Head to Head: Pentax K-01 vs. Pentax K-5

The best consumer cameras in Pentax's repertoire go head to head. How does the funny-looking K-01 stack up against the mighty K-5?

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It's traditional versus experimental in this battle of Pentax's best consumer cameras. Last year the K-5 was one of our best testing DSLRs, and remained near the top of our charts for months. In some ways, the K-01 is equivalent of the K-5's performance, and simply adapts to a smaller–though not much smaller–form factor.


Image Quality

This is sure to be a close one. Image quality is nearly identical from camera to camera, although the K-01 and its amazing kit lens boast superior sharpness. Other than that, the two are on nearly equal footing. Color accuracy is the same, noise reduction is the same, and the K-01 slightly outperforms the K-5 in dynamic range at moderate ISOs. We're giving this section to the K-01 but, believe it or not, the margin is so narrow that this Head to Head won't be decided by image quality at all.

Winner: Pentax K-01

Design & User Experience

Here's where things get interesting. Despite our best efforts to praise the camera's shooting capabilities, the K-01 is for better or worse still defined by its shape. Marc Newson's design is a major departure from the norm, and although we're sure it's quite impressive as an art object, us camera reviewers we don't love it. Handling the brick-like body is very uncomfortable and unbalanced. At the full opposite end of the spectrum, we still hold up the K-5 as one of the best examples of camera ergonomics. As far as physically working with these two models, they couldn't be further apart.

The K-5's phase detection autofocus is also superior to the K-01's contrast-based system. A few other secondary advantages put the K-5 ahead too, such as faster continuous shooting speed with a larger buffer, a much better control scheme featuring front and rear control dials, and one extra ISO sensitivity level.

Winner: Pentax K-5


With image quality very nearly a tie, the only factors distinguishing these two cameras are price and design. Obviously there are those who will consider the K-01's design vastly superior, but we just don't see it. The K-5 is better suited to the realities of photography, and with a price tag that's dropped considerably in the months since release, we think the K-5 is a better deal. Still, you've got to respect the K-01's refusal to exclusively depend on a design gimmick. Both are outstanding cameras, but ultimately this winner of this Head to Head is...

Overall Winner: Pentax K-5

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