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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: Ricoh's Pentax K-70 - An Outdoorsman's Ideological DSLR (With Press Commentary)

Review: Ricoh's Pentax K-70 - An Outdoorsman's Ideological DSLR ( With Press Commentary)
September 2018, Carl Garrard

Hello all. So yeah, I know my last *new* DSLR review for Pentax was the K5IIs, it's been a while. Although I meant to post my  K3 and the K3II reviews, I just never ended up completing them. I passed on the KS1, and may still review the KS2, but the K70 seemed the next logical review here for a reason. Sorry, I've been a busy guy. Upon unboxing my new K70 and lenses, it was apparent to me right away that Ricoh/Pentax have been very busy on the design team since my last Pentax DSLR experience. So, before I get into my impressions on this camera, I think it's best to make a list of items I deem important about the K70 that stood out to me while reading about it. I'll do this without listing every single item like a sales brochure, but even then be warned that its going to be a long review. So without further ado, I have to say it's nice to be reviewing a Pentax DSLR again. I missed all the Pentaxians out there! You still have some voices out here that get it and care. There's even a sort of bonus section on that very subject at the end of this review.


Pentax K-70 Weather-Sealed DSLR Best Price, Body Only (Black)


Pentax K-70 Review: Unboxing, Immediate Impressions

In this section of the review, I'm going to break down what was immediately obvious to me about the K70 upon the initial unboxing in a list below. These first set of impressions are based on an all black Pentax K70 body as I unpacked it and inspected it prior to charging the battery.



  • The exterior finish has a very pleasant, durable flat finish, it gives the camera a tough flat black non reflective look
  • The grip (front and back) is a dense but dry soft touch rubber that feels like new automobile leather steering wheels. I can just tell that it resists dust and oil very well. It is not sticky, it is smooth and refined and dry, and comfortable
  • Size is smaller than I imagined, much like the compact K5 in hand, but feels lighter
  • Well balanced with all lens sizes (nice!)
  • All of the buttons are larger, the perfect size for those that wear gloves or not, and give you a nice positive slightly audible click whilst being just prominent enough to feel and memorize with your fingers (while eye is on the viewfinder)
  • The on/off/video switch is the best I've felt yet from Pentax, smoother and more precise, but with a nice snappy reassuring click at each setting (and the addition of the video mode on the dial too)
  • The metal mode dial is large and has no play, perfectly tensioned and no annoying lock (not needed its protected from accidental knocking where it's positioned)
  • Neck strap mounts are flush, I absolutely love it! Gone are those annoying posts and triangles of death
  • AFL/AEL button is in the perfect position, literally perfect
  • Both control dials are also in the perfect position, have just the right size and tension when adjusting
  • The tilt LCD is very easy to open and close, has a nice tight mount with no wiggle, and a precise tight click back into its fixed position (its also flush mounted to the back)
  • The LCD is glass, feels like a smartphone's gorilla glass
  • Bottom of the camera has diagonal grooves for extra grip and to help keep it looking nice down the road
  • SD card slot is so easy to get too, a wide swinging door that is weather proofed, the best design yet of any Pentax I've noticed
  • All of the tolerances are tight, everything moves and clicks precisely, with computer designed precision
  • Viewfinder is large and bright, good eye relief
  •  Battery door latch is a bit fiddly at first, and not as strong feeling as I'd like it to be
  •  AF/MF switch is dampened and has a nice latch on it
  • Smaller and lighter than my K200D (ut-ohhh)
  • The speaker is located at the top of the pentaprism housing in front of the hot shoe, the perfect location to hear audio, why didn't anyone think of that before...?
  • Still has a manual flash release button (great job!)
  • On/off switch ring light is a nice touch, as is the wi-fi/fx2 button light
  • Immediate sense of value, and I haven't even charged the battery yet
  • The red night LCD mode is awesome (programmed to my raw button)

My immediate impressions of the K70 are that it is an absolutely impressively designed and built camera for any price range. The preciseness, quality and choice of material, and placement of all the controls make it the most ergonomically pleasing Pentax DSLR I've had in my hands yet. Ricoh/Pentax have paid close attention to even the most minuscule of details that matter, and I am just flat out blown away and impressed. I don't even miss the body panels being made of cool magnesium that I'm so used too from Pentax bodies.

Overall handling of the K70 seems to strike the perfect balance of weight, solidity, quality, and comfort. Honestly, I was not prepared to be so impressed. To me, the K70 is generally the most refined designed Pentax DSLR to date in terms of absolute physical presence and attention to detail. I can't wait for the battery to charge and dive into the menu.

Pentax K-70 Review: Stand Out Specifications 

Here I'll list some items that really stand out for those who haven't looked into this camera yet. These are features the K70 has in which I feel have the most benefit to the photographer overall. Pentax do not pull any punches when it comes to listening to photographers, they consistently include logical features and the layout that they have asked for. After ten minutes with the K70, this was more evident to me than with any other DSLR I have reviewed from the brand. My goodness, this camera is absolutely loaded with goodness, but as you will see, it's well implemented (which is key).



