Pentax K-5 II DSLR Review

Friday, 9 November 2012
In this article I have tried to give a glimpse of review of very known Pentax DSLR K-5 II. The K-5 II is an updated version of the highly regarded K-5. The first half of nearly identical twins from Pentax. The K-5 IIs, its sibling without anti-aliasing filter, will be reviewed soon. On the face of it, we have here an identical camera to the original K-5, so we need to explore what improvements have been made, whether or not the upgrade would be sufficient for existing K-5 users and whether or not this new model will tempt new purchasers into the Pentax system. The K-5 was an Editor's Choice, so the new model has much to live up to and exceed, if it can.

Features of Pentax K-5 II :
The K-5 II is an APS-C DSLR with a Sony sensor, well tried and tested, using 16.28MP. It utilises the well established Pentax K mount, opening up the possibility of using almost any Pentax lens ever made. Via adapters, this backwards compatibility can extend back to even the 1950s Asahiflex lenses and of course the ubiquitous M42 screw mount lenses of the Spotmatic era, albeit with some limitations. Looking more to the present, there is a wide range of current Pentax AF lenses, with new offerings on the way to broaden the repertoire even more.

In-body shake reduction (SR) can be used with any lens or accessory and is proven already to bring a 3 stop or more advantage. Weather resistance to body and many lenses means all-weather use. The magnesium alloy shell is rugged and feels solid and dependable, but still within a remarkably compact package. Live View and Movie Mode plus a wide array of image style options round out a very complete and professional specification. An impressive 7fps is also available when needed.

Remarkable low light performance was a feature of the K-5, so we shall see how the K-5 II compares. The upgraded AF module is also an area of interest. Will this be a dramatic or just a subtle improvement of the original K-5?

Key Features :
  • 16.28 megapixel APS-C sensor
  • Pentax KAF2 bayonet mount
  • In-body Shake Reduction
  • 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
  • Weather Resistant construction
  • Magnesium alloy shell
  • 7fps maximum frame rate
  • ISO range 100 to 12,800, expandable to 80 to 51,200
  • Full HD Movie Mode
  • 17 Digital filters
  • PEF and DNG RAW formats
  • Premium JPEG Quality level
Pentax K-5 II Handling :

From opening the package it is evident that all the components have been well put together. The quality of finish on all the items, be it the camera, the battery, the charger, is very high. Switches operate firmly and smoothly, with no play. Access doors seal closed with precision. The lens operates without any feeling of sloppiness.

In terms of ergonomics I have used many cameras, but have always come back to Pentax. The old advertising slogan “Simply hold a Pentax” rings as true today as it did when the Spotmatic was released in 1964. Controls are comfortable and well placed, and overall it is an efficient product that feels good in the hands.

The one small design feature that has been left unchanged but could do with improvement is the card access door. This is quite cramped and can be awkward, making removal of the SD card potentially tricky. However, it does get easier with practice, but a little more room would be a considerable improvement. This is really the only niggle in what is basically an excellent ergonomic design.

The menu system is logical and works just fine. It is easy to use and has consistent and reliable logic throughout. The display is clear and if we should be in any doubt an explanation of any particular setting is displayed on screen.
Battery life, using the same Dli90 battery as the K-5, is quoted at approx. 740 images with 50% flash usage and 980 with no flash. 440 minutes of movie playback is also quoted. These figures are using the CIPA standard at under 23C. In this test after two intensive days of use, the battery indicator still reads fully charged, so the implication is that battery life will not be a problem.
  • Shutter Response - 0.05 secs
  • Focus/Shutter Response (Wide) - 0.65 secs (1.9s in live view)
  • Focus/Shutter response (Full-Zoom) - 0.75 secs (2.4s in live view)
  • Switch on Time to Taking a Photo - 0.5 secs
  • Shot to Shot without Flash - 0.2 secs
  • Shot to Shot with Flash - 1.15 secs
  • Continuous Shooting - 7 fps
  • Continuous Shooting - Flash 1 fps
  • Continuous Shooting - RAW 8 fps
Start up of the camera is virtually instantaneous. By the time the finger has moved from the on switch to the shutter release, everything is ready to go. Shutter response is slick and aided by a predictable meter on position and smooth release.

