Pentax K-3 Review
With the K-3, Pentax has the most feature-rich DSLR currently available - again. This DSLR camera boasts built-in stabilization, automatic horizon correction, a dual-axis digital level, class-leading weather-sealing, a large 100% coverage viewfinder, a 3.2" LCD with 1 megapixel, ISO up to 51200, 8.3 FPS continuous shooting, live-view and a wealth of unique photographic controls and image parameters. All this in a sturdy and relatively compact pro body. In addition to its photographic capabilities, the Pentax K-3 records 1080p HD movies with full manual-controls and stereo sound with mini-jacks for stereo audio input and output.
The 24 megapixels Pentax K-3 introduces controllable anti-alias filtering via motion of its stabilization system, making it the only camera to give photographers the choice. A number of new multi-frame composite features appear on the K-3, including 4K time-lapse video, another world-first.
The Pentax K-3 comes in a standard Black Edition and a limited Silver Edition which comes with a matching silver battery-grip. This is the first Pentax DSLR to offer dual memory-card slots, each accepting SDXC memory. The newly developped SAFOX XI autofocus system offers 27 points AF points, of which 25 are cross-type.
NOTE Officially this is the Ricoh Pentax K-3 where Ricoh is the brand, Pentax is the family and K-3 is the model. As such, there are a number of changes compared to the K-5 family which appear to have been made just to be different rather than to bring usability improvements. We cover all these here but clearly the K-3 is based on the K-5 and much of the first two pages of this review is therefore equally based on the Pentax K-5 IIs review.
This review takes a close look at the Pentax K-3 in terms of features, ergonomics, usability, performance, image quality and unique photographic controls.
Pentax K-3 Features
- 24 Megapixels APS-C CMOS image sensor
- No physical Anti-Alias Filter
- APS-C size, 1.5X crop-factor
- Pentax K-mount (KAF2)
- Built-in 3-axis Shake-Reduction
- Anti-Alias Effect via Shake-Reduction system
- Automatic Horizon Correction ±2°
- Composition Adjustment for horizontal tilt and shift
- Built-in Dust-Reduction
- ISO 100 to 51200 range
- Auto ISO Program-Lines
- Auto ISO with selectable min and max
- JPEG, RAW and JPEG+RAW output
- Pentax PEF or Adobe DNG RAW format
- Full PASM manual-controls
- Program-Shift and 5 Program-Lines in P mode
- Unique Hyper-Program, Sensitivity-Priority, Hyper-Manual and Shutter-Aperture-Priority modes
- 1/8000s to 30s shutter-speeds, plus Bulb mode
- Exposure-Compensation, ±5 EV, 1/2 EV increments or 1/3 EV increments
- Flash-Compensation, -2..+1 EV, 1/2 EV increments or 1/3 EV increments
- Multi-Segment, Center-Weighed and Spot metering
- AEB, 2, 3 or 5 images, 0.3 to 2 EV increments, optionally delayed or remote triggered
Focus & Drive
- 27-Point auto-focus system with 25 cross-type points, sensitive down to -3 EV
- Single-Shot (AF-S), Continuous (AF-C), Automatic (AF-A) or Manual (MF) focus drive
- Automatic (27 or 9 points), Assisted Single (9, 16, 27 points), Single or Center focus-point selection
- 8.3 FPS Continuous drive, maximum 60 JPEG images or 22 RAW files
- Self-Timer: 12s and 2s with automatic MLU
- Remote Trigger: Instant, 3s Delay with MLU or Continuous
- MLU: Manual or remote
- Multiple-Exposure: 2-2000 shots, 3 blending modes
- Interval-Timer: 2-2000 shots, 2s - 24h interval, delayed start time 1m-23h59m
- Interval Multi-Exposure: 2-2000 shots, 2s-24h interval, 3 blending modes, delayed start 1m-23h59m
- Automatic HDR from 3-shot bracket, 3 step sizes, 3 tone-mappings, optional Auto Alignment
- Optional Catch-In focus
- Optional AF-Assist light
- Optional AF Fine-Tuning, 21 steps
- 1920x1080 @ 30 FPS 16:9 HD video
- 1280x720 @ 60 FPS 16:9 HD video
- 3840x2160 (4K) Time-Lapse video
- Full PASM manual-controls
- HDR available for Time-Lapse video
- Digital Filters available for Real-Time video
- Sound: Auto, Manual (20 levels) or Off
- Mini-jack for stereo audio output
- Built-in mono microphone
- Mini-jack for stereo input
