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10-07-2013, 07:26 PM - 13 Likes   #1
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Pentax K-3 Hands-on and Sample Photos

As some of you already knew that I got a preproduction K-3 a few days ago. It's been a great pleasure to hold and play a new Pentax dSLR camera as always, and I'm so happy to see that Pentax has made another fantastic camera after the already excellent K5/K5II/s.

Look and Feel

My initial feeling is that the camera is SOLID! Yes, it feels even more solid than the K-5/II/s. From the product brochure, it's said that this new camera has an even more solid magnesium body with better weather & dust proof capability. The camera has much more durable shutter which can click 200K times before it dies. That's better than many pro level cameras.

The grip is slightly deeper with a bit different but more ergonomic contour, which makes the feeling even better when holding the camera in hand. That's really something considering that K5 already has the best feeling in hands (to me at least).

The back LCD is slightly bigger than the one on K-5, but the actual view area is quite a bit bigger especially when reviewing photos or doing live view. On K-5 there is a black out bar at the bottom which shows some status/info, because the LCD screen on K5 isn't 3:2 ratio I guess. But the K-3 utilizes the whole screen area due to its full 3:2 ratio screen. This made the screen look much bigger when in use.

The viewfinder is slightly bigger too, now at 0.95x magnification (vs 0.92x on K5). And Pentax used some new Pentaprism in this camera which improve the brightness by 15%. I compared the camera w/ a K5IIs side by side, the viewfinder feels indeed a bit brighter on the new camera.

As usual, I love to take photos of new cameras:

Operation and Performance

Since it's a preproduction unit with a firmware of v0.31, I won't be able to share too much of its performance at this stage. But even as it is right now, this has been the best and fastest Pentax camera I've ever used, and I've used pretty much everyone of them. It's almost like I'm using a Nikon camera.

This camera is FAST! Yes, everything seems to be faster: changing settings, focusing and taking photos, card access... it's just a turbo boosted K5IIs.

Now you can shoot at as fast as 8.3fps in continuous shooting! That's faster even than most Canon or Nikon cameras.

The camera has dual SD card slots, which can be configured to pretty much whatever you like:
- card 1 for RAW and the other for JPG
- card 1 for JPG and the other for video
- both cards record the same photo (yes,duplicated, it's like a backup)
- wireless connection via FLU CARD in one slot for wifi transfering photos or even tethering. That's something everyone should try

Pentax have been using 11 focusing points in pretty much all their dSLR cameras (other than a few entry level ones), it's so good to see that we have 27 focusing points. The focusing module has been updated to the latest SAFOX 11 too, with a very high sensitivity of AF minimum luminance -3EV, better or equal to the best camera out there.


As you can see, there are 3 points at the center covers F2.8 luminance flux. I wish the 3 points would be from left to right instead of up to down, so it'd be more useful when holding the camera in portrait direction. Well, I guess we can't ask for too much.

Pentax put USB3.0 in this new camera, which might come in handy. I myself never used USB port on any dSLR camera due to its slow file transfering speed. But now I'm gonna use this port to dump the pictures to my PC through USB3.0 connection that's for sure.

Image Quality

Even though it's only a preproduction set w/ v0.31 firmware, the image and video quality are already EXCELLENT. Best so far from all Pentax cameras.

The new camera has an AA filter-less 24M CMOS image sensor and newly developed image processing engine - "PRIMEIII”, assures the high quality image output up to ISO51200. The 86K RGB light-metering sensor is new to Pentax, I have yet to see how effective it is. But I'm sure we'd see improved color accuracy and white balance that's for sure.

We all know Pentax like to put something unique in their cameras. This round they put in something really unique, an AA simulator. I still can't figure out how this thing works. But from the description:

- a tiny “sub-pixel level” move of the image sensor unit during image exposure generates the same level of moiré-reduction effect as optical AA filters.
- Unlike fixed optical AA filters always creates the identical result, this innovative selector allows the user to adjust the level of the moiré-reduction effect from OFF, Type1 and Type2

Note: This is really a very unique feature which other cameras like Nikon D7100 won’t be able to achieve.

Here are some examples to illustrate the AA filter simulator feature:

Original scene:

Difference between no-AA simulator and Type 1/2 moiré-reduction effect:[/IMG]

Looks pretty effective. But when I tried myself, I failed to create any photo with any obvious moiré effect even with the AA simulator turned OFF.

The other unique but very effective feature Pentax put in this new camera is the Multi-pattern Auto White Balance. It is to measure WB for each area in a picture, and achieve natural color for the whole picture. Here are two examples- AWB vs Multi-pattern AWB:



I haven't done serious image quality comparison due to the beta version firmware and it's just a preproduction set. But from what I can see so far, the camera produces super clean photos up to ISO3200, and it's very useable even at ISO6400 or 12800. You don't need ISO extension to use ISO100 or ISO51200, which I'm sure many would love to try.

