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03-04-2015, 08:33 AM   #1
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K-3 vs K-S2 vs K-50

I can't decide between the K-3 and the new K-S2 to replace my beat-up (but otherwise wonderful) K-50. The K-S2 looks like a great upgrade with a few unique features while the K-3 is a lot more affordable now. Instead of researching myself into an infinite loop I felt the only way to settle this was to try both models, then return one. So there are now three DSLRs under my roof.*

I know, the K-3 vs the K-S2 seems like a no-brainer, but I have a few reasons:

Weight: The K-3 is 4 oz heavier than the K-S2, 5 oz more than the K-50. It’s not much, but I hike and backpack a lot and every little bit can add up.
ISO Noise: I’ve read that the K-3 is a little noisier. Maybe I’m still a little disappointed by the K-7 I had years ago, although I hear that K-3 has great image quality despite its increased noise. I want to experience this for myself.
Articulating Screen: The new screen on the K-S2 might prove useful in unusual angles, especially in macro.

Even-though I’ve only had them for a few hours and haven’t really had the chance to really test them, I already have some strong impressions of the cameras:

The K-3 is a very comfortable to hold, even though I can feel the extra weight. The grip is larger and has a nicer shape that agrees very well with my right hand. The K-S2 isn’t uncomfortable, but it feels much smaller in the hand, bordering on too small. The K-50’s grip is somewhere in-between, and I love the feel of it. FYI, I consider my hands medium sized and skinny.

I can definitely feel the extra weight of the K-3, but not sure what I think about it yet.

The K-3 has more room to comfortably spread out its controls, while the K-S2 feels too tight because there’s so much less room. On paper the size difference between the two doesn’t seem like much, but the K-S2 also has a hinge for it’s new articulating screen that takes up room on the left side, taking away the space from the right side controls.

Interesting trade-off, the space taken up by the screen's hinge also means I can use the viewfinder without pressing my nose against the screen of the K-S2. Finally! No more smudging! On the K-3 my nose smudges the screen as usual. Otherwise both cameras have really nice looking screens, probably thanks to their gapless designs and 3:2 ratio, looking much better than the K-50’s screen.

I’m not really a “selfie” person, but I think it’s genius that the wifi button performs double duty as a shutter button, and taking a picture of myself was comfortable for that reason. Now if only Ricoh will release the app already so I can test the wifi button’s intended purpose.

The K-S2 movie mode is on the on/off switch, so sometimes I’ve too enthusiastically switched to movie mode by accident when turning on the camera. Not much of an annoyance, but at least on the K-3 the DOF preview bounces the switch right back.

The improvements over the K-50 are similar between the two cameras. Their AF motors seem faster, and their AF sensors can decisively focus in very dim light; I going to permanently turn off the AF assist light from now on. Both cameras have larger buffers than the K-50, although the one on the K-3 is insanely large.

I do not plan on a comprehensive comparison between the two cameras, more of a “gut and feel” evaluation. I’m leaning towards the K-3 right now, but I’ll make the final decision after a week or so.

*I technically have a fourth DSLR, a *ist D that I recently bought for infrared photography, but that’s not a fair comparison


Last edited by AlexL; 03-04-2015 at 08:49 AM. Reason: Minor edit for clarification.
03-04-2015, 08:44 AM   #2
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Thanks for this; I'm considering the K-S2 and am mostly worried about the holding. This at least gives me an idea. Luckily I will be able to handle before I buy.
03-04-2015, 08:51 AM   #3
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I also hear that the S2 does not have a grip available????
03-04-2015, 11:32 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by AlexL Quote
ISO Noise: Iíve read that the K-3 is a little noisier. Maybe Iím still a little disappointed by the K-7 I had years ago, although I hear that K-3 has great image quality despite its increased noise. I want to experience this for myself.
That is a common misconception, because people make two errors when comparing:
1. You need to compare at the same resolution, e.g. 16mp for both, not 16mp vs. 24mp. IOW, not 100% crops.
2. Look at detail, not just noise. Sometimes the K-3 will show more detail and more noise. If you want less noise, just increase the noise reduction in the K-3 image.

Current Pentax APS-C sensors are virtually indistinguishable when it comes to noise. Look at the DXOMark SNR graph for proof (click on MEASUREMENTS > SNR 18%):
Sony A5000 versus Pentax K-3 versus Pentax K-50 - Side by side camera comparison - DxOMark

They haven't tested the K-S2 yet, but it uses the same 20mp sensor as the Sony a5000. You will notice hollow dots on the K-50 graph. That's because Pentax has added some non-optional noise reduction to the raw files for the K-50 (and K-5 family). That is where you would add NR to the K-3 file for a fair comparison.

