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10-12-2013, 12:01 PM - 3 Likes   #1
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Had a go with a pre-production model today

Wowzers, this camera looks to be a corker - Thinking I'm going to have to rob a bank and put in a pre-order shortly! I've re-printed the post below as to not appear to be shamelessly plugging my own site, which isn't the intent!

I definitely felt the AF has improved, not only in speed, but in confidence - it felt much smoother and less fussy! Quality also seemed top notch - the AA filter removal and the 24mp sensor do appear to deliver a real tangible improvement in quality, and certainly I feel cropping is now even easier, and the additional size would allow for more aggressive cropping.

If anyone has any questions, let me know, I'm thinking I may have forgotten things!!

QuoteQuote:
I was fortunate enough today to be treated to a seminar on street photography by Damien Demolder, Editor of Amateur Photographer Magazine, by Ricoh-Pentax, and Park Cameras. As well as this, one of the UK Pentax reps was there with a demo model of the new Pentax K-3 APS-C DSLR, which I was able to play with, and try out a few of my lenses, as well as the new HD coated 40mm f2.8 Limited Lens. Below are a few of my observations and first impressions of this new camera, which was loaded with a pre-production firmware (hence I wasn’t allowed to take home any of the images I was able to capture!) – So any thoughts so far are provisional, and I’m sure that further bugs will be removed and enhancements will be added over the next two weeks!



Ergonomics, Controls & Design

Generally speaking, the camera is very similar to models which have come before it; which is to say well weighted, well contoured to the users hand, with the relevant buttons and controls in the right places. The camera felt notably solid, and inspired confidence that the odd knock or drop would unlikely do anything other than superficial damage. Due to a number of new features, the control mechanisms for a number of core functions have changed to a “hold button & rotate jog dial” mode, for instance AF-C/AF-S/AF-A (Tracking) modes are now selected in this manner, as is the exposure metering mode. This was intuitive and fast, and meant I could get to Tracking AF / AF-A mode significantly faster than with my existing Pentax K-30. Additionally, the mode dial now has a selectable locking mode, a welcome feature in my eyes.

Speed & Processing Capabilities

Although I didn’t complete a whole gamut of burst mode tests, in JPG mode certainly, this camera is fast, blazingly so. At no point did I feel like I was being left waiting at all, whether transitioning into review mode, between LiveView and traditional shooting modes, or taking a shot. Infact with high-speed drive mode selected, it was easier to take several shots than just one! Processing power seems very appropriate, being able to zoom in on the 24mp JPGs very quickly.

Autofocus & Quality

A hot topic amongst regular Pentax shooters, I was able to try the PDAF and CDAF Autofocus modes with the following lenses within the Park Cameras store:

DA* 60-250mm (Courtesy of Pentax)
DA* 50-135mm (My own lens)
Tamron 17-50mm (My own copy)
Pentax LTD 43mm F2.8 (Courtesy of Pentax)
Firstly, the new number of (27) AF Sensors is a welcome addition; they provide great frame coverage on APS-C, and felt to me to be well organised, and in the appropriate place. Focus point select was easy to manage through the cameras interface. Initial tests in multi-point PDAF mode lent a feeling of confidence when utilizing the 60-250mm. In order to compare and contrast against my experience with my existing cameras, I switched to single center point focus (the way I normally shoot), to allow me to judge the differential. Once in this mode, focus felt very fast, and perhaps more importantly, confident; quickly getting the lenses to the correct location. There was still some variability between the different lenses; the 50-135mm lens not being the fastest AF performer in the world, but still more confident and a touch faster than on my existing bodies. In particular, I was impressed by the speed and accuracy increase from the Tamron 17-50mm when mounted onto the K-3; this felt like using a whole new lens (the screwdrive motor is also many times quieter as well!). The 40 LTD was also very fast to focus, being such a light lens. I tested in both AF-S and AF-C modes and both seemed equally snappy and confident. Based on these experiences, I’d say the camera is definitely no longer the limiting factor in Pentax AF.

CDAF also seems to have had a performance boost. Multi-area mode seemed much more competent than before, picking up on the right areas of the frame more often, and getting there speedily. This went for both video and stills modes. The camera is also whisper quiet compared to the K-30. As previously mentioned, the in body motor was signficantly quieter, as is the shutter assembly. I couldn’t detect any sound of humm from the SR system with the SR based AA Filter engaged.

Picture clarity could only be reviewed on the (good quality) onboard screen, but even at high magnification looked to be very sharp indeed, no doubt due to the lack of AA filter. ISO noise seemed to be well controlled within the 400-800 range (I wasn’t able to test outside of this, but I have no reason to doubt it should continue). Certainly the increased resolution of the sensor over the previous 16mp seemed to be resolvable with good quality glass, and providing a real benefit. Metering seemed accurate, although I wasn’t shooting in particularly challenging conditions, so its hard to draw any firm conclusions.

Final Thoughts

From my short time with this new Pentax body, I’m very impressed by the improvements Pentax have brought to the table. Its a well built, good quality camera with excellent image quality! I look forward to seeing the final production versions and their associated reviews to confirm my initial thoughts (i.e. that this is going to be an excellent flagship camera, and well worth the investment on my part!), especially given my findings and impressions with the pre-production firmware.



