New Pentax K-S1 DSLR gets all sci-fi, thanks to its LED grip, unique user interface

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With the Pentax K-S1, Ricoh Imaging has introduced a new mid-level DSLR that looks straight out of a science-fiction movie. With its LED-equipped grip and the unique button layout on its rear, the K-S1 certainly stands out from the crowd of midrange DSLRs.

While the design of the K-S1 makes it appear more like a funky space toy rather than a proper camera, the shiny LEDs it is adorned with actually serve a purpose. Depending on which settings the user has chosen, the LEDs on the grip, as well as on the various buttons on the camera’s top and back, change the state of their illumination to convey the current shooting mode at a single glance.

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For example, the LED on the power button is green when the camera is in single-shot mode, but changes to red during movie recording. The five LEDs on the grip light up according to the number of faces detected in the corresponding shooting mode, and also serve as a countdown when the self-timer is activated.

The huge button conglomerate on the back, which combines the mode dial that classically sits on the top of cameras, as well as a four-way controller to maneuver the K-S1’s settings and menus, is also LED-illuminated. While the current shooting mode lights up green, the huge OK button in the center is illuminated in a blue shade.

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On the inside, the K-S1 packs the latest technology we’ve already seen in previous Pentax models, including the anti-aliasing filter simulation that works by slightly shifting the sensor during image capture. This, of course, implies that the 20.1-megapixel APS-C imager doesn’t sport a physical AA filter, which in turn promises overall sharper images. (You can read more about this feature in our Pentax K-3 review.)

In combination with the PRIME MII image processor, the sensor in the Pentax K-S1 supports ISO sensitivities up to 51,200, 5.4 frames-per-second (fps) continuous shooting, and 1080p Full HD video recording at 30, 25 or 24 fps. Files are written onto SD, SDHC, and SDXC media, with the K-S1 supporting Eye-Fi cards as well as the optional Flucard that connects the camera to a smartphone, so that it can be used as a remote control.

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On the rear of the camera, there’s a large 3-inch screen with a 921,000-dot resolution that can be used for both chimping (i.e., reviewing your images) as well as image composition. But since this is a proper DSLR, the K-S1 invites you to peek through its large pentaprism viewfinder with 100-percent coverage and a magnification of 0.95x. For those who love to pimp their cameras, the matte screen inside the viewfinder can actually be exchanged, which is a rare feature among most consumer DSLRs.

The K-S1 will be available in September 2014 at an MSRP of $750 for the body alone, and $800 for the kit option including the SMC DA L 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens. In typical Pentax fashion, the camera will come in a variety of colors ranging from (but not limited to) plain white to orange to brown to black.

More information on the Pentax K-S1 is available on Ricoh Imaging USA’s website.

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