Full Specifications on Ricoh's Website Here
  • 24mp APS-C sensor with new Prime MII processor, no AA filter, PDAF, hybrid AF
  • AA filter simulation modes
  • Pixel Shift Resolution
  • Fully weather sealed (100 sealed parts)
  • Cold proof down to -10 C
  • 100% view .95X pentaprism viewfinder
  • Compact Body, extremely well made
  • Quick 11 point Safox X AF system, -3 EV low light rated
  • StarStream, Interval Movie, Multi-Exposure modes (and more)
  • Astrotracer Mode (with opt. GPS unit)
  • Night Vision LCD mode
  • Vari-angle LCD (glass cover)
  • 100-102,400 ISO range
  • 4.5 stop in-body shake reduction
  • Comprehensive Jpeg adjustments and in camera Raw processing
  • Tons of filter output looks
  • Improved ergonomics and buttons and dials 

Pentax K-70 Review: Quick Introduction

Product images of the K70 in this review were made with my Leica M8 and Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5, all except the lead photo which was the Pentax K20. This review of the K70 was completed using an array of the following lenses (slightly abbreviated to save eyes and finger fatigue): Pentax DA LTD WR 20-40mm, DA WR 55-300mm PLM, DA 50mm f/1.8, DA WR 18-135mm, DA 35mm f/2.4, DA 18-55mm WR, and the DA LTD 15mm f/4. 






My K70 arrived with the first version firmware 1.00 (not without some complication, to which I have provided a solution for later in the review), so I updated it for this review to the latest version 1.11. Lastly, my experience with the Pentax system is vast, at least with the APS-C DSLRS, perhaps the most in depth of all the DSLR systems I have used in the last 12 years. With the preamble of sorts complete, moving forward we go.

Pentax K-70 Review: Further Detailed Impressions

Since the review intro, I've had a chance to use the K70 for about two weeks time with heavy usage. It has come with everywhere, to my day job, on hikes, poolside, bike rides, around the house, fishing, you name it. That may not seem like a lot of time with the camera, but trust me, after doing reviews this long I know exactly what I'm looking for a camera to do well. I pretty much know most of a camera's strengths and weaknesses in 48 hours or less.

So next, I'm going to note some more detailed impressions about the camera.  Since I have a lot of experience with the Pentax system, there was an awful lot I was already familiar with right away. It's AF system, menu system, and custom settings were like second nature to me. The addition of the new features since the K3/K5 are one area where I had to catch up on. Good news though, it was quick and easy to play catch up. I'm very excited about this camera, and to prove it, right now I'm up writing at 3:50 am. I woke up, and looked at the K70 on my night stand next to my bed, and quite a few clear thoughts popped in, so here I am. I just cannot seem to stop putting it down or writing about it.

A very well organized rear view. The LCD is easy to pop out, the buttons are large and prominent enough, and the right controls are in the proper place. Especially that rear control wheel and AF/AEL lock button.

So, let's get out the let downs first. There are so few that I wanted to get those out of the way so the rest of the review I can concentrate on all the positive. Although I'm slightly let down by the items on this list, absolutely none are deal breakers at all. to prove that, I can tell you that this is the most impressive single DSLR by Pentax that I've used yet. So think of this list as more of an opportunity for Pentax to improve on future models, vs. a typical "Con" list.

Pentax K-70 Review: Minor Letdowns
  • Older generation dust removal system (not the high frequency type seen on the higher end models)
  • Blinking exposure settings on LCD (at slower shutter speeds) are slightly annoying and can't be turned off unless you turn off the LCD
  • Lack of a Panorama stitching mode (Pentax would do that best)
  • Playback and delete button are on opposite sides of the planet
  • Lack of a printed manual, you'll need one too because its loaded 
  • Electronic shutter option with high shutter speeds available would have been nice 
  • Live view center AF point isn't as decisive or sensitive as PDAF when using the viewfinder
  • Video is not as refined or as high quality as some other makers, if that matters to you
  • Max shutter speed is only 1/6000th of a second (1/8000 and/or electronic shutter would be nice!)
And that's really it.

So now its time to have some fun. First, I'm going to give a list of items that really stand out to me about the K70 that are better than, or at least equal to, any Pentax DSLR that has come before it. This list of items is a mixture of impressions through experience using the camera indoors and outdoors in all levels of light.

The SD card door slot is so much easier to access than my older K5 cameras. It's funny how much of a big deal that becomes when its easy. Note the robust weather sealing that puts all other consumer level DSLR's and mirrorless models to shame.
It's nice for a change to not see a red  video button taking up space on the rear of the camera. It is located with the on/off switch and changes the ring color from green to red. Clever, very clever.

Pentax K-70 Review: Positive Experiences
  • Surprisingly compact DSLR and lighter than I expected (never read press reviews before trying a camera yourself, many of them were wrong)- Lighter than K5, K200D, and smaller than both, much smaller and lighter than the K3 series, or any Pentax DSLR except the KX/KM/KS
  • High ISO noise is the best I've ever seen from any APS-C sensor, resoundingly, the best of any Pentax APS-C sensor yet
  • Pixel shift resolution mode is astounding, especially when mixing in the lack of an AA filter and a top performing APS-C sensor in noise and dynamic range. ISO 51,200 images in raw look about as good as ISO 400 in the Sony RX10 IV
  • Best base ISO image quality of any APS-C sensor I've tried yet (similar noise as my Canon 6D, and much better dynamic range), and the high ISO is also outstanding
  • The main menu system is excellent, as well as the quick info menu.
  • Image stabilization works very well, and equally for the special modes/features
  • Awesome resolution 40x60" prints will look detailed and gorgeous (with a sharp lens)
  • The grip is fantastic, but did take a full day for my hand use to get used too, now I absolutely love it since my shooting hand has the right muscle memory
  • Autofocus in the viewfinder in low light seems even better than the K3/II in terms of lock rate (not speed), it's tenacious and rarely gives up
  • Menu system revamp is cleaner and more organized than previous Pentax's I'm used, too, much more "Ricoh GR" like
  • Vari-Angled LCD is flush to the body, very important to me, and the same aspect ratio as sensor so you get to use it all for playback etc., it has a glass screen which means little to no worry about scratches, and great for vlogging, selfies etc. etc. etc.
  • Red ring around the shutter release for video turns green for stills shooting, clever, love it
  • Night-vision red LCD mode is a very thoughtful and helpful aid for those who shoot in the dark
  • Battery life is better than I expected based on CIPA rating, more like 650 shots per charge
  • The shutter sound is excellent, crisp and reassuring, sounds like a classic SLR (much better than the K5 although louder)
  • Unique features give me a palette of tools for my creativity that other makers only dream of. Catch in focus, Multi-Exposure mode (saves to a raw file), Astrotracer, are all unique options Pentax offers.
  • Fun factor galore, I do not want to walk out of my house without it, or spend time writing a review and not using it (time to take a break now!) 
  • When you sit back and realize what this camera can do, and still remain totally portable and fun to use, you just go .... wow. Then you think of the price you paid. And you grab it and jump around the house like a little kid on Christmas morning after getting his first bike
  • Wireless I had zero issues using the newest version of Image Sync (v.2.00) on my K70, worked flawless and was quick and easy with my Android phone, including sharing to facebook etc.

