Pentax K-5 II / IIs Review

Conclusion

To sum things up, the Pentax K-5 IIs is without a doubt one of the most cost-effective ways to get a high-resolution DSLR.  We find that the $100 premium that you have to pay to get the K-5 IIs over the K-5 II in the US may well be one Pentax's better bargains. Let us take a look the K-5 II's pricing and that of key competitors:

APS-C DSLR Name
Price
IQ Verdict
Pentax K-5 IIs $1299 Sharpest
Pentax K-5 II $1199 Same as K-5
Pentax K-5 $798-$849 ---
Nikon D7000 $999 Same as K-5
Canon 7D $1357 Not as good as K-5

Pentax K-5 IIs

Based on image quality alone, the natural choice would therefore be either the Pentax K-5 IIs if you would like the best sharpness, or the original K-5 or a Nikon D7000 if you're after a bargain.  The original K-5 continues to be in stock at major US retailers, and individual sellers may offer it for even less than $799- well below half of its original price!

K-5 IIs Resolution

The K-5 IIs offers increased resolution compared to the K-5 II at low ISO when used with sharp lenses and when there is no diffraction (i.e. at faster apertures).  It lets advanced photographers take advantage of the full resolution potential of its sensor, while introducing a small risk for moire aliasing patterns in repetitive man-made textures.  Pentax's claims that it can match the resolution of a 24-megapixel full-frame sensor (that does have an anti-aliasing filter) aren't necessarily false, though one still has to keep in mind that this won't always be the case, depending on shooting conditions.

Given that post-processing sharpening algorithms will have less data to work with when supplied a file from the K-5 II compared to one from the K-5 IIs's increased-resolution sensor, there will be situations in which the K-5 IIs will be able to capture the sharper image and produce a sharper final product.

Pentax K-5 II - The Bottom Line

We are very happy that Pentax decided to continue the Pentax K-5 by releasing a successor using the same great camera body.  However, the few upgrades (AF, LCD) in the K-5 II hardly justify its higher price at launch, as most users would not even notice their existence in practice.  Thus, while the original K-5 is still available in stores, it's the camera that we recommend for those of you who are still shooting with an older Pentax body, as well as for users of intro-level DSLRs from other brands that perhaps don't have the same great image quality.  The Pentax system does offer many advantages, after all:

  • Hundreds of compatible vintage lenses at great prices
  • In-body shake-reduction stabilizes all lenses
  • Small camera and lens size
  • Affordable weather-sealing
  • Innovative features such as Hyper Program

With that said, over time, the price of the K-5 II is bound to fall to the same level as that of the K-5, so the K-5 II can be seen more like a direct replacement than an upgrade, in a way.

The K-5 II is behind other modern cameras in areas such as overall performance, video mode, and live view due to its older PRIME II processor.  We wish that Pentax had decided to upgrade more in the K-5 II than just the AF module and LCD screen.

Pentax K-5 IIs - The Bottom Line

The K-5 IIs is an impressive camera, and it's the first APS-C DSLR without an optical low-pass filter.  While we can't refute that removing the AA filter is an easy way for manufacturers to increase the resolution of a camera, this move shows that Pentax is staying true to their motto of "being different".  In addition, the K-5 IIs is what added true appeal of the K-5 II launch announcement.  Without it, we fear that many would be questioning Pentax's decisions even more than they are today.

It's undeniable that the K-5 IIs is capable of taking sharper photos than the K-5 in the hands of the right users.  We will leave it up to you to decide how big of an impact this would have on your photography.

Thanks to its increased resolution, the K-5 IIs receives a 10/10 for image quality while the K-5 II and K-5 have been bumped down to a 9.  We find that at the end of the day, the K-5 IIs's capabilities are not to be overlooked.  NB: image quality ratings are within the scope of APS-C only.

Pros and Cons

Here we evaluate the Pentax K-5 II and IIs on their own, without looking back at the K-5.

+ Best-in-class image quality
+ Low noise
+ Weather-sealed body
+ In-body stabilization

+ Excellent handling
+ Superb low-light autofocus
+ Fast burst frame rate and 1/8000s max shutter
+ Intuitive interface with many dedicated buttons
+ Good value
- Overall performance is slow
- No manual video controls
- No focus peaking and sluggish live view
- Slow SD write speed compared to other brands
- 11-point AF comparatively poor for sports
- .AVI video files can be tedious to work with
- Somewhat small body w/o battery grip

An added pro of the K-5 IIs is increased resolution, with higher risk of moire being the associated con.

The K-5 II is ideal for: outdoor photographers, still shooters, low-light outdoor applications
The K-5 II is not so great for: action photography, video, and beginners

Who is the K-5 IIs for? Enthusiast photographers who understand the risks associated with a filterless sensor design

Rating

In early 2011, we gave the Pentax K-5 a rating of 8.3/10 (the original 2010 review did not offer a rating) when compared to the Canon 7D.  In light of recent product announcements, such as the Pentax K-30, Canon Rebel T4i, and Nikon D5100, however, even lower-end cameras have features that were previously reserved for cameras in the same class as the K-5.  All of our ratings have therefore been adjusted to reflect the changing times and relative prices of other cameras.  The K-5 is still the same great camera that it's always been, but the competition (and Pentax, with the K-30) have been moving forward since its debut.

Pentax K-5 IIs

Pentax K-5 II

Pentax K-5 (2012)

Ergonomics 
 9
Build Quality 
 9
Interface 
 7
Image Quality 
 10
Autofocus 
 8
HD Video 
 4
Value 
 9
Overall 
 8.0 (Very Good)

$1299

Ergonomics 
 9
Build Quality 
 9
Interface 
 7
Image Quality 
 9
Autofocus 
 8
HD Video 
 4
Value 
 8
Overall 
 7.7 (Good)

$1199

Ergonomics 
 9
Build Quality 
 9
Interface 
 7
Image Quality 
 9
Autofocus 
 7
HD Video 
 4
Value 
 10
Overall 
 7.9 (Good)

$749

The Future and Who Should Upgrade

Pentax has informed us that future plans include the introduction of a high-end APS-C DSLR as well as a full-frame DSLR.  At this point, it's not a question of whether or not these cameras will come, but rather when.  For those who do not want to wait a year or more for these advanced cameras and are currently using the K-5, it makes sense to upgrade to the the K-5 IIs.  Similarly, those using other Pentax cameras will greatly benefit from the upgrades in the K-5 compared to older bodies such as the K-x or K10D, but may prefer to go for the cheaper K-5 rather than the K-5 II.

Pentax, Canon, or Nikon?

Pentax cameras have a number of advantages over their Canon and Nikon counterparts, but they also have their disadvantages.  Pentax's biggest advantage is in-body shake reduction, which gives you endless possibilities with primes and older lenses.  Pentax cameras also generally have a more intuitive user interface and better ergonomics, meaning that they will be easier to use and the interface might save you some critical time when out in the field.

What Pentax lens is the autofocus and video performance offered by Canon and Nikon.  Canon and Nikon DSLRs of comparable age generally have faster chips and will read, write, and process files more quickly.  Competitors also have a wider lens selection, though Pentax does have some bargains that other companies do not.

The bottom line is that if you're a Canon shooter, you may well opt for the 7D, and if you're a Nikon shooter, you would naturally look at the D7000.  It all depends on your shooting style and your needs.  If sports isn't a priority and you enjoy using primes or can't afford to buy long stabilized lenses, give the Pentax K-5 II a shot!

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