New Pentax KP from Ricoh features 5-axis stabilization and ISO 819,200

Ricoh is looking to take on the enthusiast photographer market with the $1,100 Pentax KP, announced on Wednesday. Available in both black and silver finish, the compact DSLR is weather sealed on the outside and loaded with advanced tech on the inside, including a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor capable of shooting at a very high maximum ISO of 819,200.

“We designed the Pentax KP to appeal to the world’s most discerning outdoor photographers, who will appreciate its rich and powerful feature set and rugged, compact design, whether they are shooting a landscape on a trek in Patagonia or capturing an eclipse,” Kaz Eguchi, president of Ricoh Imaging Americas, said in a statement.

The design of the KP is unique. It is compact — more along the lines of a mirrorless camera than a DSLR — but the optical viewfinder looks huge as it dominates the top of the camera. Despite the small size, it features a tilting LCD screen and a good amount of direct-access control, including a mode dial, two control dials, and a dedicated dial for exposure bracketing modes.

For photographers with larger hands, the grip is interchangeable. North American cameras will include additional medium and large grips in the box, and an optional vertical battery grip will also be available.

The KP also receives one key feature of Pentax’s larger, full-frame K-1: The five-axis Shake Reduction System with Pixel Shift Resolution. This provides for sharp handheld images at shutter speeds as low as five stops below what would be required without image stabilization. Just like on the K-1, the Pixel Shift mode moves the sensor in a square pattern by a single pixel’s width, taking a photo at each position. The resulting four exposures are combined to produce full-color data at each pixel location, increasing the apparent resolution of the final image.

With the optional O-GPS1 GPS accessory, a special mode for astrophotography even uses the Shake Reduction System to track stars, enabling longer exposures at night that will capture stars as points of light rather than streaks.

As usual, Pentax looks to provide some serious bang for the buck with the KP, but it doesn’t beat the competition on every metric. The fastest shutter speed is 1/6,000 second (although a new electronic shutter takes this up to 1/24,000), the autofocus system features 27 points, and video mode is limited to 1080p at 30 frames per second. This compares to the similarly priced Nikon D7200 with a 1/8,000-second maximum shutter, 51-point AF system, and 1080p 60 FPS video.

Still, the KP crams a lot of tech and a couple novel features into a relatively small body. The high ISO capabilities appear particularly impressive, although it remains to be seen how this new sensor will perform in the real world. We won’t have to wait long, though. The KP will begin shipping on February 25 from authorized retailers and from Ricoh directly.

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