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Pentax K-S2 DSLR Review

Pentax K-S2 DSLR Review - John Riley reviews the Pentax K-S2 - Weather sealing, Wi-Fi, an articlated screen, and an all new lens, makes this an interesting new DSLR from Pentax.

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Pentax K-S2
Price : BUY NOW£469
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Pentax K S2 (2)

The new Pentax K-S2 sports an impressive specification. It also re-introduces a conventional mode dial, has a new standard zoom and, a first for a Pentax DSLR, a fold out articulated screen. The handling ergonomics of Pentax cameras are well understood, so let's have a look at how this new Pentax matches up. Does it keep true to the “Pentax feel”?

Pentax K-S2 Features

Pentax K S2 (3)

The K-S2 feels very compact, despite adding a fold out articulating screen and Wi-Fi capability. It feels solid in the hands. It uses the familiar KAF2  mount, opening up the possibility of using thousands of legacy lenses as well as the current range.

The lens is a new SMC Pentax-DAL 18-50mm f/4.5.6 DC WR RE, the DC being the quiet and fast DC motor for focusing and the RE referring to the retractable barrel. The lens collapses to a more compact size for storing in a bag and has to be extended to use. WR stands for Weather Resistance and is well understood and accepted. The DAL description means a plastic mount and no supplied lens hood, but interestingly the lens does have QuickShift focusing. When AF focusing has been achieved the manual focus ring can be used to make fine adjustments, especially useful for macro shooting.

The viewfinder uses a proper glass pentaprism and has 100% field of view, an impressive feature in this price bracket. Live View is also available via a dedicated button on the back of the camera.

The dial on the K-S1 has gone and instead we have a conventional mode selector dial on the right side of the pentaprism housing. There are two control dials, front and back, and these can be programmed to some extent. An extra button is the new Wi-Fi facility, and this enables the camera to be controlled by a smartphone or tablet with the appropriate App. Android is already catered for, and iOS will follow soon. Flucards and Wi-Fi cards can also be used.

The AF system is more sophisticated than the K-S1, now using SAFOX X, with 11 points, nine of which are of the cross type. Sensitivity extends down to EV -3, matching the performance of the flagship K-3.

There is a wide selection of digital filters and scene modes, many of which also have adjustable parameters. These are found in the digital filters menu, and the scene modes position on the mode dial.

The sensor used is the Sony CMOS sensor of 20.12 MP. Sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 51,200. It is stabilised with the well established sensor shift mechanism. The AA filter simulation is included for situations where the photographer feels moire could potentially be a problem.

Pentax K S2 (5)

Key Features

  • 20.12 MP APS-C sensor with AA Filter Simulator
  • Pentax KAF2 bayonet mount
  • In-body shake reduction, up to 3.5stops
  • Glass pentaprism with 100% field of view
  • 0.95x magnification viewfinder
  • 3.0 inch LCD monitor with 921,000 dots
  • 77 segment metering
  • SAFOX X AF module sensitive to -3EV
  • 11 AF points, 9 cross type
  • ISO range 100 to 51,200
  • 20 Digital filters
  • DNG/PEF RAW format
  • Flucard Compatible
  • Inbuilt Wi-Fi and NFC
  • Smartphone and tablet control available with Apps
  • Full HD Movie Mode
  • MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 Movie Format
  • Weather resistant construction

Pentax K-S2 Handling

Pentax K S2 (11)

The K-S2 is pure Pentax in terms of handling. It fits the hands perfectly, the controls are as smooth as silk. The ergonomics are second to none, basically a joy to handle and use. This is helped enormously, compared to the previous model, by reverting to a conventional mode dial. It is much better than the rear dial of the K-S1.

The AF/MF switch was a slight irritation on the K-S1, but on the K-S2 it just did not cause the same problem. It never shifted unless wanted to, so whether its profile has been slightly altered or whether it is firmer to operate, the change works. It is no longer even a minor problem.

The design of the K-S2 is back to pure classic Pentax and as a Pentax User myself I have no complaints about the handling. After a few minutes this was second nature and there's a real value in being able to be so thoroughly familiar with a new product so quickly. There are minor changes, but overall the “Pentax Feel” is alive and well in the K-S2.

Pentax K S2 (8)

The battery compartment is located on the base plate in the usual way, and using a lithium ion battery pack is far more convenient in the field than AA batteries are. The card slot is now back with a hinged door on the side of the camera. It is good to see that someone has been listening and the new door opens wide, there is plenty of space for fingers and removing a card is no longer the fiddly exercise it could be on the K-5 and its variants.

The Weather resistance sees a welcome return and coupled with the new WR standard zoom extends the usefulness of the camera considerably.

Many users may also be delighted that the K-S2 has built in Wi-Fi. Android users already have an App available to control camera functions from their smartphone or tablet. iOS users will have their App soon. Existing Wi-Fi and Flucards can also be used.

Pentax K S2 (12)

Live View is accessed via a dedicated switch, and works well. Combined with the new fold out screen, this is now a viable way to work for many subjects. It is particularly useful for obtaining a very high or low viewpoint comfortably, or for macro shots.

