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06-29-2022, 09:40 AM   #1
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Budget camera body upgrade: K-5/K-3/K-70?

Hi! I'm a noobie photographer on a tight budget. Mostly interested in 2:1 macros and the odd wildlife photo. I've been using a reverse-mounted SMC Asahi Pentax 50mm f1.7 on some extension tubes for macros and a Vivitar Series 1 70-210 f2.8 for "oh hey, there's an owl over there" photos. Problem is my camera body is ancient (Canon Rebel XSi/450D 12.2mb). It's been fine for macros, but not so much for anything outside of full bright sunlight. Woods are dark! If I go above ISO 400 my photos look like newspaper print, but taking pictures with a heavy old lens at 1/60 shutter speed with the aperture wide open has been...frustrating. Both my lenses happen to be k-mounts, and the more I learn about pentax the more I want to make the jump over to a pentax body. At the same time, $200 is a lot of money to me, so I'm trying to make the best purchase I can.

I've been reading lots of threads about different older pentax bodies and looking at the second hand market for them and would love some thoughts and any tips on things to look out for when purchasing them. It looks like I could pick up a K-5 for around $200-250, a K-5II/IIS or a K-3 for $350-400, or a K-S2-K-70 for $500-600. I think any would be a huge upgrade, but here are some questions:

1. What purchase do you think is the best value for the money?

2. Is a K-70 twice as good as a K-5, or is the difference pretty incrimental?

3. I've seen some discussion that K-5/II/IIs's perform better than K-3's in low light. Is this a huge difference? Otherwise K-3's are looking pretty good.

4. Are there any model-specific quirks I should be aware of? I've seen something about solenoids going bad in K-5s, and that there was an issue with firmware that was addressed with later models. It seems like K-3's are built like tanks, but some of the other models have issues at high shutter counts. Is there a shutter count limit that would turn you away from a used body for any of these models?

Thanks very much! Appreciate any feedback or advice.

06-29-2022, 10:38 AM   #2
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The K70 and KS2 are the ones that have the potential solenoid issue. Consensus seems to be that it's not as much of an issue with the K70 as it was with earlier models, but some people still do have problems.


Another thing to note, if you watch on Amazon Warehouse, you may be able to find a K70 for less than $500-600. I got one (body only) for under $350 a few months ago, and there's currently one there for $409.23.

That said, my vote would probably be for the K3 or K5. They are a little older and less advanced in the sensor and AF tech, but the "built like tank" factor is definitely something I value.
Also I'm sure any of the above will be great cameras for you, they are all capable of taking great photos.
06-29-2022, 10:58 AM - 1 Like   #3
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Price difference on the K-70 is because it is the newest model of those you listed. KS-2 is probably because of the "rarity" factor.

The K-70 should probably give you the best low-light performance of all your choices, again being the newest of the lot. Since it sounds like you are shooting manual mode for macro as long as the lenses have aperture setting rings you could continue to shoot manual mode if the solenoid should go bad.
06-29-2022, 11:25 AM - 1 Like   #4
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I have a K-50 that suffers from the solenoid problem. FWIW, I recently purchased a used K-5IIs to replace it. My rationale for not going any higher was price (of course) and because I really didn't need/want more than 16 MP at this point. If you're looking to avoid the solenoid thing, stay away from K-30, K-50 in addition to the models others mentioned. The K-3's and K-5's don't have that problem.

The K-5's seem to suffer from difficulty with properly exposing bounce flash with through the lens metering, though I haven't tried this myself. They are also reported to be slow (a few seconds) making jpegs when all the automatic corrections are turned on. In my experience the K-50 isn't really any faster, so I don't feel like I'm losing anything/don't know what I'm missing.

As far as ISO goes, with my K-50 I could tolerate up to ISO 3200 when shooting raw and I expect the K-5II would be similar (I'm still learning it). You should be able to use the sample image finder on this website to see the output of various models at various ISO's to see what they can do. Other sites like https://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/ could help too.

I'm happy with my K-50 to K-5II upgrade and would do it again.


Last edited by Sir Nameless; 06-29-2022 at 11:34 AM.
06-29-2022, 11:39 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by ksparks519 Quote
Hi! I'm a noobie photographer on a tight budget. . . . Thanks very much! Appreciate any feedback or advice.
the forums has a nice side by side comparison tool:



Pentax K-7 vs. Pentax K-5 vs. Pentax K-S2 vs. Pentax K-70 - Pentax Camera Comparison - PentaxForums.com

the OP might also want to consider the K 5 II and K 5 IIs instead of the K 5:

Pentax K-5 IIs vs. Pentax K-5 II vs. Pentax K-5 - Pentax Camera Comparison - PentaxForums.com

I have had good experiences in purchasing " experienced " equipment " from members through the forums' marketplace. it can be sorted by country

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/24-photographic-equipment-sale/?security...d+States&all=1
06-29-2022, 12:38 PM - 1 Like   #6
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You don't mention the KP, (if you could find one), which might be in the $500-600 range, but perhaps more cost as it has become rare. Imaging and low light/higher ISO low noise performance are both superb. No solenoid, no problem. Pro-grade construction in a more svelte body of retro design. Many good features. It has a pull-out rear screen for shooting from lower or higher positions. People are hanging on to theirs while others are looking for it. Of the other models you mention, the K-3 for advanced features and more mp's, but the K-5 IIs is excellent. It was the last of the K-5 series, and the best one. The K-3 came next, and it can take the newer PLM lenses, but there are only a few types of these.