Summation:
The K70 is in many respects a more capable and lighter weight K5IIs to me (my favorite Pentax DSLR prior to the K70). It's viewfinder is slightly better, it's articulated screen welcome, its low light performance, resolution, and dynamic range are definitely better, and it has more helpful features. Handling is also improved in some ways. Yet the autofocus system and general speed of its performance are very similar in many respects. Any small niggles I had with the K5IIs have largely been sorted out in the K70. And most of all I really like its shutter/mirror cycle sound in comparison. Even though its not as quiet, it sounds more decisive and reassuringly positive. I would recommend anyone who want's the most out of the K70 to get some really good glass, it's worth it.

Growing up and looking forward. 35mm f/2.4 ISO 100.



Pentax K-70 Review: Firmware Updating Issue Solved


I had searched the internet everywhere, and I could not find a single person who replicated the following issue on the K70. So here is the fix, in the review for any of you who have had issues updating your firmware.

An interesting phenomena occurred when I tried to update my Pentax K70 from version 1.00 to 1.11. Now let it be known that I have updated firmware in the past on countless cameras from about every single manufacturer out there, less Hasselblad, since I can recall shooting digital. Also keep in mind that the foregoing is not Ricoh's issue, it is something altogether new and different and has to do with the operating system I use.

For the life of me I could not get my K70 to update the firmware. I tried at least four times, following all steps to the letter and with a full battery. I had relegated myself to sending back the K70 I am reviewing and getting a new unit convinced that it just had a bug of some sort that Ricoh/Pentax needed to work out. But before I gave up I decided to try using another SD card to see if by chance that may be the issue. I formatted the SD card in camera, copied the .bin file to the root directory and tried again, no luck. Again I decided one last time before I packed up the camera to read the directions letter for letter to see if I had missed something. I had not, I followed all the directions perfectly.

Then I noticed something. In the directions on Ricoh's site, the very first letter of the .bin file was capitalized, but the .bin file from the zip file I extracted would copy to my desktop with the first letter in lower case. Huh I thought, could it be that simple? So I renamed the .bin file as such: Fwdc234b.bin as opposed to how the file was automatically saved: fwdc234b.bin. I copied the bin file to the directory, and turned the camera on (holding the menu button at the same time as I had every single time before that), and wallah, the update screen came up asking to update the firmware. And all better now. Hope this helps anyone updating firmware!

It's a Window's 10 issue folks, not you, not your camera. Here is the link to the latest firmware.




Pentax K70 Review: Using Motor Driven, DC/SDM, and PLM Lenses

The K70 is one of the last DSLR's/Interchangeable lens cameras to have an in body focusing motor (well, all current Pentax DSLRs still have them). And this motor drives many of the legacy and modern AF lenses in the lineup. Fortunately, its a more powerful and responsive motor and despite being louder than the SDM,  PLM, and DC motors, its very quick on the K70. It inherits the same motor as the flagship K3II, and honestly I can't see any advantages in AF speed that the K3 series has over the K70. If anything the K70 seems quicker to focus in low light situations, at least from my recollection of using those cameras.

The 55-300mm PLM is an excellent choice for the birdwatcher. Compact, sharp, quiet, and very fast focusing. All the elements you need so you can make quick grabs. The K70's excellent sensor means tons of detail and no noise.
The lenses with SDM, especially the newer ones like the 18-135mm, focus even faster than the already snappy body motor driven lenses, and they are quieter too. The newest 55-300mm PLM lens is the star of the show and ups the AF speed and tracking game of the Pentax DSLR's, and makes a killer companion on the K70. This focus design should be the benchmark for all future action lens designs. But lets not get things out of context. All three focusing systems are competent for most photography work, even action, unless you are a paid sideline sports photographer which represents a minuscule percentage of photographers out there. I'll simplify your lens choices this way:
  • If you hardly ever shoot action of any kind, you can buy any of the lenses and be happy.
  • If you sometimes shoot action, steer toward the DC/SDM and PLM lenses.
  • If you shoot primarily action, get the 55-300mm PLM lens, the 18-135mm SDM lens, or the 70-200mm DC or even better the 60-250mm lens.
Take a look at your lens choices here, Ricoh has a lot available, and it might surprise you:
http://www.ricoh-imaging.co.jp/english/products/lens/k/



Pentax K-70 Review: Overall Image Quality 

I will start off this section with some self shaming. Admittedly, most (not all) of my Pentax gear was sold off a few years back when I realized the general image quality performance of full frame was just too good to ignore. So, I got behind the Canon 6D and a few lenses as my full frame DSLR gear before the K1's announcement, figuring Pentax may never come out with a full frame camera. Oops. Let it be known that the Canon 6D is a great camera, and Canon obviously have great lenses (especially the 24-70mm f/4 Macro). So the K70 has very tough competition.

