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Pentax K-3 Hands-On Preview

Pentax K-3 Hands-On Preview - We go hands-on with the new Pentax K-3 Digital SLR, the flagship Digital SLR in Pentax's lineup, with a 24 megapixel sensor and new focus system.

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Pentax K-3
Price : £1,099
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Features
Handling
Verdict
Specification

Pentax K 3 Black (3)
Pentax has announced what it is calling the "next big step" in its Digital SLR range, the Pentax K-3, with significantly updated and upgraded features over previous cameras, including an all-new 24 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, and a professional level body that is weather sealed, and designed to be a camera you can take anywhere. The Pentax K-3 will be available for £1099 body only, £1199 with 18-55mm WR lens, or £1449 with 18-135mm WR lens, and will be available from November.

Pentax K-3 Features

Pentax K 3 Black (6)

Pentax says that throughout its Digital SLR history there have been a number of big steps, with the Pentax K10D being one with a 10 megapixel sensor in 2006, which we called "a major leap" in our review. The next was the Pentax K-7 with a 14.6 megapixel sensor in 2009, and then the Pentax K-5 not long after, with a 16 megapixel sensor in 2010.

Since then, the most recent updates to the top of the range DSLR in the Pentax range has seen the slightly updated Pentax K-5 II, and K-5 IIs in 2012, with the latter featuring no Anti-Aliasing filter for the sharpest image possible from the 16 megapixel APS-C sensor.

Now, in 2013, the Pentax K-3 represents another significant update, with the camera offering a 24 megapixel sensor (with no Anti-Aliasing filter), and a massive number of other long sought after updates, including dual SD card slots, 200,000 shot shutter rating, new 27-point AF unit, larger 3.2inch 1037k dot resolution screen, 8.3fps continuous shooting, upgraded video recording, as well as USB 3.0, to name just a few of the new features. 

Pentax K 3 Black (10)
Nb. Pre-production version shown, the final production version will have the Ricoh logo under the screen.

Along with the sensor having no AA filter, the camera has a built in AA simulator - this moves the sensor at sub pixel level - with a software option also available. The strength of the AA simulator can be set to off, type 1, type 2.

SR

The Pentax K-3 has a 200,000 shot rated shutter, and this compares impressively with the 150,000 shot rating of the Nikon D7100, and the 100,000 shot rating of the Canon EOS 70D and Pentax K-5 II / IIs.

Mg

The Pentax K-3 offers a complete weather proof system, with a magnesium body, the camera is weather sealed with 92 seals, and has been tested down to -10C degrees. There are a number of weather sealed lenses available and the introduction of the Pentax K-3 also sees the introduction of a new weather resistant 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED WR HD coated telephoto zoom lens.

Interval shooting is possible with the camera shooting up to 2000 photos. The camera also can create high resolution 4k videos from the interval time lapse feature. 

Pentax K 3 Black (12)
Key Features
  • 24 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor (Sony)
  • No Anti-Aliasing Filter
  • PRIME III image processor (14bit AD/RAW)
  • with AA simulator (moving sensor) / in camera correction with software as well
  • 3.2inch 1037k dot screen, gapless
  • 100% viewfinder, 0.95X magnification
  • 27 point AF, 25 cross type
  • 86k RGB exposure meter (-3EV to +18EV)
  • 8.3fps continuous shooting
  • 200,000 shot shutter release rating
  • Dual axis electronic level
  • 4step Shake Reduction (SR)
  • Multi-area AWB (from Ricoh)
  • Dual SD card slot
  • ISO100 - ISO51200
  • Improved Full HD Video, 60i, 50i, 30p, 25p, 24p
  • Mic/Headphone socket, adjustable mic level (20 steps)
  • USB3.0
  • FLU Card compatible*
*FLU Card is a Wi-Fi card that lets you remotely control the camera with a smartphone, setting ISO, aperture, shutter speed, etc. The FLU Card has been updated to specifically give remote operation with the Pentax K-3.

Pentax K-3 Handling

Pentax K 3 Black (16)

The camera feels extremely well built with a weather sealed magnesium alloy body, as well as a large rubber covered hand grip. On the rear is a rubber thumb rest, and on the left hand side of the camera there is additional rubber for your left hand.

The new locking mode dial can be set so that you need to press the middle button on the dial to turn it, or alternatively you can switch this locking feature off, so that whichever way you prefer you have the choice. The controls on the camera remain mostly unchanged apart from the relocation of some of the buttons, which will make it familiar to anyone who is used to using other Pentax Digital SLRs, although there is now a dedicated video button, and on the side a new AF mode button. 

The optical viewfinder looks good and is brighter than the Pentax K-5 IIs (with 0.92x magnification), which we compared it to when using the Pentax K-3, with the K-3 features 100% coverage, and 0.95x magnification. This compares favourably to the Nikon D7100 with 100% coverage and 0.94x magnification, and the Canon EOS 70D with 98% coverage and 0.95x magnification.  The eyepiece also features a larger rubber cover than the K-5 IIs.

Pentax K 3 Black (15)

The menu system remains mostly unchanged since the previous Pentax menus, with the control panel on the back giving quick access to options and settings. Thanks to a large number of external controls and buttons on the camera, you shouldn't need to regularly go into the menus to change settings. 

Pentax K 3 Black (17)
Nb. Pre-production version shown, the final production version will have the Ricoh logo under the screen.

