Pentax K-3 Review

Recommended Settings

For those new to Pentax cameras and menus, we'd like to offer some recommendations as to how to get the most out of your new Pentax K-3. These settings will (hopefully) help you save time and improve the quality of your photos.

If you camera already has some deviations from the default we recommend that you reset it to the factory setting before following the guidelines below. This is done from page 3 in the Setup menu and page 4 in the Custom Functions menu.

Most default settings are shown with some green color in the icon for the setting and we leave most settings at their default and won't in most cases not even mention such settings in the tables below.

Capture Menu Settings

Most of the settings in this menu can also be set from the Control Panel by hitting the INFO button. That is is the more convenient method to use "on the fly" in the field. For the initial set-up of the camera we use the menus so as to not overlook anything.

Image Capture Settings

This is a crucial set of setting since it defines the file format and quality of the images. If you don't care about RAW processing, set the File Format to JPG, otherwise we recommend setting it to RAW+.

Leave JPEG Recorded Pixels and JPEG Quality at their defaults (L*** as shown) and set the RAW file format to DNG, since this format is accepted by more post processing software than the PEF format.

Lens Corrections

To maximize the performance of the camera, disable all three lens correction settings for prime lenses and premium zooms. Enable all three lens corrections for consumer zooms (kit lenses) to save post processing time.

Dynamic Range Settings

Set Highlight Correction to On to protect against highlight clipping and Shadow Correction to Low to expand the dynamic range further without seriously impacting contrast.

Leave all other settings on page 2 at their defaults.

Focus Peaking

To improve your focus accuracy in live view, enable Focus Peaking via the Live View submenu on the 3rd page of the Record menu.

Note: all settings mentioned thus far can be adjusted through the info screen (control panel).

You can also choose a different Contrast AF method within the Live View submenu, if you so desire.  We prefer Select mode (4th down the list, not shown), which lets you manually chose focal points during live view.

Electronic Level

Enable Electronic Level Display on the 3rd page of the Record menu for the live view mode. This will give you a visual indication in live view and help you ensure that your horizons aren't crooked. We find this far more useful than the Horizon Correction, which can only correct so much tilt on its own. So that we leave off.

We do usually not enable it in the viewfinder for general shooting since the level indication replaces the EV compensation/lightmeter display.

Button Customization

We recommend to set the RAW/Fx Button to Exposure Bracketing. Thanks to the control panel, it's easy to change the file format to RAW, so not everyone will want the duplication that's present by default.

Movie Menu Settings

For most users we recommend leaving the movie Exposure Setting on "P," though more advanced videographers may want to immediately move to Av or M modes.

Note that most of the settings in the movie menu can also be set from the Control Panel by hitting the INFO button.


Playback Menu Settings

If you like to check the sharpness of your shots immediately after taking them, we suggest that you set Quick Zoom to 100%. This gives you a quick view of the shot at full magnification when you turn the rear e-dial just one click during playback.


Setup Menu Settings

  • Leave the Guide Display enabled until you're familiar with the camera (1st page of the Setup menu, LCD Display submenu).
  • You can embed your Copyright Information on in the EXIF information by checking the box on page 2 of the Setup Menu and entering your name.
  • If you're in the USA, Canada, or another country where the electrical frequency is 60Hz, you should set Flicker Reduction to 60Hz on page 3 of the Setup menu. Otherwise, leave it on 50Hz.
  • In order to save battery power, we recommend leaving Auto Power Off at the default setting of 1 minute.
  • To keep your sensor clean, enable startup or shutdown Dust Removal (or both) on the 4th page of the Setup menu from the Dust Removal sub menu. Finally, whenever you switch lenses, be sure to turn your camera off first, as this will help prevent dust from sticking to the sensor.

Custom Menu Settings

A green numeral "1" means that the custom fubnction in question is set to its default value.

  • We like to have as fine control over our settings as is possible. Therefore, we recommend leaving EV Steps (C1) and Sensitivity Steps (C2) at the default setting of "1". With this setting EV can be adjusted in 1/3 stop values.
  • Night owls wanting to shoot in Bulb mode should set C7 to mode 2, so that one press of the shutter button opens the shutter and the next press closes the shutter.
  • Set One Push Bracketing (C9) to on. In this way, when you use exposure bracketing, one press of the shutter button will fire all 2, 3, or 5 bracketing shots
  • There are a number of custom functions that determine how autofocus works (C15 to C18, not shown). We recommend to leave these at their default setting.
  • To make menu navigation more convenient, set Save Menu Location (C24) to "Save Menu Location." With this setting enabled, whenever you hit the Menu button, the camera will return to your previous place.
  • If you plan to shoot a lot of action shots with manual focus lenses, you may want to enable Catch-in Focus (C25). With this feature enabled, you can hold down the shutter release and the camera will fire the shutter the moment the subject comes into focus.
  • One of the headline features of any Pentax dSLR is its compatibility with decades' worth of manual-focus K-mount lenses. If you plan on shooting with manual lenses, go into the custom function menu and set Using Aperture Ring (C27) to "Enable". Just leave it at that setting no matter what lens you use.

Other Settings

  • Custom image: Press the right button on the four way pad and set the custom image to Bright (the default), vibrant, or natural. Note that you can fine-tune the settings by hitting the INFO button
  • White balance: Leave it in AWB (auto white balance)
  • Since the K-3's high-ISO performance is so good, we suggest you leave Auto-ISO engaged. We recommend 100 to 800 during the day, 800-6400 for hand-helds at night. For more controlled shooting, you can easily switch to a specific ISO setting. Adjust these options by pressing the ISO button or the INFO button.
  • Autofocus when using the viewfinder: Set to AF.S and center point or Auto-27.
  • Don't set any continuous drive mode unless you do need burst shooting. It is very hard to take just one shot in continuous mode!
  • U1-U3 on the mode: have a setting for burst mode, for continuous AF, and one for bracketing.
  • Noise Reduction: leave both slow shutter speed and high-ISO noise reduction set to auto.  The auto high-ISO noise reduction setting is a convenient way to ensure that details will be preserved in your photos while getting a reasonable amount of noise reduction.  We will elaborate on this in our discussion of the K-3's image quality.

If you've found a particular setting configuration to work exceptionally well, feel free to share it with our community in the K-3 forum! PentaxForums @PentaxForums News | Reviews | Forum

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