And while that combination largely worked well for my landscape work, and was reasonably compact for a full frame camera system, I missed the yet more compact and lighter weight Pentax gear I used to tote around for that work. Despite that, the image quality of the 6D and lens combo spoke louder than my K5IIs and lenses could, even though they were lighter and more compact. 

There are always pro's and con's no matter what you choose in life. But sometimes...

If I wanted to lift those shadows I would without hesitation. But I love the making images just like my eyes see. Early morning light, K70 handled those reds like a champ (the toughest light to handle).

While the main advantage ended up being its low light performance, the Canon 6D just didn't have a lot of dynamic range to work with; and really, that's it's only weakness if you want to call it that. Yet I worked around that bottleneck for some time, and produced some 'decent' work with it. I loved its form factor and general handling and ease of use, and still do for a full frame camera.  For low light shooting up to ISO 6400 it's fricken marvelous. Since owning the 6D, no other camera came across my desk that could match it in the low light category, at least, good enough for my standards as an all round camera that could best the 6D's overall performance. 

Until now.

However, I didn't do a lot of low light shooting, so the 6D was not quite the best fit for the outdoors for me. Surprisingly, the K70's low light performance is near as good as the 6D's, practically speaking, which is amazing considering it has more resolution and a smaller sensor (smaller photosites). But there's a bigger benefit of this sensor I'll get into further on. 

Also, the K70's stated ISO is more accurate than Canon's which took an adjustment of a slightly longer shutter speed to equal the overall exposure on the histogram of the K70's, otherwise exposure and raw development were identical (no noise reduction no sharpening, ACR). The 6D's file was also upscaled to 6000x4000 to match the K70's 24mp.


Canon 6D ISO 25,600 w/Canon 24-70mm f/4 at 60mm


Pentax K70 ISO 25,600 w/Pentax 20-40mm f/2.8-4 at 40mm (60mm equivalent)

See, pretty close in noise values right? And notice the detail retention of the K70, there is no absolutely no comparison there. The advantage of the K70 isn't not the lens either, both are stellar lenses with the Canon lens having the edge actually. The tighter grain structure looks better on the K70 to me, as does overall color, but there is more chroma noise. When you apply +10 chroma noise reduction in ACR, both cameras are nearly equal in high ISO performance when you develop in raw. 

But that's just pixel peeping stuff to give you an indication of how efficient the sensor and processor are working in the K70. It's apparent to me, that since the K70 has a smaller sensor and more resolution, that duo are more efficient than Canon's non-iso invariant sensor and processor. 

But it gets better for the K70...

Excuse me sir. Red Headed Woodpecker 55-300mm PLM lens (cropped image)

Single image dynamic range for raw files exceeds the 6D by a full stop and a half or more too at base ISO, with much better retention of highlights. Plus, the K70 does have an ISO invariant sensor (which means I don't have to bump up the ISO in camera, I just shoot at ISO 100 and just develop the raws with as much increased exposure necessary). When I use the multi-shot composite modes (something Canon doesn't offer), and pixel shift resolution modes, massive amounts of color range, dynamic range, and detail are available, plus the added benefit of much lower  noise (this is where the K70 bests even the 6D in noise performance for high ISO work). 


This scene has some subtle shadows and reigned in highlight that would have been blown out on the Canon 6D and unrecoverable.

Here is a quick hand held test showing the same raw development, same focal length, same ISO and aperture setting. These shots taken about an hour apart, so this isn't a definitive test of DR, just gets you in the ballpark. Note how well that detail holds up with Canon's 24-70mm lens even though it has an anti-aliasing filter (it better be better, it costs $900.00). Canon image upsized to 6000x4000 at 100% zoom, same for K70's file.


ISO 100 f/8 Canon 6D (click to enlarge) 100% crop of original image upscaled
ISO 100 f/7.1 Pentax 70D (click to enlarge) 100% crop of original image (not bad for such a lower cost camera and lens, like I said, near FF quality...)

When I get serious about landscape work, I go with a tripod and this is where Pentax really take charge over the 6D. But before I get too far on all that stuff, I want to say that realizing that I had near 6D low light focusing and image quality performance, plus all the other benefits of the K70 as a system, meant only one thing. As much as I like the Canon gear, I just won't be using it going forward. 

So the Canon gear goes on Ebay.

K70 has all its ducks in a row with the 55-300mm PLM lens.

Again, I'm not slighting the 6D or Canon gear in general, I really do like their products. I gave the 6D a glowing review and I meant every word. However, why keep it when I can have a less expensive, smaller and lighter system with better weather sealing around? I'm going to pick that system in the outdoors no matter what brand it is, so the Canon gear will just sit gathering dust.


This is where the Pentax K70 belongs, in the elements, bring it anywhere worry free.

Pentax just happens to be the best in the compact outdoor system category, they actually own it. Let me say that again: Pentax's system owns the outdoor photog's corner completely for the dollar. And with the K1/II and KP cameras (and whatever is coming at Photokina 2018), image quality can even exceed the K70's, so there is room to go higher if needed. High end or low end Pentax offers a huge bang for the buck for image quality and weatherproofness that no competitor can match for the dollar, not even close (Attention mainstream press:  This is how you properly report on Pentax's advantages).

Early morning fishing. Not afraid to use my K70 and lens combo while wading in the water at waist level and fishing at the same time- even if I took an accidental dunk I bet it'd be just fine. All other cameras... just stay home already.

100 individual weather seals adorn the K70. Unlike most brands there is no mystery about its extensive weather sealing.