Looking at noise, dynamic range and colour depth will not help, they're all much the same. For me, the biggest difference between a K-S2 and K-3 is the superior tracking performance of the K-3, because I like to shoot sports and birds in flight. Not only does the number of AF points help the K-3 track, but the center point, which I use for most of my photography, is smaller, allowing pinpoint accuracy. I also prefer more pixels because as a birder I'm constantly cropping hard. Many of my K-3 images are cropped to 4mp, so I'd notice the difference between 20 and 24mp. For someone else, the K-S2's articulated screen would carry more weight than those.


Last edited by audiobomber; 08-09-2015 at 08:20 PM.
03-04-2015, 02:54 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by csa Quote
I also hear that the S2 does not have a grip available????
I believe only flagship DSLRs get grips for Pentax... K-S2 is obviously not being marketed as 'flagship'. I'm guessing coming FF will feature one definitely.
03-04-2015, 03:27 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by csa Quote
I also hear that the S2 does not have a grip available????
The K-200D was the last low-end DSLR from Pentax that had a grip.
03-04-2015, 05:38 PM - 1 Like   #7
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The K200D is a sexy beast, specially with the battery grip. This camera was truly in a league of it's own; no other camera company has made a "low-end/cheap" fully weather-sealed DSLR that boasts of a slick (weather-sealed) battery grip and a top LCD info screen- a feature mostly reserved for Professional DSLRs only, Even after 7 years, I still go to this little gem for inspiration. In short the k200d is the closest I'll ever get to shooting good old film cameras in a DSLR body.
03-05-2015, 08:35 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by sterretje Quote
Thanks for this; I'm considering the K-S2 and am mostly worried about the holding. This at least gives me an idea. Luckily I will be able to handle before I buy.
Definitely give it a try! Hands are so, well, individual. In retrospect I think my post came off negative when I didn't intended it. It is on the small side but it is fine in my hands, just that when I compare it against the K-3 the flagship model feels better.

QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
That is a common misconception, because people make two errors when comparing:
1. You need to compare at the same resolution, e.g. 16mp for both, not 16mp vs. 24mp. IOW, not 100% crops.
2. Look at detail, not just noise. Sometimes the K-3 will show more detail and more noise. If you want less noise, just increase the noise reduction in the K-3 image...
I've read and seen a lot of examples, they do look very good, but noise is still higher, although detail is overcoming it. However, I wanted to see this for myself in my on shooting situations, not read some numbers. My experience with the K-7, an otherwise great camera, has made me a bit twitchy at the mention of more noise.

---------- Post added 03-05-15 at 07:40 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by boriscleto Quote
The K-200D was the last low-end DSLR from Pentax that had a grip.
I completely forgot that the K200D had a grip. I'm not a grip user so I've bounced back and forth between Pentax's high and "low" end bodies and never noticed.

03-05-2015, 03:30 PM   #9
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Thanks for this comparison between these 3 bodies. I'm extremely interested in your daily, "gut feeling" type impressions. Even before you make your final decision, could you please pop in from time to time to give your take on what your feeling about them in reference to each other?

Also, I know it's a lot to ask, but any kind of image samples would be phenomenal. Not so much for the k50 and k3, but k-s2 image samples are really hard to come by. I've seen some here and there, but for some reason it just doesn't seem to give me any impression, one way or another. Then to make things more complicated, I saw an image sample for the k-s1 with the new 18-55mm RE kit lens that wasn't so great but again, inconclusive whether it was really due to the lens, that body, or whatever other factors it could have been. Seeing the full capability of the k-s2 is either something I have not yet seen or did see but don't know it. If it's out there, any links would be appreciated.
03-06-2015, 06:06 AM   #10
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I have a question regarding feel of cameras...

I originally had a K200d and loved the grip*. I replaced it with a Kx and the performance (iso, fps) improvements were huge but I always missed the larger grip*/feel for my hand of the K200, the Kx was/is smaller.

Since then, I've tried a K50 and found the grip* to be similar to the Kx rather than the K200. What camera should I get if I want a grip* similar to the K200? Funds are low and if a K30 or KS1 has a big grip, then that would be preferable to a K3. Is the K3 similar grip wise to the old K200s?

Maybe a K5 would be a least expensive option with a similar to K200 grip?

