 3.5 mm.
  • Very complex user interface. You have to take time to understand how it works.
  • Compared to the K-1 different layout of buttons and function assignments of Function Dial Wheel and Four-way Controller.

KP - What I like.


  • Silver version, IMO a beauty - very retro.
  • Much more lightweight than K-1 (~350g less). So for me it's bearable to hang it around my neck.
  • Changeable Grips. The integrated grips of K-1 and K-5 allow another way of handling. I’d say they are not better or worse than the KP‘s - usage is different. You have to support the camera-lens combo strongly with the left hand - like we used to do in the analog SLR days where we mostly didn’t have dedicated grips. Grips we got by adding a winder or motor drive. I have to relearn this kind of handling.
  • Great optical view finder with 0.95x magnification better than K-5 (0.92x) and K-1 APSC mode frame. I love optical view finders a lot more than electronic view finders.
  • Tiltable monitor similar the Pentax 645Z‘s (middle format). Very convenient but not as flexible as the K-1‘s. I miss vertical tilting since I do a lot of portrait orientation work. (updated)
  • Lever to switch between viewfinder, live view and movie mode. Working in live view mode reminds of working with the compact Canon Powershot G10. (updated)
  • KAF4 support (electro-magnetic aperture control).
  • Very high image quality.
  • Very high ISO performance.
  • APSC 24 MP giving more room for crop than K-1 and K-5.
  • Pixel Shift Resolution (PSR) support.
  • PTTL remote control of flashes. Available also on K-5. But the KP‘s internal flash can’t be disabled in PTTL wireless mode. K-1 lacks an internal flash and doesn‘t support PTTL controller function.
  • And a lot more ...

Weired Issues & wishes

  1. When focus peaking is enabled Live View histogram is not available and the boxes cannot be ticked in the menu. That's a restriction compared to the K-1 where you can use the live histogram together with focus peaking.
  2. Using M lenses in exposure program M the level of under and over exposure is not reflected in the live histogram or an EV bar. This also is not available on the K-1. But the K-5 emulates it and shows the impact to the image and displays a live histogram!
  3. Operation Lock Control cannot be set in the Control Panel.
  4. Operation Lock Control is not displayed in the viewfinder whereas it is shown on the monitor.
  5. Wish: for a KP successor a Fx button "Lock" like on K-1 at the same position.
  6. Since battery is very restricted there should be an option to attach a power bank to the power port. This would especially help when using the movie and intervall functions as well when performing long exposures (update addition).
  7. Another great option would be to load the battery in camera. No longer the need to take the battery charger with you on journey (update addition).


The Pentax KP will serve me on tour and in the city and it supports KAF4. That's what I aimed at - objective fulfilled. There are some trade-offs but for my demands none of these are show stoppers.

Special configuration allows me to use the rear e-Dial to set Aperture, front e-Dial to set Exposure Time, to use Function Dial C1-Setting to set ISO and Fx1 to use Exposure Compensation. Optical Preview is delivered by pressing Fx3 and AE Lock via Fx2.

So the most important settings are available in direct access, monitor only used where necessary.

In the following chapters you‘ll learn how I configured the KP‘s user interface to support my working style.

Some pictures taken with Pentax KP and different lenses ...











My Pentax KP settings.

The opportunities to configure the KP are enormous and IMO a bit confusing. It offers the same base concepts like the K-1 but in detail also differs a lot. Within the following chapters I'll dig deeper and hope my infos will help people around the world.

All the best, have a good time, take off, have fun!

Important KP User Interface Basics

Compared to the former Pentax DSLRs the K-1 basically introduced two new user interface concepts. The KP inherits them. These interfaces are highly configurable according your needs. So are the KP’s three functional fx buttons plus AF button.

First - a concept implemented in hardware - the Function Dial in combination with the Setting Dial on the camera’s right shoulder side.

Second - a concept implemented in software - the Control Panel. It allows quick access to your mostly used functions without the need to go into the comprehensive but well organized classical Pentax menu system.

Unfortunately the Four-Way Controller settings changed between K-1 and KP. So working with both cameras is hard to automate.

Three settings of the KP's Function Dial, C1-C3, are configurable. Making it more flexible but also more complicated compared to the K-1's Function Dial. The variety of different function access possibilies makes the operation somehow complicated and difficult.

