Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pentax K5 DSLR Review

Pentax K5 DSLR Review (Updated 11-20-2011 New ISO 51,200 Gallery)
October 2011, Carl Garrard


Pentax K5 Best Price Check

Pentax K5 DSLR Review: In the past ten years or so I've used and/or owned many digital, film, and digital SLR cameras-  more perhaps than I'd like to count or share. In that time very few cameras truly rise up as my overall favorites. They've come in large and small packages, expensive and inexpensive alike. Price or size has never been a necessary determining factor in a design. I admire cameras of all makes and sizes and prices.

Few of those designs, and I mean very few, have taken ahold of my imagination and photographic spirit the way the Pentax K5 has. This extensive review explains why the Pentax K5 is truly a special camera to me, and why it is my vote for DSLR of the Decade.




Introduction:

Yet another  honest to goodness DSLR review? 1001 Noisy Cameras ought to be pleased about that, right? Anyways, Pentax's K5 is the most recent DSLR to come across my desk, and rounds out my triple header weather proof DSLR review set. Fresh off of writing the K200D and K20D DSLR reviews (other DSLRS of which I own, and have owned in the past), the K5 makes a serious case for its place in my weatherproof DSLR kit along side those camera bodies. Of late, I've outfitted myself with a weatherproof DSLR kit simply because I do not want to miss an opportune moment due to harsh weather conditions- I want to be right out there in them.

Time is fleeting. In my mind there's no time to cancel a photographic assignment or planned outing because the weather doesn't favor the equipment or comfort I seek. Therefore if my equipment is ready to handle the task, I've really got no excuse not to get out in the good stuff and see the world. And that's exactly what the aforementioned Pentax's do best- they're ready to take on the challenge of just about any sort of inclimate weather and do it reliably.

Although I tried to cover as much as possible about the K5 in this review, it's next to impossible to do so without writing a huge book. So I've put down in writing what has come to mind first when using the K5. Now with that said, onward.
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K5 Versatility 
Lets first take a look at what type of photographer would best benefit from the K5.  Here I've compiled a list of photographer types and highlight features of the K5 that might be the best consideration for that particular type of photographer or assignment.

K5 Shown here with optional weatherproof vertical/portrait grip


Sports Shooters: Fast continuous AF, 7fps, a 100% accurate viewfinder with very decent magnification, and awesome high ISO image quality make the K5 a real contender for this role. It may not be the best option but certainly the most affordable one and very capable indeed. Three years ago this camera would have been right at the top for a pick at this role.

Street Shooters: It's weatherproof, small and unintimidating, ultra quiet, takes just about any manual focus lens and with a magnification feature, great low and high ISO image quality, excellent viewfinder, discreet, what more can you ask for when shopping for a street camera?

Landscapers: Image quality galore, HDR, multi-exposure raw files, 100% LCD and OVF framing, axis and horizon digital level, Live View, ultra magnification for fine focusing, weatherproof, cold proof, small and packable, excellent battery life, what the heck else do you need from a camera for landscapes?

Portrait Shooters: Again, it's quiet, it has built in wireless flash capabilities with a dedicated flash sync, unitimidating, handles excellent, lots of fast prime lenses available for it (and a few fast zooms), and plenty of resolution for large prints.

Macro Shooters:
It's big 3" screen, magnification abilities, focus bracketing, excellent resolution, small body for tight spaces, and flash options make it a wonderful contender.

Outdoorsman/Extreme Photographers: See landscapers section. Add that you can buy very good weather proof optics that are small and sharp for very little money- and my goodness what an IDEAL dslr for this task. Plenty of room in the grip. Buttons are usable with cold weather gloves, its durable, small, and able to withstand extreme elements.

Traveling Journalists: A small quiet DSLR with excellent high ISO capability supported by a vast number of excellent high quality small yet fast prime lenses (Limited Series). Unintimidating and feature packed to handle a multitude of shooting environments many journalists face- I simply can't think of a better DSLR for this task.


The Beginner: The K5 may be more expensive than entry level DSLRS, but you can operate it like a beginners camera for as long as you like- until you are ready to start advancing your photographic skills. The K5 is an excellent platform to grow into, and likely you'll find it difficult to ever reach the full potential of what the K5 is capable of. Great long term investment, buy one camera and forget it. Start shooting like crazy.

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Pentax Lineup Cross Comparison 
K200D vs K20D vs K5 (The Three Amigos!)
Pentax K5 Best Price Check
Lets take a look at how the K5 compares to the other Pentax DSLRS I have in my tool chest. I've picked all three of these cameras for various reasons and all will get rotating photographic duty, especially with fall and winter weather coming to California very soon. All three of these cameras have extensive weather sealing and two of them are almost obscenely affordable on the used market. I like them all for their strong points, but there has to be one that stands out the most.
   
Size comparisons of The Three Amigos with different Pentax lenses. Look out for a review on the one in the middle soon.

Pentax K200D

First introduced in early 2008. Affordable minimalist DSLR with weatherproof capabilities, go anywhere worry free AA power supply, excellent low ISO CCD image output, small and yet very comfortable with just about any lens. Lightest of the group. When going lite for trail running or day backpacking trips, could be the preferred body. When you want a back to basics experience without a heady menu system or complicated interface, or just feeling sort of retro, this is the camera to bring. Bring it along to take pictures, period.

Pentax K20D
First introduced in early 2008. Best handling DSLR of the group- has some features from both the K200D and K5, kind of the middle man DSLR here. The K20D although older, still has an unique alluring quality about it. Biggest DSLR of the pack but still not too bulky or large for backpacking or trail running if you don't mind additional weight in your pack, or if you use a smaller lens. Still has a minimalist back to basics feel to it, but enough customization and newer style features to tinker with if you get the itch. A well balanced DSLR in this regard- makes it a unique and satisfying camera to shoot with. It has just enough of what you need for most situations to make it a very capable tool. Image quality is excellent for landscapes especially. It'll hold its own for wildlife or action shooting if you need it too. The K20D screams "I can do it, if you let me try." Might be the best overall value at its used price of all three cameras. It all depends on the depth of your needs though.

Pentax K5
First introduced in early 2010. "Q" would build this DSLR for James Bond. The most expensive of the group. It can do everything either camera in this group can do and much more, but it's reliant on a proprietary lithium battery. Smaller than the K20D, but heavier than the K200D. Best image quality by far of the group (less that mystical special K200D CCD factor). Almost every feature can be customized, you could spend hours on downtime relaxing on the couch processing images or videos in the camera after the fact. Bring it into a hurricane, drop it into a sand dune, shoot it out of a 16" Battleship gun, the K5 won't care. Excellent Landscape tool, especially because of its WYSIWYG OVF and LCD composition capabilities- yet there are a plethora more reasons that make it such a good tool for this task. Almost an overwhelming feature set and capable package. Responsive, versatile, Pentax's best overall effort yet. The K5 is the best culmination/combination of what Pentax is good at. It's cute and small, but lookout, it really is a wolf in sheep's clothing. 

The K5 stands out of this pack and is hereby branded- A Jack of all trades, master of sum.

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The K5's Remarkable Processing and Image Sensor


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The K5 is equipped with a brand new Prime II image processor and 16.3mp CMOS sensor. Together, they and the engineered firmware make all the beautiful image quality magic happen. After looking over the images I've amassed so far at all ISO sensitivities, I've come away quite impressed.

"The sky is the limit"- that's the thought that repeated itself  when deciding what sensitivity setting I want to use with the K5. I am pleased with the output at all ISO sensitivities, and quite frankly blown away. I believe the K5 is basically worry free to ISO 6400 in terms of image quality, 12800 to 25,600 are totally decent (sometimes for large prints especially monochrome), and beyond 25,600 are usable up to its max ISO of 51,200.

