Pentax K-3 Review

27th March, 2017

Pentax K-3 is Ricoh Imaging's one of the Semi-Pro DSLR on the market. It is quite advanced for its time and is packed with features. Pentax cameras are usually a little ahead of its competitors and I wanted to review one for quite some time. Thanks to Eminence Distribution, Ltd., I was provided with a Pentax K-3 and two lenses. I have used the camera and the lenses for some time, and I am going to share with you how this camera gets along with a photographer. My use was mostly limited to general and portrait photography, but I certainly had my share of fun using a different camera than what I normally use.

As I mentioned, Pentax is always a little ahead of the competition. Adding weather protection, better viewfinder, simulating AA filter etc. that is usually be found on higher-end cameras. Pentax is owned by Ricoh Imaging, a company that always tries out new things.

Here are some key features of the camera:

* 24.4 Megapixel APS-C CMOS Sensor

* No AA filter (Simulates AA filter if needed)

* Built-in sensor shift image stabilisation (with rotational compensation)

* Magnesium Alloy body with 92 environmental seals

* SAFOX 11 TTL Auto Focus system (27 points, 25 of which are cross point)

* 8.3 FPS continuous shooting

* Full HD video recording

* Dual memory card slot

* USB 3.0 connectivity

Pentax K-3 Body

A very useful top LCD, and dual memory card slots.

The first thing I noticed when I picked up the K-3 is how it feels. It feels solid, heavier than other APS-C cameras. It has the kind of assurance that it will survive more than usual bumps and dents. My main camera is a Nikon D810, and K-3 feels more solid in hand. K-3 body is primarily constructed using magnesium alloy. The body has 92 environmental seals, that keeps water and dust out. The camera is also designed to work at temperature as low as -10C. And the shutter life expectancy of K-3 is rated for 200,000 cycles, which is the same as Full frame Nikon D810, 50,000 more than Nikon D7200 or Canon EOS 70D.

Untitled photo

Primarily crafted from Magnesium Alloy, K-3 has a very solid and durable feel.

One other thing I really liked about K-3 is the built-in image stabilization. There are many lenses in market which does not have image stabilization, and some lenses have both stabilized and non-stabilized version, like the Canon 70-200mm or the Tamron 17-50mm and many others. Well, with K-3, any lens you attach will become a stabilized lens. The sensor of the camera shifts according to hand movement and adjusts so the images are sharp. This shake reduction system can work up to 4.5 stops, which is very helpful when you want to shoot at low light without increasing ISO..


The sensor shifts according to camera movement and stabilizes the image.

Goldie doing yoga! This image was taken at 1/40th of second, 202mm (equiv.) at ISO 3200. Even at a low shutter speed, the image is perfectly sharp.

The lens that I mainly used with K-3 is the Pentax-DA* 50-135 F/2.8 lens. This is a unique lens, as it gives you the focal length of 75-202mm, almost same as 70-200mm for a much better price. And it is stabilized with the K-3 body, so if you are in a budget and looking for a great body and a fast lens, K-3 and the 50-135mm F/2.8 is for you.

Here are some images I took using the K-3:

K-3 is capable of taking some high quality photos and the almost neutral color tone of Pentax is very pleasing. Most of the images are shot at F/2.8 which shows the sharpness and the Depth of Field the 50-135mm is able to deliver at it's fastest aperture. K-3 sensor is capable of retaining a lot of information in it's raw file. The dynamic range is quite good on this camera. Below is a photo that I took by dialing -5EV exposure, and then manually increased the exposure in lightroom to see how the raw file handles shadow recovery. See for yourself.

K-3 is capable of delivering a high dynamic range, and retrieve the information that would otherwise be lost.

Noise Performance:

K-3 has an ISO range of 100-51200, which is higher than it's competitions. For example, Canon EOS 70D has an ISO range of 100-12800 (25600 with Boost) and Nikon D7200 has an ISO range of 100-25600 (expands to 102400 to black and white only). Although ISO this high is not very usable, but it is there should you really need it. I have shot some identical frame with different ISO values to see how it affects the image.

In camera HDR function works well, and has different levels of HDR. I found the level 1 and auto works better than level 2 and 3, a little out of my taste. Let me show you how they looks.

Different levels of in-camera HDR function. The auto setting works quite good.

This was the first time I used a Pentax camera, and I have to say I liked using one. I am used to use Nikon, so this was somehow refreshing. At many a times, I picked up the K-3 to shoot something, and it kept up with me.

One thing I always look for in any camera is dual memory card slot. Memory cards are not as reliable as I would like, and after an wedding or an event, I cannot imagine a card failure that destroys all the images from the event. Having dual memory card helps as you can set the camera to record images on to both cards. This way you have an extra security in case one of the card fails. This is one big advantage of K-3, as not all competitor has dual memory card slots. Both memory card slots supports UHS-I protocol and I've used 2 x 512GB SanDisk Extreme Pro cards without any issues.

Although a crop sensor, K-3 has so many features to like. And they make the camera ideal for different types of photography.

For action, birding, wildlife photography:

K-3 has a continuous drive of 8.3 FPS (Frames per second), and the buffer can hold 23 raw images or 68 fine JPEG images. Fast shooting is necessary for sports and action shooting, including birds and wildlife photography to capture the micro-moments. This and the ability to shoot at fast shutter speed due to supported high ISOs.

For comparison: Canon EOS 70D can shoot at 7 FPS, and can hold 11 raw files or 17 fine JPEG files in the buffer. Nikon D7200 can shoot at 5 FPS, and the buffer can hold 10 14-bit raw files or 47 JPEG files. They both falls short of K-3's 23 14-bit raw image buffer or 68 fine JPEG images at 8.3 FPS.

For fashion/portraits or wedding photography:

K-3 has in-body Sensor Shift Shake Reduction, which essentially makes any lenses attached to the K-3 a stabilized lens. I always wanted the prime lenses I used to be stabilized so that I can shoot at low light or at faster shutter speed than possible, but there are rarely any stabilized prime lenses for Nikon, Canon or any other brands. But it is possible with K-3.

Starting up portrait or wedding photography business requires a good amount of money, and mostly for a good camera and lens that is needed. A simple kit lens is not enough, and the most common lens is an expensive 70-200mm F/2.8 lens. There are no lenses for APS-C cameras with a similar focal length in either Canon or Nikon, but Pentax has a 50-135mm F/2.8 lens, which provides an useful range of 75-202mm at F/2.8. Pentax K-3 and the 50-135mm lens together costs less than a 70-200mm F/2.8 lens from competitor companies alone, so for starting up a photography business, K-3 and 50-135mm lens is a great combo if you are on a tight budget.

Here are some portraits I took with Pentax K-3 + SMC Pentax-DA* 50-135mm F/2.8 lens.

Things I liked about Pentax K-3:

* High dynamic range.

* 8.3 Fast continuous shooting.

* Water and dust resistance, 92 weather sealing.

* Built-in stabilization makes every lens a stabilized lens.

* Extremely solid build quality.

* Dual memory card slots to write images on both cards.

* Large buffer to accommodate 23 14-bit raw files or 68 fine JPEG images.

* Neutral-ish color tone of the images.

Things that can be improved:

* In-camera JPEG colors not as good as RAW files.

* Video features not as extensive as competitors.

* Noise over ISO 1600 is noticeable, although usable.

* After continuous shooting, images cannot be reviewed until the photos are written on the card.

Thank you for reading and if you have questions, please leave them below :)

Manzur Fahim

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