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Cameras

Pentax K-3 II is ready to hit the road

The update to the well-received K-3 gets a built-in GPS.

Pentax
The back remains unchanged. Pentax

Though it's not the long-awaited full-frame model everyone expects by the end of this year, Pentax's update to its top-end prosumer dSLR, the K-3, likely falls within the reach of far more people. The enhancements in the K-3 II are relatively minor, but the 1.5-year-old camera's specs still stand up surprisingly well against its major competitors, the somewhat old Canon EOS 70D and the brand-new Nikon D7200 .

It's slated to ship in May for $1,100; I don't yet have pricing for other regions yet, but the price directly converts to £737 and AU$1,427.

What's new

  • Pixel-Shift Resolution System. With this feature, Pentax uses the camera's sensor-shift mechanism to shoot four photos simultaneously, each offset by one pixel, which it then combines into a single photo with color information for each pixel. (A typical sensor has a red, green, or blue filter atop each photosite, then algorithmically fills in the color blanks.) Unlike Olympus' implementation in the E-M5 Mark II , it's not intended to increase the resolution of the photos, only the quality (which is a better choice), but like that camera it really needs to be used with a tripod and for stationary subjects.
  • Improved shake reduction. Tweaked algorithms have increased the number of stops of compensation to 4.5 from 3.5. The new model also incorporates panning detection into its SR system so that it doesn't fight as hard when you're photographing subjects moving horizontally through your frame.
  • Enhanced continuous-autofocus performance. While it uses the same autofocus system as the K-3, Pentax claims that the continuous autofocus has improved subject tracking and generally faster lock-on.
  • Built-in geotagging. The main change to the body: Pentax replaced the on-camera flash with a GPS unit for both geotagging and geologging; it records coordinates and direction. The camera also has an electronic compass so that you can find your way home. The GPS also makes the new Astrotracer feature, which combines with other in-camera sensors and the sensor-shift mechanism to capture stars without trails during long exposures.

My take

These are all nice features to have, though jettisoning the flash makes me cringe a little; on-camera flash is something that's really nice to have in a low-light emergency. Longer battery life would have been a nice enhancement, as would the addition of an articulating display and built-in Wi-Fi. Otherwise, it still looks pretty competitive. However, with the older K-3 now running about $800 (£750, AU$1,200), it looks like quite a good buy in comparison if you don't care about the new features.

Comparative specs

Canon EOS 70D Nikon D7200 Pentax K-3 II
Sensor effective resolution 20.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS 24.2MP CMOS 24.4MP CMOS
Sensor size 22.5 x 15 mm 23.5 x 15.6 mm 23.5 x 15.6 mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x
OLPF Yes No No
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ISO 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 25600
(up to ISO 102,400 in black and white)
ISO 100 - ISO 51200
Burst shooting 7fps
40 JPEG/15 raw
6fps
100 JPEG (Normal quality)/27 raw (12-bit)
8.3fps
60 JPEG/23 raw
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
Optical
98% coverage
0.95x/0.59x
Optical
100% coverage
0.94x/0.63 x
Optical
100% coverage
0.95x/0.63x
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 19-point phase-detection AF
all cross-type
center dual cross to f2.8
51-point phase-detection AF
15 cross-type
center to f8
27-point phase-detection AF
25 cross-type
AF sensitivity -0.5 - 18 EV -3 - 19 EV -3 - 18 EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync, 1/320 sec x-sync at reduced flash output, 1/8,000 sec FP x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync
Shutter durability 100,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 200,000 cycles
Metering 63 zone 2,016-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering II 86K pixel RGB sensor
Metering sensitivity 1 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV -3 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p, 25p, 24p; 720/60p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p, 50p @ 1.3x crop; 1080/30p, 25p, 24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p, 25p, 24p; 720/60p, 50p
Audio Stereo, mic input Stereo, mic input, headphones Mono, mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time per clip 4GB 10 mins 4GB/25 minutes
Clean HDMI out No Yes No
IS Optical Optical Sensor shift
LCD 3 in./7.7cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
3.2 in./8 cm
Fixed
921,600 dots
(plus extra set of white)
3.2 in./8 cm
Fixed
1.04m dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 2 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection None NFC, Wi-Fi Via optional Pentax-custom Flucard
Flash Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 800 shots
(2,600 mAh)
1,100 shots
(1,900 mAh)
560 shots
(1,860 mAh)
Size (WHD) 5.5 x 4.1 x3.1 in
139.0 x 104.3 x 78.5 mm
5.3 x 4.2 x 3.0 in
135.5 x 106.5 x 76 mm
5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 in
131.5 x100 x 77.5 mm
Body operating weight 27.2 oz.
771.1 g
27.3 oz. (est.)
773.9 g (est.)
28.2 oz. (est.)
800 g (est.)
Mfr. price (body only)
$1,200
£600 (est.)
AU$1,480
$1,200
£940 (est.)
$1,450
$1,100
Release date August 2013 April 2015 May 2015

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