Summary:

The K70 gets "near modern full frame" image quality in some respects and better than in others. Had both cameras had the same lens, the K70 would best the 6D by far in total detail and dynamic range at lower ISO values. It's also got the benefit of increased depth of field when aperture values are the same. The advantages of FF shrink to a slight advantage for high ISO, slightly better color depth at only the very highest ISO values, and better control over shallower depth of field (using the exact same aperture value). 

When the K70 uses its multi-frame stacking modes, the advantages only get better for the Pentax K70 vs. the still impressive Canon 6D. For note, the Canon 6D ranks 28th all time in low light (sports) performance as of the date of this article (just a ballpark idea of how good the Canon is in low light).

I love the neutral color rendering of the raw files and all of the detail. Low light doesn't suffer from noise at base ISO which makes this camera a blessing in the field. Tons of detail from this sensor with a good lens.
What I also love about the K70's sensor and processor, is that there is no horizontal or vertical banding at all at any ISO level, which makes every ISO level totally usable for an appropriate application. Noise is present at higher ISO's but I can work with noise, however I cannot work with banding as it completely ruins the image (as it did on my Leica M-D Typ 262). Banding is usually found in the shadow regions of an image when you make adjustments in post processing, but there is none found on the K70's files. Remember that if you are shooting in fluorescent lighting, there are certain shutter speeds where you can see the frequency of the fluorescent lamps, but this is NOT banding.


ISO 25,600 in very difficult, very low lighting. A mix of natural, fluorescent, and tungsten lighting yet the K70 handled it great. Only chroma noise lightly reduced in ACR.d
All in all the K70 has enough image quality to meet my needs in just about any circumstance, and has one of the best performing APS-C sensor/processor combinations on the market. The lack of an AA filter means fine detail is nearly double that of sensors that have one, so long as you are using a sharp lens. This translates into the ability to print huge detailed prints or crop your images to your taste, or said more simply, much more versatility. I am curious to see just how far Ricoh/Pentax can push the boundaries of APS-C image quality in the future. 

You can crop heavy with the K70. This shot was cropped down to about 6mp, but retains plenty of fine detail for a large print.
ISO 100 @ f/5.6 with the DA 35mm f/2.4 lens. Amazing detail is possible even with the very affordable $89.00 "plastic fantastic". Take a look at the 100% crop below, and this is without the use of Pixel Shift Resolution.
What a tack of a lens, and the sensor really shows it (click on the image to enlarge).


 Pentax K-70 Review: Weight, Bulk, and Weather-sealing

Being an avid hiker, trail runner, and mountain-biker, weight and bulk are serious practical considerations. Weight and bulk equally, will determine whether or not a kit gets used or stays home gathering dust. There is a tipping point for me, especially for mountain-biking and trail running. I only have so much extra room in my Camelbak, and I can include only so much weight. So, a small DSLR  like the K70 with a small lens is about my limit, anything larger, stays home.

For mountaineering in the backcountry, I prefer a one body and one lens solution that can handle most of my normal photography. Weight savings and bulk are supreme in these longer treks, and are necessary considerations when you are out in the wilderness backcountry. As long as image quality is good enough I'll go smaller every time. This then is a no-contest between the Canon and Pentax combo, with the Canon 6D and 24-70mm weighing a full pound more (3.10lbs vs 2.14lbs) and taking up one and a half times the space. This, without the other advantages of the K70 that I've already covered, makes the Canon combo a very difficult choice. What exactly do I gain by bringing that combo instead?


Not a fair comparison with the lens. Then perhaps the lighter and smaller 18-55mm WR would be a better choice, or, the 16-85mm WR that has a much better range and is still lighter than the 24-70mm (600 vs 488 grams). Don't even try it.

Another bonus with the K70 is it's more robust weather sealing than the Canon (100 seals for the Pentax), and of course the greater choice of weather sealed lenses for the price. Although most of the prime limited series are not weather sealed, Ricoh does have the DA 20-40mm f/2.8-4 WR LTD which I find to be fantastic lens, and is fully weather sealed. Although not officially branded a "limited" (what the father?) the D FA 100mm Macro is also weather sealed, and to me is every bit a limited lens, and makes a great telephoto option for a compact two lens kit.

After my first outing in the hills, I came home and put water all over my K70 and washed the grip good (sweaty hands, salt is not good for cameras), without a single bit of worry. Then I towel dried it off. That's how the Carl with his Pentax's do. I have never attempted to do this with my 6D even though it probably could take it. However I don't do "probably" (have you seen the lack of a rubber seal in its SD card bay?).



Pentax K-70 Review: Features that Work

My wish list for a DSLR is long these days. After reviewing cameras and being a photographer for so long it seems my needs have just grown. DSLR are workhorse cameras and I don't give them a break in design implementation. I scrutinize them more than any other camera design because they are designed to do so much. Ergonomics and image quality are my #1 priorities, ease of use and features would be a close second. Pentax have thrown a boatload of capability into this camera. Notice I said capability and not gimmicks. 

Many camera brands market their gimmicks but rarely do they ever work as advertised. Pentax are nearly the opposite, if anything they undersell their cameras capabilities in comparison to others. There are a few new features that I particularly like that this camera has, and a few that have been carried over from other models. Thoughtful engineering comes to mind.

Catch-In Focus: This mode works in manual focus. When the camera detects a subject in focus on the chosen autofocus point, it immediately releases the shutter. This mode works for so many applications, even street photography. Particularly its great for capturing animals in specific locations, like a hummingbird or butterfly arriving at a flower, or, even a wild cat passing through on a trail.