The battery is a Pentax DLI109 lithium battery pack, with a CIPA quoted life of 480 images without flash, before needing to be charged again. This falls to 410 with 50% flash usage. Initially I did not manage this number, but to be fair batteries need a few charges to reach their optimum and I was also doing a large amount of reviewing of menus and replaying of images.

The camera is very fast in operation, it is responsive and never becomes an obstacle to the user. It works efficiently. The pentaprism finder is a huge benefit in that we look through it at the live scene, rather than looking at the world through the artificial interface of an EVF. That view is uninterrupted, whether the camera is switched on or not.

When we do use the back screen, either for reviewing images or for Live View, then we find a fold out articulated screen. This fits flush when required or can be used folded out, affording a view from the front or back of the camera. I am not a fan of folding screens on compact cameras as it adds to the bulk, in my view, unnecessarily. However, here there is no real impact on the size of the camera so it can only be a benefit, and it proved to be so in a variety of situations.

The AF module is upgraded from the K-S1 and now we have sensitivity down to EV -3, the same as the K-3. The speed of AF is very impressive and it locked onto the subject with absolute precision. There was no hunting or hesitation.

In terms of specifications, the K-S2 has everything we could wish for. Shutter speed has a very creditable range from 1/6000s to 30 seconds plus B (Bulb). 

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

Shutter Response 0.05secs
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.1secs (0.5s in live view)
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.2secs (0.7s in live view)
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.5secs
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.5secs
Shot to Shot with Flash 0.9secs
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
5.7fps (18 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 2.0fps
Continuous Shooting - RAW 5.7fps (9 shots)

 

The drive modes do offer high speed options and these were close to quoted specifications. The number of frames that can be shot before the camera slows down are an improvement on the K-S1, being 18 JPEG or 9 RAW captures. The RAW figure is bang on specification, but the JPEG figure does fall somewhat short of the published figure of 30 frames. Nonetheless, 18 is very acceptable.

Pentax K-S2 Performance

The performance section is 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 own review, photos and product ratings.

Pentax K-S2 Sample Photos

Pentax K-S2 Lens test images

Lens Performance - The lens provided is the new SMC Pentax-DA L 18-50mm f/4-5.6 DC WR RE, with 55mm filter thread. As befits the DA L designations, the lens has a plastic mount and the lens hood is not included. However, the lens does allow for the QuickShift function, where manual adjustments to the AF may be made at any time. This is an excellent feature for macro shooting in particular.

Pentax K S2 (9)

The Weather Resistant construction is always welcome, giving us the freedom to shoot in all weathers. There is a lot to be said for bad weather photography, which can be colourful and spectacular.

The RE stands for retractable and this is the first Pentax DSLR lens with this feature. The lens is retracted for storage and extended for use. This is similar to the mechanism first used on the 15-45mm telephoto lens for the Q system. It works well and a fail-safe mechanism warns us with an on-screen message that the shutter release is disabled should we try to use the lens without extending it first.

Pentax K-S2 Other sample images

Lens quality is rather better than the previous 18-55mm reviewed and produces very pleasing images. Kit lenses can have a poor reputation generally, but Pentax do offer better than average examples. The test images provided are unsharpened, but with the appropriate processing and sharpening will produce excellent images. The lens is also highly resistant to flare. A very good lens that I would be happy to use routinely.

Pentax K-S2 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - The noise levels of the K-S2 are very well controlled, with complete usability up to ISO 1600. It all holds together well until ISO 6400, but beyond that sharpness is suffering and the noise is really creeping in. However, better a noisy shot than one that is spoilt by camera shake. I would happily use whatever ISO was necessary to get the shot.

Pentax K-S2 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well with a warm colour cast under tungsten lighting, with the tungsten preset giving an accurate result. AWB performs well under fluorescent lights, with the fluorescent preset giving a slight magenta colour cast.

Pentax K-S2 Outdoor images

The white balance options have been extended to include MultiAWB, a feature absorbed from Ricoh, but I think standard AWB or a preset offer better colour. The Multi option seems a little cold and Pentax cameras generally have a fairly warm rendition. For everyday outside use Daylight will give good results and reflect the natural colour well, or maybe Cloudy if an even warmer result is desired. In shade, in common with other models, there is a tendency for a purple hue to become apparent. This is where the Shade preset comes into its own, and it does correct the colour.

Pentax K-S2 Digital filters

Digital Filters - There are a wide variety of digital filters and scene modes available for JPEG shooters, and the quality of the JPEG output is excellent. RAW capture can be saved using PEF or DNG formats, the latter being for me the obvious one of choice, ensuring good compatibility in the future.

Video - Movie format is MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 giving Full HD quality. There is a built in stereo microphone with adjustable level. Up to 25 minutes (4 GB) can be recorded in one go, subject to the camera's internal temperature not reaching critical levels. Digital filters and SR can be used in Movie mode. Very conveniently, the movie mode is operated by the on/off switch, so it can easily be used at any time.

The quality is pleasingly smooth and although video has never seemed to be at the forefront of the minds of Pentax's engineers, it has vastly improved from earlier models.

