Pentax K-3 Review

Image Shooting Modes

The Pentax K-3 has the same exposure modes as its predecessors except that the implementation of user configurable modes has been improved and made easier to use.

Exposure Modes

modedialThe movie mode has been removed from the mode dial which freed up enough space for three user mode settings. It is very convenient that the user mode settings can be accessed directly rather than through a menu.

The mode dial has the following settings:

  • Green: Auto picture mode. The camera analyzes the scene and selects what it determines to be the optimal exposure. A number of advanced settings are disabled in green mode so that a novice user can safely use this mode without getting in trouble with the more complex settings and concepts. Among other things, white balance and image finishing settings are disabled, and only a limited set of drive and flash modes are available 
  • P: Program mode. The camera sets shutter speed and aperture (and ISO if auto-ISO is engaged). Turning the front e-dial will set the shutter speed to a user selected value and keep that value for subsequent shots while the camera then adjusts aperture automatically; turning the rear e-dial will set the aperture and keep that value for subsequent shots and the camera will now adjust the shutter speed to match. The green button reverts both parameters to the program line and the K-3 to normal P operation. This behavior is called Hyper Program. It is possible to forgo Hyper Program and customize the e-dials to shift the program line, set the ISO and/or adjust exposure compensation
  • Sv ("Sensitivity value" mode): This is an exclusive Pentax exposure mode. The user sets the ISO with the rear e-dial and the K-3 will set shutter speed and aperture to match
  • Tv ("Time value"): Shutter speed priority, the user sets the shutter speed with the front e-dial. The camera sets a matching aperture (and ISO if auto-ISO is engaged)
  • Av ("Aperture value"): Aperture priority mode, the user sets the aperture with the rear e-dial, the camera sets a shutter speed to match (and ISO if auto-ISO is engaged). This is the mode we use the most
  • TAv ("Time and Aperture value"): This is another Pentax special. The user sets the shutter speed with the front e-dial and the aperture with the rear e-dial, and the camera adjusts the ISO to match
  • M: Metered manual exposure mode. The user sets shutter speed and aperture, the camera meter is active and indicates how much the exposure is off the metered value.  ISO cannot be set to auto in this mode
  • B ("Bulb"): Aperture is set with the rear e-dial. The shutter stays open for as long the shutter button is held down. A custom function can change this behavior so that the first press of the shutter release opens the shutter and the next press closes the shutter
  • X ("X-sync"): Handy when using third party flash guns or when a flash is connected to the X-sync terminal rather than the hot shoe: The shutter is set to the flash sync speed of 1/180 second and the aperture can be adjusted with the rear e-dial
  • U1 through U3: Calls up the user's preferred settings. The following settings can be stored in these user memory banks:
    • Exposure mode (except for Green mode and Movie mode)
    • Sensitivity (ISO)
    • EV compensation
    • Metering pattern 
    • AF mode (AF.S, AF.C, AF.A) and AF points (spot, auto-27, auto-9, select 1 through 4)
    • Flash mode
    • Drive mode
    • White balance
    • Custom image
    • Almost all settings on the four pages of recording parameters in the menu system. This includes the customization of the buttons and dials
    • All custom function settings

K-3 Program LinesK-3 Program Lines

The K-3's program line can be configured through the menu so that it matches your intended shooting style.  The following options are available:

  • Auto
  • Normal
  • High-Speed
  • Landscape
  • Shallow DOF
  • MTF (with FA lenses or newer)

As default behavior the K-3 will briefly display a help screen ("Guide Display") when the exposure mode is changed. The help screen will show how the e-dials, the green, the RAW/Fx and the AF buttons are configured. This is a nice help for novice users, but should this become annoying (for example at night where you may not want the rear monitor to light up) the Guide Display can be disabled.

Example: Guide Display for P mode
Comments on Manual Exposure Mode

Setting of the shutter speed and aperture is assisted by an easy to read exposure bar  calibrated in on-third or half stops (customizable). The exposure meter bar is displayed on the top LCD, in the viewfinder or in the case of live view - on the rear monitor (can be turned off in the interest of de-cluttering the screen).

The exposure meter readout

This screen shot also shows the two-axis electronic level to the right and at the top right.

Manual exposure mode is also the mode to use with legacy K-mount lenses with an aperture ring and no "A" setting, whereas Av mode is the more convenient mode with screw-mount lenses (or other lenses that cannot be stopped down by the camera).

E-dial Customization

In virtually every shooting mode (except for green mode), you can customize the behavior of the camera's e-dials so that they always fit your particular shooting style.  The screenshots below show the default configurations.  You can select exposure compensation in addition to the various settings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO)  shown below.

K-3 E-dial Customizations

Custom Image

When shooting in the JPEG file format the processing of the image after exposure can be controlled by what Pentax call Custom Image. Hitting the right button on the four way controller brings up the screen where one cane select how the future images should be processed.

Select the custom image finishing from this screen INFO then brings up this screen for fine tuning
saturation, hue, high/low key, contrast and sharpness

Refer the section on General Image Quality for sample photos using various custom image settings. PentaxForums @PentaxForums News | Reviews | Forum

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