Pentax fans rejoice! You now have a compact system camera in your armoury. Actually, you can strike the "compact" part straight away, because this mirrorless camera, designed by Marc Newson, is anything but compact.
When asked why there was no inclusion of a viewfinder - which would have essentially made this a DSLR - Marc Newson responding that Pentax hadn't asked for it in the brief. So what we have in the Pentax K-01 is a design-led hybrid camera of sorts. The innards and the bulk of a DSLR, but without the mirror box.
In the hand the bulk is surprising. Even compared to the Canon EOS 600D we used to photograph it, the Pentax K-01 camera is big, so it’s unlikely to appeal to those looking to slim down their photography gear. It does feel extremely solid though, but we’re not entirely convinced by the rubber flaps on the ends, which may, with time, fall off.
Marc Newson's involvement with the Pentax K-01 extends to the exterior design only, so you can rest assured that the innards are quality components from a company with plenty of photography pedigree.
The system sits on a 16-megapixel APS-C size CMOS sensor and features the K-mount, so is compatible with existing Pentax lenses for that system. Pentax said there were 214 K-mount lenses out there, but we haven't counted them ourselves.
The top controls are the most interesting. The power switch is big and chunky, the mode dial ridiculously so. The Pentax green button is present, as is a red button, which defaulted to instant video capture. It's conventional in so much as you know what everything does, but it looks and feels a bit like a toy camera.
However, once you get around the fact that this camera looks different, you'll find it doesn't behave differently. The menus are conventional, the placement of controls on the rear of the camera is fairly standard so the design won't directly inhibit your photographic aims.
We found it easy to get to grips with the controls quickly and being able to change modes in a flash, as well as access major settings through the buttons on the back, makes it an easy camera to use.
It may even help you put some muscles on your upper body as you heft the 560g body up in front of you at arms' length to take a shot. The lack of viewfinder means you can't press it against your face for extra support when taking photos.
And this is an interesting point: With the 40mm XS pancake lens in place, sure, the Pentax K-01 is perfectly portable. But strap on another, larger, lens and you're left wondering how to hold the thing. A hand underneath, cup and saucer style? Reach around to grip the barrel of the lens as you would on a DSLR?
That 40mm XS lens is the equivalent of 61mm in 35mm terms and we found it to be fast to focus, very fast. There is also a convenient switch on the body of the camera to move to manual focusing and it was smooth in operation when we did so.
Given the respectable sensor and quality of Pentax lenses, we're sure that the K-01 will produce excellent, high quality shots. Unfortunately, we weren't able to take any sample shots away from the launch event in London today, so we'll have to wait until we review the Pentax K-01 to make a definitive judgement.
It comes in three colours: black and black, black and silver, and black and yellow. Marc Newson's favourite is the black and black, saying that this colour was "the best example in terms of expressing the design in its purest form".
We'd go for the black and yellow because, as we see it, if you're buying a weird camera you might as well get a weird colour.
The Pentax K-01 will be available from the end of March 2012, from £629.99 (body only) or £679.99 with the 40mm DA XS lens.