Value For Money

Pentax have been offering some very attractive cameras at very attractive prices over recent years. The K-S2 continues this tradition. We have a very well made camera, superb image quality, a 100% view glass pentaprism, weather resistance, fold out screen and Wi-Fi all built into a compact, well designed body. This is a package for the enthusiast and represents extremely good value for money, priced at £535 body only, or £625 with 18-50mm lens.

Alternatives include the Nikon D5500, with 24mp sensor, 3.2inch vari-angle touchscreen, and Wi-Fi, priced at £660 with kit lens, or the Canon EOS 750D, with 24mp sensor, vari-angle touchscreen, Wi-Fi, priced at £689 with kit lens. However, these both lack weather-sealing, and only the Nikon D5500 features a collapsing kit lens. 

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Pentax K-S2 Verdict

It must be said that the K-S1 was a very attractive proposition, being a lovely camera to use and it came out of my review highly recommended. But the K-S2 tops that, without a doubt, proving that anything can be improved, no matter how well thought out. The K-S2 is highly impressive and performs flawlessly.

I immediately liked its predecessor, but the K-S2 manages to top that, fitting the hands like a glove and performing superbly in every respect. In many ways I prefer this design to the more expensive K-3, although we have to recognise that there are still some advantages to the more expensive model. In its class, the enthusiast-orientated K-S2 is absolutely superb, and I would very happily use one for the photography I do.

Pentax K-S2 Pros

Superb ergonomic design
Fold out screen
Glass pentaprism finder
Weather resistance
Value for money
High image quality
Built in Wi-Fi and NFC
New compact retractable lens

Pentax K-S2 Cons

No top screen
Plastic outer shell rather than magnesium alloy
Lower frame rates than K-3

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

The Pentax K-S2 is one of the best Pentax DSLRs so far, with superb design, features and handling.

 

Pentax K-S2 Specifications

ManufacturerPentax
Lens
Effective Magnification1.5x
Image Sensor
Pixels20.12Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)5472
Pixels (H)3648
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.5mm
Sensor Size (height)15.6mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolutionNo Data
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Multi
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/6000sec
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 shooting5.4fps
Video
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
Video FPS30/25/24
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Interface
HDMIYes
USBUSB 2
Wi-FiYes
Storage
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypePentax D-LI109 lithium ion
Battery Life (CIPA rating)480shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsRechargeable Lithium-ion Battery D-LI109, Battery Charger D-BC109, AC cable D-COE, Strap O-ST132, Software (CD-ROM) S-SW151, Eyecup FR, Hot shoe cover, FK Body mount cover, Lens front ring O-FR52 black or white
Dimensions
Weight498g
Width120mm
Height92.5mm
Depth69.5mm

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Photographs taken using the Pentax K-S2

Letters in reliefRhodo  wetnessFish  or  Eel?KeysSplash!An Assortment of FrogsTime For A SpinTower StepsWhat light through yonder window breaks?30053New  Eight unit  CondoHorse training barnModern  Native Cree  Nation  Trends  in artPeaceful Sunday Morning StrollJurrasic Coast Looking West Towards Lulworth Cove

Comments


dannyr 7 46 United Kingdom
9 Apr 2015 12:27PM
Isn't it a tad unfair giving giving 'No top screen' and 'Made of plastic' as cons, when all the competitions cameras at this level have no top screen and are made of plastic?

Also can I ask is the WiFi button customisable, as otherwise it's a wasted button in a convenient spot for a lot of people who don't use WiFi every 5 minutes.

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9 Apr 2015 4:01PM
Fair comment, although the cons were really referring to the only negatives when comparing to the flagship K-3. There aren't many cons with the K-S2, so any we find depend upon our own requirements. Some people like top screens, there isn't one. Some people like magnesium alloy bodies. It's probably arguable that if that's so then the K-S2 isn't their target bracket, but, like many Pentax cameras, it punches well above its weight. The K-S2 is impressively well made and is an Editor's Choice in any event.
24 Jun 2015 12:10PM
I like mine. Haven't tried the WiFi for a selfie yet. Smile
8 Jun 2016 10:36AM
I have a pentax k 30, I am quite satisfied. I often wonder what is the difference in image quality between
k30 k50 ks2 and k3? There are differences in facilities but do I get more image quality if I change?
Economical reasons forbid the k1 full frame. regards Niels Hansen
8 Jun 2016 11:11AM
Apart from different pixel counts, which will make a difference to the finest detail and to noise levels, it's probably more a question of features needed and durability.

I would think keep the K30 until you are not happy and then whatever you upgrade to will be an improvement, albeit it maybe a small step. Leave it long enough and the step may well be bigger.
9 Jun 2016 6:50AM
I have the same experiencies. I wiited a long time before going digital, my spotmatic and tlr mamiaflex did a good job, I still use 120 format for black and white and my old m42 takumars with adapter. Especially the 105 mm 2,8 maks outstanding results
9 Jun 2016 7:38AM
Yes, the 105mm f/2.8 is a lovely lens.

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