Pentax K-S2 Review
The Pentax K-S2 offers a facelifted and enhanced version of the traditional interface found on previous-generation bodies. The most apparent improvement is in the appearance of menu screens, which have received sleek fonts, more visually-appealing icons, notification overlays, and even a few animations. Note the wider aspect ratio of the K-S2's screen.
|K-S2 Facelifted Main Menu||K-50 Main Menu|
Improvements have also been made to the way the menu system behaves in certain contexts. For example, while in live view, the menu button will by default open the live view menu rather than the previously-visited tab. Small enhancements such as this increase the overall user-friendliness considerably, especially for users who are new to the Pentax system. Finally, a handful of new features mainly related to image capture have been added. These will be discussed in the General Image Quality section.
The 4-way controller is at the heart of the K-S2's interface. Because the camera has a relatively small number of buttons, many serve multiple purposes. For example, when capturing images, the directional buttons double as the only means to access the ISO, drive mode, flash, and white-balance sub-menus. Similarly, the OK button doubles as the zoom button in live view and the AF point selection button when this mode is enabled.
The INFO button gives quick access to a variety of settings via the Control Panel (shown below) and also allows the user to cycle through the available screens based on the mode the camera is in. If you hold down the button, you will also see an option to turn the rear LCD off.
The MENU button provides direct access to the camera's main menu and can be used to navigate out of sub-menus.
Shooting modes can be changed using the mode dial on top of the camera. The mode dial also affects the video mode, which is activated via the rightmost setting on the on/off switch. Sported video exposure modes include P, Av, TAv, and M. When the mode dial is set to any other setting, the video mode is set to P. This is a key change in the K-S2; previous Pentax bodies required video exposure mode selection via the menu. We feel that this way of accessing the various video modes is the most intuitive of any Pentax DSLR.
When capturing photos, the K-S2's two control wheels can be used to conveniently change primary shooting settings. In playback mode or instant review, they are used to zoom in on photos or cycle through images. If the rear control wheel is used to control the aperture in Av mode (the default behavior), during instant review it will instead zoom in on the photo. We therefore recommend either mapping the Av to the front e-dial, or disabling instant review while using Av mode to prevent this quirky behavior.
Unless the LCD is flipped to face the subject, the Wi-Fi button atop the camera will toggle the wireless functionality when pressed down for two seconds. Otherwise, it serves as a shutter release button since it's easier to reach when the camera is being held backwards.
On the side of the camera, we have a mechanical flash release button, the customizable RAW/Fx button (discussed below), and a mechanical AF/MF switch. Remaining AF options are controlled via the main menu or control panel, to be discussed later on this page.
A number of buttons can be customized via the fourth tab of the image capture heading in the main menu.
The button on the side of the lens mount can be set to quickly access the following functions:
- One-push RAW conversion (default)
- Optical preview
- Digital preview
- Shake reduction
- AF active area
Unlike flagship DSLRs such as the K-3, the K-S2 only has a single button for AF and AE-L. You can choose what functionality to assign to this button:
- AF/AE-L button activates AF; half-press focusing enabled (default)
- AF/AE-L button activates AF; half-press focusing disabled
- AF/AE-L button cancels AF: half-press focusing enabled
- AF/AE-L button activates AE-L
The customization menu allows you to disable the default secondary functionality of this button when the screen is facing forward.
E-dials and Green Button
The e-dials can be set to control the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure compensation, or program line shift, depending on the shooting mode and your preference. By default, the green button serves different purposes in different modes, but this can also be customized. Settings vary by mode and include returning to the recommended settings (default in P mode), resetting the program shift, reverting to auto ISO, and doing nothing. You can also invert the direction of rotation if desired.
The presence of two e-dials combined with extensive customization options allows you to tailor the K-S2's interface to your shooting style, something that's typically only available on much more expensive cameras. Kudos should be given to Pentax product designers for offering this in mid-range bodies.
Like on other recent Pentax bodies, the K-S2's directional buttons provide access to the ISO, flash, drive mode, and white balance sub-menus. The other key sub-menu, Custom Image, is accessible via the main menu.
If you are currently in playback mode or AF point selection mode, you must first return to the image capture mode by half-pressing the shutter button or holding down the OK button, respectively, to regain access to these pages. The four screens shown below cannot be accessed in any other way.
As you can see, the K-S2 offers a host of drive modes, flash modes, and white balance settings. Each of these sub-menus will be discussed in depth.
The control panel lies at the heart of the K-S2's interface. A single push of the INFO button gives you quick access to many common shooting settings for both stills and videos. The control panel differs very slightly in live view.
|Stills (live view) ||Videos|
From left to right, top to bottom.
- Custom Image JPEG profile
- Digital filters
- HDR strength (JPEG only, outside of A-HDR mode)
- Clarity enhancement
- AA filter simulator
- Distortion correction (with modern Pentax lenses only)
- Vignetting correction (with modern Pentax lenses only)
- Metering mode
- Highlight correction
- Shadow correction
- AF mode
- Focus peaking (live view) / AF points selection (viewfinder)
- AF assist light
- High ISO noise reduction
- Slow shutter speed noise reduction
- File format
- JPEG image size
- JPEG quality
- Shake reduction
From left to right, top to bottom.
- Custom Image video profile
- Digital filters
- AF mode
- Focus peaking (not available during recording)
- AF assist light (not available during recording)
- Highlight correction
- Shadow correction
- Shake reduction (electronic)
All the settings shown in the control panel are also accessible via the first four tabs of the main menu, but it's much more conveinent to use the control panel in most cases. Less frequently used options, such as aberration and diffraction corrections, are not present in the control panel and can only be changed via the main menu.
