Pentax K-3 review
December 5, 2013
Price as Reviewed:£1,099.00
The 23.35-million-pixel sensor in the new Pentax K-3 is just one of many reasons why this enthusiast DSLR may finally be the one to compete with Canon and Nikon. Read the Pentax K-3 review...
Pentax K-3 at a glance:
- 23.35-million-pixel, Sony-made CMOS sensor
- Unique anti-aliasing system
- 27-point AF (25 cross-type points)
- Fully weather-sealed, magnesium-alloy body
- Compatible with SD cards, Flucards and Eye-Fi cards
- ISO 100-51,200
- Street price £1,099 body only
- See product shots of the Pentax K-3
- See sample images taken with the Pentax K-3
Pentax K-3 review – Introduction
With company takeovers, mergers and job losses, it is not surprising that the past few years have seen Pentax lose its way a little. In 2009, two years after the company was bought by Hoya, Jessops made the decision to stop selling Pentax cameras altogether. However, the company returned to Jessops’ shelves some two years later, shortly before its purchase by Ricoh.
This takeover appears to have given Pentax a new lease of life. There are now five DSLRs in its line-up, including the new Pentax K-3, although it is a fair criticism to say that they are too alike, sharing the vast majority of their features.
However, the new Pentax K-3 breaks that mould. Rather than using a 16.2-million-pixel, APS-C-sized sensor, the new model steps forward with a 23.35-million-pixel, APS-C sensor manufactured by Sony. This drags the K-3 back into the DSLR market with an APS-C sensor matching the resolution of its Nikon and Sony counterparts, all of which offer a slightly higher resolution than the equivalent Canon DSLR.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that the K-3 is all about megapixels. It is every bit the high-end enthusiast DSLR as its competitors, and in many ways even more so. It is a lot to ask of just one camera, but the K-3 looks as though it could be capable of taking on Nikon and Canon in this section of the DSLR market. At the very least, it would appear to be the DSLR Pentax users have been waiting for.
Image: Shown here 100% at 300dpi, the level of detail that the K-3’s 23.35-million-pixel sensor resolves can be clearly seen. Image shot at ISO 200
Pentax K-3 review – Features
The sensor in the new Pentax K-3 is a Sony-made, 23.35-million-pixel, APS-C-sized CMOS unit. This is presumably the same sensor that is used in the Sony NEX-7 and Alpha 77. With Pentax’s previous K-5, K-30, K-5 II and K-5 IIs DSLRs all using a 16-million-pixel sensor, the 23.35-million-pixel resolution is a significant increase.
Even better, Pentax has removed the optical low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter from in front of the sensor. This should allow the sensor to reach its full potential and resolve as much detail as possible, unhindered. For more on this, see Anti-Aliasing.
Combined with the K-3’s processing engine, the sensor can shoot at an equivalent sensitivity of ISO 100-51,200, with 14-bit raw capture and a very impressive 8.5fps shooting rate. As is standard for Pentax cameras, the K-3 can save raw files as either Pentax PEF or Adobe DNG files. Those who want to use their existing raw-conversion software, such as Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom, without having to wait for the next upgrade, will really benefit from shoot in the universal DNG file format. In my opinion, DNG raw files are great and I wish more manufacturers gave the option of shooting in this universal format.
Another feature common to Pentax DSLRs is built-in sensor-shift stabilisation. This means that any lens mounted to the K-3 can be stabilised, regardless of age.
One new system installed in the Pentax K-3 is autofocus. This has been significantly upgraded and now features 27 AF points, 25 of which are cross-type. Although the number of AF points may pale a little in comparison to the 51-point system that Nikon has employed in its cameras for several years now, 27 points should be more than enough for most photographers.
Although the Pentax K-3 doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, it can use the new SD-compatible Pentax Flucards, which provide Wi-Fi connectivity. Unlike Eye-Fi cards, which only offer image transfer to a smart device, Flucards allow for full control of the camera’s exposure settings and focusing, as well as a mirrored live view display to a smartphone or tablet.
The Pentax K-3 is also compatible with standard Eye-Fi cards for those who just want to copy images via Wi-Fi. Getting images off the camera in a more conventional manner is made faster with the addition of a USB port on the side.
- Video: Full HD 1080p, 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p
- White Balance: Auto, multi-auto2, 11 presets, plus 6 custom
- Memory Card: SD, SDHC, SDXC, Eye-Fi, Flucard
- Shutter Type: Electronically controlled, vertical-run, focal-plane shutter
- Built-in Flash: Yes – 13m @ ISO 100
- White Balance Bracket: N/A
- AF Points: SAFOX 11 TTL phase-matching – 27 points (25 cross-type focus points in the centre)
- Viewfinder Type: Pentaprism with 100% coverage and 0.95x magnification
- Output Size: 6016 x 4000 pixels
- LCD: 3.2in, TFT LCD with 1.037 million dots
- Max Flash Sync: 1/180sec
- Sensor: 23.35-million-pixel, APS-C-sized CMOS
- Exposure Modes: Program, aperture priority, shutter priority, sensitivity priority, shutter and aperture priority, manual, auto, effects and scene modes
- Metering System: 86,000-pixel RGB matrix sensor – multi-segment, centreweighted and spot
- Weight: 715g (body only)
- Power: Rechargeable Li-Ion battery D-LI90
- File Format: Raw (DNG or PEF) and JPEG
- Shutter Speeds: 30-1/8000sec
- Drive Mode: Approx 8.3fps (60 JPEG, 23 raw in continuous high mode
- Exposure Comp: ±5EV in 1/3EV steps
- ISO: 100-51,200
- RRP: £1,099.99 body only
- DoF Preview: Yes
- Focusing Modes: Auto, single, continuous, manual, spot select, expanded area and zone select
- Dimensions: 100 x 131.5 x 77.5mm
- Compression: 3-stage JPEG
- Connectivity / Interface: USB 3.0 Hi-Speed
- Tested as: Enthusiast DSLR