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Pentax K-5 II DSLR Review

The Pentax K-5 II updates the Pentax K-5 - find out how it performs in our review by John Riley.

|  Pentax K-5 II in Digital SLRs
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Pentax K 5 II (4)
This is the first half of nearly identical twins from Pentax. The K-5 II is an updated version of the highly regarded K-5. The K-5 IIs, its sibling without anti-aliasing filter, will be reviewed soon. On the face of it, we have here an identical camera to the original K-5, so we need to explore what improvements have been made, whether or not the upgrade would be sufficient for existing K-5 users and whether or not this new model will tempt new purchasers into the Pentax system. The K-5 was an Editor's Choice, so the new model has much to live up to and exceed, if it can.

Pentax K-5 II Features

Pentax K 5 II (16)
The K-5 II is an APS-C DSLR with a Sony sensor, well tried and tested, using 16.28MP. It utilises the well established Pentax K mount, opening up the possibility of using almost any Pentax lens ever made. Via adapters, this backwards compatibility can extend back to even the 1950s Asahiflex lenses and of course the ubiquitous M42 screw mount lenses of the Spotmatic era, albeit with some limitations. Looking more to the present, there is a wide range of current Pentax AF lenses, with new offerings on the way to broaden the repertoire even more.

In-body shake reduction (SR) can be used with any lens or accessory and is proven already to bring a 3 stop or more advantage. Weather resistance to body and many lenses means all-weather use. The magnesium alloy shell is rugged and feels solid and dependable, but still within a remarkably compact package. Live View and Movie Mode plus a wide array of image style options round out a very complete and professional specification. An impressive 7fps is also available when needed.

Remarkable low light performance was a feature of the K-5, so we shall see how the K-5 II compares. The upgraded AF module is also an area of interest. Will this be a dramatic or just a subtle improvement of the original K-5?

Pentax K 5 II (10)

Key Features

  • 16.28 megapixel APS-C sensor
  • Pentax KAF2 bayonet mount
  • In-body Shake Reduction
  • Glass Pentaprism with 100% field of view
  • 3 inch LCD monitor with 921,000 dots
  • Live View with Contrast Detection and Phase Matching AF
  • SAFOX X AF module sensitive to -3EV
  • Weather Resistant construction
  • Magnesium alloy shell
  • 7fps maximum frame rate
  • ISO range 100 to 12,800, expandable to 80 to 51,200
  • Full HD Movie Mode
  • 17 Digital filters
  • PEF and DNG RAW formats
  • Premium JPEG Quality level

Pentax K-5 II Handling

Pentax K 5 II (14)

From opening the package it is evident that all the components have been well put together. The quality of finish on all the items, be it the camera, the battery, the charger, is very high. Switches operate firmly and smoothly, with no play. Access doors seal closed with precision. The lens operates without any feeling of sloppiness.

In terms of ergonomics I have used many cameras, but have always come back to Pentax. The old advertising slogan “Simply hold a Pentax” rings as true today as it did when the Spotmatic was released in 1964. Controls are comfortable and well placed, and overall it is an efficient product that feels good in the hands.

Pentax K 5 II (13)

The one small design feature that has been left unchanged but could do with improvement is the card access door. This is quite cramped and can be awkward, making removal of the SD card potentially tricky. However, it does get easier with practice, but a little more room would be a considerable improvement. This is really the only niggle in what is basically an excellent ergonomic design.

The menu system is logical and works just fine. It is easy to use and has consistent and reliable logic throughout. The display is clear and if we should be in any doubt an explanation of any particular setting is displayed on screen.

Pentax K 5 II (17)

Battery life, using the same Dli90 battery as the K-5, is quoted at approx. 740 images with 50% flash usage and 980 with no flash. 440 minutes of movie playback is also quoted. These figures are using the CIPA standard at under 23C. In this test after two intensive days of use, the battery indicator still reads fully charged, so the implication is that battery life will not be a problem.