Time-lapse 4K Movie Mode: I'm so glad Pentax put this in the camera. I like making time-lapses and having them automatically combined in camera to make a movie. You can choose  your output size as large as 4K, and it works great. This was a quick and crude first attempt, shot inside my house facing the east.



Pixel Shift Resolution: Combines four separate images into a single raw and/or jpeg file. With each successive image the sensor moves one pixel in a clockwise motion, this way all three colors are captured at every single location. Four images are stacked. Color and detail are dramatically enhanced, noise is dramatically reduced, and dynamic range is preserved a much higher ISO settings. See the crops of a before and after PSR shot, ISO 3200.

If you are making images on a tripod for still subjects, there's no better feature. Great for still morning landscapes, studio work, etc. At higher ISO's (6,400 and above) I noticed additional color noise/bright pixel intrusion so I recommend using the chroma noise slider when you develop raws. Jpegs are processed in camera to your taste, just make the appropriate adjustments.

I noticed that I got the best results without motion correction or shake reduction enabled while using this mode on a sturdy surface or tripod. Any movement of the camera or even shutter shock can malign the pixels slightly.

Night Vision Red LCD Mode: This is a setting in the menu that can be assigned to either of the FX1 or FX2 customizeable buttons. I assigned it to the Raw button (FX1) for quick access on night shoots. They did one better than Canon, in that when you review your images they are also red, they don't switch to full color and blind you. Great job Pentax! These are the attention to details that endear me to the brand, things that make a huge difference when it matters most.




Pentax K-70 Review: Conclusion

Pentax's K-70 surprised me. I ought to know better by now that Pentax has always given the photographer a lot for their money, but in this case, I was taken aback. I'm still not sure what compelled me to take a look at the K70, yet when I finally did, line by line it's feature list impressed me greatly. Ricoh have always been a smart and efficient brand for photographers, which is why Pentax made a great partner with them. Both brands always offered clever photographer first designs that weren't out to mimic other brands, and offered a lot for the money. 


To me at least, the K70 is yet the best representation of the blended core philosophies of both companies coming together for the consumer. Ricoh has produced a supremely well balanced offering with the K70 in terms of price, performance, and features. In a way I feel like I'm reliving the release of the K5, which was at the time a real market shaker upper. But as far as value goes, I'm not so sure that Pentax has ever offered more performance for the buck than the K70. From landscapes to street to macro the K70 is equally capable and reliable.

Jpegs are great out of camera and are in complete control of the use from noise reduction to saturation and multiple types of sharpening at multiple levels. Oh yeah, and you can process Raws in camera.

And lets forget about bucks or performance for a moment, the K70 is just flat out fun to use. The magic amalgam of size and comfort, capability, durability, build quality, weather sealing, and all that stuff somehow just comes together and makes it a fun camera to use. It is responsive, refined, compact, and capable. It does not get in the way of me using it despite its vast capabilities. Even the elaborate and customizeable menu system is easy to understand and navigate. 

Autofocus performance for most subjects is more than adequate unless you need a specialized camera for fast focusing tracking. Even then, you can make due with the center AF point because it is highly sensitive and works well for continuous focusing or especially so in low light. Image quality is just rock solid, a more than noticeable improvement over the K3 and K5 cameras at all ISO levels. 

Scrub Jay ISO 200, 100% crop below

Battery life is better than I expected because of its lack luster CIPA rating. If you don't use live view all the time or take long video clips, you'll get all day shooting out of the battery no problem. Example: I took a 450 shot time-lapse and the battery life only went down about 20%. CIPA says 410 shots. What are they smoking over there....? I'll never know. Regular mix use with live view and video clips I shot every single day and never got the camera below 65%. Sure, the battery on the K3II is bigger, but I'd have no problem getting one or even two day's use out of this battery with a little management.

Also, and most importantly I think, the K70 imbues  a feeling of true value of ownership. Amongst all of the types of cameras I use from so many makers, Pentax in general feel the most uniquely capable of all. They seem specifically tuned to a photographers needs more than any other interchangeable lens camera brand I can think of, and that includes mirrorless. It's no wonder why those who shoot with Pentax feel so strongly about the brand. Clearly the designers are avid photographers who are obsessed with customer satisfaction.

Ricoh were one of the first to put cross processing in their cameras in the GR line, and I love that Pentax have it standard.


As a tool for the creative at heart, the K70 should not disappoint. It's your own army of features to command in your own artistic battle. It's many features are unique, plentiful, and well implemented. I even like it's cross processing and infrared filters because they look neat and I can't mimic those when processing raw's. For those who still like an optical view, it has one of the best optical finders in any APS-C DSLR, and if you put the magnifying eyepiece on it like I did, it's huge and well protected from intruding light. It's live view implementation is very good overall, but I prefer to use the live view autofocus for limited circumstances. 



Cross Processing example, exposed from a raw image in camera.

So yes, I've given a glowing review of the K70. But honestly, it deserves it. I have so many cameras around  in my "office" that I like or use for one reason or another, but as far as consistent pleasure of use, I'd have to rate the K70 as one of my top 3 favorite cameras of all time, and probably the most satisfying DSLR that has come across my desk since I've started writing reviews over 12 years ago. I have my Fuji's, I have my Leica's, I have my Panasonic's, you name it. The one's that remain here have survived the initial owners high and still give me consistent smiles. It might be premature to say this, but I do feel the K70 will survive the test of time around here with some cameras that are over a decade old.

That is unless of course, that Pentax makes an even better version of the K70 without losing what it already does so fantastically well. I'd like a silver one too, I may just get it. Overall It is short on gimmicks, and long on capability. My advice, don't read the big site reviews, go try one out and let you be the judge.

Stay focused.