*by grip, I mean the ergonomics of the grip that comes on the stock camera body; not an actual separate grip. The K200 feels substantially bigger than the Kx. The K50 also felt more like the Kx than the K200.
03-06-2015, 06:57 AM   #11
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I'll only mention that I use the top LCD on my K5 constantly. In the field on bright sunny days, it's so much easier to see that LCD for settings than looking through the viewfinder, particularly with sunglasses on. I can't see owning a camera without that display.

I'd put the K5II or IIs into that decision mix. The K3 has a lot of improvements, though, and I think the new sensor requires some new processing techniques, which should surprise no one.
03-06-2015, 12:15 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jk333 Quote
Maybe a K5 would be a least expensive option with a similar to K200 grip?
The K30 and K50 should be very similar in size ( they are essentially the same camera, with only some external cosmetic differences ).
I have the K30, and it feels very similar to the K200 to me ( I just checked ). The K30 is a bit more angular than the K50, so if anything, I think the K50 should be
an even closer approximation to the K200 in terms of handling.

I've never handled a Kx, so I don't know how that one compares.

I believe the K5 and K3 are similar in size. I've never handled either, but if they are similar to the K7 ( which I have ), I think they would be a bit more compact/dense than the K30/K50, mostly
because of the full metal construction.

You definitely don't want the KS1 - I believe it has the smallest grip of all.

In summary, I think your closest approximation in terms of handling would be the K30/K50. You'll find the viewfinder of the K30/50 much better than that of the K200D. That, and it gives you
2 control wheels instead of 1, much better low light performance, and MUCH faster write speed to your SD card. TAv mode is very nice as well.

You will have to give up a few things vs the K200D:
K30/50 don't have a top LCD display
K30/50 doesn't have the DOF preview position on the ON/OFF switch, but you can program the Fx button to be DOF preview
K30/50 does not have metering active during DOF preview
No dust alert feature on K30/50

If you really want any of the first 3 features, you'd need to get a flagship body like the K5, K5iis or K3. I'm not sure if dust alert is available on any of those bodies.
03-06-2015, 01:43 PM - 2 Likes   #13
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I was thinking the same thing, for me it will depend on how much less the K-S2 will cost in the stores. (I am trying very much to save up for the Pentax FF next year)

In the meantime, I think there are pro's and cons for basically three bodies.

K-S2
Pro's - Small body, articulated screen, built-in Wireless control
Con's - I don't know how the 20MP sensor performs yet, "only" the 11 point AF system, Plastic body, no grip option, no top plate LCD. slowest FPS

K-5IIs
Pro's - Build, Low light is the best (unless the 20MP sensor beats it), that 16MP sensor is a legend!
Con's - older 11 point AF system, cannot compensate the AA filter

K-3
Pro's - Resolution, similar size to K-5, build, 27 point AF, fastest FPS
Con's - Low light not as good as the K-5 (IMHO), battery life not as good, but at least it is the same battery as the K-5 which is a good thing, Different grip to K-5

All of course have no AA filter and are weather sealed.

So it comes down to this.
Light weight and flexibility - K-S2
Low Light performance - K-5IIs
Resolution and best AF for moving objects - K-3

Of course, If you can afford all three, get all three :-D (Mind you the combined cost would will be less than the launch price of the Pentax FF - Ouch!)
03-06-2015, 02:35 PM - 3 Likes   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by AlexL Quote
I can't decide between the K-3 and the new K-S2 to replace my beat-up (but otherwise wonderful) K-50. The K-S2 looks like a great upgrade with a few unique features while the K-3 is a lot more affordable now. Instead of researching myself into an infinite loop I felt the only way to settle this was to try both models, then return one. So there are now three DSLRs under my roof.*
I am always always surprised and bothered when I read this on these forums - it's a foreign concept to me.
You'd never be able to do this here in Australia (consumer law here does not allow returning of an item because you've changed your mind) and I actually would not expect it to be possible with such things as expensive DSLR cameras.
I'd hate to wonder if I was receiving a 'tried and returned' item when I made a purchase.
03-06-2015, 04:38 PM   #15
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I also dislike the idea of 'try and return'. Even at best it means that the item has been opened so is not in factory condition. At worst, it could have been returned because there is something wrong with it.

This is why I am delighted with my local store - they are cheaper than the Chinese Amazon, and for a popular item I am able to choose my item at random from the stack. 'I'll take the third one down, second from the left' and so on. Then they grab their lens pen, clean the lens if necessary, dust the new body, check both, mount the lens, give the gear to me to take a few shots, then haggle with me in fun regarding the extra bits and bobs I always buy.

What's not to like about that? Support your local store. Or even, support MY local store - anyone interested in Chinese prices and availability send me a pm, I enjoy vicariousLY spending other people's cash, it's like free LBA & GAS!
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