Shutter response   0.05 secs
Focus / shutter response (wide)   0.65 secs (1.9s in live view)
Focus / shutter response (full-zoom)   0.75 secs (2.4s in live view)
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   0.5 secs
Shot to Shot without Flash   0.2 secs
Shot to Shot with Flash   1.15 secs
Continuous Shooting   7 fps
Continuous Shooting - Flash   1 fps
Continuous Shooting - RAW   8 fps

Start up of the camera is virtually instantaneous. By the time the finger has moved from the on switch to the shutter release, everything is ready to go. Shutter response is slick and aided by a predictable meter on position and smooth release.

In speed tests the K-5 II easily exceeds the quoted specification. I managed 32 JPEGs before the buffer was filled and 26 RAW images, compared to the quoted 30 and 20 respectively.

Pentax K-5 II Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Pentax K-5 II Sample Photos

The field test included some atrocious weather, but of course the weather resistance means that we can just carry on and still shoot images with complete freedom. This is one of the major advances in recent DSLR design because of the freedom it brings in rugged conditions.

Exposure is very similar to the original K-5 and my preference is to permanently set -0.3EV compensation. This gives perfect results, especially when using centre weighted metering. Matrix metering is equally consistent, offering a slightly lighter end result, but many photographers may prefer to take control of the decision making themselves. Spot metering is also accurate and very useful for especially spot-lit subjects.

Exposure compensation can be used where necessary and is conveniently accessed by a dedicated button. Generally, the amount of correction needed is quite modest using all the provided metering patterns. There is no tendency to over-expose and lose the highlights, in part due to accurate metering and in part due to a wide dynamic range.

Focusing is possibly marginally faster than the K-5, but there seems to be very little in it. What does seem remarkable is that focus can now be achieved in virtual darkness, even when the subject is dark itself. These are conditions where manual focusing would be beyond most eyes, so it is quite an achievement. In brighter light, focusing is fast and accurate. In LV mode, there also seems to have been an improvement in focusing speed.

Some shots may benefit from Distortion Correction and Lateral Chromatic Aberration Correction. Provided this sort of feature does not become an excuse for short cuts in lens design, both these are to be welcomed. They work well. Architectural subjects can be rendered with straight edges. Colour fringing can be impressively removed from, for example, branches silhouetted against a bright sky.

Pentax K-5 II ISO test images

Noise is exceptionally well controlled and for most purposes I would be happy with images shot up to ISO1600 with no caveat whatsoever. From ISO3200 onwards we see steady deterioration, but to be fair even at ISO51200 we can expect an image in virtually no light at all. To be shooting street images at night and find the kit lens can deliver with shutter speeds of maybe 1/100s is absolutely worthwhile to have. At the highest ISO values there will be noise and soft images, but film could not compete with the quality obtainable and there are few DSLRS that can deliver the same performance of this Pentax.

Pentax K-5 II White-balance test images

AWB (Auto White Balance) generally proves to be very reliable. In overcast conditions it may tend towards a coolness that can be corrected by switching to the most suitable preset. Generally, I would use Daylight setting outdoors, but for warmer colour still Cloudy and even Shade work very well. Incandescent and Fluorescent presets are excellent. There is even a choice between fixed values and approximate values that the camera will then adjust over a limited range.

Resolution and image quality in general are beyond reproach, something already well established with the K-5. The K-5 II maintains this standard and amongst APS-C DSLRs this is about as good as we have.

Pentax K-5 II Lens test images

There is a choice of lenses supplied with the K-5 II and here we have the SMC Pentax-DA 15-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 AL WR. The lens is well finished in high quality plastics and is weather sealed. This is a simplified weather resistance but it has been proven to be highly effective in resisting the ingress of water.

The lens performs exceptionally well for an inexpensive kit zoom, delivering very sharp, colourful and flare free images at medium apertures. Wide open and fully closed down the lens is still perfectly usable, but sharpness does suffer, as expected. There is the usual barrel distortion at wide angles, moving to pincushion distortion at the longer end. The in-camera distortion correction handles this well and is useful for any shots where straight edges are desirable. Using this feature does, however, take up processing time and slow down the picture taking process.

Purple / green fringing is well controlled but does become visible in extreme situations. This can be corrected in-camera, with impressive results.

Flare resistance is excellent, but of course can be induced when the sun is in frame or just out of frame. Use of the supplied hood is recommended at all times and flare is rarely a problem. All in all, an excellent standard zoom.