-Carl Garrard

P.S. In doing another Ricoh/Pentax review, a few things occurred to me about how the press handle Pentax as a brand. Perhaps I should have done a separate article about this subject (that's debatable), but I wanted it to be attached to this review so as it would be of immediate reference in the future. So I've added a bit of a bonus to this review below. I would really like to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you for reading.


Pentax K-70 Review: Design and Model Comparison, Pentax Brand, Lens Lineup

Ricoh went nearly all out on the Pentax K70's design. One advantage that remains true with all Pentax DSLR's (at least the enthusiast models like the K70), is that the new models always carry over the successes from previous designs, and the K70 seems to benefit from this like no other Pentax DSLR to date. All the while the K70 brings in the newest technologies from Ricoh, refines what is already good from the brand, and outclasses every DSLR in its category in terms of overall features and weather proofing for the price, by far. 


Design and Model Comparison

Pentax does all this with the K70, while remaining very compact. It's funny too because I watched and read a few reviews that stated it was a big heavy  DSLR. Big and heavy they say. I had to see for myself so I took Canon's SL1 off my bookshelf for a comparison. This is the second smallest DSLR ever designed. It was universally praised by the big camera press as the smallest and lightest DSLR ever designed (and by Canon too). However that wasn't true. Olympus's E400 series were even smaller, however everyone overlooked that. Olympus were clearly dissed by Canon and the press. 

So lets give them the benefit of the doubt, and take a look at how big and bulky the K70 is compared to the "minuscule" Canon SL1 (100D), each have their own 40mm f/2.8 lenses. 


Hmm. Something doesn't seem right. Is my K70 on the left a shrinky dink version?

Small yes, both are. Sure The K70 is a bit heavier. Canon's SL1 is 407 grams without a lens and the K70 is 688 grams without a lens (weights include batteries). But um, how often do you carry a camera without a lens? So lets add a comparable lens and see. 

The Canon combo is 537 grams now. The K70 combo is 740 grams. It's 40mm f/2.8 XS lens is also the smallest lightest AF DSLR lens ever designed, but I digress. So, moving on, the difference overall in weight is about 200 grams. That is .44lbs, less than a half pound. Surely the SL1 must be a better camera right?

Unlike the Canon, Pentax's K70 does not sacrifice ergonomics, grip size, optical viewfinder size or quality, overall build quality, weather sealing, image quality, or many other worthwhile features. And Canon's SL1 is limited only to the 35mm pancake or 40mm pancake in its arsenal if you want to go "light". Pentax has a multitude of pancake limited lenses available in many focal lengths. What, the SL1 is an old camera and an overall fair comparison? Okay that's fair, lets compare it to the SL2.

Canon's SL2 is larger than the SL1, and heavier, and still retains all of the SL1's traits, with a newer sensor (substandard to the Pentax's), and larger grip. So if we are going to go there, you know where that road ends. Practically speaking the SL1 or SL2 lose any advantage right here on specifications for the price alone. Bottom line, the K70 is not a large and heavy camera unless you obsess over math vs. practical application. And you lose a lot of features and capability vs. the K70.

DPReview stated that the K70 was the biggest heaviest camera in its class, giving the impression to the laymen that it's quite the beast to lug around. I've proven otherwise with practical logic. Sure by current price perhaps it may be, but not by much. If you judge by capability and features, its much smaller, lighter, and affordable than other DSLRS with the same capability and features.  Price alone is not a valid way to compare cameras. DPReview also stated the image quality of the K70 was the same as the K5, which is complete nonsense and a totally irresponsible reporting.

Take a look at the K70 vs Canon 70D or 80D which to me is a more valid comparison based on capability and features. The K70 has more features, better sealing, a better viewfinder, it's lighter and smaller, has much better image quality, and it's about $250.00 less than the 80D. The only thing I know those Canon's are better at is video with a touch screen, and an arguably better autofocus system. Choose what works best for you.


The Pentax Brand

Because Ricoh/Pentax have minuscule R/D and advertising budgets compared to the bigger companies, they have to do more with their money than all of them. They are the quintessential sort of family style company in the camera world by comparison. Yet Pentax have almost always made the very best outdoor DSLR cameras, and for the price they probably offer the best bang for the  buck. 

You may not know it, but they have a huge array of lenses to choose from that are weather sealed to match those bodies. To me, they have earned the title of the defacto nature photographers camera more than any other brand, and carved their niche in the photography world. Lets hope that Ricoh can pump that camera division a little more money to invest in their future.


Lens lineup

Also, when you mix in the unique lineup of ultra compact and high performing limited prime lenses, the legacy lenses, and the newest designed lenses like the 55-300mm PLM, third party lenses from Sigma and Rokinon, etc., you have quite an array of high quality glass to chose from. The "typical press" again, do not emphasize this advantage near enough.

This is a roadmap of current lenses, but its only a fraction of what you can use for your Pentax camera.

For those of you new to Pentax, do you know they have the smallest lightest modern design autofocus prime lens designed by any manufacturer? Do you see that in other reviews often? Nope. Do you realize how compact lenses help a camera system stay smaller? And do you realize that Pentax's DSLR's have always had more compact dimensions than cameras of their class.

Why is this important? As the market shifts more towards mirrorless and compact camera design, Pentax started as and remains, the brand that has always had compact cameras and lenses way before it became popular. Pentax knew that compact systems mattered way before the big companies did, but they never sacrificed features or specifications to give you that advantage. To this day, their lineup of cameras and lenses hold up extremely well when comparing to mirrorless brands like Sony, Fuji, Panasonic, and Olympus. 