In speed tests the K-5 II easily exceeds the quoted specification. I managed 32 JPEGs before the buffer was filled and 26 RAW images, compared to the quoted 30 and 20 respectively.

Pentax K-5 II Performance :

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Pentax K-5 II Sample Photo :

Close Up Shade | 0.4 sec | f/16.0 | 40.0 mm | ISO 200
The field test included some atrocious weather, but of course the weather resistance means that we can just carry on and still shoot images with complete freedom. This is one of the major advances in recent DSLR design because of the freedom it brings in rugged conditions.

Exposure is very similar to the original K-5 and my preference is to permanently set -0.3EV compensation. This gives perfect results, especially when using center weighted metering. Matrix metering is equally consistent, offering a slightly lighter end result, but many photographers may prefer to take control of the decision making themselves. Spot metering is also accurate and very useful for especially spot-lit subjects.

Exposure compensation can be used where necessary and is conveniently accessed by a dedicated button. Generally, the amount of correction needed is quite modest using all the provided metering patterns. There is no tendency to over-expose and lose the highlights, in part due to accurate metering and in part due to a wide dynamic range.

Focusing is possibly marginally faster than the K-5, but there seems to be very little in it. What does seem remarkable is that focus can now be achieved in virtual darkness, even when the subject is dark itself. These are conditions where manual focusing would be beyond most eyes, so it is quite an achievement. In brighter light, focusing is fast and accurate. In LV mode, there also seems to have been an improvement in focusing speed.

Some shots may benefit from Distortion Correction and Lateral Chromatic Aberration Correction. Provided this sort of feature does not become an excuse for short cuts in lens design, both these are to be welcomed. They work well. Architectural subjects can be rendered with straight edges. Colour fringing can be impressively removed from, for example, branches silhouetted against a bright sky.

HDR in camera is a convenient way to try this technique without purchasing stand alone programs, although the effect available is limited. The various options have adjustable parameters themselves, so the range of options is vast.

Video - Movie mode works well, with a mono microphone built in and a jack provided for a stereo mike. Quality seems good and the microphone does not seem to pick up too much camera noise. Panning is smooth and the zooming action of the lens is also smooth enough to prevent any glitches in the picture.

Value for Money :
New introductions usually arrive at a high price that settles down after a while. This is the price we pay for being an early adopter of new technology. In this case, both the K-5 II and the K-5 IIs seem to have been brought in at quite a competitive price level from the start. This is exceptionally good value.

However, for existing Pentax users who own the K-5 the value in an upgrade is far less clear. There is an improvement in some areas of performance, as noted, but these are not major steps for what is basically already a superb camera.

For users new to Pentax the value for money is without any doubt. This is a very fine piece of kit that performs well and reliably. It builds upon an already excellent record, giving us a very competitive price and the double value of an established design with any glitches already ironed out. The K-5 II can hold its head high amongst the alternatives - alternatives include the weather sealed Sony Alpha A77, and non-weather sealed Nikon D5200, both with 24 megapixel sensors.

Pentax K-5 II Verdict :

The Pentax K-5 II is a rugged, magnesium alloy bodied, weatherproof, well designed and high quality camera with a kit zoom that is really very good indeed, and provides a package that looks very exciting against its rivals. It is more compact, arguably slicker in operation and provides the highest standards at a relatively low price level. There's not much to dislike, so the K-5 can be totally recommended.

The only caveat that remains is that, while stocks last, the original K-5 still offers most of what the K-5 II can do, and that may well be a better option in terms of cost if the low light AF performance improvement is not an issue. Prospective buyers may be well advised to move quickly on that option, before it is gone and no longer a decision to be made.

Pentax K-5 II Pros :
  • Excellent image quality
  • Rugged weather sealed construction
  • Compact body and lenses
  • Fast operation
  • Glass penta-prism viewfinder
  • Improved Live View
  • Backwards lens Compatibility
  • In body shake Reduction
  • Low noise levels
  • Excellent Value for Money
  • Low light AF
  • Wide selection of built in effects and filters
  • Outstanding Color Reproduction
  • DNG RAW format
Pentax K-5 II Cons :
  • Not full frame
  • Fewer lenses in range than Nikon and Canon
  • Live view focus and shutter response slow