A Quick Look at Pentax K-5 Video

A selling point for the new Pentax K-5 is its ability to shoot high quality video. To give it a little test, I made this hasty family video of my two kids working on a “Merry Christmas” sign and then showing it off in our studio. As a photographer, video falls outside my area of expertise, but I know readers will be curious about the function and want to see a little example filming. Read on for a few thoughts on the K-5 as camcorder.

The Pentax K-5 as A Video Camera

Like other DSLRs that shoot video, the Pentax K-5 doesn’t behave like a camcorder. It takes more planning and careful execution to render clean video. This quick video was shot with a Pentax 55mm f/1.4 DA*, a lens capable of strikingly shallow depth of focus, which can be both beautiful and a focusing challenge. The camera will autofocus before filming, but not during. With practice, the focus ring of the 55mm makes it possible to manually track a subject or to switch between subjects. The “real” effect we’re accustomed to seeing on TV and in movies is achieved with cine lenses designed for smooth tracking, with large, well-marked, and smooth turning focus and aperture rings (T stops, to our F stops). Often distance from camera to subject is measured and marked, not just guess work.

(The good and precise people at Carl Zeiss have recently released the first true cine lenses for DSLRs, currently only available in Canon and Nikon mount.)

So, with more humble lenses designed for photography and without a separate operator just for focus, it’ll take some practice to turn out cinematic video with a camera like the K-5. It’s got some nice tools, though. The camera’s built-in image stabilization is a noticeable aid in hand-held video work. Unlike Canon and Nikon, who use lens-based stabilization, the Pentax in-camera system will function with any lens, including wide angle. Also, aspiring cinematographers can take advantage of a wide range of lenses and ISO sensitivity, as well as the K-5‘s various creative filters and JPG processing tools. The camera’s cropped 35mm sensor isn’t especially large in the world of photography, but is a respectable size for a video camera.

For those serious about video work, the K-5 will be a bit of a tease without a dedicated microphone and some sort of after-market stabilization frame. For photographers who might enjoy the occasional motion grab, it’s a fun tool to have added to an already very capable little camera.

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