Pentax K-1 vs Nikon D90

  • Full frame
  • 36 megapixels
  • Pentax KAF2
  • 60
    Overall
  • 42
    Imaging
  • 76
    Features
  • 70
    Size
  • 0
    Price
  • APS-C
  • 12 megapixels
  • Nikon F
  • 40
    Overall
  • 13
    Imaging
  • 30
    Features
  • 72
    Size
  • 0
    Price

Pentax K-1 vs Nikon D90: a Complete Review and Comparison

Are you looking for the best camera to suit your needs? Due to a wide range of options, making a wise and weighted decision can be rather challenging. Which specs to keep in mind? What are the key pros and cons of each model? This comparison should give some helpful hints!

In this review, we are going to provide a detailed evaluation and comparison of two different camera models that fall into the same category - Semi-Pro DSLR. Although these cameras are from the same category, they were introduced by different brands - Pentax and Nikon. Although Pentax K-1 and Nikon D90 are both equipped with the same CMOS sensor, they boast of different resolution. Thus, Pentax K-1 has a sensor with a resolution of 36.0 MP, while Nikon D90 has a different resolution of 12.0 MP.

To get started, let’s take a look at some of the key features of Pentax K-1 and Nikon D90 and, after this, we can go on to our detailed comparison of these models.

Pentax K-1 Key Features:

  • 36.0 MP Full frame CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100 - 204800
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • 3.2″ Fully Articulated Screen
  • ViewFinder: Yes
  • 4.4 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Video: 1920 x 1080 (60i, 50i, 30p, 25p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (60p, 50p)
  • Built-in Wireless: Yes
  • Dimensions: 137 x 110 x 86 mm
  • Weight: 1010 g
  • Environmental Sealing: Yes
  • Built-in GPS: Yes
  • Replaced by Pentax K-1 II.

Nikon D90 Key Features:

  • 12.0 MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • ISO 200 - 3200 (Expands to 6400)
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • 3″ Fixed Type Screen
  • ViewFinder: Yes
  • 4.5 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Video: 1280 x 720 (24 fps), 640 x 424 (24 fps), 320 x 216 (24 fps)
  • Built-in Wireless: Yes
  • Dimensions: 132 x 103 x 77 mm
  • Weight: 703 g
  • Environmental Sealing: No
  • Built-in GPS: Yes
  • Replaced Nikon D80. Compare
  • Replaced by Nikon D7000. Compare

Pentax K-1 was substituted by Pentax K-1 II.

Why is Pentax K-1 a better choice than Nikon D90

Gps Built-in vs Optional Has GPS
Timelapse Recording Yes vs No Creative shooting
Storage Slots 2 vs 1 Extra storage slot
Sensor Resolution 36.0 MP vs 12.0 MP 66.7% more pixels
Sensor Area 861.6 mm2 vs 372.88 mm2 56.7% larger pixel area
Image Stabilization Yes vs No All lenses are stabilized
Max Shutter Speed 1/8000 vs 1/4000 Faster shutter speed
Number Of Focus Points 33 vs 11 22 more focus points
Screen Size 3.2″ vs 3″ 0.2" larger screen
Screen Type Fully Articulated vs Fixed Type Flexible shooting positions
Screen Resolution 1,037k dots vs 920k dots 11.3% higher resolution screen
Environmental Sealing Yes vs No Shoot at tough conditions
Max Video Resolution 1920 x 1080 vs 1280 x 720 Higher Resolution Video
Microphone Port Yes vs No High quality audio recording option
Headphone Port Yes vs No Has headphone port
Dxo Color Depth 25.4 vs 22.7 Better color depth
Dxo Dynamic Range 14.6 vs 12.5 Better dynamic range
Dxo Low Light Iso 3280 vs 977 Better High ISO performance
Viewfinder Magnification 0.7 vs 0.64 0.06 better magnification

What are the key reasons to pick Nikon D90 over Pentax K-1

Continuous Shooting 4.5 fps vs 4.4 fps 0.1 fps faster
Built-In Flash Yes vs No All the lenses are stabilized
Flash Range 17 vs No 17 better flash range
Battery Life 850 shots vs 760 shots 90 more frames with a single charge
Weight 703 g vs 1010 g 307 g lighter