The new AF unit is said to be quicker than previous models, and in our short time with the camera, we found it very rapid, but also noticed that the live view mode seemed quicker at focusing as well, benefitting from the updated focus system, and we suspect this is going to be the fastest Digital SLR Pentax has ever launched. We will be able to test this fully when we have a production version of the camera in for review. 

Pentax K 3 Black

Battery Life - 560 shot rated battery life according to CIPA test results (with 50% flash usage), or 720 shots without flash. The weather sealed battery grip (model number) lets you use lithium-ion or AA batteries, with both holders provided with the grip.

Value for Money - The Pentax K-3 is available for £1099 body only, £1199 with 18-55mm WR lens, or £1449 with 18-135mm WR lens, and will be available from November. This makes it seem somewhat expensive compared to the alternative cameras available from both Pentax and other manufacturers, although we would expect the price to drop over time. Alternatives include the following Digital SLRs:

Canon EOS 70D, 20mp, 7fps, weather sealed, £1079 body only
Nikon D7100, 24mp, no AA filter, 6fps, weather sealed, £801 body only
Sony Alpha A77, 24mp, 12fps, in body IS, weather sealed, £750 body only
Pentax K-5 II / IIs, 16mp, 7fps, in body IS, weather sealed, £629 / £799 body only
Olympus OM-D E-M5, 16mp, 9fps, in body IS, weather sealed, £788 body only
Panasonic Lumix GH3, 16mp, 6fps, weather sealed, £893 body only

Pentax K-3 Verdict

The Pentax K-3 is a significant update to the Pentax K-5 II and IIs that came before it, and rather than simply seeing the introduction of a new higher resolution sensor in the same camera body, a significant number of other features have been upgraded, making this a whole new camera in the Pentax line-up. The new 27-point focus system is significantly improved compared to the 9-point focus system on previous models, that was due an update, and with 25 cross type sensors, it is more than found on the Nikon D7100 with 15 cross type sensors, and Canon EOS 70D with 19 cross type sensors. Continuous shooting speed has been improved, and the camera now has dual SD card slots, as well as Wi-Fi support with the FLU card, although it is a shame that it is not built into the camera. For those interested in using one of the many K-mount lenses available for video, the introduction of a headphone socket and 4K time lapse video creation will be a welcome addition. We will be carrying out our full review, when we have a production version of the camera.

For more information:
Read ePHOTOzine's Pentax K-3 vs Pentax K-5 IIs Comparison
Watch ePHOTOzine's Pentax K-3 Feature Review On YouTube


Pentax K-3 Specifications

ManufacturerPentax
Lens
Effective Magnification1.5x
Image Sensor
CCD pixels24Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)6016
Pixels (H)4000
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.5mm
Sensor Size (height)15.6mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3.2in
Screen resolution1037k
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • AF Tracking
  • Multi
  • Centre
  • AF Fine Tuning
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/8000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Program Variable
Metering
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 51200
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-5
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting8.3fps
Video
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080
  • 1280x720 720p
Video FPS60i, 50i, 30p, 25p, 24p
Stereo SoundNo
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Interface
HDMIYes
USBUSB 3
Storage
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeRechargeable Lithium-ion Battery D-LI90P
CIPA Rating560
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight800g
Width131.5mm
Height100mm
Depth77.5mm

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Photographs taken using the Pentax K-3

Wiggo and CavBaldrick againPussy cat parkourimbroglioKingfisherRiding into the sunsetFighting Swans IIFighting SwansBee ApproachJumping catGeese in flightSelf-portraitPowerboatGP Nottingham 2014Toadstool
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Comments


Alan_Baseley e2
13 321 2 England
8 Oct 2013 2:16PM
Looks great, I'll have to be getting a new piggy bank and saving up.
Just one point, in this hands-on preview and the news section you don't mention the TAv Exp mode, which still appears to be on the button. Is there a reason for not listing or mentioning it?
Personally I find this is the most useful and used mode on Pentax cameras.

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I love my K5 but this looks like a serious improvement even on that, particularly the faster autofocus and higher resolution. I too hope TAv, which I use all the time, is still on it.
NBK 2 Australia
10 Oct 2013 7:36AM
How did you manage to get hold of a K-3 that doesn't have the Ricoh logo under the LCD?
joshwa e2
4 600 United Kingdom
10 Oct 2013 9:15AM

Quote: How did you manage to get hold of a K-3 that doesn't have the Ricoh logo under the LCD?

This was a pre-production version shown to us by Pentax UK, the final version will have the RICOH logo under the screen.

edit: I've added this to the article, thanks.
10 Oct 2013 4:53PM
TaV is still there.

The pre-production models have "Pentax" on the rear.

I handled one of these yesterday. I own a K5 Limited and have had no hesitiation in placing my order for a silver K3 kit. The body is heavier but the camera is not a light upgrade. It felt and seemed to operate better in almost very respect. Looking forward to having it to use next month.
Having Wi-Fi as an add-on is the best solution IMO as when it busts it can be replaced. Also, as speeds and capabilities improve one is not stuck with yesterday's solution.
Wink
jorb 2 Ireland
24 Oct 2013 10:51PM
Looks Amazing. when i first saw the review I was hoping it'd be their first step into the full frame race but i'm still impressed. They're incredibly underrated. Especially here in Ireland where Retailers are scarce and staff in shops seem to wince at any mention of them. Pentax need a big boost in advertising!

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