Pentax K-5 II Digital filters

There are a large selection of digital filters available and exploring these would be a review in itself. All have creative possibilities and it is worth looking into the menus and trying things out. We can start simply with picture styles, and for everyday using Natural produces the most realistic colours. The default is Bright and although it has been used for this test I would normally revert to Natural. This is a matter of personal taste, not right or wrong. Digital filter options include Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Extract Colour, Soft, Starburst and Fish-eye.

Pentax K-5 II Other sample images

HDR in camera is a convenient way to try this technique without purchasing stand alone programs, although the effect available is limited. The various options have adjustable parameters themselves, so the range of options is vast.

Video - Movie mode works well, with a mono microphone built in and a jack provided for a stereo mike. Quality seems good and the microphone does not seem to pick up too much camera noise. Panning is smooth and the zooming action of the lens is also smooth enough to prevent any glitches in the picture. Another video can be seen on our YouTube channel.


Value for Money

New introductions usually arrive at a high price that settles down after a while. This is the price we pay for being an early adopter of new technology. In this case, both the K-5 II and the K-5 IIs seem to have been brought in at quite a competitive price level from the start. This is exceptionally good value.

However, for existing Pentax users who own the K-5 the value in an upgrade is far less clear. There is an improvement in some areas of performance, as noted, but these are not major steps for what is basically already a superb camera.

For users new to Pentax the value for money is without any doubt. This is a very fine piece of kit that performs well and reliably. It builds upon an already excellent record, giving us a very competitive price and the double value of an established design with any glitches already ironed out. The K-5 II can hold its head high amongst the alternatives - alternatives include the weather sealed Sony Alpha A77, and non-weather sealed Nikon D5200, both with 24 megapixel sensors.

Pentax K-5 II Verdict

The Pentax K-5 II is a rugged, magnesium alloy bodied, weatherproof, well designed and high quality camera with a kit zoom that is really very good indeed, and provides a package that looks very exciting against its rivals. It is more compact, arguably slicker in operation and provides the highest standards at a relatively low price level. There's not much to dislike, so the K-5 can be totally recommended.

The only caveat that remains is that, while stocks last, the original K-5 still offers most of what the K-5 II can do, and that may well be a better option in terms of cost if the low light AF performance improvement is not an issue. Prospective buyers may be well advised to move quickly on that option, before it is gone and no longer a decision to be made.

The Pentax K-5 II is a well made and efficient package at an excellent price.

Pentax K-5 II Pros

Excellent image quality
Rugged weather sealed construction
Compact body and lenses
Fast operation
Glass pentaprism viewfinder
Improved Live View
Backwards lens compatibility
In body shake reduction
Low noise levels
Excellent value for money
Low light AF
Wide selection of built in effects and filters
Outstanding colour reproduction
DNG RAW format

Pentax K-5 II Cons

Not full frame
Fewer lenses in range than Nikon and Canon
Live view focus and shutter response slow


Pentax K-5 II Specifications

Effective Magnification1.5x
Image Sensor
Pixels16.3Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4928
Pixels (H)3264
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.7mm
Sensor Size (height)15.7mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution921,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/8000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeNo Data
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • A
  • Program Variable
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
  • TTL
ISO sensitivity80 - 51200
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-5
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting7fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS30
Stereo SoundNo
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeRechargeable D-LI90P Lithium-ion battery
Battery Life (CIPA rating)740shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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Photographs taken using the Pentax K-5 II

Lesser KestrelA test of strengthdawn reflectionHastings.ghostlyWest pierCrystal of Split Rock Lighthouse in MinnesotaWho's Got My BackFirst snow on sageTangled - Spurn PointFinnsunset grassSnow carvings at St Paul Winter Carnival

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petebfrance 10 3.2k France
19 Nov 2012 4:52PM
Looks interesting, but focus/shutter response timings look poor - when compared to the K30 for example - 0.65 and 0.75 seconds for wide and tele respectively is surely too long?
lemmy 15 2.9k United Kingdom
19 Nov 2012 5:35PM
I'm bemused by a 'con' being 'Not full frame'. You might as well say 'Not Micro 4/3' or 'Not medium format'.

