Pentax 645Z: First Full-Size Sample Photos

Full-size JPG and RAW landscape photo downloads

By PF Staff in Hands-On Tests on Jul 4, 2014

We received a Pentax 645Z for review today, courtesy of B&H Photo, who sent out the first shipment of the cameras yesterday.  Over the course of the coming weeks, we plan to take it around the country to capture some breathtaking landscape photos while evaluating the camera for our in-depth review.

In the mean time, here is a collection of sample photos from today's shoot with the 645Z.  Each sample is accompanied by a full-size RAW and developed JPG download.


Click to Enlarge | Full-size JPG | RAW Download

ISO 100


Click to Enlarge | Full-size JPG | RAW Download

ISO 100


Click to Enlarge | Full-size JPG | RAW Download

ISO 100


Click to Enlarge | Full-size JPG | RAW Download

ISO 400 (hand-held)


Click to Enlarge | Full-size JPG | RAW Download

ISO 100 (hand-held)


Click to Enlarge | Full-size JPG | RAW Download

ISO 100 (hand-held)


Click to Enlarge | Full-size JPG | RAW Download

ISO 100


Click to Enlarge | Full-size JPG | RAW Download

ISO 3200 (3s exposure)


Click to Enlarge | Full-size JPG | RAW Download

ISO 6400 (0.5s exposure)

Click to Enlarge | Full-size JPG

RAW Downloads: ISO 100 | ISO 200 | ISO 400 | ISO 800 | ISO 1600

Pentax-D FA 24-70mm First Impressions Review

The new full-frame-ready standard zoom

By PF Staff in Hands-On Tests on Nov 3, 2015

Today we are happy to present our first hands-on tests of the HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm F2.8 ED SDM WR, the new wide-aperture full-frame standard zoom lens which started shipping worldwide in late October. 

Thus far, the 24-70mm has impressed us not only in terms of its optical performance, but also when it came to handling in the field when mounted on the Pentax K-3!


D FA 24-70mm on a Pentax K-3

Read on for our evaluation of the 24-70mm is a number of key areas.

Pentax K-50 First Impressions

New weather-sealed DSLR from Pentax

By PF Staff in Hands-On Tests on Jun 22, 2013

The Pentax K-50, successor to the K-30, is the latest weather-sealed DSLR from Pentax (pictured above with the Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 Contemporary).  As an upper entry-level camera, the K-50 is ideal for photographers who wish to step up to a high-quality DSLR without having to spend too much money.  In the US, the K-50 body-only price is $699, while the 18-55mm WR kit is available for $779.  This is $150 cheaper than what the K-30 cost when it was announced, and it's also below what the competition is currently asking.

In this post, we would like to introduce you to the Pentax K-50 in the context of what else is currently out there.  Having already used the K-50 for several days, we will also offer you some hands-on impressions about the new camera's performance and features.

Compared to competing entry-level DSLRs from Canon and Nikon, the K-50 is the only one to feature weather sealing.  The 16-megapixel sensor found in the K-50 (inherited from the K-30) has received much praise for its image quality and low noise, and it continues to be among the best APS-C sensors on the market today.  However, Nikon has recently pushed ahead in the megapixel race by deploying a 24-megapixel sensor in their D5200, and it turns out that their new sensor is in fact better in terms of noise performance as well as dynamic range.  Both the K-50 and the D5200 continue to be capable of delivering nicer files than current offerings from Canon, though Canon makes up for this in other areas: their Rebel T4i and T5i cameras both feature modern touchscreen LCDs, among other handy features.  Overall, all three manufacturers produce excellent cameras, and most of the differences between them are subtle.  If you're looking for a new DSLR, we recommend that you read our Pentax K-30 vs Nikon D5100 vs Canon T4i comparative review so that you can see which manufacturer delivers features that best fit your shooting style and needs.

If you are already a Pentax user, we can recommend the K-50 as an upgrade over older DSLRs such as the K10D, K20D, K200D, K-7, K-x, or K-r.  The new camera delivers better image quality and faster overall performance compared to all the aforementioned predecessors.  If you currently own a K-5 or a K-30, the K-50 would work well as a second body, but it is not really an upgrade.

Read on for our first impressions of the K-50.

Hands-On with the Pentax DA 55-300mm PLM WR RE

Do all those acronyms add up to a better lens?

By deadwolfbones in Hands-On Tests on Sep 19, 2016

The K-70 and 55-300 PLM in profilePentax K-70 with the 55-300mm PLM set at 55mm

For years, the SMC and HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 have been faithful companions for Pentaxians who want big telephoto reach but don’t want to spend a bundle. The original’s most glaring flaw was a lack of weather sealing, which was fixed with a WR version that debuted alongside the Pentax K-3. The other big issue? Slow autofocus due to an antiquated screw-drive motor. Well, a few months ago, Ricoh Imaging unveiled the fix for that problem, too: the all-new HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE with silent AF.

K-1 Hands-on First Impressions

PF Staff testing the K-1 at the WPPI Expo in Las Vegas

By PF Staff in Hands-On Tests on Mar 15, 2016


Pentax K-1 with 15-30mm F2.8

Without a doubt, the Pentax K-1 has an impressive list of specifications and new features.  The press releases never tell the whole story, though.  Courtesy of Ricoh Imaging we had access to a pre-production version of the K-1 (firmware 0.48) at WPPI 2016.  We had a chance to test the camera over the course of a 24-hour period with the D FA 15-30mm F2.8, D FA 24-70mm F2.8, D FA 28-105mm F3.5-5.6, and D FA* 70-200 F2.8 lenses, among others.  This testing gave us valuable insight into what really makes the new Pentax full frame so unique.  Read on for our preliminary evaluation of the K-1.