Last edited by Parallax; 10-30-2013 at 10:15 AM.
10-12-2013, 12:07 PM   #2
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I assume you meant the HD40 lens, not the 43. Don't want to stir up a hornet's nest.
10-12-2013, 12:13 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by DogLover Quote
I assume you meant the HD40 lens, not the 43. Don't want to stir up a hornet's nest.
Yep just fixed that in the original, but obviously as thats a quote its not cascaded here. Don't want to get run out of town
10-12-2013, 12:22 PM   #4
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Thank you very much for sharing you experience with the camera!

You addressed some interesting points (focsus mode selection and AF performance and any buzzing/humming from the SR when in AA simulation modes), which I've been curious about myself. I'm happy to read you were pleased by it and I'm impatiently looking forward to the day when I can finally have one in my hands.

One thing though. How was the shutter noise?

10-12-2013, 12:22 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pheo Quote
Have posted a few thoughts up onto my blog, , but wowzers, this camera looks to be a corker - Thinking I'm going to have to rob a bank and put in a pre-order shortly! I've re-printed the post below as to not appear to be shamelessly plugging my own site, which isn't the intent!
Hi Pheo - thanks for taking the time to post this review. It is nice to have initial confirmation that the K3 looks like living up to the spec hype.
10-12-2013, 12:26 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Zafar Iqbal Quote
Thank you very much for sharing you experience with the camera!

You addressed some interesting points (focsus mode selection and AF performance and any buzzing/humming from the SR when in AA simulation modes), which I've been curious about myself. I'm happy to read you were pleased by it and I'm impatiently looking forward to the day when I can finally have one in my hands.

One thing though. How was the shutter noise?
Well, bearing in mind I'm a k-30 and k-01 user, very very quiet. I would feel much more comfortable with the k3 vs the k30 in quiet situations. I would say the k-01 (which only has a shutter, no mirror) and the k3 are in the same ball park. Also I couldn't get over how much quieter the screwdrive motor was! I'd always assumed it was my Tamron which was noisy, clearly not!

I wouldn't say it needs a quiet shutter mode either, not based on normal performance.
10-12-2013, 12:34 PM   #7
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I'm glad to read that. The screwdrive thing sounds very interesting as well. I have some primes I only use ones I know it's 100% OK during weddings (typically at the late hours), because of the noise they generate. My Tamron 90mm actually never gets used at all because it's so darn loud. I've never thought about screwdrive could be more silent and it would be a very appreciated bonus
10-12-2013, 12:41 PM   #8
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Thanks for posting your findings...looks like it's going to be a great upgrade.

10-12-2013, 01:04 PM   #9
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Thank you for posting this.
If the screw drive is quieter (compared with the K-5 series), that's good, very good... since those lovely Limiteds don't have a built-in motor. I don't remember if there's a significant difference between the K-5 and the K-30 (like for the mirror release).
10-12-2013, 01:12 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kunzite Quote
I don't remember if there's a significant difference between the K-5 and the K-30 (like for the mirror release).
Yes, there is - the K-30 is much louder.
10-12-2013, 01:16 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by jaad75 Quote
Yes, there is - the K-30 is much louder.
Yes, also, my K-01 is louder than either K-5 I've had.
10-12-2013, 02:41 PM   #12
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In-body AF motor is brushless--Ricoh listened!

QuoteOriginally posted by Pheo Quote
In particular, I was impressed by the speed and accuracy increase from the Tamron 17-50mm when mounted onto the K-3; this felt like using a whole new lens (the screwdrive motor is also many times quieter as well!)
No more noisy in-body AF motor!


From the K-5 II review (emphasis added):
QuoteQuote:
We think that the next step for Pentax is to add more focus points and implement a more powerful motor (perhaps one that is brushless) in order to make their cameras more versatile in everyday shooting conditions, and for shooting fast moving subjects.
...and Ricoh actually put a brushless motor into the K-3!

Ricoh listened, and they delivered!

--DragonLord

Last edited by bwDraco; 10-12-2013 at 02:53 PM.
10-12-2013, 02:57 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by DragonLord Quote
No more noisy in-body AF motor!


From the K-5 II review (emphasis added):
...and Ricoh actually put a brushless motor into the K-3!

Ricoh listened, and they delivered!

--DragonLord
That's my feeling. Also with my Tamron the K-30 would be quite violent racking the focus up and down. This feels, dare I say it, more Canon/Nikon like ie a bit gentler. Perhaps then more quickly and accurately landing on the desired point rather than going too far past.
10-12-2013, 03:33 PM   #14
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@Pheo, in 27-point or 9-point AF mode, with larger subjects, how many points can the camera activate simultaneously? In other words, what is the maximum number of points that can light up in the viewfinder at the same time? See also https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-k-3/239282-auto-focus-point-behavi...le-points.html.

--DragonLord

Last edited by bwDraco; 10-12-2013 at 03:39 PM.
10-12-2013, 05:42 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by DragonLord Quote
@Pheo, in 27-point or 9-point AF mode, with larger subjects, how many points can the camera activate simultaneously? In other words, what is the maximum number of points that can light up in the viewfinder at the same time? See also https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-k-3/239282-auto-focus-point-behavi...le-points.html.

--DragonLord
Good question. I wasn't in an ideal environment to test this, but on occasion more than 2. That's no proper test though just an observation. I suspect whomever pointed out that the AF sites might well be smaller is probably right, at least that's how it feels; smaller and more dense.

Also the good news is further tweaking could well happen over the next two weeks before the final master firmware is baked - even if at this stage is mainly bug-fix

Talking about multi point AF, I should probably mention the CDAF was lighting up multiple points in the same plane of focus across the whole scene in a very effective manner, more so than on my other bodies. Automatically went into face detect AF mode seemingly as well
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