Pentax K3 Review

Pentax K3 Review: Ricoh introduces a new DSLR flagship, the Pentax K-3: Innovation leader

With the new DSLR flagship K-3, Pentax is now also entering the 24 megapixel age. The K-3 has no AA filter and is the successor model of the K-5 II and K-5 IIs. To reproduce an AA filter for critical subjects to prevent moiré, Pentax simply micro-vibrates the image sensor. The K-3 also boasts a new F2.8 light-sensitive 27-point autofocus and an RGB light meter with 86,000 pixels. Of course the robust magnesium housing is waterproof. Pentax is also launching a new, splash-proof lens and a special WLAN SD card that fits into one of the two SD card slots on the K-3.


The Pentax K-3, shown here with optional D-BG5, has a 24 megapixel image sensor in APS-C format. The movable mount not only serves to stabilize the image, but also as AA filter simulation, horizon compensation and shift simulation. [Photo: Pentax]

The rear monitor of the Pentax K-3 is scratch-resistant, 3.2″ large and has a resolution of 1.04 million pixels. The entire magnesium housing is protected against splash water by 92 seals. [Photo: Pentax]

The Pentax K-3 has a status display at the top. The double memory card slot accepts two SD cards, one of which can be the new Pentax WLAN card, which not only allows the camera to send pictures, but also allows remote control. [Photo: Pentax]

At the same time as the normal black K-3, the Pentax K-3 Premium Silver Edition including the D-BG5 will be offered in a limited edition of 2,000 pieces. [Photo: Pentax]

Pentax already left out the low pass filter (also called anti-aliasing filter or AA filter for short) on the K-5 IIs, which was offered in parallel to the K-5 IIs equipped with a low pass filter. Without a low-pass filter, the resolution increases by approximately ten percent, as the AA filter intentionally provides a slight blurring in order to avoid so-called moirés. Roughly speaking, moirés can always occur when a fine structure resolves more details than the sensor-lens combination is able to. With the K-3, Ricoh has found a way to make the low-pass filter optionally switchable by micro-vibrating the APS-C sensor in two stages, which produces the necessary slight blurring. According to Ricoh, this works just as effectively as a real AA filter, but unlike it, it can be switched on and off as needed. Ricoh has thus found another application for the movably mounted image sensor. With the help of the sensor, which is movably mounted for image stabilization, the K-3 can not only expose up to 3.5 f-stops longer than without image stabilization, and this with any attached lens, but the sensor can also be rotated slightly in eight steps (+/-1°) for horizon correction and can be shifted up to 1.5 millimeters up, down or sideways in 24 steps to simulate a shift lens. This can be used to correct lines that are slightly toppled. The 3D image stabilisation compensates for horizontal and vertical displacements as well as the respective tilting movements. In addition, the ultrasonic cleaning DR II ensures a clean sensor.

The SAFOX XI autofocus module, which has 27 autofocus measuring points, is also new. 25 of the measuring points are cross sensors, while the central measuring fields are designed for lenses with a speed of F2.8 instead of the usual F5.6, which ensures more precise focusing with faster lenses. This is especially useful for photography with an open aperture. In addition, the autofocus is particularly sensitive to light with a working range of -3 to 18 LW. For focus correction, correction profiles can be created for up to 20 different lenses. Pentax has also significantly revised the light meter. As with Nikon and Canon, Pentax now also works with RGB pixels, which allows colour recognition and thus more accurate exposure metering. The light metering system has a total of 86,000 such metering points and can therefore also detect scene modes. The working range goes down to -3 EV, and the flash exposure should also be calculated more precisely by detecting the (sharp) main subject. The autofocus module and the light meter support each other in their work. Another new feature is the multi-field white balance, which is designed to master difficult lighting situations even better. At the heart of the camera, the Prime III image processing engine provides the necessary computing power. The ISO sensitivity of the 24-megapixel CMOS sensor can be adjusted between ISO 100 and 51,200, and the processor’s high computing power is intended to ensure high processing speed and effective noise reduction. The shutter operates at speeds of up to 1/8,000 second, and the continuous shooting speed reaches 8.3 frames per second. 22 raw shots or 60 JPEG shots can be shot in quick succession. This is achieved by an optimized shutter as well as a new mirror mechanism and damping.

The magnesium alloy housing provides the necessary robustness. 92 Seals protect the interior from moisture, dust and dirt. Even frost down to -10 °C should not impair the camera’s function. The shutter is designed for at least 200,000 releases. The optional battery handle D-BG5 is also equipped with seals for splash water protection. Optionally, it accommodates one extra battery or six AA round cells, thus extending the standard battery life of 750 shots. Numerous buttons allow camera control even in portrait format.

The rear screen measures 3.2 inches (8.1 centimetres) diagonally and has a resolution of a fine 1.04 million pixels. The 3:2 format ensures a full format picture in Live View. As has been the case with Pentax for a long time, the screen of the K-3 also has effective scratch protection, which underlines the robustness of the entire camera. In addition, the K-3 has a status display on the top of the camera, so that the most important recording parameters can be read even without the monitor switched on. The pentaprism viewfinder is also impressive. The glass prism provides an even brighter image due to an optimized coating, the viewfinder covers 100 percent of the image field and magnifies 0.95 times. Diopter compensation is also available, as are indicators in the viewfinder that provide information about recording parameters.

Pentax has also improved the video function. So the exposure is now completely manually adjustable. The DSLR has a stereo microphone input, a headphone output for sound control and an always adjustable input level that can be adjusted even during a recording session. The maximum video resolution is still Full-HD with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, the refresh rate is now optionally 60i, 50i, 30p, 25p or 24p. Storage is done with effective H.264 compression.