Disclaimer: the K-1's specifications, features, and performance are all still subject to change; the production model may differ from how it is depicted in this post.  We are not allowed to publish full resolution images from this pre-production model, but we have upload several 2000px sample photos in a separate post for you to analyze.

If you want the conclusion up front: we believe Pentax has a winner with this camera!

Image Quality

We learned from Ricoh Imaging that the K-1 is fitted with the 36-megapixel Sony sensor originally launched in the Nikon D800 (the sensor has been adapted to Pentax engineers' specifications).  To this day, this sensor (most recently tested in the Nikon D810) receives the second-highest full-frame performance benchmark according to DxO labs.  This sets very high expectations for the K-1. 


K-1 Sample w/ D FA 28-105mm @ 37mm (Click to enlarge)

In the field, the K-1 we tested quickly met these expectations.  One of the key appeals of the full-frame format compared to APS-C is improved image quality, especially at higher sensitivity settings.  Consider the scene below.  Even near the limits of the ISO range, the result retains plenty of detail and vibrant colors:

ISO 51,200 Sample @ 15mm (Click to enlarge)

At full resolution, one can even make out the small text on the distant television:

Photos of the same scene shot at other ISO settings (3200 through 204,800) can be found here.

In our opinion, the 36-megapixel resolution delivers an excellent balance of noise performance and detail.  In terms of pixel pitch, this resolution is comparable to 16 megapixels on APS-C— the same used in the acclaimed K-5 series.

For hand-held shooting, the K-1 takes things to a higher level thanks to its updated Shake Reduction II (SR II) system.  In addition to the superb image clarity thanks to the sensor, SR II adds an additional stop of stabilization and works along 5 axes, up from 3.  This gives the user unprecedented flexibility for tripod-free low-light shooting, which arguably surpasses the capabilities of the Pentax 645Z.

Dynamic Range is another key consideration. In this quick-and-dirty test, the K-1 has showed promising shadow and highlight recovery potential, with no shadow or highlight clipping whatsoever.


Unedited JPEG

In-Camera Developed RAW

The K-1 adds a few new settings to its JPEG engine, including variable clarify enhancement (think of it as an in-camera auto levels adjustment) and skin tone correction.  These are features that we will cover in more detail in our in-depth review.

Super Resolution

The K-3 II introduced pixel shift resolution and this feature has been carried over to the K-1, with improvements. The interval between the four shots have been reduced and the stacking algorithm can eliminate artifacts from moving objects such as leaves swaying the wind.  The camera simply reverts to using the original frame for areas in which movement is detected. A tripod is still crucial when shooting in pixel shift mode, but shooting in windy conditions is now much more forgiving.

The video below demonstrates pixel shifting with motion correction enabled:

It is not possible to use pixel shift in connection with flash.

As is common nowadays there is no AA filter in front of the sensor. The K-1 has the inherited the sensor-shift AA filter simulator introduced with the K-3 as well as options to remove moire in-camera from JPGs.

A more detailed analysis of the K-1's image quality will follow in our first impressions review of the production model.

Performance

While out shooting, no aspect of the K-1 ever slowed us down.  The camera was quick to start up, save files, and read photos from the card.  We did not have a chance to test the K-1's burst mode in the field, though the image buffer is much larger than that found in previous Pentax DSLRs: up to 70 JPEG frames at 4.4 FPS in full-frame mode, or 50 RAW frames at 6.5 FPS in APS-C mode.

Buttons and Dials

A number of fundamental design changes have been made to the K-1's user interface.

The Third Command Wheel

One immediately notices the third command wheel on the top of the camera and the related "Smart Dial" which determines the function that can be controlled by the third wheel. The functions that can be controlled are:

  • Exposure compensation
  • ISO
  • Burst speed (low, medium, high)
  • Bracketing
  • HDR (off, Auto, 1, 2, 3, Adv)
  • Viewfinder grid (off, on)
  • Shake reduction on/off
  • Crop (auto, on, off)
  • Wi-Fi (off, on)

These functions can also be set using the traditional control panel which is brought up by pressing the INFO button, entering the menu system, or, in the case of ISO and exposure compensation, by pressing the appropriate button and turning the rear command wheel.

We see this new feature as a convenient shortcut to access and change your most frequently used functions, but the major benefit in our opinion is in controlling ISO, in particular for manual exposure mode shooters.  Thanks to the third command wheel, you can now set shutter speed, aperture, and ISO with each a dedicated wheel.

The bracketing setting only controls the EV value between the brackets. It cannot control the number of shots in each set. For that you must use the drive mode menu as usual. We had hoped that both parameters could be set, in other words it would be nice to get back the convenience of a dedicated bracketing button like on the K10D.

The rear monitor is where you can see the value being set for all of the features:

Status screen showing the crop mode set with the smart dial

For most of the functions the viewfinder will also show the setting being made (exposure comp, ISO, bracketing, grid, shake reduction, and crop). The top LCD can only show the ISO and EV compensation.

It should be noted that if you have set the rear monitor to always off in shooting mode then it will stay off even when the third command wheel is used. We think it would have been preferable if the user could select whether or not the rear monitor should come on when the third wheel is moved, but that's a minor gripe.

One side-effect of the addition of the third command wheel is that the size of the top LCD has been reduced.  The top LCD is somewhat harder to read, and it can no longer indicate the active parameter in Hyper Program mode.

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