We just got our first look at the Pentax K-01 in person, here at CP+ 2012 in Yokohama, Japan. The company has taken a pretty different approach with its first "serious" mirrorless camera — it's decided to leverage its extensive K-mount lens line-up that already works well with APS-C sensors. The result is a camera that doesn't save much in thickness over a DSLR, due to having the same flange focal distance between sensor and lens, and it looks decidedly bulky when placed next to a Sony NEX-5n. The loss of a full grip and mirror / pentaprism mechanism does offer space savings over a DSLR, though there's still a slight hump for a non-existent viewfinder.
The camera feels great in the hand, with a chunky, solid design. The body is wrapped in ribbed rubber, and the physical controls are substantial and well-placed. It comes in three colors, and while the yellow model demonstrated in the video below might not be to everyone's taste, we thought the black and white unit had something about it. It wasn't the fastest camera we've ever tested, with sluggish contrast-detection autofocus and a fairly long time in between shooting RAW files, though it can shoot six JPEGs a second in continuous drive mode. Unfortunately we can't speak to the image quality, as we weren't able to take any samples away or view them on anything larger than the K-01's 3-inch screen. We believe it's using the same 16.1-megapixel sensor found in the Sony NEX-5n, Nikon D7000 and Pentax's own K-5 DSLR, however, so we'd expect it to be a similarly strong performer.
The most impressive thing about the K-01 is the lens it's going to launch with, an impossibly thin 40mm f/2.8 pancake. Pentax already has an excellent range of prime lenses that'll work on this camera without an adapter, including some thin pancakes, and it's clear that the company envisages customers using the camera in this way. While the body may not be much thinner than a DSLR, the overall package will be a lot easier to slip into a backpack or coat pocket, and we could see it appealing to users already invested in K-mount glass. For others, though, the size relative to other mirrorless cameras might make it a hard sell.