- Quicktime H.264 codec
- AutomaticSingle or multi-light correction, strong or subtle tungsten balance., Preset, Kelvin and Custom white-balance, all fine-tunable
- WB Fine-Tuning in 15 steps along 2 axis
- 11 Custom Image modes
- Adjustable Saturation, Hue, Contrast, Highlight Contrast, Shadow Contrast, Key, 9-steps each
- Adjustable Sharpness, 9 steps along 3 scales
- Highlight Correction: Auto, On or Off
- Shadow Correction: Auto, On (3 levels) or Off
- Noise-Reduction per ISO: Auto, On (3 levels) or Off
- Long-Shutter Noise-Reduction: Auto, On or Off
- Optional Distortion, Chromatic Aberration and Vignetting corrections
- Optional Pixel Mapping
- Dust Alert, scans for sensor-dust
- RAW conversion to JPEG or TIFF, single and batch
- Color Fringing correction for RAW conversion
- In-camera RAW Recovery for last JPEG
- In-camera WB Reprocessing for last JPEG
Viewfinder & Displays
- 100% Viewfinder coverage 0.95X magnification
- 3.2” LCD 1 Megapixel, gapless & recessed
- Illuminated top LCD status display
- Single-Axis Digital-Level in viewfinder
- Dual-Axis Digital-Level in Live-View
- Optical and Digital Depth-of-Field Preview
- Digital White-Balance Preview
- Instant Image-Review with magnification
- Luminance and RGB review histograms
- Interactive and static status display
- Optional Focus Peaking in Live-View
- Dual Control-Dials
- Configurable AF button
- Configurable AE-L button
- Auto-Exposure-Lock (AEL), Auto-Focus-Lock (AFL) and auto-focus (AF) override
- Direct ISO control in Sensitivity-Priority and optionally in Aperture-Priority and Shutter-Priority
- Modal Exposure-Mode dial
- Modal Metering-Mode dial
- Customizable RAW/Fx button
- Customizable camera memory
- 3 Custom user modes
Body & Construction
- Weather-sealed body
- Freeze-proof down to -10C (14F)
- Dual IR remote receivers
- Built-in pop-up flash (GN 13)
- On, Redeye, Slow-Sync, Rear Slow-Sync, Rear-Sync & Wireless flash modes
- Hot-Shoe and Sync-Port for external lighting
- Dual SDXC memory-card slots
- Lithium-ion battery
- Metal tripod mount
- 1080i HDMI output
- USB 3.0 connectivity
- Optional GPS unit with Astro-Tracer, Digital Compass and Navigation
Capability - What can it do?
The Ricoh Pentax K-3 is the most feature-rich DSLR made to date. The same was true of the Pentax K-5 IIs at launch time and, while a few features went missing, Ricoh managed to add even more. Its headline features include 3-axis Shake-Reduction which stabilizes any lens, automatically corrects camera tilt, shakes off sensor dust, adjusts composition and now - exclusively to the K-3 - simulates an anti-alias filter.
Built-in stabilization is not only a cost-saving feature, it works with all lenses, even those without any stabilized counterparts such as prime, bright, tilt-shift and fish-eye lenses. Pentax offers a selection of lenses, covering rectilinear focal-lengths of 12 to 560mm. It offers high-grade lenses exclusively designed for APS-C cameras which save overall bulk. Professionals will find models suitable for most subjects except for highly specialized ones with some void filled by third-party manufacturers.
A high-performance processor can capture 24 megapixels images at 8.3 FPS or full 1080p HD video at 30 FPS. With an ISO sensitivity range from 100 to a class-leading 51200 and shutter-speeds up to 1/8000s, the K-3 can capture any subject from very bright light to the extremes of low-light.
An all-new 27-point Phase-Detect autofocus system appears on the K-3. This system has 25 cross-type AF-points and is sensitive down to -3 EV, the lowest of any digital camera. With the usual AF-S, AF-C and MF focus-modes, plus AF-A which automatically chooses between single-shot and continuous autofocus, this DSLR has the most comprehensive autofocus features of any Pentax DSLR to date.
The camera can automatically select where to focus from its 27 points, from 9 points or from a single user-selected point. To keep moving subjects in focus, the camera can use 9, 25 or 27 points to assist the user-selected point. Automatic focus confirmation and catch-in focus complete focus features of the K-3.