I've seen no banding or bad habits of the sensor at any sensitivity setting, which falls in line with my findings on the A580 DSLR sharing the similar sensor as well. Processing in the camera though, is another big part of the equation wherein the K5 excels.

At the lowest sensitivity I find the K5 is the first camera that I can use to shoot in raw for landscapes in harsh lighting circumstances that retains enough dynamic range that makes HDR near obsolete. You'll need to work your files sometimes, but the shadow detail is phenomenal, even when you "pull" your shadows up greatly.
Even up to ISO 200 I find the K5 will handle most scenes in this fashion quite well. Not too long ago what is possible with the K5 now, was simply impossible.

Next are some samples I've included for this review covering a broad range of ISO sensitivities. Most of these are processed from ACR in Photoshop unless otherwise stated. Each picture has a caption giving some details of the settings, click on the image for a larger size, hit your browsers back button to return to the review.

Trabuco Canyon Landscape ISO 200 18-55mm WR Lens f/8 CTE WB Setting

Old Junker From 60's Hippy Days, Trabuco Canyon ISO 2500 f/8 (Note Low Noise!)
Old Mining Shaft, Trabuco Canyon ISO 6400 f/5.6 (Note color retention/low noise)
Apollo, 55mm SDM ISO 16,000 f/4 (Note the very low light by his pupils!)
Pentax K5 Best Price Check 


Those four samples are just a small looking glass into the capabilities of the K5 image quality wise. All of them were shot without extra care made to using higher ISO values. This is unlike just about every other camera I've used in the past -less the A580, where I've always handled higher sensitivities with extra caution. 

The very last image of Apollo retains excellent detail and was shot in difficult low artificial light. Low light is the real test for a sensor, just about any sensor can perform good at higher ISO's in well lit (especially studio images) scenes. The K5 passes this harsh test with flying colors (while retaining them at the same time!). Here is a shot at ISO 2500 where subtle tones and color are preserved, almost unthinkable for this ISO setting not too long ago, and this is just a Jpeg straight out of camera.
ISO 2,500 AWB, low light (note low grain, wow)

In low ISO's blue sky noise is next to none up to ISO 200, preferably ISO 80. Most landscape photographers I know prefer to use lower ISO's for most images, so this makes the K5 a great choice for them. 

Metering
Compared to other Pentax DSLRS and the older 16 segment metering, the K5's 77 segment metering is simply in another class of performance here. Without question it's one of the more immediately obvious improvements I noticed right away, and continued to notice. There isn't a metering system that I know that is perfect but the K5's, especially compared to its siblings (less the K7), is so much better in this regard I forgive it for the rare brain fart that may occur. Overall I found it to be very reliable, with a slight bias in preserving highlight detail at times which means the occasional bump up in EV value compensation will need to take place.


White Balance

Like the K7 that pioneered a much more accurate auto-white balance, the K5 follows suit doing a much better than the DSLR predecessors of the past. When I do rely on Jpegs, the output is so close to what I'd adjust in raw, I'm perfectly happy with the results. Outdoors or indoors in odd lighting the K5 just seems to handle color issues well.  Stick it in live view and you can watch the K5 make near immediate color adjustments as you pan around the room, or just after you've turned the camera on. 




Far as I can recollect, Ricoh were the first to pioneer this kind of white balance with the GRD III compact, from there, the K7 followed (not because of Ricoh just in time lines of release), and all of Ricoh's cameras since. Pentax have taken a similar route with all of the cameras from the K7 and beyond and should be commended for the giant leap forward. Not all manufacturers have this down!

It's not a perfect system but heads and tails above past cameras and likely good for about 90% of your shots. I'll take that score any day of the week. Odd how Ricoh ended up purchasing Pentax- isn't it?  Match made in heaven? Could be.

*Note about CTE white balance setting. I find this to be the best auto-setting for landscapes that I've found yet, and If I hadn't read most of the K5 manual, I'd never have found it. Apparently this setting is optimized for landscape use, and I can see why.

Handling 
Overall the K5 handles excellent. I'll preface this segment by saying that I think the K20D still handles better overall- at a very slight expense of size and weight. While the K5 is excellent in this category, the K20D is superb (in my mind one notch higher than excellent). The smaller size of the K5 does make for some real estate compromises in comparison but still manages to be a completely competent overall DSLR in this regard. It's comfortable, balanced, weighty and controls are very well placed. It's no wonder the K5 is so similar to the K7 and it's a testament to the K7's original design out of the gate that it largely remains unchanged.
Pentax K5 Best Price Check
Auto Focusing System- SAFOX IX+

In general I find the K5 to be a very fast and accurate autofocusing DSLR. The lower the light levels the slower the auto focus of course- which is very common in DSLRS, but the K5 like the K20D and K200D before it doesn't seem to want to give up in near dark conditions (and I like that). In bright light, the K5 is one of the fastest focusing DSLRS I've ever used (top 3 for sure), especially when using a lens that is screw driven and utilizes the in-body focusing motor. 



The SDM focusing lenses are quiet and smooth but the focus motors aren't as fast as I'm accustomed to seeing with this type. I'd like to try out some other brands on the Pentax to get a feel. That said, the screw driven lenses are super snappy, and this obviously isn't an issue with the K5 (nor with SDM lenses really, it's not that big of an issue).

The K5 attacks its AF subject quickly, and is tenacious in constant AF mode. The motor in the body works overtime to keep your subject in focus, like a cat following a drawn string on the carpet floor- quick quick quick quick! Micro adjustments happen constantly and frequently, and although it can be a bit loud, I find it accurate after I've made an exposure. If for whatever reason your K5/lens combo doesn't focus accurately, don't worry, the K5 has a micro AF adjustment feature that will automatically identify your lens and save your adjustment settings forever and ever (up to 20 lenses).


Live View CDAF System
The only area I find the K5 to exhibit any hint of struggling is when I'm using live view contrast detect auto focusing (CDAF). Sometimes there's just not enough contrast for the K5 to lock onto in a scene and this is very much normal for this kind of AF system. Using PDAF (phase detect) in live view isn't all that bad and seems to have a higher percentage lock rate. If you don't mind the mirror flip up and down, try it, I like it.




Otherwise, the AF point can be positioned just about anywhere on the screen, when using CDAF find an area with more contrast to use the AF point on, and likely the K5 will lock, and lock accurately. Only on a couple of occasions did a scene trick the K5 into thinking it really had a sharp lock, when in fact it didn't. I don't complain about those kind of results, especially because of the vast improvement I've seen in CDAF technology and how that has found its way into the K5.

My Favorite Two Filters- Cross Processing and Infrared

I'm a big sucker, I like the cross processing look. Occasionally CP can just render a mood that other processing techniques simply can't offer no matter how hard they try. The feeling is difficult for me to describe, but best attributed to my childhood when viewing old photo albums that had pictures from the 1970's. You know the kind? The almost turned orange and near faded look? That doesn't quite fully explain the draw CP has for me though, there is something else to it I really like. Here is a quickie sample I took while driving (don't do that).


Some Church in Rancho Santa Margarita, CP blue/magenta filter, ISO 250


The K5's Infrared Filter isn't so bad either. It's a bit hit and miss when it comes to a real "near IR" look, but when the camera gets it right, it's a lot of fun. I myself shoot with IR cameras (conversions, not Hoya filters) so I know what the real deal should look like. Even though it's not authentic, the look is intriguing and promotes experimentation. Blue skies w/clouds make a nice backdrop if you can get them in your scene. Pentax basically simulates the look of IR by taking the blue channel and making it fully dark, and turns vegetation into a more translucent white (that doesn't always work). Nevertheless it's grainy and it's fun, and that is enough for me to have some fun with. Portraits look really interesting. Try it. Le Sample below.