When I had my K5 body the only thing I didn't like, trivial as it was, was getting the b****y SD card out. Still the same, I see. It what we call 'character', I suppose Wink
19 Nov 2012 10:28PM
"Not full frame" being one of the few things that Pentax Users might find a con regarding the camera. That is, meaning that any improvement beyond this would need to be a larger sensor because this is as good as APS-C gets, with current technology. It's not an issue personally for me, but I recognise that it is for some.

As regards the focus/shutter timing, this was using the 18-55mm lens. I have no doubt that the 18-135mm or a 40mm would be much faster.
21 Nov 2012 12:24PM
I have a K5 lovely camera, its seems pointless to me introducing an almost identical camera ?..
why not full frame ??? ...the other two major rivals do !.. but l shall be staying as l am...Grin
Yang 10 China
21 Nov 2012 12:50PM
My 1.5 year old K-5 has been keeping me satisfied, it will continue to do so for more years. I might consider K-5 IIs if its price comes down after the announcement of a full frame from Pentax.
tezza 18 569 United Kingdom
21 Nov 2012 1:23PM
I have and still use regularly one of the first Pentax d ist's with it's 6 megapixel chip.

It's still a fantastic camera and the 6 mp isn't a hardship, especially with one of their good lenses in preference to the kit lens. Smile

Using it recently though, I did a lot of shots on it's top ISO of 3200. While the results are okay, they are rather grainy / noisy but totally acceptable.

When I compare them with the even higher ISO pictures on this test, I am blown away with the results that this model can produce!!!

Now I sooooooo desperately want / would like one!

Shame, but I can't see it appearing in my stocking on Christmas morning even if I put it on my Christmas list. Sad

So, I think I'll wait a while in the hope that the price for the body only drops a bit. In the mean time I'll try to cut down on the student loan spending and see if I can treat myself, maybe in the New Year. Grin

Beans on toast for the coming months I think! Sad
stevelink 18 2 United States
21 Nov 2012 2:17PM
Call me cynical, but to introduce a "new" camera called the Pentax K5 II that is virtually identical to the Pentax K5, the only perceivable differences being ability to focus in slightly lower light and a 1 fps upgrade, is nothing but a marketing ploy to sell more units....Sorry Pentax, I thought you were a Photographer's company. Really, how many people have a need to shoot in near total darkness?? That's an absurd premise on which to base an entirely "new" camera model. As a Pentax K5 owner, I was looking for either a FF model, or at least one with a higher res sensor, which would at least provide a quantifiable upgrade in image quality!
21 Nov 2012 3:03PM
Doing a feature comparison on the Pentax UK website the biggest difference between the K5-II and the K30 seems to be the price, about £500 currently. I would be interested if anyone could tell me what the K5-II has got that makes it worth £500 more than the K30. If it's that much better (quality wise) then it must be absolutely superb.
21 Nov 2012 3:39PM
Alan, the differences are magnesium outer shell, faster frame rate, more durable professional-based construction, more buttons rather than having to delve into menus, that's just off the top of my head. The K30 is on offer, the K-5 II is just in, so the margin is a bit distorted at the moment anyway.

I would choose the K-5 II over the K30, but the K30 is indeed a very attractive package at the moment.

Is the K-5 II absolutely superb? I think so. The real question is what will the K-5 IIs be like, and that is yet to be tested out.
21 Nov 2012 4:36PM
Thanks John.
While I can see that the magnesium would be very useful if you dropped it, Pentax cameras are usually very durable anyway and do not usually (touch wood) wear out or damage easily.
The question should have been are the images got from the K5 II that much better than the K30, bearing in mind that most images will be processed in software, when used in the same way by the same photographer and also bearing in mind that they will be both out of date in a few years (if not months)?
petebfrance 10 3.2k France
21 Nov 2012 4:40PM
thank-you for your response on the shutter/focus speeds.
Tbh I was rather hoping that they were a typo as compared to the timings for the K30 they look distinctly sluggish. Was the K30 tested with the same kit lens?
21 Nov 2012 4:48PM
Not the same one no as this K-5 II arrived in a kit as supplied normally. It might have been the same model though. In normal use it doesn't seem particularly slow, but the figures are what was measured....
petebfrance 10 3.2k France
21 Nov 2012 4:52PM
Thanks Smile
solar1 13
21 Nov 2012 5:37PM
What has changed between the K5 and K5II? A little more specific info on the new K5II: note in italics what may not have been mentioned in the very well written review.