Key PROs of Pentax K-1 and Nikon D90

Screen Size 3.2″ | 3″ Large display
Viewfinder Optical (pentaprism) | Optical (pentaprism) Better framing and control
Raw Support Yes | Yes Better image quality
AutoFocus Face Detection Yes | Yes Very handy for portraits
Bracketing Yes | Yes Useful for tough lighting conditions and HDR
Flash Sync Port Yes | Yes Port for Flash Sync
Battery Life 760 shots | 850 shots Big number of frames with a single charge

Key CONs of Pentax K-1 and Nikon D90

Touch Screen No | No No touch screen
Continuous Shooting 4.4 fps | 4.5 fps Low continuous shooting

Pentax K-1 vs Nikon D90: Comparing Two Models By Physical Characteristics

Before heading straight to the technical characteristics of each model, let’s start with comparing their physical specs. Let’s start with looking at the physical difference of the two products. Below are images that clearly show the sizes of Pentax K-1 and Nikon D90 from the front view.

Pentax K-1
Nikon D90
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Now, let’s go on and see how the reviewed models are different or similar by the top view.

Pentax K-1
Nikon D90
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After looking at these images, you should get a clear idea of each model’s dimensions and how they are different from each other. However, we are not going to stop there. The next characteristic worth looking at is the weight. Of course, not every photographer is concerned about the weight, for example, it wouldn't be a decisive point for those who shoot in a studio. However, it is still an important factor because if you happen to go on a long photo session or just love having the camera with you wherever you go, you want to be sure that the chosen model isn't too heavy.

Speaking of weight, Nikon D90 is a lighter option of these two, as it weights 307g less than the Pentax K-1. This difference, in fact, can become a significant disadvantage for the photographers, who prefer to have their cameras with them wherever they go.

Battery values for Semi-Pro DSLR cameras:
Pentax K-1 — 760 shots
Nikon D90 — 850 shots
Min: 390 shots
Average: 871 shots
Max: 1840 shots
Thickness values for Semi-Pro DSLR cameras:
Pentax K-1 — 86 mm
Nikon D90 — 77 mm
Min: 64 mm
Average: 75 mm
Max: 86 mm
Weight values for Semi-Pro DSLR cameras:
Pentax K-1 — 1010 g
Nikon D90 — 703 g
Min: 479 g
Average: 783 g
Max: 1074 g

Comparing Pentax K-1 and Nikon D90 by the type of Sensor and Resolution

Sensor is, without a doubt, the most significant element of every digital camera. Its type, size, and resolution are the factors that define the quality of future shots. Thus, it is barely possible to pick a suitable camera without looking at these specs.

Are Pentax K-1 and Nikon D90 any different in terms of sensor type?

In fact, that's exactly what makes these two models really different. Thus, it is a good point to consider if your are choosing between these two cameras. Pentax K-1 features a 36.0 MP Full frame sized CMOS sensor . Nikon D90, in its turn, comes with a 12.0 MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor , which makes it significantly different from the first model.

Take a look below to find the comparison of Pentax K-1 and Nikon D90 by the size of their sensors.

Pentax K-1
Nikon D90
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One more distinctive feature of compared models is the sensor size. Pentax K-1 has a sensor area 0.4x bigger compared to Nikon D90. What does it mean? This basically means that if you these cameras them with the same aperture and focal length, the first model will give you more control in terms of the blurry background and depth of field.

For Which Fields Of Photography Are Pentax K-1 and Nikon D90 Suitable?

If you are interested in photography or has made a career in this field, you should know that different types of shooting actually require different camera characteristics. While one model can produce outstanding portraits, at the same time, it can be terrible for shooting landscapes, and so on. Thus, before you purchase a specific camera, it is vital to decide, which type of shooting you do most often and consider an option that suits it the most.

This section of our comparison is devoted to the performance of Pentax K-1 and Nikon D90 in different fields of photography. Here we are going to look at the five main areas and evaluate how well each of the reviewed models performs in them. This will help you choose an option that suits your needs the most depending on your interest in one or several of these fields.