Just A Tree- IR Filter ISO 80 (My favorite ISO setting for this filter)
Pentax K5 Best Price Check
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Technical Info and Commentary 

Build Quality 
The heart of the K5 (just as the K7 before it) lies in a hybrid magnesium allow body, encasing a stainless steel chassis that's strong enough to take years of heavy photographic use. Pentax clearly overbuilds their cameras. Why isn't the very back panel made of magnesium too? The high level composite type of the back panel isn't chincy plastic, its durable fiber reinforced composite that stays warmer, resists scratches,  and takes bumps and bruises better by being able to flex, unlike metal.




Weather Sealing 
There are a plethora of gaskets and seals on the Pentax K5 that armor it from the elements. In my time with the K5, I've only had one rainy day to test it out but it was quite a day of rain. I wasn't shy about keeping the K5 in the elements while I was warm and dry under my gortex gear and waterproof boots. Prior to that day I've spent time in Hawaii with the K7 in torrential rains and the K7 never budged. Therefore I can attest personally to the level of sealing and dust protection from experience. It flat out works and gives me a sense of calm knowing the elements won't ruin a trip.


Optical Viewfinder
The K5 is equipped with one of the very best optical viewfinders in the high end DSLR category. Specification wise, it's a  full 100% coverage (typical is about 96%), .92x magnification (typical is about .85-.90x) finder that is quite bright via the glass pentaprism. This remains unchanged from the K7. A lot of information is displayed at the bottom of the view, including a tilt horizon indicator (can barely make it out in the image to the left) and full time ISO reading. 11 auto focus points (9 double cross type) will light up red when the subject is in focus within the specific AF area. Four focusing screen types are available.



Control Panel 
The K5 is also equipped with a quick control panel that allows you to make fast adjustments while over a highlighted area. This system is fast and intuitive, very similar to what other manufactures have done as well (Sony Quick-Navi screen, Olympus, etc.). I particularly like this screen for fast access to digital filters and cross processing modes, its much faster than navigating the menu. Distortion controls, HDR control, HDR shadow/highlight correction, extended bracketing, file types/sizes/quality, and SR (shake reduction) are just a thumb twist away from fast changes. 

Digital Horizon Level
Another helpful tool, especially for landscape artists, is the digital horizon level. This version is an improvement over the K7's digital level in that it adds pitch to the equation. This way you can get your horizontal adjustment as well as your pitch correct at the same time. Combine this tool with the automatic geometric distortion correction at the time of shooting, and this will save photographers a lot of time in photoshop. Also if you're an aviation buff, you can mock fly the K5 around your house airplane style like a little kid. Yeah, you know I did it- so what.




Live View
Just about every tool you could want for live view is included with the K5. It uses two kinds of focusing methods- contrast detect and phase detect (with a mirror flip), has face detection, manual focusing magnification on any area of the screen, a live histogram (luminescence only), full EV adjustment range, digital level, normal shooting settings, 3 kinds of  grid overlay screens, and much more. Although contrast detection AF isn't as fast as phase detection, Pentax has done a lot of work making theirs much faster since the introduction of the K7 (do any of you remember the first generation CDAF?).

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Quick Market Comparison: K5 vs. A580
Pentax K5 Best Price Check
Another camera which shares a similar sensor as the K5 is the Sony Alpha A580. This is a camera which I've repeatedly announced high praise for, mainly because of its image quality for the price. Currently the A580 goes for about $799.00 Body Only, roughly half of the price of the K5 unless you factor in the current rebate for the K5 of $300.00 off of its $1,499.00 MSRP.

The K5 is even smaller than the Sony A580 but still retains a better grip, which surprised me. Not lighter, but smaller.

For about $500.00 dollars more than the A580 though, the K5 has an impressive upgrade path which included the following: Industry leading weather/dust sealing, a much larger and brighter optical viewfinder, better grip and control surfaces, magnesium and stainless steel build quality, massive customization options, a much quieter shutter/mirror cycle, dedicated AF lamp, battery grip option, longer rated shutter life, top illuminated LCD panel, full metering and autofocus at 7fps (a580 will do 7fps but af and focus are locked), intervalometer, catch-in focus, Jpeg customization options, many art filters, cross processing and reversal film modes, a much more effective and reliable dust removal system, more external controls (dual dials and metering dial for example), a slightly smaller form factor, and many more features that don't come off the top of my head.

Still, the A580 has similar AF speed, image quality, wireless flash as the K5. It bests it with a tilt LCD screen, unique phase detect full live view mode, unique 6 frame image stack multiframe noise reduction/handheld twilight options, lighter weight, and better battery life. To date I believe the A580 represents Sony's best DSLR for the dollar and has been a favorite of mine for nearly a full year now- mainly because of its image quality, stacking features, and tilt LCD.

Both cameras have a 3 frame auto-image aligning/stacking HDR mode, which is not only handy for extreme lighting circumstances but also for low light noise reducing capabilities. When shooting in HDR mode in either camera, noise is reduced by about one full stop because of a 3 image stack in camera. This mode works best on still subjects, and allows for hand hold shooting at high ISO's in very dim circumstances with less noise penalty as a result. Sony's MFNR mode, aligns 6 images, and gives you a 2 stop advantage. I find the image stacking options useful and am glad to see the K5 at least incorporates one of those two types of shooting.

Both will do HD video, but the K5 has more manual options- Sony's advantage is the AVCHD file type which takes less memory to record. Video is not a major concern of mine at all, at this time.

And last but not least, both have a moving image sensor that stabilizes hand held vibrations and movement- which is an advantage for every lens you own.

Other than that I find these two cameras a world apart in how they operate, handle, and what tasks they are best suited for. The A580 will keep up with the K5 in ideal weather circumstances, but add dusty, windy, or rainy environments and the K5 leaves the A580 in the dust. The massive amounts of customization options of the K5 are a strength seldom showcased in reports of the K5. Let me be clear, this is a HUGE part of the K5 experience and it truly sets itself apart from any other manufacturer in this regard. Other manufactures do have customization options (big brands), but for more expense, and never as comprehensive as the K5.

For outdoors, the K5 is an easy no-brainer choice, unless the weather conditions are ideal. Indoors I'll take either, but the K5 has more ISO options, and a dedicated AF assist lamp and much quieter shutter. In low light situations where I need a quiet stealthy camera (when do we ever need a loud camera?), the K5 would win here hands down. Yep it's more expensive but for my personal use, I find the advantages worth the extra cost. Both are excellent cameras for the price however.

As overwhelmed with the K5 as I am, I almost find it shocking that the A580 still impresses me after using the K5. Holding both in your hand tells you a lot about the quality of construction which speaks volumes in favor of the K5, but when comparing image quality on screen or print they are very close to one another- the K5 having a one stop advantage in shadow detail and overall dynamic range. In use, both cameras are just a blast to use and entice creativity backed by solid fast and reliable performance.

My pick if I have to have just one camera? The Pentax K5, price and all.

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K5 vs. Mirrorless 

In case you don't know, there's a new kind of camera segment that's been gaining popularity in the photo industry. Most manufacturers are now involved in the mirrorless category which include Sony, Samsung, Pentax, Olympus, Panasonic, and even Nikon finally stumbled into the market with a new model or two recently. 

Fortunately I've also had the opportunity to try many of these models out first hand. Some are much more impressive than others- let me first get that straight. Some are also very tempting for me to use in addition to DSLRS, yet the only way I can justify getting yet another camera system is to be sure there is a place for one in my shooting that is legitimate and not just for play or fun.


