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First Impressions: Pentax K3

by Chris Gampat on 11/07/2013

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions product photos (3 of 8)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 3.2

Pentax recently announced their K3 DSLR that is the new flagship of their APS-C lineup of cameras. As with nearly every Pentax product, it is incredibly rugged as it sports a magnesium alloy body with full weather sealing. The K3 also has a 23.35MP APS-C CMOS sensor at its heart with a user-selectable anti-aliasing filter. Essentially, the processor can mimic the look of having an AA filter on the sensor, but do note that the sensor doesn’t have one in order to get the best sharpness possible.

We’ve been spending a bit of time with the camera so far, and we have to say that it has a lot going for it, but there are some things that are irking us a bit.

Gear Used

We’re testing the Pentax K3 with the 43mm f1.9 Limited lens.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing

  • 23.35MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • PRIME III Image Processor
  • User-Selectable Anti-Aliasing Filter
  • Full HD 1080i/p Video Recording
  • 3.2″ 1,037k-Dot LCD Monitor
  • Optical 0.95x Mag. Pentaprism Viewfinder
  • Continuous Shooting up to 8.3 fps
  • In-Camera Shake Reduction Stabilization
  • Dual SD Memory Card Slots
  • Weather-Sealed Magnesium Alloy Body

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions product photos (2 of 8)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 3.2

The Pentax K3 is an interesting camera that feels very solid in the hand, but that also feels a bit like the company tried to take the camera and make it feel as if its Vin Diesel on steroids. With that said, the camera has some big, broad shoulders that it uses to help pack in as much customization as it possibly can.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions product photos (5 of 8)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 4.5

The front of the camera isn’t exactly devoid of controls either. Along the left side is where you’ll find an AF/MF switch, AF mode selector, raw/JPEG, PC port, and pop up flash. Plus this is also where a couple of the ports are for connectivity.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions product photos (4 of 8)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 4.5

Along the top of the camera is where you’ll find even more settings. Near the grip is the on/off switch, shutter release, exposure compensation button, ISO control, LCD screen for information display, and the mode dial selector. Here you can also find the hot shoe for the K3.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions product photos (6 of 8)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 2.8

Along the back of the camera is where you’ll find a massive assortment of more controls. Pentax places their playback, menus, focus selection control, four way control setting, and loads more back here. Indeed, if you’re not a Pentax user natively it may take some time to get used to.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions product photos (7 of 8)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.0

Lastly, along the grip is where you can find the SD card port door. The K3 accepts two SD cards.

Build Quality

Once again, we have to emphasize just how solid the Pentax K3 feels. It feels even tougher than the Nikon D7100, though we’re more partial to the Nikon in terms of ergonomics.

Ease of Use

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions product photos (8 of 8)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 2.8

The K3 and Pentax’s system is one that we always feel takes a bit more time to get used to every time a review unit comes in. Once you can access anything and everything that you really need though, it’s all gravy. However, all the absolute critical information that you need is nearly always displayed at the back of the camera. We really wish that Pentax put an eye-sensor in though that shut off the LCD when your eye comes to the viewfinder.

Autofocus

With the 43mm f1.9 unit that we’re using, we’re finding the focusing performance to be adequate albeit still not blazing fast. We’re calling in more lenses to test with the camera such as the 16-50mm, which we found to focus faster on previous review units.

When we allowed the camera to automatically pick a focusing point out of the entire range, the camera usually opted for the center despite us really not wanting to use the center. In previous tests with other Pentax flagship cameras, we also found the outer focusing points to not be as simple or accurate to focus with. That issue is largely gone now, so the company has improved their focusing algorithms.

Image Quality

So far we’re really liking the images that we can get from the Pentax K3. The images overall are very sharp, contrasty, and beautifully rendered with the camera’s sensor and color processing. In fact, we really digg the color processing the most. Here are some samples.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions sample images (1 of 11)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 2.2

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions sample images (11 of 11)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 2.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions sample images (10 of 11)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions sample images (9 of 11)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions sample images (8 of 11)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions sample images (7 of 11)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions sample images (6 of 11)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 2.2

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions sample images (5 of 11)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 1.9

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions sample images (4 of 11)ISO 4001-3200 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions sample images (3 of 11)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K3 first impressions sample images (2 of 11)ISO 4001-25 sec at f - 1.9

First Impressions

So far, we don’t really have a lot to complain about with the Pentax K3 except that it takes a bit of time to get used to. Once you understand it though, you can go on to creating excellent photos. We’re going to have to do a lot more tests with the autofocus, high ISO image quality, and ease of use in the field to ensure that can give it a proper run through.

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