Photography Type Pentax K-1 Nikon D90
Portrait Photography
99%
66%
Street Photography
99%
75%
Sports Photography
95%
70%
Daily Photography
70%
56%
Landscape Photography
100%
85%

Pentax K-1 for Portrait Photography

Advantages:

  • Large Full frame (35.9 x 24 mm) sensor
  • High resolution sensor (36 MP)
  • Fast Max Shutter Speed (1/8000s)
  • Image Stabilization
  • Face Detection Focusing

Disadvantages:

No Significant Disadvantages

Nikon D90 for Portrait Photography

Advantages:

  • Large APS-C (23.6 x 15.8 mm) sensor
  • Face Detection Focusing

Disadvantages:

  • You might not like Nikon skintone
  • No Image Stabilization

Pentax K-1 for Street Photography

Advantages:

  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View
  • Fully Articulated Screen
  • Image Stabilization
  • Large Full frame(35.9 x 24 mm) sensor

Disadvantages:

  • Big size (137 x 110 x 86 mm)

Nikon D90 for Street Photography

Advantages:

  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View
  • Large APS-C(23.6 x 15.8 mm) sensor
  • Big battery life (850 shots)

Disadvantages:

  • Big size (132 x 103 x 77 mm)
  • No Image Stabilization
  • Small Number of autofocus Points (11)

Pentax K-1 for Sports Photography

Advantages:

  • Environmental Sealing
  • Fast Max Shutter Speed (1/8000s)
  • Big Number of CrossFocus Points (25)
  • Nice Low Light ISO (3280)
  • Big size (137 x 110 x 86 mm)

Disadvantages:

  • Slow Continuous Shooting (4.4 fps)
  • Smal Number of autofocus Points (33)
  • Small battery life (760 shots)

Nikon D90 for Sports Photography

Advantages:

  • Big size (132 x 103 x 77 mm)

Disadvantages:

  • Slow Continuous Shooting (4.5 fps)
  • No Environmental Sealing
  • Slow Max Shutter Speed (1/4000s)
  • Smal Number of autofocus Points (11)
  • Bad Low Light ISO (977)
  • Small battery life (850 shots)

Pentax K-1 for Daily Photography

Advantages:

  • Large Full frame (35.9 x 24 mm) sensor
  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View
  • Wireless Connectivity
  • Video is available

Disadvantages:

  • Big weight (1010 g)
  • Big size (137 x 110 x 86 mm)
  • No Built-in Flash

Nikon D90 for Daily Photography

Advantages:

  • Large APS-C (23.6 x 15.8 mm) sensor
  • Built-in Flash
  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View
  • Wireless Connectivity
  • Video is available

Disadvantages:

  • Big weight (703 g)
  • Big size (132 x 103 x 77 mm)

Pentax K-1 for Landscape Photography

Advantages:

  • Large Full frame (35.9 x 24 mm) sensor
  • High resolution sensor (36 MP)
  • Good Dynamic Range (14.6)
  • Environmental Sealing
  • Live View
  • RAW Support
  • Nice Low Light ISO (3280)

Disadvantages:

No Significant Disadvantages

Nikon D90 for Landscape Photography

Advantages:

  • Large APS-C (23.6 x 15.8 mm) sensor
  • Good Dynamic Range (12.5)
  • Live View
  • RAW Support

Disadvantages:

  • Low resolution sensor (12 MP)
  • No Environmental Sealing
  • Bad Low Light ISO (977)

Comparison of Pentax K-1 vs Nikon D90: Final Verdict

Hopefully, our detailed overview of these models has helped you consider all the main specs, pros and cons of each cameras. Maybe, after reading this comparison, some of you have already decided which option to opt for depending on your needs and preferences. However, if you are still wondering which option is a better choice, Pentax K-1 or Nikon D90, below you can see what scores each of them received in five different aspects. To wrap up, we have used our unique Decision Algorithm that assesses different camera models upon 63 different factors including their price, and, if possible, DxO Mark scores. This algorithm allows us to make our verdict more consistent and objective.

What is our final verdict? Based on our comparison and the final scores of Pentax K-1 and Nikon D90 here is what we can say in conclusion:

According all the factors that we considered in the process of comparing these two cameras, Pentax K-1 deserves a higher Total Score than the Nikon D90. Thus, if you are choosing between these options, we would recommend you to choose the first model over the other one.