Mirrorless cameras are typically more compact than DSLRS which is supposed to be their main selling point. So far though, in having used several different brands and models, the only real mirrorless system I see out there that is really compact is the Pentax Q system. Sony does well the the NEX-3/5 series, but once you add anything but a pancake prime lens to it, the size factor is suddenly not as good, and there are compromises that come with such a system. 

Many of them do not have a built in viewfinder, you'll need to purchase a separate (and often expensive) EVF finder in order to get that eye level view. And when you do attach the finder, there is more compromise in the compact advantages a mirrorless system has inherently. So, all of this got me thinking about the K5 and the small limited lenses that are available for it.


I began to realize that the K5 and a small pancake or limited lens wouldn't be all that much bulkier than any of the popular (or respectable class) Mirrorless cameras. Yet at the very same time, there would be no additional compromises I'd have to make with the K5 because it already has everything I need in a camera. Putting a small lens on the front just makes the K5 a very compact imaging device, and it's really not that much larger than some of the enthusiast level mirrorless cameras out there with a similar lens attached. Check out this photo below when compared to the Canon G12 compact set at a similar focal length, then imagine that most mirrorless cameras are larger than the G12- especially with a lens attached.


The K5 isn't that much larger than the G12, and most  mirrorless cameras w/lens would be larger than the G12.

It'll be a bit heavier than a mirrorless camera, but with that comes a steadier camera, in body image stabilization, a beautiful 100% coverage optical viewfinder, the best APS-C image quality available, and full feature set. So to reiterate, the K5's small form factor again has another advantage here. In a way, the K5 can be as large or small of a system as you'd want it to be. Versatility is an understatement, all without much if any compromise.


This is something to really think about folks. The K5 purchase could do much more for you than you might initially think- it's kind of a stand alone product in this regard. Truly the K5 isn't just a typical DSLR, it really does stand alone in the market as something unique- classing into "DSLRS" although it is one, might be a bit too general. Here we go right back to my buy one camera argument for the K5.


Keep in mind too that there are excellent vintage used manual focus Pentax prime lenses available that would make an excellent companion for a compact outfit. Hmm, something to think about here. No compromises in camera operation, class leading image quality, for near the same size as an enthusiast level mirrorless camera but with much more versatility.

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Pentax K5 DSLR Review- Final Conclusion


The Pentax K5 is a stunning representation of Pentax's core strengths and capabilities as a camera manufacturer. Always the camera for the photographer by the photographer kind of company, the K5 incorporates nearly all of Pentax's best attributes and very few of their weaknesses.

Obviously Pentax listened to its users of the K7 and responded. That camera too, had very few weaknesses yet Pentax still managed to improve upon that design with the K5 greatly when many other manufacturers in the same situation might not have given that much effort to do so- and most importantly not needed too.

Unequivocally the K5 is a refined DSLR for the most serious user but its unintimidating exterior seems to politely extend out a hand to new users and say, "Just set me in green mode and I'll take care of you". And that's exactly what the K5 does for serious photographers as well. I couldn't come up with one scenario where I felt the K5 couldn't handle a situation with authority or aplomb.

When you aren't out shooting seriously with it, it's just a cool and fun camera to explore and use. There are so many filters and settings and features that you'll never get bored trying to master any one of them. It's a techy little wonder that manages to push several of my happy buttons simultaneously. It is hard to put down. During the course of writing this review I've stopped several times just because I wanted to shoot with it and it didn't matter what the subject was, a toe, a bowl of mushy cereal, grandmas' old tea kettle, or a lamp. They are all game. I just had to get up and go shoot.

Getting back to being serious, I find the Pentax K5 DSLR to be a well balanced design from any angle you critique it. Not only is it a massive upgrade to the already stellar K7, but I find that all of its features, construction, and image quality all sort of came together like planets aligning in our solar system. Is it perfect? No, of course not. No camera is perfect. Just how close to that ideal the K5 comes though- that is what makes it such a strong camera to recommend to nearly any kind of shooter I can think of.

The K5 in itself is a massive engineering hurdle, I'm not sure buyers really understand the magnitude of engineering the K5 is. To put an enthusiasts dream wish list into a camera, then have it organized in such a way where most things are easy to find and use, have it fit in such a small form factor, and have it perform as responsive as it does- man, you really have to hand it to Pentax's engineers to pull this one off right. I'd give them a high five if I ever meet any of them.

Hurray for the little guy. Go Pentax.

As an all rounder, nobody makes a better DSLR than the Pentax K5 at any price. And in the end that is why I name the Pentax K5 the *DSLR of the Decade.

*Denotes the last 10 years of DSLR history (2001-2010)

As always, be safe and happy shooting.

-Carl  Garrard





Click and Support- Easy peasy. I recommend B&H Photo as a retailer. They are reliable and have great prices. For a quick check on the K5's current price go here:
Pentax K5 Best Price Check


    K5- Pro's and Con's

    Here is a quick pro and con list for the short attention span types. All of this praise made finding a con list for the K5 the hardest part of doing this review. All said and done, even with the Con list, the K5 gets the highest praise I've ever bestowed on a DSLR.

    Pro's
    • Customization Galore
    • Highest  Image Quality of any APS-C DSLR (as of writing)
    • Images Print Excellent Up to ISO 16,000, Useful Beyond to ISO 51,200
    • Excellent Extreme Weather/Environment DSLR
    • A Enthusiasts Wish-List Come True
    • Generally Fast, Accurate, and Tenacious Low Light Auto Focusing
    • SHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhh..... It's Ultra Quiet (see con list)
    • Small form factor, well balanced weight
    • Excellent Large, Comfortable, Secure grip (one handed shooting all day long)
    • Handling is excellent for such a small DSLR
    • Best Dust Removal/Prevention System of Any DSLR
    • 100% Accurate, Large, Bright Optical Viewfinder
    • Big LCD Screen (Color/Brightness Customizable)
    • Dual Customizable Control Dials
    • Stellar Price/Feature Ratio
    • Fast Frame Rate (6.9 fps Tested, 7fps claimed)
    • Strap Lugs Do Not Interfere With Handling (do not press against pressure points on hand)
    • Excellent Live View Options (Fast Contrast Detect AF w/firmware update)
    • Several Firmware Updates Enhance Feature Set/Support User
    • Excellent Choice For Military/Coast Guard/Government Service Journalists
    • User Choice for Noise Reduction On Jpegs 
    • Automatic Lens Distortion Correction (for more modern Pentax Lenses)
    • Autofocus Fine Tuning (up to 20 lenses)
    • Embedded Custom Copyright Information Option
    • 4 Customizable Buttons/Dials
    • Tilt/Axis Digital Level (tilt level even in the viewfinder!)
    • In Camera Image Stabilization (SR)
    • Dynamic Range Setting, Auto-Aligning HDR Setting, Multi-Exposure Setting (available for Raw files too!)
    • DNG Raw Format or PEF Proprietary Format Available
    • Myriad of Filter/Film Simulation Options
    • Excellent Buffer (with newest firmware v1.11)
    • Quick Adjustment Info Screen (w/full time/date/day display)
    • Excellent Timer/Drive Options (remote options especially)
    • Dedicated Mirror Up Mode/Bulb Mode (all ISO's now available in this mode due to fw upgrade)
    • Excellent Range of EV Control (-5 to +5)
    • Enough Bracketing Options To Satisfy Anyone
    • HD Video, and External Mic Jack
    • 16mp resolution14 Bit Raw Files (for excellent color rendition/prints at very large sizes) 
    • GPS Option if you are into that

    Con's
    • Image processing for HDR shooting can take a bit too long
    • Battery life could be a bit better (but is great when you manage it well, which is key)
    • Cross Processing should be available for in-camera post processing duties
    • AF speed in lower light levels could be a bit faster (but it is tenacious and rarely does not lock on)
    • A Flush Mounted, Flip and Twist LCD Would be Better (as long as handling/size isn't compromised)
    • In Body AF Motor Can Be Loud (Manual/SDM focusing ensures near silent reputation, see pro list)
    • One Card Slot (I just use a 32GB Class 10 card though)
    • Flash Sync Speed Could Be Higher To Match Competitors 
    • Write times in some shooting modes are pretty slow
    • Bottom of camera could use rubber seating around tripod mount (to keep camera secure on tripod/minimize damage to paint/body)
    • Bring back the finger grooves in the left side of the body (like the K20 please)
    • Swing out doors are better than rubber grommets
    K5 ISO 51,200 Gallery 
    The K5 is an extraordinary tool for low light shooting, as I've discussed on the review almost ad nauseum, however, I felt that a small gallery showing samples of the capability of the K5 might help to do my words more justice. Tell me what you think on the three samples below! (Processed from Raw in ACR)

    Morning Coffee
    My Favorite Model!
    Pokey, the Handsome Lad!



