Pentax isn't one for the norm. In addition to its multi-colour DSLR cameras, the company was also showing off its latest K-S1 DSLR at Photokina - a camera that has coloured light indicator lamps said to guide operations. We thought the fade-in, fade-out green glow to the front of the white finish model we handled made it seem like a breathing Transformer-esque model, but it didn't morph beyond its DSLR form you'll be pleased to know.
Not that it needs to, because the Pentax K-S1 is an affordable DSLR that's also fairly capable. But it is most definitely different - and that will frighten away a number of potential users. The lights scattered around the body - found around the shutter button, to the rear rotational mode dial and "ok" button, and included in a vertical-run strip on the front grip - are fun, but seem more showy than of significant use.
Perhaps we're too used to using such cameras, but seeing the selected mode light up on the rear dial would only be helpful for us in darker conditions. As a useful guide, we're not convinced - a newbie isn't going to immediately grasp what Av, Tv and so forth on the manual dial actually means without a little more research - because there's no more detailed visual assist within the camera's menus. It's the same old in-depth Pentax listings.
If anything for an entry-level DSLR camera the Pentax K-S1 is advanced, and in a good way. Features such as the low-pass-filter-free 20-megapixel sensor has an "AA filter" which applies microscopic vibrations to the sensor during exposure to avoid moire. It can be switched on and off by the user, meaning the super-sharp filter-free results and alternative "AA filtered" shots cover all bases. There was nothing for us to shoot to test this specific mode, but even so it's darn clever, however fitting that is for a beginner DSLR camera.
The 18-55mm kit lens attached is a noisy bit of kit when it autofocuses, as the motor is clearly audible. However, the 11-point autofocus system seemed to work well even in middling dim conditions at all focal lengths. The main nine points (which are cross-type for added sensitivity in portrait/landscape orientation) are arranged in a very centralised central square, though, so the spread of points across the screen is somewhat limited.
Elsewhere a 20.1-megapixel APS-C sensor, 5.4fps maximum burst shooting, sensitivity up to ISO 51,200 and Full HD video capture round off the feature set.
Pentax tends to be the underdog in the UK market, but the K-S1 shows that it's a company capable of producing some innovative ideas... as well as some whacky ones such as multi-colour options and those non-essential disco-ball-esque throbbing lights. Fun, but not for everyone.
The Pentax K-S1 is available now, priced £599 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens or £549 without. There are 12 colour options available too, ranging from blue to white, and black to gold.