Pentax K-1 vs Nikon D90 Table Of Technical Specs

For better understanding of each model’s technical characteristics, find the detailed comparison below:

Pentax K-1 Nikon D90
General
Brand Pentax Nikon
Model K-1 D90
Announced Feb 17, 2016 Oct 13, 2008
Body Type Mid-size SLR Mid-size SLR
Sensor
Sensor Type CMOS CMOS
Sensor Size Full frame APS-C
Sensor Dimensions 35.9 x 24 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm
Sensor Area 861.60 mm2 372.88 mm2
Sensor Resolution 36.0 MP 12.0 MP
Max Image Resolution 7360 x 4912 4288 x 2848
Max Native ISO 204,800 3,200
Max Boosted ISO n/a 6,400
Min Native ISO 100 200
RAW Support Yes Yes
Lens
Manual Focus Yes Yes
Lens Mount Pentax KAF2 Nikon F
Number of Lenses 144 287
Focal Length Multiplier 1x 1.5x
Macro Focus Range
AutoFocus
AF Touch No No
AF Continuous Yes Yes
AF Single Yes Yes
AF Tracking Yes No
AF Selective Yes Yes
AF Center Yes No
AF Multi Area Yes Yes
AF Live View Yes Yes
AF Face Detection Yes Yes
AF Contrast Detection Yes Yes
AF Phase Detection Yes Yes
Number of Focus Points 33 11
Number of Cross Focus Points 25 n/a
Screen
Screen Type Fully Articulated Fixed Type
Screen Size 3.2″ 3″
Screen Resolution 1,037k dots 920k dots
Live View Yes Yes
Touch Screen No No
ViewFinder
ViewFinder Optical (pentaprism) Optical (pentaprism)
ViewFinder Resolution 0k dots 0k dots
ViewFinder Coverage 100% 96%
ViewFinder Magnification 0.7 0.64
Photography Features
Min Shutter Speed 30 s 30 s
Max Shutter Speed 1/8000 s 1/4000 s
Continuous Shooting 4.4 fps 4.5 fps
Shutter Priority Yes Yes
Aperture Priority Yes Yes
Manual Exposure Mode Yes Yes
Exposure Compensation Yes Yes
Custom White Balance Yes Yes
Image Stabilization Yes No
Built-in Flash No Yes
Flash Range 0 17
Flash Modes Auto Flash Discharge, Auto Flash + Red-eye Reduction, Flash On, Flash On + Red-eye Reduction, Slow-speed Sync, Slow-speed Sync + Red-eye, P-TTL, Trailing Curtain Sync, Contrast-control-sync, High-speed sync, Wireless sync Auto, Front curtain, Rear curtain, Red-Eye, Slow Sync
External Flash Yes Yes
AE Bracketing Yes Yes
WB Bracketing No Yes
Exposure Modes
Multi-Segment Yes Yes
Average No No
Spot Yes Yes
Partial No No
AF-Area Yes No
Center Weighted Yes Yes
DxO Sensor Scores
DxO Sensor Score 96 73
DxO Color Depth 25.4 22.7
DxO Dynamic Range 14.6 12.5
DxO Low Light ISO 3280 977
Video Features
Video Resolutions 1920 x 1080 (60i, 50i, 30p, 25p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (60p, 50p) 1280 x 720 (24 fps), 640 x 424 (24 fps), 320 x 216 (24 fps)
Max Video Resolution 1920 x 1080 1280 x 720
Video Formats MPEG-4, H.264 Motion JPEG
Microphone Port Yes No
Headphone Port Yes No
Connectivity
Wireless Connectivity Yes Yes
HDMI Yes Yes
USB USB 2.0 USB 2.0
Physical
Environmental Sealing Yes No
Water Proof No No
Dust Proof No No
Shock Proof No No
Crush Proof No No
Freeze Proof No No
Weight 1010 g 703 g
Physical Dimensions 137 x 110 x 86 mm 132 x 103 x 77 mm
Battery Life 760 shots 850 shots
Battery Type Battery Pack Battery Pack
Battery Model D-LI90 EN-EL3e
Other Features
Self Timer Yes Yes
Timelapse Recording Yes No
GPS Built-in Optional
Storage Type Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I) SD/SDHC
Storage Slots 2 1

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