    Pentax K5 Full Specifications
    Pentax K5 Best Price Check




    Sensor:Type: CMOS w primary color filter and integrated Shake/Dust Reduction sensor movement system Size: 23.7 x 15.7mm Color depth: 8 bits/channel JPG, 14 bits/channel RAW Effective pixels: 16.3 MP Total pixels: 16.9 MP Recorded resolutions Still: 16M (4928x3264), 10M (3936x2624), 6M (3072x2048), 2M (1728x1152) Movie (resolution/FPS): 1920x1080p25, 1280x720p30/25, 640x480p30/25 Quality levels: **** Premium, *** Best, ** Better, * Good Dust Removal: DR II (ultrasonic vibration to low pass filter) with Dust Alert functionLens Mount:Type/construction: PENTAX KAF2 bayonet stainless steel mount Usable lenses: PENTAX KAF3, KAF2, KAF, and KA (K mount, 35mm screwmount, 645/67 med format lenses useable w adapter and/or restrictions) SDM function: Yes Power zoom function: Yes
    Focus System:Type: SAFOX IX+ TTL phase-difference 11 point (9 cross) wide autofocus system with light wavelength sensor Focus modes: AF Single (w focus lock, focus/shutter priority selectable), AF Continuous (w focus/FPS priority selectable), Manual Focus point adjustment: Auto 11 Point, Auto 5 Point, User-Selectable, Center AF assist: Yes, via dedicated LED AF assist lampViewfinder:Type: Pentaprism Coverage (field of view): 100% Magnification: 0.92X (w 50mm F1.4 at infinity) Standard focusing screen: Natural-Bright-Matte II (interchangeable) Diopter adjustment: -2.5m to 1.5m Depth of field preview: Optical (diaphragm stop-down), Digital
    LCD Monitor:Type: 3.0” TFT color LCD with brightness/color adjustment and AR coating Resolution: 921,000 dots Wide angle viewable: Yes LIVE VIEW Type: TTL by CMOS image sensor Field Of View: 100% Display Modes: Magnification (2-6X AF, 2-10X MF), Grid Overlay (4x4, Golden Ratio, Scale), Bright/Dark Indication, Histogram Autofocus: Yes, Contrast + Face Detection, Contrast Detection, Phase DifferenceBuilt-in Flash:Type: Retractable P-TTL popup flash Guide number: 13m (ISO 100) Coverage: 28mm wide angle (equiv 35mm) Flash modes: On, Redeye, Slow Sync, Slow Sync + Redeye, Trailing Curtain Sync, Wireless Flash exposure compensation: -2 to 1 EV (1/2 steps)
    External Flash:Type: Hotshoe (P-TTL), high speed sync and wireless w PENTAX dedicated flash, X-Sync Socket Synchronization speed: 1/180 sec Storage Media:Internal memory: n/a Removable memory: SD, SDHC, SDXC (via firmware update)
    Interfaces:Ports: USB 2.0 hi-speed, AV out, HDMI out, DC in, cable switch, 3.5mm stereo microphone, X-sync socket Video out: HD (via HDMI), NTSC, PAL Printer interfaces: n/aPower Supply:Power source: Rechargeable Li-Ion battery D-LI90, D-BG4 Battery Grip (optional) for 2nd D-LI90 battery or 6X AA batteries Recordable images: Approx 980 (approx 740 w 50% flash, CIPA) Playback time: Approx 440 min Movie recording time: Approx 25 min (automatic overheat shutdown protection) AC adapter available: Yes (optional)
    Physical Specifications:Body dimensions (W x H x D): 5.2 x 3.8 x 2.9” Body weight Without battery or removable memory: 23.3 oz Loaded and ready: 26.1 oz Construction material(s): Magnesium alloy shell over stainless steel chassis Weather resistant: Yes (77 weather protection seals) Operating temperature: 14-104°F (-10 to 40°C)Language Support:English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, Russian, Korean, Chinese (Simplified/Traditional), Japanese
    Image Stabilization:Type: Sensor-Shift Shake Reduction with rotational compensation (4 stops max) Electronic level function: Yes, verification via viewfinder and LCD panelMetering System:Type: TTL open-aperture 77 segment metering Sensitivity range: EV 0 to 22 (ISO 100, 50mm F1.4) Multi-segment: Yes (77 segments) Center weighted: Yes Spot: Yes Exposure compensation: +/- 5 EV (1/3 and 1/2 steps) Exposure lock: Yes Exposure bracketing: Yes (2, 3, or 5 frames, up to +/- 2 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 steps)
    ISO Sensitivity:Auto: ISO 100-12800 (1, 1/2, 1/3 steps), expandable to ISO 80-51200, Bulb mode up to ISO 1600, auto ISO range selectable Manual: 100-12800 (1, 1/2, 1/3 steps), expandable to ISO 80-51200, Bulb mode up to ISO 1600 White Balance*:Auto preset modes: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Fluorescent (D, N, W, L), Tungsten, Flash, CTE Manual mode(s): Yes, 3 manual and 3 Kelvin temperature presets available, copy WB settings from a captured image available * WB fine adjustment available in all modes
    Shutter:Type: Electronically controlled, vertical-run, focal plane shutter Shutter speed: 1/8000 to 30 sec (1/3 or 1/2 steps), BulbCapture Modes:Mode selection: Green, Hyper Program (P), Sensitivity Priority (Sv), Shutter Priority (Tv), Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter & Aperture Priority (TAv), Metered Manual, Bulb, X-Speed, USER (5 presets), Movie Custom Image Modes: Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Muted, Monochrome, Reversal Film, Bleach Bypass - All include gamut radar and fine adjustment of saturation, hue, high/low key, contrast, and sharpness (regular and fine adjustment scales). Monochrome mode includes adjustments for filter effects (green, yellow, orange, red, magenta, blue, cyan, infrared), toning (sepia, warm/cool), high/low key, contrast, and sharpness (regular and fine adjustment scales). Green simplified mode available: Yes P/A/S/M/B: P, A, S, M, B (extended modes Sv, TAv) Date stamp: n/a Digital filters (capture): Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Extract Color, Soft, Starburst, Fisheye, Custom Data record: Folder name (standard, date), file name (standard, customizable), embed copyright
    Drive Modes:Mode selection: Single, Continuous (Hi, Lo), Self-Timer (12s, 2s), Remote (0s, 3s, continuous), Auto Bracketing (standard, timer, remote), MLU (standard, remote), HDR Capture (+3, 0, -3 with 5 blend settings and pixel alignment), Multi-Exposure (2-9 shots), Interval  (999 shots, 1 sec to 24 hrs, time delay available) Continuous FPS - Continuous Hi: 7.0 FPS (22 JPG, 8 RAW) - Continuous Lo: 2.0 FPS (unlimited JPG, 12 RAW) Self-timer: Yes (12s, 2s) Remote control: Yes, infrared (0s, 3s, continuous), cable switchPlayback Modes:Mode selection: One Shot (no data, basic data, full data, color channel histogram, bright/dark indication, copyright info), Multi Image Display (4, 9, 16, 36, 81 thumbnails), Calendar Filmstrip, Folder, Magnification, Select & Delete, Movie Playback (no data, basic data, full data), Save RAW Data From JPG (if available in buffer memory) Mode pallet: Image Rotation, Digital Filter, Resize, Cropping, Slideshow, Save as Manual WB, RAW Development, Index Print, Image Comparison, Protect, DPOF, Movie Edit, Extract JPG from Movie Magnification: Up to 32X, scrollable, quick magnification) Digital filters (playback): Toy Camera, Monochrome (filter, toning), Retro, Color, High Contrast, Soft, Extract Color, Starburst, Sketch, Watercolor, Fisheye, Pastel, Slim, Miniature, HDR, Posterization, Base Parameter Adj, Custom
    File Formats:Still: RAW (PEF, DNG), JPG (EXIF 2.21), DCF 2.0 compliant, DPOF, PIM III Movie (compression): AVI (Motion JPG)Custom Functions:Functions available: 27
    Computer Requirements:Windows: Windows XP/Vista/7, USB 2.0 port Mac: MacOS-X 10.3-10.6, USB 2.0 port