Furthermore, the K-3 has a program selector wheel with lock button and three individually assignable user programs. Functions such as dynamic range optimization, bracketing, HDR recording and an interval function are also on board. The latter takes up to 2,000 individual images automatically controlled at intervals of between one second and 24 hours. If the interval recording is to be saved as video, the resolutions HD, Full-HD and 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) are available. A 2D spirit level can be displayed in the viewfinder, on the monitor it can even be shown as a 3D jet display. In addition, the K-3 has a built-in flash unit, a system hot shoe and a flash sync socket.

The Pentax K-3 is equipped with two SD card slots compatible with SDHC, SDXC and UHS-I. Not only does this allow it to be loaded with a lot of storage capacity, but it also allows the memory cards to be filled with different formats, such as JPEG on one side and raw (PEF or DNG) on the other, or pictures on one side and videos on the other. In addition, Pentax offers the specially developed WLAN SD card “O-FC1 16 GB FLU Card” to match the K-3. It not only has 16 GByte storage capacity, but also a WLAN function for transferring images to coupled devices or even for remote control of the camera including live image transmission. The K-3 is controlled via web browser, which means that it can be operated not only from a smartphone or tablet, but also from a computer, the latter not possible with most competing products. Parameters such as exposure time, aperture, ISO setting, focus field selection, etc. can be controlled.

With the HD DA 55-300 4-5.8 ED WR, Pentax is also expanding its range of affordable, waterproof lenses. The 5.5x zoom is actually nothing new, as Pentax already offers such a lens without splash water protection. However, the 55-300 WR also has a new housing design. Corresponding to 35 mm, the focal length range of the lens designed for APS-C is about 85-460 millimetres. Two ED lens elements are designed to eliminate chromatic aberrations. As the name suggests, the telezoom features Ricoh’s new HD multi-coating, which is designed to ensure high transmission and low reflection. Furthermore, the front lens has been equipped with the “Super Protect Coating”, so that dirt such as dust and fingerprints should adhere less. The 55-300 is not only splash-proof, but also equipped with a metal bayonet. In addition, thanks to the Quick Shift Focus system, the focus can be adjusted manually at any time without having to switch to manual focus.

The black Pentax K-3 is said to cost just under 1,300 EUR, the set with the DA 18-55 WR lens comes to just under 1,350 EUR. In addition to the black standard camera, Ricoh also wants to offer a special edition “Pentax K-3 Premium Silver Edition”, limited to 2,000 pieces, for just under 1,550 EUR. The camera should match the new silver HD DA Limited lenses in colour. The matching battery handle D-BG5 in silver is included in the scope of delivery as well as an exclusive leather strap and a spare battery. The new waterproof lens HD DA 55-300 4-5.8 ED WR is said to cost almost 400 EUR. The market launch of the K-3 and the 55-300 WR is planned for November 2013.

Ricoh announces the limited Pentax K-3 Prestige Edition Collective Cameras

It was actually only a matter of time before Ricoh offered the DSLR flagship Pentax K-3 in a noble and strictly limited edition of 2,000 copies worldwide under the name “Prestige Edition”. Technically, the K-3 Prestige Edition is identical to the conventional K-3, and the buyer can expect a 24 megapixel DSLR with a waterproof housing and other interesting and innovative features.

The Ricoh Pentax K-3 Prestige Edition is limited to 2,000 units worldwide and comes without lens. [Photo: Pentax]

The K-3 has been given a new colour especially for the Prestige Edition with Gunmetal Grey. [Photo: Pentax]

Technically, the Pentax K-3 Prestige Edition does not differ from the conventional K-3 [Photo: Pentax]

However, the TIPA-awarded camera is not only optimally protected against dust and water, but also includes an innovative system that allows the low-pass filter, which is usually permanently mounted in front of the sensor, to be switched on. The low-pass filter reduces the risk of moiré effects appearing on the image. The negative effect of the low-pass filter, however, is that it reduces the resolution performance of the camera. With Pentax’s switchable system, the user can decide from image to image whether or not a low pass filter should be present.

While the K-3 is normally only available in silver or black, the Prestige Edition contains the K-3 in “Gunmetal Grey”, a metallic grey. The Prestige Edition also includes the matching battery handle (D-BG5), which is also supplied in “Gunmetal Grey”. A lens is not included, even if the product photos suggest it. The Prestige Edition also includes two lithium-ion batteries (D-LI90) and a carrying strap with “2014 TIPA Best Digital SLR Expert” embroidery. The K-3 Prestige Edition is limited to 2,000 units worldwide and will be available at specialist dealers for just under 1,300 euros from September 2014.

Ricoh releases firmware updates for Pentax K3

Firmware updates are provided by manufacturers in order to implement new functions in cameras, correct errors or optimize the program code. The provided firmware updates bring the SLR cameras K-1, K-3 and KP to firmware version 1.5, 1.4 and 1.1 respectively and include improvements of firmware stability and performance. In addition, optimizations are made for use with the Pentax HD DFA* 50 mm F1.4 SDM AW. Firmware updates are always performed at your own risk. Therefore, the camera owner should follow the update instructions provided by Ricoh on the update website (see related links).

Manufacturer Pentax
Model HD DA 55-300 4-5.8 ED WR
Price (EIA) 399,00 EUR
Bayonet Pentax K
Focal length range 55-300 mm
Luminous intensity (maximum aperture) F4 to F5.8
Smallest aperture F32
Lens system 12 lenses in 8 group incl.
ED and aspherical lenses
KB full format no
Number of aperture blades 6
Close-up limit 1.400 mm
Image stabilizer available no
Autofocus available yes
Water/dust protection yes
Filter thread 58 mm
Dimensions (diameter x length) 72 x 112 mm
Lens weight 466 g

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