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06-14-2014, 12:14 PM   #1
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Upgrade k3 vs k5 II? (low light considerations, features, expense)

Hello all,
I am an enthusiast photographer predominantly interested in field photography related to nature, wildlife, and travel. It is now time to upgrade my current DSLR which I have been using for the last 5+ years to something that is more field hardy (weather sealing etc).

I have been very curious about the k3 (~$1250 Canadian) which looks like an absolutely amazing camera, but have also been considering the K5 II (which I have found new for ~$599 Canadian). Because of my interest in wildlife the faster AF, lower light accuracy AF and improved tracking AF of the K3 appeals significantly to me. I spend a lot of my time working as a biologist in rainforests which are extremely poorly light environments so high ISO ability and resultant noise is also quite important to me (1600-2500 is often unavoidable) and I like to avoid using flash to photograph things like primates as it is highly disturbing to the animals (especially whilst conducting behavioural research).

I have heard that the 16mp sensor of the k5 II is superior in terms of noise production at higher ISO settings to that of the K3, but that it also begins to utilize NR at ISO 1600 which can't be adjusted or turned off like it can in the k3. Also what does it mean to downsize the k3 image from 24mp to 16mp to reduce noise, making it more comparable to the k5 II (I know this can be done if shooting JPEG in the camera menu, but if shooting raw doesn't this just compress the image in post processing anyway? how does this help?). My apologies for this long list of questions, I still have a lot to learn about photography and I have to make very careful decisions when deciding to potentially drop over $1000 on a new camera body.

To those who have actually used both cameras, are the noise levels of the k3 at ISO 1600-2500 in low light easily manageable in post using lightroom etc? I think the 24 mp sensor of the k3 could also be useful when cropping for bird shots etc.

Lastly I would like to ask if the jump from K5II (not the s version) to the K3's in terms of features and image quality is worth it for twice the price? I know that this last question is highly subjective, and dependent on how much one values a higher performance camera vs saving some money, but I would still be interested to have opinions. Thank you for your input.

Cheers,
Eric

06-14-2014, 12:40 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rice Quote
I have heard that the 16mp sensor of the k5 II is superior in terms of noise production at higher ISO settings to that of the K3, but that it also begins to utilize NR at ISO 1600 which can't be adjusted or turned off like it can in the k3. Also what does it mean to downsize the k3 image from 24mp to 16mp to reduce noise, making it more comparable to the k5 II (I know this can be done if shooting JPEG in the camera menu, but if shooting raw doesn't this just compress the image in post processing anyway? how does this help?). My apologies for this long list of questions, I still have a lot to learn about photography and I have to make very careful decisions when deciding to potentially drop over $1000 on a new camera body.
All this means is that the net result with the K-3 at very high ISO will be about the same as what you get from the K-5 once you scale the K-3's files in post. At low ISOs, the K-3 has a considerable advantage thanks to the resolution.

If you really need the best possible low-light performance, full-frame is the way to go. But if you're sticking with APS-C/Pentax, then there's almost no reason not to get a K-3 over the K-5, as it's a more responsive and more capable camera.

Check out these pages in our K-3 review for some K-3 vs K-5 comparisons:
Pentax K-3 Review - Detail and Noise - Pentax Camera Forums
Pentax K-3 Review - Low-Light High-ISO - Pentax Camera Forums

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06-14-2014, 12:46 PM   #3
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I had the K-30 which had the same sensor as the K-5ii, and got a K-3. It's PDAF autofocus (if you don't count CDAF, which was about the same as the K5ii) was from the K-5 (K-5ii was supposedly an improvement but nothing groundbreaking). Autofocus is significantly faster/more accurate on the K-3 and I would say so is the low-light noise, in terms of preserving details. Straight off the camera, it might look worse at 100%, but you can do a lot more in post if you shoot RAW. I would top out the K-30 at ISO 3200, but feel fine about using up to 6400 for low light shots on the K-3 (YMMV). Realistically, all you need for screen and prints is about 6 megapixels, so when you downsize to that sort of resolution it'll look like a lot better noise control overall. K-3 overall is a great camera, and also includes the AA filter option which in theory also gives you sharper shots (albeit at the risk of moire, which I've never had any issue with). Overall I'm very happy with my upgrade and think you might as well get the latest and greatest if you're planning to keep this body for 5 years like you did with your previous body.
06-14-2014, 01:02 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rice Quote
I like to avoid using flash to photograph things like primates as it is highly disturbing to the animals (especially whilst conducting behavioural research).
According to wildlife photographer Moose Peterson, flash does not bother animals. The duration is far too short to be perceived as threat. What disturbs them is the sound of the shutter which is coincident with the flash - thus, the popular conclusion.

The K-3's shutter is relatively quiet and the mirror is well damped in addition to the other advantages listed.


Last edited by OregonJim; 06-14-2014 at 01:27 PM.
06-14-2014, 01:44 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
If you really need the best possible low-light performance, full-frame is the way to go
That statement is a little too general.

There are a few cameras with better low light performance than the K-3. They are full-frame - but the performance comes from the design improvements made to those particular sensors. Not all full-frame sensors are better. Those improvements will trickle down to the smaller sensors in the next generation - the push for R&D right now is in full-frame because of the competition between C&N.

So, if you need the absolute best low light performance right now, then yes - pick one of the particular full-frame cameras that gives it to you.

Last edited by OregonJim; 06-14-2014 at 01:54 PM.
06-14-2014, 03:40 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by OregonJim Quote
That statement is a little too general.

There are a few cameras with better low light performance than the K-3. They are full-frame - but the performance comes from the design improvements made to those particular sensors. Not all full-frame sensors are better. Those improvements will trickle down to the smaller sensors in the next generation - the push for R&D right now is in full-frame because of the competition between C&N.

So, if you need the absolute best low light performance right now, then yes - pick one of the particular full-frame cameras that gives it to you.
Well said and accurate.
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