    Labels:

    40 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    How does the K7 compare? Is it still a viable option considering how good the K5 is?

    October 13, 2011 at 9:10 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I owned the K7 before upgrading to the K5, and can tell you the K7 can stand it's own ground against the K5 in every area except high ISO, and speed accuracy of the autofocus system. I enjoyed the K7, and really feel I should have kept it as a second body.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:59 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I own Pentax 645, Pentax 67, and an old Pentax screw mount. The ONLY reason my current digital SLR is a Sony is because when Minolta came out with the 7D I like their idea of in-body stabilization system. And since I used to have Minolta Auto-Focus film cameras I decided to go all the way with Minolta, later on with Sony. But since I have said to everyone before... if Sony don't make a camera by next year with a quality OVF that can really replace the A700 and A900 cameras I am going to sell all my Sony cameras and lenses, and buy a Pentax K5 since they also Anti-Shake and a good OVF. Although what I will really will like Pentax to make is a K5 with a full frame sensor. No other changes or "improvements" are needed.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:59 PM  
    Blogger sensel said...

    I am very happy with my K5, shooting mostly outdoors and together with the Limited series lenses it is a very capable system

    October 14, 2011 at 3:22 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    This is a better camera than I am a photographer after 40 years - a sweet piece of engineering.

    October 14, 2011 at 5:34 PM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Good to see other K5 shooters and others comments here. I wanted to do so much more for this review that I might have to do an addendum to it in the future. There's so much more story to tell about the K5 and how good of a camera it can be for you.

    Carl

    October 14, 2011 at 7:14 PM  
    Anonymous Marc Langille said...

    Hi Carl,

    Thanks for doing the review and some comparisons against it's older brethren. I've used the K10D a great deal for macro - brilliant at base ISO 100. However, for birding, I'm very curious to see how it pans out with AF performance (small, fast targets, perhaps BIF targets).

    Unfortunately that Sony CCD really has noise issues above ISO 500. If the K-5 does as good as I think it will in the high ISO performance and from what you've posted and indicated, it will be a treat. Perhaps it will be a quantum leap in that regard and it will be great to realize the value of a much, much greater SR in that sensor! That has been an Achilles heel (bad noise in darker areas) with the K10D. However, credit is also due: it was released in late 2006.

    For various reasons, I had to delay the purchase - your commentary simply cements my resolve to upgrade to the K-5. Turns out that I'm pulling the trigger this coming week: K-5 + grip, 3 extra batteries, perhaps a WR 18-55 for "in a pinch" situations. I'm eventually putting together a lightweight, landscape/travel specific kit. It will eventually include an 8-16 and a DA 12-24 or DA* 16-50 lens setup. Everything from a couple of UWA lens to medium telephoto, and perhaps a light 300mm. Now that the K-5 is on the horizon, I'll probably get a couple of faster lenses for indoor work too.

    FWIW, I own one of the best Pentax super telephotos from the film era: the FA* 250-600/5.6 - truly a unique lens and I'm getting great results on digital. Sample images with K10D:
    http://www.marclangille.com/photos/i-b3tsQtF/1/X2/i-b3tsQtF-X2.jpg
    http://www.marclangille.com/photos/i-n6CtvVZ/1/X2/i-n6CtvVZ-X2.jpg
    http://www.marclangille.com/photos/i-XCkGWRM/1/X2/i-XCkGWRM-X2.jpg

    Please let me know if you'd like any follow up on using the K-5 and my impressions. Many thanks again for the time it takes to put together a very involved review!

    Regards,
    Marc

    October 14, 2011 at 8:12 PM  
    Anonymous Frogfish said...

    Congrats on your K5 Marc - not sure how you can improve your Hummer shots but looking forward to seeing the results !

    Very nice review Carl ... thanks for your efforts. It should also be noted, and would be nice to see in any addendum, that the K5 compares very favourably to it's major competition, the 7D and D300s, in most important areas.

    I had the K7 before the K5 and kept it as back-up. However having used it for some paid sports events I sold it and will buy a 2nd K5 this week. There really is no comparison. If you can keep the K7 at low ISOs it's excellent but the far greater high ISO ability, greater DR, better colour depth and great improvement in AF means that using them side-by-side was an exercise in frustration, the K5 blows it away when you need to keep the shutter speed up, need low noise and fast AF. My advice would always be to save your pennies hard until you can afford the K5. Wonderful camera.

    October 15, 2011 at 2:07 AM  
    Blogger Cor said...

    Great review! I really love my K-5. I upgraded from a K10 to a K20 to a K-7 and now a K-5. The biggest difference was from the K-7 tot the K-5!

    October 15, 2011 at 2:31 AM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Hi Marc (good to see another familiar name round here!).

    I believe the K200D and K10D use the same sensor, in reply to these comments "Perhaps it will be a quantum leap in that regard and it will be great to realize the value of a much, much greater SR in that sensor! "

    I think you'll see that it indeed is a quantum leap forward. The A580 I have always impressed me, but Pentax's processing is better at higher ISO's above 1600. So I'm even more impressed.

    To me the 16mp sensor is the finest overall sensor I've used on any camera, full frame combined.

    Congrats on your purchase, that's quite a kit you have and that you'll be adding. :) I'd like to hear your comments on the K5, absolutely. I'm sure I've missed a thing or three in this review.

    Again, good to see ya.

    Carl

    October 15, 2011 at 4:36 AM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Frogfish- I can't comment on the D300s, never used that one. Have used the D7000 in limited circumstances. Have used the canon, and just recently I made the following comments on the 7D-

    Had a 7D for some time. I can see why it's liked by many, but sometimes cameras are indeed like shoes- they just have to fit right. I couldn't love the 7D, I really wanted too, but there were some intangibles that really quite frankly left me feeling flat and bored when I used it.

    The 5D MK II, although similar in some respects, is a more exciting camera to me. There is something about its more simple nature than the 7D that I like, the larger viewfinder and better IQ were icing on the cake (very good shooting buddy of mine has one I get to try quite often).

    Still, neither feel as versatile as the K5 and that is what I think really makes me respect that design the most of all its attributes.