The K-3 provides a complete set of photographic controls. Its mode dial has 12 positions. Five of these modes are ubiquitous on modern DSLR cameras: Auto (Green), Program (P), Shutter-Priority (T), Aperture-priority (A) and Manual (M) mode. Notably absent from the mode-dial are scene modes which often control the camera in mysterious ways. The mode-dial on the K-3 is lockable to prevent accidental changes.
The remaining 7 modes are: Sensitivity-priority (Sv), Shutter-Aperture-priority (TAv), Bulb (B), Flash-synchro (X) plus 3 User (U1..U3) modes. Sensitivity-Priority is unique to Pentax DSLRs, letting photographers directly set ISO sensitivity. Shutter-Aperture-Priority complements Sensitivity-Priority by letting the user select both shutter-speed and aperture, leaving ISO sensitivity up to the camera. Bulb keeps the shutter open until closed by the user, which some DSLRs make part of manual (M) mode. Flash-Sync fixes the shutter-speed to 1/180s which is the flash-sync speed.
The Pentax K-3 has detailed control over white-balance including two types of automatic white-balance, preset white-balanceDaylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, flash, 4-types of fluorescent and enhanced-color (CTE), custom white-balance and color-temperature. AWB can apply color-balance to an image as a whole or by segments for mixed-lighting situations. An option controls if AWB corrects colors subtly or strongly under tungsten lighting. All white-balance is fine-tunable in 15-steps from blue to amber and magenta to green. Fine-tuning can be reset to 0 by pressing the green button from the preview screen.
This Pentax offers some extremely useful features conceived in the digital age. Accompanying Depth-of-Field Preview, it also offers a Digital Preview which captures a test shot to preview exposure, color, white-balance and focus. Should the preview turn out perfect, one can save it directly without have to release the shutter again. This Digital Preview is cleverly used when setting white-balance and image parameters. This is an innovative way to ensure that the proper white-balance is selected. While scrolling through white-balance options and fine-tuning white-balance, the preview image is updated accordingly. Finding the right preset white-balance and tweaking it further is more time-consuming on DSLR cameras without this feature unless using a color-accurate live-view mode.
A buffer keeps RAW data for the last shot in memory until cleared. This lets the K-3 save a RAW file for the last shot JPEG or reprocess it with a different white-balance. With this feature an incorrect shot can be saved after the fact without taking on the cost of shooting RAW for every image. These incredibly smart features appeared on the K-5 and Ricoh kept it on the K-3, two generations later.
This camera can bracket exposure for 2, 3 or 5 frames, with increments between 1/3 and 2 EV. With the 2-frame bracket option , it can be chosen if the second frame is more or less exposed than the set metering. It can also automatically perform HDR Blending on a 3-frame bracket. The user can choose from 3 tone-mappings and 1, 2 or 3 EV increments with optional Auto-Alignment.
With an unusually large 0.95X magnification and 100% coverage viewfinder plus automatic horizon correction, photographers avoid having to crop and rotate images unexpectedly. Rotation is detrimental to image quality and therefore avoiding it helps produce higher quality images. Cropping is not damaging by itself but knowing what is going to be in the frame is a relief to photographers and maximizes the resolution of resulting images. With the digital-level enabled, the viewfinder shows tilt below the view. Pitch is not shown in the viewfinder but can be seen either in live-view or by using the Info button to select the dual-axis Electronic-Level view.
The Pentax K-3 offers class-leading video features. It records full HD video at 1080p (30 FPS), 1080i (60 FPS) and 720p (60 FPS). New and unique to the K-3 is video time-lapse up to Ultra-HD (4K) resolution. Up to 2000 frames with an interval between 2s and 24 hours can be captured. These can be saved as individual frames two or blended together as an interval-composite frame.
This DSLR is completely weather-sealed and freezeproof down to -10C. It can withstand the elements like no other and keeps working - when combined with a weather-sealed lens - in the toughest conditions.
There are 2 SDXC memory-card slots on the K-3 which is powered by a proprietary Lithium-Ion battery. It offers Super-Speed USB 3.0 connectivity and 1080i HDMI output. Stereo audio input and output for video is possible via two standard mini-jack sockets.
Pentax K-3 Facts
Sensor-Size: 24 x 16mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|24 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 100-51200|
|Pentax K Mount|
|3-Axis Built-in Stabilization, 3.5-Stop Improvement||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|Auto Horizon Correction|
2 Axis Digital Level
|Weatherproof down to -10C||Hot-Shoe & Sync-Port|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Stereo audio input|
|8.3 FPS Drive, 60 Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Secure Digital Extended Capacity x 2|
|3.2" LCD 1 Megapixels|
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