Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Rare Camera Find: The Pentax K3II Silver Edition (...Unboxing Video?)

Rare Camera Find: The Pentax K3II Silver Edition (...Unboxing Video?)
September 2018, Carl Garrard 

Sometimes, there's just something special about shooting with cameras that are not so common. Part of it is the perceived effect of the law of supply and demand. But, for something as special as photography is to me, unique cameras are just part of my joy. There are several reasons why I enjoy having different types of cameras around, and most are practical, but it's more than just that. It's sort of a need. First, I'm absolutely fascinated with camera design. Admittedly, I've sometimes even daydreamed about designing my own cameras, or, working for a camera manufacturer at the design level. Either I'm not alone there, or just a little obsessed.
Pentax K-3II Pentax DSLR (Best Price Black Body)

Maybe it's a bit of both, but is that a bad thing? Second, and from a more practical perspective, I like to support camera companies who have made brave design decisions and tried something different. Unique camera designs somehow feel more personal to me. And lastly, it's good for the industry to support what you like with your own money. Supporting companies who produce different or daring designs gives them the courage to do so in the future. I don't know about you, but I think our industry absolutely must keep a spirit of open and free design alive and breathing. Nothing would be worse than companies making similar products.

Multiple Camera Systems: Healthy Obsessions are Good

I've had a change of heart on this subject. Wisdom and experience have taught me that I shouldn't feel obligated to one camera or one system, nor should I feel guilt about having multiple of either. Rather, as a reviewer and photographer, I should attempt to master using many different systems and types of cameras. Why? 

Having multiple options allows more photographic advantages and leverage; and, each camera is also a completely different experience. The practice of alternating cameras forces me to have a different experience each time, as opposed to being stuck, stagnating in repetition. On top of that, this method frees me from being bound to a single camera or system's limitations.  Singularly, each camera design gives me a distinct advantage over another, and helps me appreciate all camera designs for what they do best. Since I review cameras, this path definitely helps me be much more objective than single brand loyalty ever could be.

The M8 and M9 give me a completely different photographic experience. I'm more in love with that than the looks by far. It's invaluable.

Like so many others, I've tried in the past to give up having multiple systems (see my Leica M8 review), but that just isn't going to happen. And, I'm okay with that now. I see things differently, rather, more clearly. Subsequently I dumped the guilt. I realized that it's not that I'm obsessed with buying things, quite the contrary I'm obsessed with using and experiencing different designs. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

I often live by a simple rule: So long as I'm using what I purchase, it's cost is justified. No more was that rule tested than with my Leica M8 and M9 cameras. They aren't cheap, and they are sort of at the extreme edge of digital photography. But what's all this got to do about the Pentax K3II Silver Edition? Isn't this just a collector camera? No, it's not. Stay with me.

I'm just not a collector type of person, not that being a collector is a bad thing either, it's just not for me. Most of the time material items must have a practical application for my life, and cameras definitely do. Yes,  I do have many cameras but they all get used. I will often rotate out designs (buy/sell) that aren't inspiring at the time, but that's just part of the process. This helps keep me creative and fresh with new designs coming and going all the time. And sometimes, I'll even buy and sell the same camera multiple times. It all depends on my mood. I say whatever works.

So, now that all that has been said, what the hell does all that have to do with my newest purchase? 

Well specifically in this case I just happened to desire a dedicated DSLR that would be an appropriate match to beautiful high quality prime lenses. It must be equal in build quality to lenses that  have a quality tactile experience and aesthetically pleasing presence. Practical yes, but also one that also looked equally matched to leveraging the capability of  high quality prime lenses. So I decided to take a look at a few options. Pentax came to mind because they make plenty of special edition cameras and their limited primes are gorgeous. So I did a little research and considered the few following candidates that I had found:
  • Pentax K10 Grand Prix Edition (found one)
  • Pentax K3 Prestige Edition (found two)
  • Pentax K5 Silver Edition (found many)
  • Pentax KP (new model)

While poking around, and by pure luck, I happened to see that only 500 silver K3II's were made world wide. Somehow I missed that press release. Pentax usually makes about 2,000 units for their special edition cameras. The Pentax K3II Silver Edition is beautiful, and capable, and seemed like the perfect fit. Black or silver limited lenses would look great on it. But, could I actually find one? I really doubted it since the odds were against me, but there was only one way to find out for sure.

So, I went digging around on Google search mission. And low and behold, I was rewarded by a big stroke of luck. I found one. I found only a single Pentax K3II Limited Silver Edition available in three world markets for sale. I really couldn't believe it. So I pounced on it without a moments hesitation. Sometimes in life an idea seems like it is has been destined to become reality. And we all know it's not reality until it is actually in your hands.

Only 500 made world wide. Now I'm fortunate to have bought one. But will it arrive as advertised? To me, it will look equally matched with Silver or Black Limited Primes, but it's not here just yet.
Why did I settle on Pentax though? There are so many DSLR's out there. Well simply put, there weren't a lot of options that matched the criteria I was after. For example, Canon makes great cameras, but lets face it, they are a company that specialize in workhorse style cameras- pretty, but in an industrial and functional way. Same goes for Nikon mostly, with the exception of the DF model, but most all of their DSLR cameras look much the same. And that's fine, because that formula has worked for both of them. 

But, the Nikon DF is absolutely beautiful, and it was definitely highly considered. Yet, the lenses were the deciding factor. Nikon does not have a matching set of all metal, auto-focusing classic beauties like Pentax has. Had they, it would have made this choice much more difficult.

Flaws aside, the DF is one of the most beautiful DSLR's ever designed.