The biggest difference is the latest, SAFOX X, autofocus sensor. This is designed to work in lower light than any of its rivals (down to -3EV) it will also provide greater accuracy when working with F2.8 and fast lenses. The SAFOX X also features more sophisticated focus tracking, to keep focus when the subject moves off the original focus point. The K-5 II and IIs also gain rear LCD panels with no air gap between the panel and the protective glass, reducing internal reflections and improving visibility in bright light.

More specifically:

The camera’s new, highly sensitive AF sensor enables photographers to work with a luminous flux based on F2.8 levels in addition to F5.6, which increases the AF accuracy when using fast lenses. The AF sensor also includes an upgraded AF algorithm as well as the Select-Area Expansion feature, which automatically tracks the subject when it deviates from a pre-assigned selection point, by assessing data from neighboring sensors.

Situated between the front glass panel (which is coated with an anti-glare film) and the LCD screen is a unique resin layer that alleviates the reflection and dispersion of light to effectively prevent ghost images and maintain image brightness. The LCD cover is also made of tempered glass to keep it free of scratches and abrasions.

Jabof33 11 United Kingdom
21 Nov 2012 6:03PM
It seems, as ever with Pentax, to be progressive development.

I resisted the temptation of the K20D & K7, and bought the K5.

I also bought two DA* lenses (the 16-50mm & 50-135mm).

I do not doubt this was the right choice.

My original idea was to keep the K10D that started my digital life with Pentax.

Since the acquisition of my K5, I rarely use the K10D (usually when I need my Sigma 75-300 for reach, and don't want the inconvenience/time loss of changing the DA* 50-135 over).

I have no trouble with speed of focus with either of the DA* lenses.

They are as quick as I need and certainly much quicker than the kit DA 18-55 that came with my K10D.

The extra frame in continuous shot speed and slightly larger buffer would be useful (I only shoot RAW now and a pan sequence never sems to exceed 22 frames with my K5).

I can see the advantages, but think it would be hard to measure in terms of in-hand performance.

What will be an advantage is the higher resolution that will be avalable with the K5IIs.

In DPI display situations at club evenings, I can see the beginnings of fringe problems on blow-up crops from my K5.

The potential advantage the K5IIs gives convinces me this is the next logical upgrade for K5 owners.

I will be finding one at the right price soon I hope!

Then I will have no problem at all as my second body will be my K5
Sessionist 11 1 United Kingdom
21 Nov 2012 8:15PM
I'm a keen camera club member,my first digitial camera was the ist D I now use the 10d my photographs are accepted at national level and not once has anybody remarked that the photographs were taken with Pentax.I'm loyal to Pentax because I can use any lens and good value for money.
QuentinS 17 26 United Kingdom
22 Nov 2012 9:13PM

Quote: Really, how many people have a need to shoot in near total darkness??

I can tell you don't try to shoot rowing pics in winter! Weatherproofing, ability to shoot in low light, sounds like just what I need!

29 Dec 2012 7:05PM

Quote: Really, how many people have a need to shoot in near total darkness?? That's an absurd premise on which to base an entirely "new" camera model.

I do do tens of thousands round the globe who have the same passion as I do - photographing derelict/abandoned buildings - there have been times when it has been literally pitch black and quite often very, very little light.
28 Jan 2013 2:05PM
Somewhat late in my comments but in the K-30 v K-5II I would add one other significant factor for myself - battery power. Here the K-30 disappoints whereas the K-5II excels. Overall, it is a question of selecting what suits your individual needs best but if you do engage in a lot of photography in trying conditions I think the price difference will become insignificant.

I would add that for me the choice is more about K-5II v K-5IIs and even in the light of the latest excellent test [24 January 2013] my preference is for the K-5II as I prefer not to indulge a lot in Photoshop corrections but I must stress this is purely a preference to fulfil my requirements.

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