Price as Reviewed:£1,099.99
Pentax doubles its DSLR range to four cameras with its new 16.3-million-pixel K-5 flagship model. We find out what it is about the K-5 that justifies this status
Place the K-5 and K-7 bodies next to each other and, but for the name, it is not possible to tell the two apart. This means that the K-5 is relatively small and lightweight compared to its direct competition, but it is also well built, rugged and weather sealed. All the changes made to the K-5 are internal.
One of the more significant enhancements to the K-5 is the improved 16.3-million-effective-pixel sensor and 4928×3264-pixel output.
This is an increase from the 14.6-million-effective pixels found in the K-7 (and K20D), and notably the resolution is virtually equivalent to the Nikon D7000. Also, the sensitivity range can be extended to run from ISO 80 to ISO 51,200, which makes it the highest of any DSLR with an APS-C-size sensor.
Images can be saved as raw, JPEG and raw + JPEG simultaneously. As with previous models, the K-5 has two types of raw file – Pentax’s own PEF and Adobe DNG. To date, we’ve seen only a slight difference in image quality in favour of PEF files when using Pentax’s Silkypix software. However, the DNG files are more readily compatible with editing software and more convenient. JPEG files have four different qualities signified by stars on the display.
The K-5 matches the 7fps of the Nikon D300s, whereas the K-7 has 5.2fps. Around seven exposures at any one point (which is roughly one second) can be achieved at this rate in raw format. I found Pentax’s approximation of 30 exposures in JPEG format a little conservative, as I achieved up to 50 exposures. High-speed continuous shooting can be selected for focus or frame-rate priority, which helps in scenes of low light where focusing might be slow.
One slight criticism we had of the Pentax K-7 was its slow autofocus (AF) system. The K-5 uses a revised Safox IX+ AF, which is also found in the Pentax 645D. More on this later. Complacency could become an issue for the user, because there is a plethora of in-camera editing options to make changes post-capture. Significantly, this includes raw image editing. Shoot in raw and the user can adjust the white balance (WB), colour, tone and straighten horizon, to name but a few options.
In fact, there were no major in-camera image edits that could not be applied post-capture (see Features in use below). All the digital filter effects such as HDR capture, monochrome conversion and other tone settings can be applied for individual or multiple images in one go. Another handy feature in this menu is the image comparison, which splits the screen in half for closer inspection of two images.
In-camera shake reduction (SR) allows sharp shooting with up to 4EV slower shutter speeds, depending on the lens. This means that Pentax’s compatible lenses do not need built-in image stabilisation and can therefore be slightly smaller, lighter and cheaper than those that do.
As SR compensates for hand shake, it should be switched off when using the K-5 with a tripod. The SR system is also used for composition adjustments such as straighten horizon, and allows for up to 2° rotation with the sensor. There is an accurate auto horizon correction setting that can be switched on or off, which is much quicker than doing it manually.
This landscape made use of the automatic horizon correction
Pentax’s introduction of a digital level prompted others to follow suit and now this technology in several cameras. However, where the digital level of the K-5 has the upper hand over some of its competitors is that it not only detects tilt on the axis to the left and right, but also to the front and back.
This means the camera can be corrected for front and back tilt, as well as left and right. The level can be displayed by pressing the info button or by customising the button configuration to the raw/fx button, which can be found to the left of the lens. The digital level is less fiddly than using the spirit bubble on a tripod. Further to this and in emergency use, it is possible to rotate and crop images in-camera.
There are so many tools for shooting that I was hard pressed to find any missing functions. Remaining from the K-7 are multiple exposures with auto EV adjustment, interval shooting with start time and photo frequency control, while copyright data can be encrypted to file metadata.
A couple of new scene modes have been added, which includes cross-process. Lens correction for barrel and pincushion distortion can be applied to images both pre- and post-capture when the camera is used with Pentax DA, DA L, D FA and some FA lenses. Correction can also be applied for lateral chromatic aberration.
Features in use: In-camera raw editing
We have seen a number of improvements in what many cameras offer for playback and editing in-camera. Although in-camera raw editing is not unique to the K-5, the sheer volume of possibilities is impressive, and makes for fun shooting and editing. In playback mode, raw development can be accessed by pressing the down arrow button, and handily there is the option for single- or multi-image development.
Almost all the in-camera editing options are available and include white balance adjustment, JPEG and TIFF conversion, JPEG quality, tone mode with tweaks for elements such as saturation and sharpness, ISO bracketing ±1 stop, lens correction, noise reduction and shadow correction.
To develop multiple images, the user simply ticks the desired images and the current edit settings are applied to them all. When editing an image, it is saved as a separate file so the original is retained. There is a lot of fun to be had by scrolling through your images before you get home and applying various filters to your favourite shots.
- Tested as: Enthusiast camera