Pentax K-3 II Review

The latest Flagship DSLR from Pentax is an updated version of the already highly acclaimed K-3. The K-3 II is certainly interesting in that it takes something aside (the inbuilt flash) so that GPS and the Astrotracer can be added in. In addition, Pentax has developed the sensor centered shake reduction to enable a new high definition pixel resolution feature. More of this later, but overall we will be looking at whether these changes are plenty to justify a fresh model, and also seeking to establish whether the K-3 or the K-3 II will be the model of choice.

Check Out: Best Lenses for Pentax K-3 II

Pentax K-3 II: Price

Pentax K-3 II: Features

The K-3 II is normally a weatherproof, magnesium alloy clad APS-C DSLR offering 24.35MP images. The viewfinder is a traditional glass pentaprism giving a 100% view, with Live Look at also available via a button placed conveniently near the eyepiece, also with a 100% field of look at. The AF system is SAFOX 11, with 27 points, 25 of which are of the cross-type. The operating range is usually from -3EV. Continuous shooting of up to 8.3fps is possible.

Interestingly, Pentax has decided to remove the built-in flash. Whether this disturbs purchasers remains to be seen, but in its place is a very useful GPS system and Astro tracer. This could make this variant a very desirable camera for astronomers as the price of the separate Astro tracer is definitely significant. The GPS unit allows geotagging of pictures and a built-in compass.

All the usual features are otherwise present and will be familiar to existing Pentax users. Those new to the Pentax fold will not be disappointed by the array of digital filters, image styles, and inbuilt HDR options. Inbuilt shake decrease (SR) means that all lenses and add-ons used can benefit from the system. Up to 4 shutter speed guidelines are claimed.

The SR unit is also used to simulate the AA filter. The K-3 II has no AA filtration system, but by slightly shaking the sensor this is often emulated at a choice of two different levels. Generally, the feature will be switched off to enable the highest possible resolution, but if more is seen to be a hazard then the simulator can be used to reduce or eliminate the effect.

The SR system can now also be used for the new hi-def image output system. PSR shifts the sensor one pixel at a time to create four images that are then merged. This means that every pixel point has accurate RGB values, rather than these having to be interpolated by software. Normally the three color values are taken from an area four pixels square in sensors that use Bayer pattern filters. The output from the PSR system is still the same pixel sizes and JPEG increases the file size only marginally. In RAW capture we end up with immense data files of around 112 MB. We will see later how this works out in practice.

Pentax K-3 II: Handling

Pentax cameras always feel solid in the hand, and the K-3 II exudes quality construction. It is compact without being too small, all the parts are finished to an extremely high standard and it gives a feeling of confidence that it will be reliable and will last well. The cup pentaprism viewfinder is generally delightful to make use of, and the Live View program has been improved, becoming much faster to employ. The camera screen quality is excellent, with razor-sharp and accurate color.

All in all, the K-3 II works briskly. There are a good number of buttons and dials that make general operation convenient, including a new rotary dial for the eyepiece adjustment which is much easier to use than the previous slider switch. All of the control keys operate positively and smoothly.

Many parameters could be altered by selecting the info display and scrolling to the item to be adjusted. The rear control wheel can then be used to alter the value. In normal use, the menu system will be hardly ever accessed. When it is needed although, the menu system can be logical and quick to make use of. Those coming to Pentax from additional marques will no doubt need a while to adjust to different methods of working, but the Pentax system is very intuitive and should pose no problem.

Remote operation is remaining to use Flashcards with a suitable smartphone, and the wireless tranny of images can also be achieved using Eye-Fi SD cards. These are used in SD slot 2. The two card slots can also be used for normal SD cards, so the potential number of photos available for use in the field is certainly doubled. This could be very useful if working in challenging weather conditions, where opening the card door to change cards is probably not desirable.

Pentax K-3 II: Battery life

The battery pack is the DLI-90 used since the K-7, and those following an upgrade path to the K-3 II will without a doubt appreciate already having appropriate spares. Relating to CIPA test results, we can expect approx. 720 pictures per charge and this seems to be borne out in practice. A week was spent using the camera extensively and the electric battery charge was still holding out by the end of it.

We took numerous shots to test the camera’s responsiveness, from switch on to the first picture, shot to shot, focusing speed, etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent exams, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

Pentax K-3 II: Performance

The performance section is normally where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your personal review, photos and item ratings.

Lens Performance – The lens provided with the test camera was the SMC Pentax-DAL 18-55mm AL WR f/3.5-5.6. This is a light edition, with the plastic zoom lens mount, no QuickShift manual override of the AF program and no lens hood provided. It really is a fair lens, pretty good when stopped down, but not a stellar performer. Having bought the K-3 II I recommend that the more expensive kit options should be looked at. However, it is not a bad lens, it is very usable, and it is weather resistant. Kit lenses do vary and Pentax ones are better than many, but with such a high-quality camera something a notch up would not come amiss.

Pixel Shift Resolution Again – Now here we have something really new, and perhaps for many determining between K-3 or K-3 II this could be the clincher. To recap, the sensor is shifted by one pixel in four directions and the images merged to make cleaner, more color-accurate images. It does exactly that. Obviously the subject should be still and it’s essential to secure the camera on a solid tripod. One pixel shift is a very precise movement, so nothing else can move at all. The use of the self-timer to prevent any camera movement is ideal.

To test this, the SMC Pentax-D FA 100mm f/2.8 macro lens was used. Images were shot with and without PSR using JPEG and Natural (DNG) capture. It must be said that it’s essential to work very carefully and the difference is usually subtle but very real improvement infidelity. It unfortunately also makes us far more important when viewing the results, the ultimate experience for those who like pixel-peeping. The best lenses are needed to make this worthwhile.

I would not use this routinely, but I would use it for vital macro and other extremely detailed work where the very highest quality was needed. It can work and it’s well worth having and is another interesting development that stems from the SR system. JPEG capture shows the same improvement, but only somewhat increased file sizes. RAW capture gives enormous files of around 112MB, in order that could be a problem for users with older computers.

Pentax K-3 II: Conclusion

Pentax continues to offer rugged, climate-resistant DSLRs that offer outstanding image quality at a very attractive price. Coupled with high-quality lenses, this continues to be a winning combination. The new Pixel Shift Quality feature looks like a winner and the inclusion of Gps navigation and Astrotracer will become welcomed by many. The lack of an inbuilt flash device will be missed by some users, therefore the choice remains depending on our specific needs.


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