Christmas came early in Saddleworth and I was very pleased to take delivery of the new Pentax K5-IIs two weeks ago and gave it a first try-out on commercial clients’ jobs over the following couple of days. It’s a while since I upgraded my camera and I was pushed into this purchase when a piece fell out of my K7 lens mount a couple of days before, leaving me a bit vulnerable if a client needed a job doing at short notice.
Some of the features of the K5 IIs
- 16.28 MP CMOS Sony APS-C Sensor
- In-camera stabilisation
- ISO range (expanded) 100-12800 (80-51200)
- AF System SAFOX X 11-point with -3 to 18EV sensitivity
- Glass Pentaprism with 100% field of view
- 3 inch LCD monitor with 921,000 dots
- Live View with Contrast Detection and Phase Matching AF
- SAFOX X AF module sensitive to -3EV
- Magnesium alloy shell with water-resistant construction
- 7fps maximum frame rate
- Full HD Video Mode
What follows is a user’s first impressions and is not intended to be a full or in-depth review. I’ll give you a link to those further down the page.
Compared to my Pentax K7, the transition to the new camera was easy…the body is much the same and all the controls are in the same place. I had difficulty in the past when I was using both a K20 and a K7 as the controls are in different places on the back and it was very awkward to change from one body to the other. The menus on the new camera were easy to follow and, although there are extra items in there, I found they were very easy to understand when I was setting up my preferences on the camera and, in fact, I haven’t even had to open the manual yet.
I liked the new push and hold button in the centre of the multi-way controller, which stopped me accidentally changing from one mode to another during shooting.
The large screen was clear and bright and with plenty of shooting information, which I found to be well set out.
Autofocus in poor light conditions
Low light focusing has been a drawback of earlier Pentax D-SLRs for many years. One of the reasons I needed to upgrade to a better auto-focusing camera was that I need to focus in low light on many commercial shoots, including at late evening indoor wedding receptions. Straight out of the box and fitted with the Pentax DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 lens and the first thing that was very noticeable was the very quick autofocus compared to my K7 with the same lens fitted, even when I couldn’t see clearly what I was looking at through the viewfinder. Great.
Image Sharpness and Quality
I was expecting great things from the Sony CMOS sensor, particularly as its predecessor, the K5, had such marvellous reviews in respect of its image quality. The first images off the camera were indeed exceedingly sharp, well detailed, with good quality. I had never risked using high ISO for client jobs in the past because the digital noise was too great with the K7 sensor over 400 ISO. For the first job with the K5 IIs (indoor shoot with low light) I took a few shots at 1600 ISO with most at 400 or 800 ISO and a few at 200 ISO with balanced flash. Looking at all the RAW files in Lightroom, it was quite difficult to see which were taken at which ISO, without doing a comparison at 100%. At 1600 ISO there was almost no intrusive noise in the images…yes there was a little “texture” that looked rather pleasant and almost film-like, but no intrusive colour noise detectable at all and good sharp detailed images. This is a major step forward from the K7.
Below is a section of one image at 1600 ISO showing detail in the darker areas of the image.
The “s” version of the K5-II has been produced “without an anti-aliasing filter” over the sensor. (I don’t know exactly why the suffix, though I am guessing it is from the abbreviation of “sine” [pronounced “seenay”, meaning “without” in Latin]. This leads it to be rather susceptible to moiré fringing, which is an interference pattern, on patterned objects. The trade-off is that image sharpness is significantly improved. Bizarrely, leaving the filter out and presumably replacing it with some other type of filter, means that the camera is more expensive…that makes sense doesn’t it? leave something out, charge £150 more…Pentax say they have priced the camera according to how popular they expect it to be compared to the K5-II with the filter, which is likely to be more popular.
Moiré is likely to be seen on repeating fine patterns, e.g. textiles. I haven’t seen that yet on any of my images, even though I inspected the fine knit of the garments of the subjects I photographed very closely. The fact is that there will be moiré patterns at some time on some images…what is debatable is how much that will be a problem in practical situations. The trade-off in terms of greater resolution seems worth the risk. I reserve judgement on that at present.
Live view is now brilliant!!! The second job I did with the new camera was to photograph a group of 70 people in a very small room. This required setting up a very tall tripod so the tripod head was at ceiling height. Mike said he’d maybe take out a couple of ceiling tiles for me, but when we got there they had removed the tiles and plastered over the ceiling! So basically the camera is up at ceiling height and I can’t get my head high enough to look through the viewfinder. I had always found the live view function on the K7 a bit unsatisfactory when it camera to seeing where you are focusing. The zoom and focus function of the new version of live view was a bit disconcerting at first but after a couple of shots, I came to really appreciate the accuracy of the focus. A big improvement IMO.
I was pleased that my BG4 battery grip that I had for the K7 also fits the K5 IIs. Like all other recent Pentax camera bodies, the K5 variants are a little unbalanced in my hand until the battery grip is fitted, when the balance is perfect. I don’t use the official grip from Pentax but a copy version made in the far east and sold on Ebay. I’ve been using this for years with the K7 and, though the printing has worn off the outside and the general build quality is not as good, for something like £38 as opposed to £190 for the real deal, that has seemed a good buy to me. I have long hands for a woman and I would expect most men to also find the body a bit too small to hold comfortably without the grip.
I haven’t done an in-depth review because I haven’t tried and tested all of the features as yet…quite simply I’m interested in the features I need most and much less interested in all the other things the camera does that I have less use for. It’s early days yet but first thoughts are that this camera does impress. For llow light shooting and sheer image quality, this camera is hard to beat in its class.
If you want to read a really in-depth review, go to: pentaxforums.com
For a UK reviewer, look at Ephotozine. The reviewer is a friend and most of his images are taken at locations near to me, which I have photographed myself. Feels good!
- Features *****
- Image quality *****
- Autofocus *****
- Build Quality *****
- Ergonomics **** but ***** with battery grip
- Moiré Inconclusive as I haven’t seen any yet
- Value for Money **** (I’d prefer it priced the same as the K5-II of course).