Video Quality

Video quality has improved a lot in this new camera. Actually Pentax made a lot effort in improving video recording capability in this new camera, with dedicated buttons added, and now it can record full HD MPEG4/H264 60i /30P videos. There is even a stereo headphone jack on the left shoulder which you can use for playback videos on the camera, or monitoring the recording w/ a headphone on, so you'd be ble to shoot videos like a pro

I was surprised to see the steoro headphone jack, couldn't resist to plug in my favorite IEMs (an AKG K3003i), here you have a best DAP combo:

Don't know if Pentax would make MP3 player feature available on this cool camera. It'd be fun to listen to some music though a dSLR camera

Overall Pentax has turned the camera into a very high quality pro level video recording device with the following features:
– Full HD recording ( MPEG4/H.264)
– set up 60i/30p frame rate with Full HD
– In addition to HDMI terminal and stereo-microphone terminal, stereo head phone terminal is equipped
– Choose from Auto/Manual for sound recording level
– Sound level indicator
– Easy access to movie recording mode
– Dedicated movie REC button
– 4K (3840×2160) interval movie
– Various effect functions
– Frame editing function

Compare with K5/II/IIs

As you can see from the camera photos, there are some changes in button layout. I have to look around the camera to find some of those settings/buttons. But it didn't take me long to figure out how to use the camera, and I think it won't take more than 5min to get used to the new layout if you are an experienced Pentax user. Most buttons are where they should be, you'd feel at home even you are a new to Pentax.

Sample Photos

I only used it for a weekend, took over 500 photos. Although the firmware is far from final, the photos I got from the camera look fantastic. They are very clean even at ISO3200 (think about it, this has a lot more pixels than the K5IIs on the same sized sensor) with very pleasing colors even in JPG. Auto white balance is very accurate, the multi-pattern AWB works very well. Focusing has been spot on w/ the three lenses I tested: DA70, DA35/2.8 macro and HD DA55-300WR (another new lens you should try!)

Here are some photos I took during my kids' Children's Day event, all taken by K-3 w/ DA70 in JPG:

I have some other sample photos which I haven't got chance to look at them yet. Will do so when time comes.

There are way too many new features in this new camera, I can't describe them all here. I guess the best way to find out is to get the camera yourself

Here at Pentaxforums and DPReview there are some very detailed info about this new camera, just in case you wanna know more about it before you jump in:
Pentax K-3 Announced - Pentax News -
Pentax K-3 First Impressions Review: Digital Photography Review

Last edited by frank; 10-07-2013 at 07:47 PM.
10-07-2013, 07:36 PM   #2

wow great review.

btw I'm really wonder that USB 3.0 can be use HDD or SSD by connect it to the camera.
10-07-2013, 07:44 PM   #3
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Ok, time to post some questions!

Is there full manual controls in recording mode?
How do you feel about noise vs the k-5IIs, both at the pixel level and then at the scaled level?
How quickly does the buffer clear when shooting at high FPS until it slows? What's the fastest card you can use on it?

10-07-2013, 07:47 PM   #4
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Great review. Thank you for sharing.

10-07-2013, 07:49 PM   #5
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Nice pics of happy kids.
10-07-2013, 07:51 PM   #6
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Thank you for the review! Cute kiddos!
10-07-2013, 07:51 PM   #7
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Thanks for posting this. Were you able to test the AF tracking? Any thoughts? I know the firmware is still pre-production, but I'm just hoping for significant improvement over the K-5. Thanks.

10-07-2013, 07:51 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by rlatjsrud Quote
wow great review.

btw I'm really wonder that USB 3.0 can be use HDD or SSD by connect it to the camera.
I think the USB3.0 is just for using a cable to connect to your computer, same as the previous USB2.0 interface. This would save people needing a dedicated memory card reader. Not for conneting to a HDD or SSD.
10-07-2013, 07:57 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Chaos_Realm Quote
I think the USB3.0 is just for using a cable to connect to your computer, same as the previous USB2.0 interface. This would save people needing a dedicated memory card reader. Not for conneting to a HDD or SSD.
If your computer does not have USB3.0 support, then it is back to USB2.0 speed...
10-07-2013, 07:59 PM   #10
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WOW, "4K (3840×2160) interval movie" that is something that will be fun to use ;-)
10-07-2013, 07:59 PM   #11
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you already have one!! you are lucky ^^ thank you for posting this! beautiful photos. nice to hear from someone who has tried the camera himself. ^^
10-07-2013, 07:59 PM   #12
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@frank, thanks for another great review of new Pentax camera... good reference points, I am undecided now whether I should get the K-5 IIs and wait for another year to get the K-3...
10-07-2013, 08:04 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by aleonx3 Quote
If your computer does not have USB3.0 support, then it is back to USB2.0 speed...
Certainly would!

If you don't have USB3.0 I suggest you grab a PCI-e USB3.0 card. I find maximum transfer speeds are limited to about 10-12mb/s on USB2.0.

A PCI-e card for USB 3.0 managed to pull in the zone of 35mb/s, and I have since purchased a native USB3.0 mother board, I am just yet to run a test program on it. It saved me a lot of time downloading my holiday photos... some 3500 odd.
10-07-2013, 08:06 PM   #14
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How about the Live view performance including focusing? Is there any improvement?
10-07-2013, 08:12 PM   #15
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V. helpful review! Looks like a splendid time was had by all at party. Many thanks, Frank!

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