Pentax K-70 Review

General Image Quality

If you’ve been reading closely thus far, you’ve probably noticed that the K-70 has a lot in common with the K-S2. You might even be wondering why you’d bother to spend more on the newer camera. Well, here’s your answer: image quality.

Equipped with a new 24.2-megapixel sensor, the K-70 is a step above the K-S2 in most image quality metrics, including noise, resolution, and shadow recovery. It also features Pentax’s Pixel Shift mode, which produces far sharper output than the K-S2 can ever hope to achieve.

The K-70's new 24-megapixel APS-C sensor

We’ll begin by discussing the K-70's JPEG output, then jump into RAW performance. Note that while the K-70 uses a 24-megapixel sensor, it is a completely new chip—not the one used in the K-3 or K-3 II. In fact, in some ways the new sensor outperforms the chip found in the flagship APS-C model.

JPEG Effects

Like the K-S2, the K-70 enjoys a bevy of JPEG-only in-camera effects, from HDR to clarity enhancement and lens corretctions.

Clarity Enhancement

Clarity is a useful tool in Adobe Lightroom, and Pentax has approximated the feature in-camera for the K-70. You can adjust the Clarity slider on a +/- 4 point scale, boosting or reducing local contrast by adjusting bright and dark areas, as well as midtones. Clarity Enhancement is applied just after the shutter closes, and adds a couple seconds of processing time after each shot.

Clarity -4
Clarity +4

Above, you can see the effect that extreme in-camera clarity adjustments have on a scene. You can compare to the base exposure here.

HDR

The K-70 inherits the K-S2’s A-HDR (Advanced HDR) setting, along with the Auto and three-level pre-set options. As with the K-S2 and previous Pentax DSLRs, the effect is quite pronounced and certainly more surreal than what you’d get by creating a HDR shot manually from a RAW file. Tastes will vary, but the effect definitely isn’t for us.

An example of the A-HDR output from the Pentax K-70

Color

As with other Pentax SLRs, the K-70 uses the “Bright” JPEG profile as its default setting. It produces vibrant, contrasty images that should please most shooters.

The K-70 produces vibrant colors with high contrast in its default Bright JPEG mode

Still, if you prefer something different, there are an array of other profiles to choose from:

  • Bright - default with rich colors
  • Natural - reduced saturation
  • Portrait - optimized for skin tones
  • Landscape - richer green colors
  • Vibrant - increased saturation
  • Monochrome - black and white
  • Radiant - exaggerated saturation
  • Muted - greatly reduced vibrance
  • Bleach Bypass - emulated film technique
  • Reversal Film - emulated film technique
  • Cross Processing - unique color effects

These range from the practical to the artful. Most users will never use all of them, but they’re nice to have if you want to experiment.

JPEG rendering can also be customized to suit your needs, not only through a host of Custom Image presets, but also through fine adjustments of parameters such as saturation, contrast, clarity, sharpness, hue, and others depending on the preset:

Each preset can be adjusted to suit your taste

When shooting in RAW, any of these presets can be selected after the fact through Pentax’s DCU 5 software, which is included with the K-70. They can also be selected during in-camera RAW processing.

See this page for a comparison of other Custom Image presets using default settings.

Digital Filters

If JPEG presets aren’t artsy enough for your tastes, you can add a suite of Digital Filters, which work pretty much like Instagram filters. They add significant modifications, like vignetting, isolating colors, and artistically softening the entire image, among others.

Pentax K-70 digital filters

White Balance and Metering

The K-70 inherits its white balance and 77-segment metering system from the K-S2 and K-50 before it, and also enjoys the multi-segment WB option found in the K-3 II and Ricoh GR. This setting can improve colors in scenarios with greatly varied lighting, such as stage events.

Pentax K-70 white balance options

As in the K-S2, the white balance system does an excellent job of accurately reproducing colors in all but the most difficult circumstances. Daylight colors generally come as close to replicating reality as you could hope for, though at night and under heavy artificial lighting, the K-70 has a tendency to produce a yellow cast. This is common to pretty much every AWB system ever created, though some cameras (like the Pentax K-3 II) do a better job under these conditions than others.

One place where the K-70’s automatic white balance excels is in extreme high-ISO shooting, where it maintains more natural colors than either the K-S2 or K-3 II. It does this in part by desaturating the images—at ISO 102,400, photos from the K-70 look quite faded—but the color rendering nevertheless remains more faithful than with other Pentax cameras.

There are dozens of other manual white balance settings intended for advanced users, though those folks will most likely be shooting in RAW to begin with, making the white balance menu unnecessarily cluttered for others.

In our experience, the K-70’s metering is quite accurate, though it may have a slight tendency to overexpose in bright daylight situations. That could be problematic, since highlights are much harder to recover than shadows. Of course, this varies from lens to lens. Regardless, since the matrix metering mode only evaluates 77 segments, it is not as good as the newer 86k-pixel system found in the Pentax flagship when isolated portions of the image are excessively bright or dark.

Ultimately, non-professional users should have no complaints regarding the K-70’s white balance or metering, with the exception of unnaturally warm colors under artificial light and when shooting at night. As ever, the best remedy is to shoot in RAW to adjust white balance manually.


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