Although the K-S2 has no top LCD, the status screen shows everything you'd normally see on the top LCD and more. This screen is enabled by default out of the box and will be shown whenever you're shooting outside of live view. It can be disabled via the INFO button if desired.
An added bonus unique to the K-S2 is if you're shooting on a tripod, the articulating LCD can be flipped upward to be viewable from the top.
K-S2 Status Screen
Information such as the basic exposure settings, exposure compensation, shooting modes, autofocus mode, battery level, and remaining frame count is elegantly presented on this screen. You are also shown the current function of each of the buttons on the 4-way controller.
If your camera is in autofocus point selection mode (SEL), the screen hints at the fact that the OK button is used to change autofocus points. After the OK button is held down for two seconds, you enter the AF point selection screen and the display will show the current AF point. Dots in the viewfinder mirror this information and this you can also change AF points while looking through the viewfinder.
AF Point Selection
To return the 4-way pad to its default role of controlling the ISO, flash, drive mode, and white balance, simply hold down the OK button for another two sections. Note that while in live view with AF point selection enabled, the OK button functions in the same manner even though the status screen is not shown.
Another nice feature of the status screen is an indication of the current role of the control wheels. The indications will change to match your e-dial customizations, if you've made any.
E-dial Function Indication
The K-S2's main menu will feel very familiar to existing Pentax users. The menu is broken up into 5 categories: record menu, movie menu, playback menu, settings menu, and custom function menu. With only a few exceptions (such as ISO and white balance), the main menu allows the user to change all of the camera's settings.
Many advanced options are offered in the custom function tab, including the ability to enable the use of manual lenses, fine-tuning the autofocus, continuous AF settings, and EV intervals. The presence of some of these functions is commendable in a camera of this class.
The menu system itself can be customized in various ways. Twelve different color schemes are available, including blue, green, grey, purple, orange, red, and yellow. If you shoot with multiple cameras, this setting can prove invaluable in quickly identifying the body.
You will be prompted for a color selection the first time you power up the camera. The default color scheme is blue.
K-S2 Green Color Scheme
When switching modes, a guide display (on by defualt) briefly shows details about the shooting mode and the roles of different buttons.
Guide Display Flyovers
In most regions, the K-S2 is sold in an international configuration with 20 different selectable languages:
K-S2 Language Menu
The setup menu also provides access to other options, such as adjustment of the brightness, saturation, and hue of the LCD monitor:
LCD Settings & Other Options
Another noteworthy feature is the Memory menu, which lest you tell the camera which settings to remember and which settings to reset after being powered down.
It can be a good idea to uncheck EV compensation to avoid unexpected changes in exposure.
Electronic Level and Viewfinder
The K-S2 features a dual-axis electronic level that can be displayed in any shooting mode. The level also enables a feature called horizon correction, which can automatically straighten JPEG files.
Via the third tab of the record menu, the horizontal axis of the electronic level can also be shown in the viewfinder in place of the EV scale (9). We would favor a dual-axis overlay or at least a dedicated display for the level.
Pentax K-S2 Viewfinder - (9) Electronic Level
We are not too thrilled with the location of the LV (Live View) button, as it cannot be reached with your right hand. The K-S2 shares the placement of the LV button with the two previous generations of Pentax bodies: the K-30 and K-50. The LV button on flagship models, however, is conveniently placed next to your thumb!
Pentax K-S2 Live View
From an interface point of view, live view conveniently shows the same information as the status screen. The amount of data shown can be customized using the INFO button.
The K-S2's playback mode, accessible via the blue play button on the back of the camera, allows you to view, browse, delete, and edit photos.
By default, the camera shows basic exposure information alongside each image. Pressing the INFO button will bring up a pop-up menu that allows you to view different information about the image.
Once selected, the camera stays in that display mode and you can continue cycling through images using the left and right buttons.
The other views include no information at all, a standard histogram, RBG histogram, and detailed metadata, as shown below.
Using the rear e-dial, it is also possible to zoom in on the image.
You can zoom in up to 16x, which is roughly twice the actual size of the image. The 100% view is roughly at 8x, but unlike the K-3 the K-S2 does not have a dedicated "100% zoom" setting.
To speed things up, it is possible to select a default zoom setting of 4x, 8x, or 16x via the playback menu.
Turning the e-dial in the opposite direction will zoom out into a thumbnail grid view. Pressing the INFO button while in this view lets the user choose how many thumbnails are shown at once. A handy calendar view is also available.
Zooming out further shows the actual folders on the card and the number of photos in each. This is very convenient, since by default, the camera creates a new folder each day. It is also possible to delete an entire folder from this screen.
The thumbnail view also allows for the quick deletion of a range of images.
Pressing the down button while viewing a photo brings up the processing menu. A number of basic edits can be performed, including rotation, cropping, scaling, moire correction, and digital filters.
RAW files can also be developed via the processing menu, either individually or in bulk. RAW settings include image size, digital filters, white balance, custom image profile, lens corrections, clarity enhancement, ISO (exposure), noise reduction, and shadow correction. The camera offers a real-time preview of the developed image, which makes it easy to choose which settings to use.
Developed / processed images are saved as separate files.
We are very happy with the K-S2's facelifted menu system and the user interface as a whole. In general, the camera is user-friendly and intuitive, and the learning curve is thus small. There is plenty of similarity between the location of options in the K-S2 and other models, so existing Pentax users will feel right at home.
The control panel is among the K-S2's most convenient features, as it allows for easy access to key camera settings. Likewise, the facelifted status screen make it easier than ever to get a quick overview of the current exposure settings.
There are only two major complaints worth noting in this section. First, the role duplication of the 4-way pad in SEL AF mode can be annoying at times. We also really wish that the LV (Live View) button were moved to the right side of the camera so that it could be pressed during one-handed operation.