Pentax K-3 II Review
The Pentax K-3 II has proved to be a highly-capable camera. Like its predecessor (the K-3), it delivers an impressive level of image quality and performance. Furthermore, its class-leading ergonomics, weather sealing, and accessible user interface make it a joy to use in the field. The first-generation pixel shift resolution system has shown to be quite effective, especially in RAW. Thus, when it comes to still image quality, the K-3 II is without question top-of-the line, even alongside the latest competitors.
New features in the K-3 II include the pixel shift super resolution system and built-in GPS. Beyond this, minor enhancements have been made to the continuous autofocus and stabilization. Most of these improvements mainly impact specific situational uses, which in our opinion makes the practical difference between the K-3 II and K-3 very small. While the K-3 II is an excellent choice for astrophotography and any applications that can leverage the pixel shifting system, we have not found it to outperform the K-3 for everyday shooting. In addition, the lack of an on-board flash makes the K-3 II less versatile than other Pentax bodies for family photos and quick-and-dirty lighting needs. In addition, wireless flash is not supported by the K-3 II unless a compatible flashgun (or dedicated trigger) is used.
Who is it For
Due to its large feature set, this camera is best-suited for experienced photographers and enthusiasts. It is will appeal to users who value still image quality over video and technological gimmicks.
The K-3 II certainly has its own niche, since as of the writing of this review it is the only APS-C DSLR with built-in GPS. If you do not need an on-board flash and plan to make extensive use of the GPS, or if you frequently photograph products, documents, or architecture, you will benefit from the K-3 II's new features. Otherwise, consider the original Pentax K-3, especially if you can purchase it at a lower price and/or with free extras. We are happy to see that both bodies continue to be available.
- Impressive detail at low ISOs
- Effective anti-moire tools
- Innovative pixel shift super resolution for still scenes
- Very comfortable grip
- Rugged, weather-sealed body
- User-friendly menu system
- Built-in GPS
- Fast 8.3 FPS bursts
- Shutter rated for 200,000 cycles
- Fast everyday performance
- Class-leading viewfinder
- Large 3.2" screen with 3:2 aspect
- Good live view autofocus
- In-body shake reduction works with any lens
- Exceptional lens backwards-compatibility
- Astrotracer requires frequent & precise calibration
- Out-of-camera JPEGs struggle to keep up with RAW image quality
- AF tracking algorithms lag behind competitors
- No on board flash or built-in wireless triggering
- No wired tethering support, wi-fi performance via FluCard is lackluster
- Electronic video stabilization and lossy compression
- Limited third-party autofocus lens availability
- Few changes compared to original K-3
Note that many of these points reference findings that we elaborated on in the Pentax K-3 review.
- demanding photographers seeking excellent still image quality
- users looking for a compact yet versatile high-end DSLR
- outdoor shooters
- product photography
Not so good for:
- sports shooters
- family photos (no built-in flash)
The Bottom Line
Like the K-3, the K-3 II is a winner in areas that matter to photographers primarily interested in good handling and still image quality. We find its anti-moire tools, viewfinder, and ergonomics to be class-leading among enthusiast DSLR cameras, and we feel that users interested in the K-3 II's unique features such as the GPS or pixel shifting will be very happy with their purchase. With that said, we certainly expected to see more updates in Pentax's latest "mark II" flagship DSLR, as it does not directly address the original K-3's weaknesses and shares virtually all of its hardware. We would have liked to see improvements to the K-3 II's video mode, which turned out to be identical to that of the K-3. The K-3 II is a solid choice for advanced users, but at the same time, it lacks some of the auxiliary features rolled out in this year's mid-range offering, the Pentax K-S2, such as built-in Wi-Fi and an articulating LCD screen.
As of late October, 2015, the Pentax K-3 II retails for as little as $849 at US authorized dealers and £669 at UK authorized dealers. This reflects a significant discount over the original launch price of $1099 / £769 and makes the K-3 II a good value. The original K-3 continues to be available at $649 / £569.
Note that prices are always subject to change. Click on the links above for current pricing and availability information.
Have Your Say
Tell us how to plan to use the K-3 II, or simply ask a question in the comments below!
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