Pentax, Marc Newson team up for the $799 K-01 DSLR

We haven’t heard much of Pentax in the past few years, outside of the company releasing older cameras with numerous colour schemes. All that looks set to change with the announcement this evening of a new camera likely to arrive in Australia in May.

Designed in collaboration with one of Australia’s most acclaimed designers, the Pentax K-01 is a new camera intended to be evocative of three themes: timeless, trusty, and touchable.

Marc Newson is the force behind this conceptual design approach. A Sydney-born man who has designed bags for Samsonite, cookware for Tefal, the Qantas Skybed, he was also the artistic director of the 2010 Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks display.

His design concept is as follows:

A modern digital camera with a contemporary yet timeless design. The camera body is compact and trim whilst preserving all the functions of a professional camera. The lines are clean and simple creating an elegant graphical composition. The materials convey quality and honesty. Machined aluminium and natural rubber provide the user with a tactile and durable piece of technology.

This week, that vision is launched in the K-01, a camera that features the classic Pentax K mount, an optical viewfinder, 1080p Full HD video capture, and a 16.28 megapixel sensor.

The camera also features some high speed shooting – up to six shots per second – a Pentax-developed anti-shake mechanism built into the body, easy-to-use scene modes, support for RAW, images shot in HDR (High Dynamic Range), ISO up to 25600, and some custom image functionality with creative processing.

Old-fashioned purists will miss the viewfinder, but at least Pentax has equipped the K-01 with a 3 inch 921K dots. The look of the camera is also quite distinctive, with rubber and aluminium elements, and a unique design.

One of the best things about the Pentax K-01 is that it supports the classic Pentax K mount, and that means there’s a lot of glass to choose from if you’re looking to spec it out with lenses.

The company won’t be sitting idly by waiting for you to buy old lenses though, and with the release of the K-01 Pentax will be making a 40mm pancake lens with the exterior – again, designed by Marc Newson.

This lens measures 9.2mm in length, making it quite thin, and with an aperture of F2.8, should produce better images than the standard kit lens you might otherwise use.

As for the pricing, Pentax seems to be bucking the trend set by other manufacturers and releasing a recommended retail price locally, and we’re fairly impressed.

There will be three configurations of the Pentax K-01. A  body-only model for $799, the K-01 coupled with an 18-55 kit lens for $849, or the camera packaged with the incredibly compact 40mm F2.8 pancake lens for $849.

That’s some pretty impressive pricing for a new camera that supports a lot of old glass. We’re keen to see how the other big names try to compete when these lovelies land instore later this month.