Often I think less would be more and better. Especially the basic parameters for taking pictures by default should be supported by hardware controls: ISO, Time, Aperture and Exposure Compensation.

Before starting re-configuring the hardware and software interfaces, we should think about our needs to do the photographers job most efficiently.

My Shooting Habits

I‘d like to distinguish free-hands and stationary shooting by using a tripod or similar. I do both a lot.

My free-hand process mostly looks like „point - focus - recompose - shoot“. For this type of shooting the optical viewfinder is my favorite and I use middle AF point autofocus and configure the camera accordingly.

For my stationary shooting with tripod I‘m often sitting on my Walkstool Comfort 55 - stressless. I most of the time use the tilt monitor in Live View, Histogram shown, focus set via positioning and zooming on screen, often in addition focus peaking activated and using a cable release. So my process here is more like „compose - set focus - shoot“.

Often I use the technique Exposure To The Right (ETTR). An exposure time is chosen so that the distribution of brightness values is moved to the right of the histogram. They bump the right border but are not clipped. In digital this helps to retain most detail. In raw post processing you reduce the exposure to your notion.

All this in general takes more time - relaxed shooting, thinking about every detail so to say, love to work this way.

Buttons - Basic shooting functions

While free-hand shooting I like to work in a classical way, meaning without monitor. This also helps to reduce energy consumption. To support this I change some of the KP's default function settings.

Compared to the K-1 the KP offers less buttons. But the functions of missing buttons we can assign to other user interface control items. The following table shows some differences of KP vs. K-1.

K-1 buttonKP placementKP solution
ISO Four-way Controller, Top button Fx-Button configurable, Function Wheel & Control Panel configurable
Lock   Fx-Button configurable
AE Function Dial Automatic Exposure Metering Method, Fixed smart function
AE-L   Fx-Button configurable
Optical Preview Lever   Fx-Button configurable
Lighting   Fx-Button configurable
LV Capture mode selector switch Position Live View
AF Active Area Four-way controller OK button Fx-Button configurable

Whereas the Four-way Controller buttons activate the display, the buttons don't.

Since I want to avoid activation of the display I assign my mostly used functions to the fx-buttons - exception ISO. Other functions I have to distribute over other user interface controls.

Here my Fx button settings (Fx1 and Fx3 updated):

KP buttonDefault functionChangeK-1
Fx1 Raw Optical Preview Dedicated Button
Fx2 Electronic Level AE Lock Dedicated Button
Fx3 Ev Compensation Ev Compensation Dedicated Lever, right position
AF/AE-L AF1 Back Button Focus only configured Back Button Focus only configured

What's the photographical sense of the functions I assigned to the Fx buttons - a short description for less knowledged photographers:

AF/AE-L: I always use autofocus decoupled from shutter release button. Why? When there are moving subjects in the view, shutter release coupled autofocus often refocuses when triggering although I don't want to. So when using autofocus I use AF Button solely. Focus stays as long as you don't refocus using the AF Button, Focus manually or usage of Quickshift. The camera I configured accordingly via Menu Camera-5.Button Customization > AF2 Enable AF2 - AF with shutter release button is disabled so AF is performed with the AF/AE-L Button).

Fx1: Optical viewfinder preview. You could also set digital preview under preview selection. That doesn’t make sense to me since I want to minimize monitor usage and love working directly in the viewfinder. I often use my cameras with manual lenses. The Optical Preview is an often used tool to control depth of field and focus. Since the KP lacks the lever offered by the K-1 and K-5 function the fx1 button as direct neighbour of the shutter release button is my natural solution to assign the Optical Preview function. Since I always shoot raw I don't need the default setting "raw".

Fx2: AE-L - the function stores a measured exposure time value. You point your camera in direction of the area you want to be exposured correctly according your AE setting, then you push the Fx2 button. The exposure time value is stored. A star in the viewfinder / on the monitor shows that the displayed value is stored. Then you reframe / recompose according your perception and shoot. Unfortunately a dedicated button doesn't exit on the KP. So I use Fx2.

Fx3 (default): Ev compensation (+/-): AE-Metering, i.e. one of the metering methods multi-segment, center-weighted or spot, is just an automatic method to get a (hopefully) good exposure time value. In special situations the measurement may give you not the result you expect. Your main subject may become too bright or dark. If you’re somewhat experienced you know when to correct up or down the automatically measured exposure value. To do this you use EV compensation. You’ll surely find examples in the internet or old-fashioned books.