My KP has been my most used camera for the last 5 years now, but my old K-5 IIs is still wonderful and in perfect condition. Fine imaging and a great set of controls, being very well designed. I still love using it. The "s" means it does not have an AA filter, which can mean better fine detail in images. But when subject matter contains repeated patterns there can be an issue with moire, which the AA filter would blur to make less noticeable. Models coming after, such as the K-3, are also without the common AA filter, but they have an exclusive to Pentax, alternate switchable system to handle any moire problem.

Last edited by mikesbike; 06-29-2022 at 12:49 PM.
06-29-2022, 12:55 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the quick and helpful replies! About an hour after I posted my question I found a local FB marketplace post for a k30 with a couple lenses for $200. It seems like it's got an equivalent sensor to the K-5, it's a little smaller, and the price is right, so I'm going with serendipity and picking it up tomorrow.

06-29-2022, 12:59 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by ksparks519 Quote
It's been fine for macros, but not so much for anything outside of full bright sunlight.
1. What purchase do you think is the best value for the money?

2. Is a K-70 twice as good as a K-5, or is the difference pretty incrimental?

3. I've seen some discussion that K-5/II/IIs's perform better than K-3's in low light. Is this a huge difference? Otherwise K-3's are looking pretty good.

4. Are there any model-specific quirks I should be aware of? Is there a shutter count limit that would turn you away from a used body for any of these models?
The K3 and K70 are the better of the three, so here's a good comparison if we eliminate the K5:
Pentax K-70 vs Pentax K-3 Detailed Comparison

The best value for the money is going to be the best used camera to do what you need that will last the longest.
Best low light? K70
K70 is newer by a couple years and as it's not the pro level like the K3 was which means the shutter count will probably be lower in a used K70.
Although the K3 is built for more actuations, it is more likely to have been used much more. I would avoid a K70 with more than 35k actuations and a K3 with more than 70k actuations.

Our school owns and uses a K70 and many of my students have owned K70s. None have had problems. In fact the K50 known for solenoid problems has (knock on wood) not been a problem with my son's K50 which he's owned since new.

Look at the link comparison. Although the K3 is an excellent camera, I think the newer K70 will serve you better on a budget.
06-29-2022, 01:09 PM   #9
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I shoot a KP and an original k-3 still. I love the feel of the k-3. Itís a very capable camera. The k-5 series is nice as well. The 16mp k-5 has slightly better low light capabilities. The 24mp k-3 has more detail in good lighting. Both lack pixel shift and the accelerator chip that the k-70 offers. The k-s2 isnít on my radar. Good camera but no advantages over the k-5 that stand out in my mind.
06-29-2022, 01:17 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by ksparks519 Quote
Thanks for all the quick and helpful replies! About an hour after I posted my question I found a local FB marketplace post for a k30 with a couple lenses for $200. It seems like it's got an equivalent sensor to the K-5, it's a little smaller, and the price is right, so I'm going with serendipity and picking it up tomorrow.
Sounds good for $200. Hopefully it doesn't have or develop solenoid issues.
06-29-2022, 01:36 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ksparks519 Quote
Thanks for all the quick and helpful replies! About an hour after I posted my question I found a local FB marketplace post for a k30 with a couple lenses for $200
QuoteOriginally posted by The Squirrel Mafia Quote
Sounds good for $200. Hopefully it doesn't have or develop solenoid issues.
To try to avoid or delay solenoid issues, put a modern lens on it (like a DA or FA or F) and use it often. That will exercise the solenoid and help keep it from getting sticky. You can find lots of threads on this forum about that. Best of luck with your purchase, welcome to Pentax, and happy shooting!
06-29-2022, 02:03 PM - 4 Likes   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by ksparks519 Quote
Thanks for all the quick and helpful replies! About an hour after I posted my question I found a local FB marketplace post for a k30 with a couple lenses for $200. It seems like it's got an equivalent sensor to the K-5, it's a little smaller, and the price is right, so I'm going with serendipity and picking it up tomorrow.
Similar sensor yes, but not the same, and good- but totally inferior body to the K-5 series. It also has one of the worst records for developing the dreaded solenoid aperture failure. If you are inclined to go that route, in the photographers' marketplace of this forum on page 2 right now are a K-5 pictured in beautiful condition as trade or sell for $225 with very low use actuations , and then a K-3 (shown with a bunch of lenses offered separately) also with very low actuations for these very durable models, for $375. I would definitely recommend these durable models over any amateur-oriented model, especially those subject to a known failure. I always recommend going with the pro-level models when buying used.