    Carl "

    October 15, 2011 at 4:38 AM  
    Anonymous Marc Langille said...

    Hi Carl,

    Glad to pop in and say hello! The K200D, K10D and Nikon D200 all shared the same Sony CCD sensor. The D200 had 4 channels (vs. 2) on the data bus to allow it to shoot 5FPS vs. 3.x FPS for the Pentax bodies.

    Oops - a typo correction: "Perhaps it will be a quantum leap... much greater DR in that sensor!" I was referring to dynamic range, although I'll be curious to see how 2nd generation SR fits the bill.

    I'll try to follow up on our discussion of some input with the K-5 once I've had some time to dive into the K-5 a bit more. Actually I keep forgetting it has a LOT of features on it that I am sure I'll learn to use.

    Regards,
    Marc

    October 15, 2011 at 12:54 PM  
    Anonymous Marc Langille said...

    Frogfish: thanks for the best wishes on getting the K-5. The biggest deal for me after AF/FPS performance is the high ISO performance - that will reduce PP work when I convert from RAW. What I'll realize - I hope - from this upgrade are also more in focus images to choose from! There was an interesting comment made several months on some hummingbirds images that I posted & I was shooting those images with the K10D. "What would happen if you had the K-5?" 8-o
    I am only hoping for more "keepers" and higher DOF due to the K-5's capabilities vs. photographing a subject at 600mm and only 12-18 feet away means very thin DOF, so this is a good thing to upgrade! Plus being able to shoot earlier/later in the day - that's it! To even consider shooting at ISO 1600 or higher with reasonable detail vs. noise levels was but a "pipe dream" in the past.


    Carl: frankly I'm beyond impressed with the sensor's abilities - both your images and others seem to prove it.

    One thing regarding your comments about the 5D MK II and your excitement: I suspect it's simple nature also lets you put your focus back into the photography, not the gear. People are surprised when they view the EXIF data of some of the images I've taken. There's no magic here, it's just the basics: AV or M mode 99% of the time (limited by the K10D of course). The gear is simply an extension of me when I shoot. Better gear - to me - only means possible capitalization on a better keeper ratio.

    Regards,
    Marc

    October 15, 2011 at 1:07 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    HI Carl!
    I see you are already committed to Pentax. Were you to start again would you still buy Pentax? Could I ask the others who have commented on your report - did the "staining" issue effect your K-5? I like the small size, durable feel and weatherproofing the K-5 offers. I was all set to buy one when the "staining" issue raised it's head. I just don't want to buy one and have to send it away to get a new camera fixed. Any comments?

    October 19, 2011 at 6:00 PM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Hello.

    I wouldn't say I'm committed to any particular manufacturer, it just so happens that Pentax makes a weather resistant kit that I feel is the best overall choice for what I do. I use multiple systems from multiple manufactures at any given time. Typically I like to use Sony DSLRs and Pentax DSLRs because of their unique qualities when compared to the market.

    As far as the staining issue it's real simple for me. Pentax acknowledged the issue and offers services to fix K5's for free of charge. My copy does not suffer from that issue- I can only comment on the camera I'm testing.

    Worth noting also is that the K5 I'm using doesn't suffer from autofocus issues. Personally I see a lot of claims from a lot of users on any system that the autofocus has issues, and in my view most of the time it is the user or, a camera and lens not being on the same page (which is quite common with DSLRS). I'm not saying there aren't any underlying issues out there, again, I can only comment on the camera I'm using which I find to be spot on with 4 different lenses I've tested. Typically I find forum chatter to be too praising and too harsh on all cameras of all manufacturers.

    I like test a camera without reading comments others have made first, that way I'm not looking for something that might not even be there in the first place. So I've pretty much kept out of those threads but I'm aware of them.

    If I had noticed an issue I would have mentioned it in the review and promptly sent my camera into Pentax to have it adjusted under warranty. I think sending a camera into the manufacturer to have it fixed it the best way of letting them know they have an issue to fix. Bashing them on forums seems to go unnoticed in comparison to that.

    C

    October 19, 2011 at 10:13 PM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Hey Marc,

    "
    Carl: frankly I'm beyond impressed with the sensor's abilities - both your images and others seem to prove it. "

    It impresses me every day, still. Today while out birding, I'm shooting at ISO 800, one full stop underexposed (ISO 1600 basically), and the images look remarkably good- much like ISO 200 on other DSLRS I've used of late. Same goes for the A580 I also own- it's just a once in a decade (last ten years)kind of sensor.

    C

    October 23, 2011 at 6:37 PM  
    Blogger hikenhi said...

    I shot primarily with the K-10D for 3 years, the K-7 for 11 months, and currently the K-5 for 6 months. I knew he K-7 was a huge leap in terms of what I could capture over my K-10D. I can't believe some of the stuff I get with my K-5. It's so good I'm not even thinking about another DSLR for at least 5+ years. It brings the quality to the level where I say, "For what I do, there's no need for an upgrade for many years to come, possibly until it wears-out."

    October 23, 2011 at 8:03 PM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Guess I'm not crazy naming it DSLR of the Decade (last 10 years) afterall. I could think of no other appropriate title. I agree with you on the leaps :). K7 is a fine instrument, K5 that much more honed.

    October 23, 2011 at 8:32 PM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Marc, did you get your K5 and goodies yet?

    Picked up the 35mm f/2.4 this week for myself (miss the 35mm f/2.8 macro) to have a go with, and I like it a LOT more than I thought I would. Minus a couple of small niggles, this is one very very good lens.

    I'll be doing a review here on PC.com of it.

    Carl

    October 27, 2011 at 5:29 AM  
    Anonymous Marc Langille said...

    Hi Carl,

    I did and I am impressed. I posted a couple of images taken with the DA* 16-50 on DPR. Here's the B&W conversion (using Photoshop, not the camera filters):
    http://www.marclangille.com/photos/i-ZKppwnj/0/X3/i-ZKppwnj-X3.jpg

    Unfortunately the fall colors peaked quickly in our region. The wind/rain is not going to help keep anything around though. First impressions are very, very good. More to come once I have time to put my thoughts down.

    Regards,
    Marc

    November 6, 2011 at 9:57 AM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Excellent photograph Marc! Looking forward to more thoughts from you about the K5. Did you see that I dropped a load of cash on a limited K5 I found? Oh no, I'm in for it now!

    Carl

    November 6, 2011 at 11:07 AM  
    Anonymous mascarlos said...

    _Saludos
    -Muy bueno me ha gustado mucho el trabajo de critica , es realmente una camara todo terreno:
    te vas al coctel del presidente y queda bien , te la llebas al monte o la nieve y no se queja,
    48 horas en una mochila y tan fresca.
    -Un saludo desde España

    November 12, 2011 at 2:00 AM  
    Anonymous rgbowman said...

    After being widowed from an artist, I found a great gal that is a photography enthusiast. Wanting to catch up, I would like to buy a K-5 and three lenses since this camera works for beginners like me yet has plenty of depth to allow my new found interest to grow. Living in Portland, Oregon, it rains a lot here, so the K-5 has few other cameras that are affordable to compete with. The type of photography I am doing with my older Canon Rebel are macros, portraits, street, and closer in landscape work. My question is, what lenses would be a good choice if I buy three for these types of pictures while having the weather resistance to match the camera? I am willing to finance this and get really good lenses that will set me up for a few years to come. (We have a fledgling on line art gallery and magazine if you would like to show off your portfolio or look around at http://www.artistphotogintheraw.org)

    November 18, 2011 at 7:55 AM  
    Blogger granitix said...

    I'm surprised the iso51200 shots haven't been declared illegal by other manufacturers; usually when something is that good someone regulates it! Thanks for showing these, even though it will eventually force another kit makeover upon me..

