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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pentax K-3: A Hands on Review of the Pentax K-3 by JJ Richards (after Up-Grading from the Pentax K-5)

I upgraded to the Pentax K-3 from the K-5 in November of last year, and prior to that I had a K200d, so it was the logical upgrade in sticking with the same manufacturer based on the collection of lenses I have built up over time, however that said, I would have stuck with Pentax as I have been more than happy with each of the cameras I have had over the years.

Most of the photography I do is Landscape photography, with the shooting of local events and bands from time to time, and the K-3 works very well for me in this regard.

Not bashing other brands in any way, but my selection of my first Pentax was after a review of many factors and narrowing it down between a couple of cameras.  When I went and tried the two I was considering, the Pentax just felt better in my hands, and that was my final factor in making a decision.

One other point I should make before actually getting into my experience using the K3, is the first thing some people notice about the Pentax K-3, the Ricoh label on the camera.  Some die hard Pentax fans were not happy at all about this, but to me it was a minor detail and it has no effect, of course, on the functionality of the camera, so it didn't bother me in the least.

Although the K-3 may be a little smaller than other models in this class, it feels as solid as a rock, and for me that's a good thing.  The K-3 gives a solid, strong, camera feeling while fitting well into my hands.  Granted, this is very much a matter of personal preference, and one tip I tell people if ever asked for advice about cameras is to always try to get a hands on feel of a camera before buying it. Some fit well to your hands and taste, and others don’t.

The K-3 has a weather sealed magnesium body with environmental seals (I believe about 90 or so of them) so it's fully water resistant to shoot outdoors in the rain (not underwater though).  I should note, I don't often shoot in the rain, but it's good to have that option and know that with the K3 and a weather sealed lens, you don't have to worry if it starts raining.

There was a little period of adjustment switching from the K-5.  I had grown fully accustomed to it and knew by feel where every button, switch, and dial was.  The K-3 had a few changes in layout, but I found it very easy to adapt to, and it almost seemed the changes were intuitive and made the feel and ability to control the camera a big improvement.  Perhaps these changes came about from Pentax listening to feedback from users.

I guess I need to touch on the specs, and I will note here that I will be just touching on them, as I am not what some may call a technical photographer at all.  While I understand all the specs, I'm just not as focused on them as others.

The K-3 Key features are;

24.4 Megapixel APS-C CMOS Sensor
SAFOX11 Autofocus Module ( 27 point, 25 of which are Cross-type)
Body based Shake Reduction
8.3 fps continuous shooting
Anti-aliasing image Stabilization
Anti Aliasing Simulator ( no inbuilt Optical Low pass filter)
3.2 inch LCD screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio
Pentaprism Optical Viewfinder with 0.95x magnification, 100% coverage
Dual SD card slots
Headphone and Microphone ports
USB 3.0 support

Ok.  I said I am not super techy, but let me touch on those features I have noticed from using the camera.

24.4 Megapixels.  Nice to be more than the 16.1 on the K-5, but to be honest, that wasn’t a key factor in upgrading.

Allow me to digress for a moment.  The real reason for my upgrading was primarily that I was fast approaching the rated life of the camera for activations and having had the odd little issue on my K5, a new camera was needed.

So that leads me to the fact that the Pentax K-3 is rated with a life of 200K shutter release activations, double that of the K-5 and something I was very glad to see considering how many shots I take.  (OK. I admit I am a crazy clicker at times with going to local parades and a majority of the time taking 5 Shots HDR shots when shooting land or seascapes, so my shutter count climbs pretty quickly.)

SAFOX11 Autofocus Module.  A 27 Point System with 25 of those Cross Point, which is a step up from the K-5's 11 Point System.  Personally, I have found from a user perspective, a quantum improvement in the speed and accuracy of focusing, so this is a big plus for me.

Body based shake reduction.  This is something Pentax have been doing for quite a few models and is something I really like.  It means if I want to pull out one of my older Pentax lenses on the K-3, the benefit of shake reduction is there rather than having to buy lenses with built-in shake reduction.

Another improvement on the K3 is the continuous shooting rate of 8.3 FPS for up to 22 Shots in RAW, not something I need a lot, but when shooting friends playing sports, it surely does come in handy.  Also, when trying to get shots of my grand-kids when they're running around and playing, the more FPS you can get, the better, in my opinion.

One of my concerns when buying the K3 was the fact it had an Anti-Aliasing Simulator and a built-in Optical Low Pass Filter (anti-aliasing (AA) filter), and there was some talk of possible problems Moire effects.  Having shot with my K-3 for a few months now, I have only seen it once or twice, and to be honest, it is not an issue for me at all, in fact, the images I am getting are much sharper than any of my previous cameras in my humble opinion.  As I mentioned, it does have the option to turn on an anti Aliasing simulator which I understand works by shaking the Sensor very minimally to remove the Moire issue, but I haven’t felt the need to turn on that function as of yet.

The screen on the Pentax K-3 is slightly larger by about a 10% increase.  It seems to me to be quite bright and easily seen in harsher light conditions and from various angles, more so than that on the K5.  This is a welcome improvement with me getting on in years and my eyes not being what they used to be.

The Dual SD card feature was one feature I thought was not a big deal to me when initially looking at the K3, but I will admit I was wrong and find it very useful.  I have used one for RAW images and sent JPG to the second slot with an Eye-Fi card installed so that the photos went immediately to my tablet to be viewed while I was still shooting,  a very nice feature to have.

In addition, at a recent St. Patrick's day parade, I was shooting away at the crowds, floats and marchers going by, and the first card was filled.  Luckily I had set it to send RAW to the SD cards with the fill one card and then move to the other option so I was able to keep shooting and not miss any shots while changing cards, something I would have had to do on the K-5.

The Microphone and headphone connectors are a feature I haven't used as yet, but plan to do over the summer months when enjoying music from some of our friends and local bands all around where I live.  From what I have read, a lot of the improvements on the K3 are related to video capture, such as it's ability to shoot 1080p video at 60fps and even capture time-lapse sequences, and I have seen good reports on it but cannot comment for myself at this stage.

I have always liked the Pentax menu system.  For me it is fairly simple and intuitive.  The K3 came with some changes to the menu system, but to be honest, I found them all logical, and it took no time at all to adjust to them.  Of course, I am sure if anyone was changing brands they would have challenges switching to different button layouts and menus, but it's been so long since I used a DSLR of any other brand that I cannot compare except to say that I am very happy with the layout and functionality of the camera.

Bottom line is I find the Pentax K-3 an excellent camera that suits me down to the ground, and I am very happy with the shots I can get from it.

JJ Richards

Click here to see the Pentax K-3 User Reviews and LOWEST PRICE on Amazon

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