I just looked again, on page 1 is shown a KP for sale (the optional battery grip already sold), asking price is $690 and a shutter actuation count so low it is basically like new, and so is the pictured condition! If you could swing that, talk about an upgrade! This baby would perform your socks off for excellence at higher ISO, image quality even right out of the camera, advanced features, and many years of use ahead. There could be many reasons for selling, but one could be to help finance their wanted latest high burst-rate shooting current flagship, the K-3 III.

Last edited by mikesbike; 06-29-2022 at 02:25 PM.
06-29-2022, 02:42 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by mikesbike Quote
Similar sensor yes, but not the same, and good- but totally inferior body to the K-5 series. It also has one of the worst records for developing the dreaded solenoid aperture failure. If you are inclined to go that route, in the photographers' marketplace of this forum on page 2 right now are a K-5 pictured in beautiful condition as trade or sell for $225 with very low use actuations , and then a K-3 (shown with a bunch of lenses offered separately) also with very low actuations for these very durable models, for $375. I would definitely recommend these durable models over any amateur-oriented model, especially those subject to a known failure. I always recommend going with the pro-level models when buying used.

I just looked again, on page 1 is shown a KP for sale (the optional battery grip already sold), asking price is $690 and a shutter actuation count so low it is basically like new, and so is the pictured condition! If you could swing that, talk about an upgrade! This baby would perform your socks off for excellence at higher ISO, image quality even right out of the camera, advanced features, and many years of use ahead. There could be many reasons for selling, but one could be to help finance their wanted latest high burst-rate shooting current flagship, the K-3 III.
This seems like great advice that I'm inclined to take, but the K-30 bundle comes with a Pentax-DA 50mm f1.8 and a Pentax-F 35-70mm f3.5-4.5 for that $200, no tax no shipping, and I'm a sucker for a deal. I guess I'll sleep on it.
06-29-2022, 03:34 PM - 1 Like   #14
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It is correct that others warn you about the solenoid issue. If you are fine with DIY, then you can actually get a great deal with

any K30 or K50, if it has developed what is called ABF:
Further information here:
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY: Development of the solenoid in Pentax cameras - PentaxForums.com
which shows you that a new (but more expensive) K70 will hardly have that problem.
Tutoriala how to repair:
Do-It-Yourself - PentaxForums.com

The K5 does indeed have a superior body to the K30 and no solenoid but it isn't as good in low light.
Also it isn't prepared for KAF4 and has no Focus-Peaking in LiveView, something very useful for macro which you use.

I'd say the K30, K50 are as good, have better AF, KAF4 and Focus-Peaking (Same goes for the K-S1, K-S2 and K70)

But the K5 is more sturdy, better built. The K5II and particular the K5IIs are fantastic in low-light, even better than the K3 imo (I have both).

But I never ever came across any K30 or K50 having the slightest problems with their body!


So on a tight budget and if able to apply DIY, yes, go for a K30 or K50 but with ABF and repair it yourself!
Then you have enough money for lenses.

Macro and 2:1:

As you have practive, the SMC Pentax 50/1,7 is a great lens, no matter if the manual M, the A-Version of the F50/1,7 or FA50/1,7.
If you purchase one day a real 1:1 50mm Macro, the Sigma 50/2,8 EX is possibly the cheapest to find.
With a Vivitar 2x Macro Focusing Teleconverter you get real 2:1 Macro with A-contact but no AF.
There are AF Macro Teleconverters by Kenco, but more expensive.

Shuttercount: Very much depends how the camera was used.

Of course a low shuttercount will allow you a better sleep.


A great lens to use with the K30/50/3 but not the K5-Series:
55-300 PLM! Fantastic lens.


The K30 needs this firmware:
Running K-50 firmware on K-30 - PentaxForums.com

The sensor of the K5-Series and K30/50 are the same, not just similar. But the K5IIs has no AA-filter.
The light sensitive f2,8 sensors came with the K5II, you find them in the K-S2 and K-70 as well.

But somehow this 15MP Sensor has some magic.

And yet, a higher resolution sensor will give you that extra headroom for Macro as well.
06-29-2022, 03:39 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by mikesbike Quote
K30/50K5: Similar sensor yes, but not the same
You got that wrong: 100% same sensor! K-01 as well (plus K500 but this one I would not recommend)

Different SAFOX for AF.

Pentax K-5 vs. Pentax K-30 vs. Pentax K-50 - Pentax Camera Comparison - PentaxForums.com
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