Fujifilm of course were another consideration. They are like Pentax a bit in that they make beautiful versions of their mirrorless cameras, but take it even further with gorgeous throwback-to-the-old-days design hues. However in this case, I wanted a glass prism optical finder, and that meant a DSLR. And, I've already had the beautiful Fujifilm XT1 Graphite version which I enjoyed immensely.

I like all designs for what they do best. I know I'm not alone though when I say this XT1 is also just gorgeous.
I just love the view through natural optical glass, it's a perfect choice for this project. And with the limited prime lenses, it just seemed an even better fit. Further, I appreciate the advantages that come with optical finders such as 'always on' lag free viewing, quicker focusing, the lack of being blinded by a bright EVF for low light shooting, and being able to compose a scene with the camera turned off, etc.etc.etc. 

Yet, my purchase still has yet to arrive safely here at home. As I type, it's still in transit.

Delivery Day

DSLR options are also becoming more scarce than they were say, five years ago. So ultimately for this project, the only manufacturer to consider that consistently makes beautiful variations of the same DSLR models was Pentax. So I ultimately I decided on them. To me, it is a shame. I would love to see Canon and Nikon make special edition models with variations in handling and color schemes.  But, they don't. So I had to settle for this little charmer. Is it the camera that was advertised? Well there's only one way to find out. 

So I hereby submit, unto thine readers, my first ever unboxing video.

I couldn't believe how beautiful the K3II Limited Silver Edition looked in person. It's absolutely gorgeous and just has I hoped it would be. Pentax in the past has surely has gone a bit over the top on some of its consumer class cameras, but for their enthusiast models, they make some of the most absolutely killer looking high class DSLR's. It makes me want all their special versions. Other examples, like the K3 Prestige, and K1 Silver below, are two beautiful examples of a camera design variation.

K3 Prestige, gunmetal. My goodness. It was either this version, or the K3II in silver that would win out. I went for the K3II Silver Edition because ultimately it was more versatile aesthetically, and also in more limited numbers. Had I not been lucky enough to find one, I would have purchased the K3 Prestige.

K1 Limited Silver, gorgeous. Why doesn't Canon and Nikon makes some classy variations of their DSLRS?

How it Felt in Hand

DSLR's like the Pentax K3 II also bring to the table the irreplaceable organic touch and sound of mechanicals; the mirror and shutter clack, the whir of the body autofocus motor driving a screw driven lens. Call me crazy, but I really like it. It's like driving a classic sports car that has almost no electrical parts, vs. a new high tech sports car. Both are fast and fun to drive, yet they just give you a completely different experience. 

The K3II Silver feels like a single machined block of magnesium in the hand, light but stiff and supremely strong. It's perfectly sculpted, cool to the touch, and the grip is absolutely tremendous feeling. As soon as I held it, the rigidity and density of the camera were immediate. I squeezed it to test it's strength, the unforgiving but comfortable grip doesn't even hint at flexing or creaking. It has a solidity and coolness that I instantly loved. It feels like something I could hold all day long, with light or big heavy lenses. And the build quality reeks of something that would last generations and never break, even if you used it as a hammer.

What Purpose Will it Serve?

In this case, I wanted a more analog SLR set up without fully giving up digital. Something that was still equally capable in auto and manual focus, with excellent weather sealing as a bonus. This would be unlike the manual focus only experience of my Leica M's, which, is an even more manually analog system still. The K3II Silver seems to be the perfect fit. And yet, the bonus in it all, is that it has options for quiet in lens focusing, and really good video too, should I choose to need either.

K3II Limited Edition Silver and 15mm f/4 and 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited Lenses

For me, the experience of analog devices is simply intoxicating, irreplaceable, almost mysteriously enticing. Indeed, I freely admit that I have an internal Analog Kid , and I reckon I always will. I'm glad I do because life would be less interesting without it. And although the K3II Silver isn't fully analog, its a lot more analog than the new mirrorless cameras coming out today. Like I said earlier, I like being driven to have different experiences, they are all great. And photography does that for me. Cameras are just the tools that help make it all happen. They might as well be pretty, too...right?

Lastly, I will quote a line from the movie Dune that I absolutely love, which puts this mindset in complete perspective: 

"I'll miss the sea, but a person needs new experiences. They jar something deep inside, allowing him to grow. Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken." - Duke Leto Atreides

That is so true, isn't it? So, on a new path I go for as long as it takes me. It's going to be another fun and challenging endeavor. Life is short, so explore it.

Stay focused.

-Carl Garrard


  1. Such a great energetic read. The video was honest and awesome with genuine emotion. The sign off was the best. :)

  2. Why thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Nice. I almost bought one a couple of months ago from Adorama. They were blowing them out at $729, but I decided to pass on it. I already have a black K-3II & I'm waiting for the supposed K-3II successor. Hopefully I made the right choice? Haha!

  4. Adorama will regret that. LOL. :) Nice on the K3II in black, just ordered myself one too, might as well have all my favorites ;) Guess we'll find out at Photokina.... or just before hehe

    1. I got my K-3II with the free grip from Adorama sometime last year. It's definitely a lot nicer than my K-50. The autofocus is a bit more accurate, especially in low light. My lenses work better with the K-3II. I don't use the K-50 anymore. I'll probably sell it on eBay or something. I can't wait to see what advancements the K-3II successor will have.

  5. Agree on the comments on K3II vs K50, lenses/af etc. :). Its in a different class of build and performance. My speculation on the K3II- it will have the latest APS-C sensor and Ricoh processor, and hopefully, an even more capable PDAF module. To be more competitive/fresh in the market it needs both, including improvements to video capability. A couple more PLM lenses would be a great co-announcement to go with both the AF/Video enhancements. Just speculation here. That's what I'd focus on if I were Ricoh.