  • You can assign functions to Fx Buttons in Menu Camera-5.1 > Fx1, Fx2 Fx3, AF/AE-L.
  • Operation Lock Control can only be assigned to a fx button but all fx buttons are usefully occupied. Ricoh-Pentax I need a fourth fx button on the KP positioned the same as the Operation Lock Button on K-1! Now, this function would be my second candidate for Fx2. The third priority would be AF Active Area, the default Electronic Level my forth. Unfortunatly Operation Lock Control cannot be set in the Control Panel.
  • In Menu C-1.6 AE-L with AF Locked you can couple both functions. So you can save one button for another function assignment. Exposure time and focus are really different things in photography. So I use the functions decoupled.

Function Dial Wheel (Smart Functions)

What's missing compared to the K-1‘s fixed Function Wheel positions are Exposure Compensation, ISO, BKT, Grid, SR, Crop and Wifi. With the exception of Crop most of these can be configured for C1, C2 and C3 (customer defined dial positions), but IMO we widely should avoid redundant direct access.

Two-step operation to set a smart function:

  1. Turn Function Wheel
  2. Make setting using function wheel
- - - not changeable
AE AE - not changeable, Button on K-1
HDR HDR - not changeable, like K-1
CH/CL CH/CL - not changeable, like K-1
C1 Custom Image ISO Fixed Position on K-1
C2 AA Filter Simulator Shutter Mode Selection K-1 only in LiveView mode, Control Panel
C3 Outdoor View Setting - fx Button configurable on K-1


  • You can assign functions to C1, C2 and C3 in Menu Camera-5.2 > Function Dial.
  • Some functions like ISO doesn't activate the display whereas the default ISO button of the Four-way Controller activates the display. So I set C1 to ISO and get direct access by wheel.

Four-Way Controller

OK AF Active Area AF Active Area not changeable, continous pressing activates function
Top ISO CH/CL not changeable, activates Display
Right CH/CL Custom Image not changeable, activates Display
Bottom WB Flash not changeable, activates Display
Left Flash WB not changeable, activates Display

If AF Area is activated you can shift the focus points using the Four-way buttons.


  • The Four-way controller can be disabled by function Operation Lock Control.

Control Panel

I'll address the fields I use according a chess field. A-E referencing columns and 1-4 rows. My objective is to widely configure the same functions at the same place in KP's and K-1's Control Panel.

1 Custom Image Electronic Level Grid Slow Shutter Speed NR High-ISO NR
2 Focal Length Shutter Mode Selection Composition Adjustment Horizon Correction Pixel Shift Resolution
3 ISO Sensitivity Focus Peaking Astrotracer AA Filter Simulator Shake Reduction
4 Outdoor View Setting External Input Devices File Format Night Vision LCD Display Wifi


  • Custom Image. If we assign this function to the function wheel, you cannot set individualized parameters. You only can select the profile. So for me the control panel seems to be the better place.
  • ISO can also be configured as Function Wheel Smart Function (IMO better place).
  • Outdoor View Setting can also be configured as Function Wheel Smart Function (IMO better place).

My special menu settings

Synchronize „ISO - Aperture - Exposure Time“ Scales

  • C1.2 Sensitivity Steps: 2

Secure Camera Operation

  • C3.17 Disable functions of the Four-way Controller and Menu in standby mode: 2

Traversing the Menu

  • C3.21 Save Menu Location: 2

Support for fully manual lenses

  • C4.22 Catch-in Focus: 2
  • C4.24 Using Aperture Ring: 2

Reduce monitor usage

  • Camera-5.Memory > Shooting Info Display: On
  • Camera-5.Button Customization > AF2 Enable AF2 - AF with shutter release button is disabled so AF is performed with the AF/AE-L Button)

Exposure Mode Dial - User-defined Exposure Modes

This dial we find on every Pentax DSLR. The interesting thing is that besides the standard exposure modes there are five programmable User Modes. The first four are pre-occupied by overwritable Pentax suggestions (HDR Landscape, MACRO, ASTROPHOTO, Manual Lens).

Until now I didn‘t change them since I‘m curious about Pentax‘s settings. In first place I‘ll only change the file format from jpeg *** to raw dng + jpeg ***.

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