Pentax K-3 Review

Drive Modes

With the K-3 Pentax has consolidated all drive mode settings onto one page. On previous models you'd had to go into the menu system to access Multi Exposure and Interval Shooting, which could lead to a frustrating search in the menu system's many fields in order to find these little-used items.

While we prefer this new layout we must admit that the Drive Mode screen has become a bit cluttered with its total of nine drive modes and complex sub-menus in some cases. Because of this, we realize that it may not be to everyone's taste.

The screen comes up after you hit the Drive Mode button. If you want to get quickly from the left most setting to the setting at the right hand side you can press the left arrow key (marked WB) once. It "wraps around" and takes you to the right hand setting sparing you from a number of button pushes.

Below we review each one of the nine drive modes:

Single Frame Shooting: The camera takes one image each time the shutter button is pressed down only even if the button is kept down for a while.
Continuous Shooting: The camera takes images as long as the shutter is held down until the image buffer is full. Three speeds are available:

H: 8.3 fps (up to 60 JPG, 23 RAW)

M: 4.5 fps (up to 100 JPG, 32 RAW)

L: 3 fps (up to 200 JPG, 52 RAW)

Our test confirmed that you can indeed take 60 images at 8.3 fps before the shooting slows down. The top speed of 8.3 frames/second is impressive considering the amount of data that must be processed. The shutter/mirror mechanism is very quiet even compared to the already quiet K-5 series.

The top speed is also an improvement over the K-5 which topped at 7 fps.

Self-timer: There are two timer intervals available: 2 seconds and 12 seconds.

The 2 second option is combined with mirror-up shooting for use with the camera on a tripod. As soon as the shutter button is pressed, the mirror flips up. Two seconds later the shutter fires. Any mirror-induced vibration is thus eliminated. This is a very useful feature, more convenient than regular mirror-up shooting.

Remote Control: In this mode the shutter can be released with a wireless remote such as the Pentax Remote Control F. There are three options: Immediately release the shutter, 3 second delay, and continuous shooting as long as the button on the remote is held down.

The three second delay option flips the mirror up and three seconds later the shutter fires. A most useful feature when the camera is mounted on a tripod, for example for macro work, where vibrations from the mirror or from touching the camera is to be avoided. This mode is our favorite for macro work. 

Exposure Bracketing: Again there are three options: Regular exposure bracketing, bracketing combined with a self timer delay, and bracketing triggered with the remote control.

We recommend that One Push Bracketing be enabled (custom function no. 9) so that one push of the shutter button fires off all bracketing shots. There is also a custom function to set the order in which the exposure bracketing is done, and another option to set whether the bracketing is to be set in 1/3 EV or 1/2 EV steps.

Bracketing can be set to 2, 3, or 5 frames and the bracketing range set can span up to 10 stops.

Compared to the K-5 series an extra button push is required to open up the settings screen for bracketing range and number of shots. Having to go through this extra and superfluous step is slightly annoying.

This implementation of exposure bracketing introduces some restrictions as to which shooting modes can be combined. The implementation we had in the distant past with a dedicated direct access button like on the K20D and K10D was preferable.

Mirror Lock-up Shooting: The first push of the shutter button or the wireless remote flips up the mirror, and the next push sets off the shutter.

This mode provides an alternative for mirror lock-up shooting to the 2 second self-timer delay or 3 second remote control delay modes discussed above.

Multi-exposure: With this mode you can take a number of images which the camera will superimpose onto each other thus creating one final image.

The sub menu has four options: Single shot, continuous, self-timer and remote.

The overlay method ("Composite Mode") can be set to average, additive, or bright. In the latter option only bright areas (like starts) are superimposed.

 

Interval Shooting: The K-3 can be set to take up to 2000 images at a set interval. The interval can be set from 2 seconds to 24 hours. The start time for first shot can be set to immediately ("now") or a later time. HDR capture can be used in combination this drive mode.

Interval Composite: This mode is not available on the older Pentax DSLRs. It works like Interval Shooting above, except that the images will be superimposed onto each other like in Multi Exposure shooting.
 
Note that the interval you set in the interval shooting modes is the interval from each tripping of the shutter to the next, not the time from when a shot is completed and the next one begins. The interval should therefore be set so that it exceeds the shutter speed or else you will miss some shots.

Continuous Shooting

See the section on Performance further ahead in the review for a video illustrating the 8.3 fps speed of the K-3 and the quiet shutter mechansim.

Verdict on Drive Modes

All drive modes have been consolidated onto one screen which we find a good move although a bit of a learning curve is involved getting used to the added clutter on the drive mode screen. In some cases, though, an extra (compared to the K-5 series) button push is required to set the options of a given drive mode. This extra, unnecessary step is fortunately eliminated for exposure bracketing when this setting is assigned to the RAW/Fx button. In this case one can change the options right away (bracketing amount and number of frames) without having to push another button first.


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