Pentax’s new flagship K-series model packs hi-tech features into a rugged shell, but is that enough to tempt advanced enthusiasts?
The DSLR boasts an enviable sensitivity range that tops out at ISO 51200
The new Pentax K-5 II is a revamped version of the popular 2010 K-5, with a 16.3MP CMOS sensor, ISO sensitivity that escalates to ISO 51200, a 7-fps frame rate, a 77-segment metering system, a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 plus a scratch-resistant LCD.
Another major feature of the K-5 II is its design. It’s made up of a magnesium-alloy cover complementing a rugged stainless-steel chassis, culminating in a fully weather-sealed product. It is said to resist anything: water, fog, snow, sand and dust. The DSLR gracefully carries this design for it is neither heavy nor lightweight. It resonates as having a reassuringly durable and worthy build.
Like many in its class, the newcomer offers a large optical viewfinder that facilitates 100% field of view. Alternately, photographers can hit the Live View button, neatly positioned on the rear to compose using the LCD. This latter method is noticeably more battery intensive, but the resolution is strong, with images portrayed extremely clearly and brightly from a wide range of angles.
The unit is capable of 740 images with 50% flash usage and an immense number of 980 without flash.
The 11-point SAFOX X autofocus system is one of the best in its class. Highly accurate and ideal for use in low light, the K-5 II’s reliable autofocus is ideal for a range of subjects.
The stacked 77-segment metering system measures light throughout the scene and accurately calculates exposures, even in tricky lighting scenarios.
Team a max speed of 1/8000sec with the 7fps frame rate and the K-5 II is a nice buy for those with a penchant for shooting fast-paced action.
With the built-in electronic level, there’s no excuse for not shooting perfectly straight horizons. The tilt-scale display can be summoned while shooting with Live View.
The customizable RAW/ Effects button allows users easy access to common settings. It’s best to shoot RAW, as there is always room for improvement in post-production.
The mode dial plays host to a bevy of options, including all the usual suspects with the addition of Green mode which represents Auto, Sensitivity Priority (SV), Shutter and Aperture Priority (TAv) – where the user specifies speed and aperture and the camera adjusts ISO, Bulb (B), Flash X-sync mode (X) for use with manual strobes, and User mode (USER) that allows users to switch between sets of favorite settings. All the commonly used functions have shortcuts littered around the body, with almost everything in easy reach. Like most cameras under the Pentax banner, the K-5 II’s menu system is logical, straightforward and comprehensive.
Start-up and shutter-response times are almost instantaneous with no obvious lag. One of the camera’s main selling-points is the 11-point autofocus system. It was not only found to be quick and accurate in well-lit conditions, but it performed just as fast in low-light environments, with night shots made easier using the AF-assist lamp. Sports enthusiasts will be pleased to hear the burst rate of 7fps lasts for a round of up to 30 shots. Not only was this useful for capturing moving subjects such as people, vehicles and sports stars, but the combination of the burst rate and maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec helped to achieve sharply detailed images of nature being moved by the elements, such as waves crashing or flora swaying in the wind.
The sensitivity range extends to a jaw-dropping ISO 51200. However, with a sensitivity level that high, clarity and color start to decline.
"White balance appears to be on point for the majority of shooting scenarios and reaps color-faithful captures”
The Pentax K-5 II does not feature the anti-aliasing (AA) filter. There is no need for such feature in the model for the K-5 II’s images are known to be incredibly sharp. Mounting an 18-55mm kit lens or an 18-270mm f3.5-6.3 ED SDM to have test shots will reveal the impeccable quality of the level of edge-to-edge sharpness sustained throughout the focal range. A level of softening crept in at either ends of the range. There are also a few occasions where a minor vignette occurred in photographs, but nothing that destroyed the integrity of the frame. No flare or distracting chromatic aberrations are apparent in the test shots.
One of the key features of the K-5 II is having a wide sensitivity range. Noise isn’t an apparent problem until ISO 1600. Even then, you’d need to take a close look to notice it. It isn’t until the camera is pushed past ISO 3200 that you can actually pinpoint obvious areas of deterioration. Image quality takes a slight turn for the worst as sensitivity increases. However, images captured at the K-5 II’s highest extended sensitivity, ISO 51200, aren’t as hampered by noise as many would expect. Results are actually on a par with what some competitors’ budget DSLRs produce at a much lower ISO.
Despite having an abundance of shooting modes, there is no problem with image quality.
Although some evidence of softening at both extremes of the focal range can be seen, details remained crisp and sharp over an impressively wide range.
Noise starts to make its debut around ISO 1600. Even at the higher realms of sensitivity, noise degradation doesn’t negatively affect results.
Color interpretation appears to be on point with no real issues over white balance. For some perfectionists, some scenes would appear cooler than most.
The camera’s autofocus is undeniably quick and accurate. Thanks to the 11-point AF system, users can accurately select focus points to take creative control.
While the metering system exposes accurately for most scenes, it was discovered that some detail was lost as the camera dealt with high-contrast scenes.
The Pentax’s images are sharp and crisp with accurate color rendition and no white balance issues.
Backed by a 77-segment metering system, it is expected that scenes captured using auto and semi manual modes would exhibit accurate exposure. Like most areas concerning image quality, the K-5 II didn’t disappoint.
The camera’s white balance appears to be on point for the large majority of shooting and lighting scenarios. It consistently reaps color-faithful captures that exhibit true-to-life tone and clarity, for beautiful results. Arguably, there is a case that some images captured in bright conditions exhibit a slight cooling hue, but this is nothing that can’t be tweaked during editing in post-production, especially as photographers can take advantage of the camera’s RAW support.
This camera offers a huge array of shooting modes so there is guaranteed to be something to suit every type of photographer.