    November 20, 2011 at 7:28 PM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Sorry Granitix! :)

    Grbowman- Pentax has several good weather sealed lenses as options, the budget kit and telephoto WR lenses in my opinion are far more than adequate and my go too foul weather lenses. They are light, sharp, and perform higher than their price tag- and most of all both have excellent maximum magnification and weather resistance.

    Carl

    November 23, 2011 at 7:45 PM  
    Blogger About Dave said...

    Hi Carl, I am currently saving to buy a K5, and have read many reviews, but yours tops them all. I currently use a K10d, that has been giving me some excellent photos, but I find it very poor in low light, and noisy at ISO's above 400, and additional problems with slow focus locking when photographing birds in flight. The K5 seems to address all of my problems, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. If I have any concerns with the K5 it would be its reduced size compared to the k10,I like heavy cameras, but I intend to purchase the battery grip, that I think will sort my concerns! Thanks again for your fine review. Best regards Dave. davesphotoskerryman.blogspot.com

    November 25, 2011 at 2:12 PM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Hi Dave, (and thanks on the review). About size weight.. I have a K20D and love its grip and overall handling. I think it's one of the finest body designs I've ever used. It feels much more spacious than its size might convey.

    Handling is subjective so indeed you'll need to hold a K5 for a bit to see if its size works for you. I've read that people using the battery grip with it are very much pleased with the size increase and spaciousness.

    I have the K5 Limited now too and that grip is a bit larger than my standard K5 (depth, not height) so I've got a couple of choices handling wise.

    Nothing brings a smile to my face like holding a K20D in my hands though. Glad I have that one too. For conditions that are more demanding on image quality I bring the K5, but for conditions with good light I love to use the K20D (and even the K200D).

    Overall though, I use my K5's most.

    Carl

    November 27, 2011 at 5:12 AM  
    Anonymous Davis said...

    Hello, Carl
    I just wanted to say thank you for your great work and passion. It helped me to make my decision and now I am a happy owner of K5. I was in the current "classical" choice as former A700 user wanting to have bit more from my DSLR, but not wanting to through away big bucks and be pro - just hobby and fun. Of course, recent K5 discount also did have an impact on decision. All in all, K5 really seems to be VERY good camera and the build, the grip and features are great (the grip was one of my main concerns after excelent A700).
    Davis

    November 30, 2011 at 1:12 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hello Carl,
    thank you for this excellent review.
    I buyed a K5 yesterday after i had read Your review.
    I wish You and everyone a meery christmas and happy new year!
    Greetings from Belgium.
    Guido Nuyttens.

    December 18, 2011 at 12:57 PM  
    Anonymous Subramoniam said...

    Hi Carl

    I follow your reviews of Alpha but this the first time I read you writing of Pentax.

    I'm like many in a quandary. What to buy to upgrade from my current SONY A200.

    I have the 1680CZ and 70300G that makes changeover difficult.If I used the G lens with my wife's NEX5 with the LAEA1 adaptor I have already still the 1680CZ becomes either a MF on her NEX5 or redudant. And using these lenses on NEX5 will make it loose it's form factor advantage. In UAE where I stay s/h market for SONY lenses is not very good,so if I sold the lenses I'd loose much.

    My choice is A580 so to use existing lenses, spare battery etc. or K-5 (with the lenses becoming redundant). Is it worth going Pentax route? What lenses in Pentax line match the SONY lenses I have?

    February 2, 2012 at 4:35 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Nice, the enthusiasm of you all. I've used an Olympus E300 since 2005 and although it's a camera that gave me many wonderful pictures in superb colours, i always ended up shooting in bad lighting circumstances. That's why i chose the K-5, with a 35mm prime lens and a Rikenon 50mm 1.4 handed to me by a friend. It hasn't disappointed me yet: it's very, very good even at high ISO's.
    Still....there's always an extra 6x6 TLR in my camerabag, and when the light is sufficient, that's my first choice....
    Have fun in seeing and showing others what you saw! That's what it's all about, isn't it?

    Arjen Zwamborn (the Netherlands)

    February 19, 2012 at 2:59 PM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Well said Arjen, well said. :)

    Carl

    February 19, 2012 at 3:56 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I'm a beginner to photography and upgraded from a Pentax K-x to a K5 within a year. What a difference! The K5 simply blows the competition away. The image quality is beautiful, especially with a 50mm Sigma f1.4 lens that I use. I've heard the Canon and Nikon fan club put Pentax down but don't let these badge snobs put it down, I have compared it to other cameras in its class and it is a lot better - both in versatility, speed and handling. I've put the genuine Pentax battery grip onto it and it feels a lot better now.

    Great review by the way

    Bash

    February 26, 2012 at 10:26 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Reassuring review, for me! I am patiently waiting for my Pentax K5 to arrive, and its nice to know that almost everybody is giving it a thumbs-up. I can hardly wait to get my hands all over it.

    March 13, 2012 at 11:54 AM  
    Blogger Benjamin Kanarek said...

    A great camera indeed!

    March 25, 2012 at 3:59 PM  
    Blogger C.GARRARD said...

    Thank you Benjamin- appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to comment ;).

    March 25, 2012 at 5:29 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    great review. im personally on my own waiting list for a k5, saving them pennies! i did have one question if its possible to answer. atm i own a sony a33, my first dslr(t). i will say sony has some real good software features even after doing a lot of research since i bought the a33 (fathers day 2011). my two favorite features r hdr and mfnr. i noticed u mentioned the k5 had frame stacking features (hdr/aeb) but u only discussed the hdr in detail earlier. can u tell me how the frame stacking of the k5(i read it was up to 9 frames) compares in NR to newer sony models?(not interested in aeb as i am alergic to pp) my a33 does indeed lower noise by around 2 stops with only 6 frames, 9 would in theory b 3 stops. and 3 stops for a camera already like the k5 would b godlike. can it take the frames continuously and such? or is it similar to other brands where it is meant to create ghosting trick images? ill b getting the k5 in a few months either way but im drooling at the thought of even more NR. thanks again!

    April 1, 2012 at 9:05 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Good evening,

    Are the LCD screens from the K5, exactly the same as on the K7?

    Thank you.

    April 27, 2012 at 9:55 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Carl,
    I have aPentax MX (film) with the 40-80 Pentax, and the 80-200 Sologar lenses. Will also be getting the 18-55 kit Pentax lens with the K-5 . Question, will my older lenses do the job in the digital world?
    Thanks, Richard (rreggers@ gmail.com)

    September 3, 2012 at 5:31 PM  
    Blogger Numéro_6 said...

    Great review,

    I have the K5 since July, after having a Kr as first DSLR. The Kr was very good (and much better than CaNikon of the same range), but the K5 is perfect for my current skills in photography (amateur).

    I'm using it with a Tamron 17-50mm 2.8, a Sigma 18-250mm 3.5-6.3 Macro (not a real macro, but a good proxiphoto), a Samyang 8mm 3.5 fisheye or a good old Pentax 100-300mm 4.5-5.6 coming from an argentic Pentax MZ.

    I have also bought an used original grip (for a little less of half the price of a new one), handling is much better with it :)

    I appreciate very much to have all the controls under the fingers and the large possibilities of setting. I take my photos in RAW mode, with aperture mode or speed/aperture mode.

    The Kr is now used by my girlfriend (she's an absolute beginner with DSLR) coupled with a Tamron 18-200mm 3.5-6.3 (not a bad lens)

    And my daughter (13 years) has a K100D Super with Pentax 18-55 and 50-200 (coming from the Kr kit)

    We are a Pentax family :)

    Greetings form France,

    Lionel

    November 23, 2013 at 2:56 PM  

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