And while I freely admit that size isn't the only reason to go to mirrorless these days, Pentax never gets the credit they deserve for making the most of the space they have, both in the company and in their designs. They have made great strides considering the pitfalls they have faced. And their full frame K1 is an awesome camera too. Well others might not say it enough, or see it clearly, but I see it. And so do the "Pentaxians".

Commentary on the Press

Look, you get my point. The above is only one example of many out there trust me, but it's an important one. The fact is, Ricoh/Pentax do not have a big marketing budget. They don't pay for fancy press events where they wine and dine you and keep you in expensive hotels. And don't tell me for a minute that pandering doesn't influence the press, because it absolutely does. People are human, and when people do nice things for you, you treat them nicer. Objectivity though, is important as a journalist and all too often I see it thrown right out the window as soon as there is a hand out. I'm not the only one noticing this either. I won't point out names but trust me, others notice it and it's time for a change. So I had to say something, it was time to. 

Speaking of lack of objectivity or bad press, here's an example: What's up with DXOMark and  Ricoh/Pentax? Where are the K70/KP/K1 Mk II and other reviews? And the long delay on the 645Z medium format review (that they pulled) until the D850 came out (they totally dissed Pentax).


Pentax get the cold shoulder that they don't deserve. It's okay though, their loyal fans keep them safe from the elements, at least for now.

It's my hope that this review will expose the press that continually misunderstand and misrepresent the Pentax brand. I can't recall how many writers out there who screw up Pentax reviews constantly by comparing them to the two big brands. Those same press always seem surprised at how loyal Pentax users are and how they defend Pentax. They ignore most Pentax products and wonder why they get requested to review Pentax them so much. We'll that's the reason. They, the users, or Ricoh/Pentax, seemingly have no objective voice comparatively speaking. I don't want to see any more camera brands shut down because of a lack of attention or press (cough Samsung).

So press, I employ you, be the Press. Don't just review products from companies that give you kickbacks and commissions on internet sales, or wine and dine you on expensive trips. I know, it's your job and without money you don't have a job, but take the extra time to also give a fair and objective review of all brands out there, not just Ricoh and Pentax. Take the time to understand the products and report on them as a unique brand. You'll earn a lot of loyalty from your readership if you do.

Wrapping up (trust me I could go on), I just can't buy into any excuse for experienced press websites to miss the very obvious advantages that Pentax have. To me, many of them are much too experienced to 'miss' objectively emphasizing what every camera maker's strengths are. I will not speculate here what I think their individual reasons are, but as a whole I will say this much; it is extremely irresponsible and reckless to compare all camera companies to the market leaders. 

While collectively promoting those leaders may provide a larger income for the aforementioned press outlets, the smaller companies and the readers are paying the price for the lack of objectivity. In turn it is also hurting the market, and it is a way of cornering the market in favor of big money and putting smaller companies out of business.

I'll end on a positive note. There are press out there worth watching or reading that are objective reviewers, and here are a list of my favorites currently that come to mind:

Mattias Burling - (Check out his KP review on Youtube, he gets Pentax, and is one of my very favorite to watch).
Adam Oest - (Founder and owner of Pentax Forums)- You'd think he wouldn't be objective but he certainly is. Likely the most knowledgeable of all reviewers on Pentax gear. His website is top notch, and his reviews are supremely detailed, educational, objective, and helpful.
Tony and Chelsea Northrup - They are always honest and I like that about them. I think they may still have more learning to do with the Pentax system, but they did a great (and honest) review of the K1.
Mike Tomkins - at Imaging Resource has always treated Pentax fairly. Although his reviews are more from a marketing perspective, it's easy to read between the lines to know he "gets" Pentax. Check out his K1 review.
Kai Wong- Underneath his dry and hilarious/daft English humor there's a camera geek that enjoys all brands and what he does. He makes fun of everyone, that's just his style. Most of all he makes me laugh.

If I have missed anyone of note that is educated about Pentax (and objective on all brands), please let me know in the comments. Please!



Sun Halo, 18-55mm WR ISO 100









 







20 comments:

  1. I agree with your assessment of camera reviewers and the press. DPReview is one of the biggest culprits out there. So many backhanded and overblown comments and worse, seemingly close to zero objectivity. More and more people seem to know they are owned by Amazon now and know they are not objective or fair.

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    1. I pick which reviewers I listen to there very carefully. I have a rule I've learned in life, that is to follow the money when you want the truth :). Thanks for the comment :)

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  2. After about 3 months of reviews, comparisons, and the advice of one professional (eventually ignored) I settled on the K-70 as my first DSLR. I did not understand many of the finer points you cover but I am learning (at 70+ somewhat slowly)and cannot disagree with your assessment. As a semi-full time RVer shooting landscapes and wildlife the weather seal was a priority and the superior viewfinder a close second. (Yes, I am learning to love live-view and the articulated monitor.) I had no problem with the firmware update aside that new technology (for me) is always scary.

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    1. Hi Andy! Awesome on the K-70, and even greater of you to listen to yourself on what you wanted and needed. At 70+ I'm sure I don't have to tell you that pays off in everything in life! Thanks for the comment.

      p.s. Btw, typically firmware updates are really easy, in this case it was just my operating system doing something no other operating system I've had in the past has done. :)

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  3. Very nice review. This is a very capable camera that has lots of great features. My only worry is the aperture motor.

    https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/61594382

    This seems to be one of the first K-70 cameras with that aperture motor issue. Hopefully it doesn't end up being like the several K-30 & K-50 cameras that had that issue. I really want one of these, but I'm hoping that this single issue is a fluke. I already got burned with my K-50.

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  4. Thank you! Glad you agree.

    First I've heard of the issue but its likely not going to be one for you or me, nor a widespread one at all. Sounds like an isolated hardware incident to me.

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    1. That's what I'm hoping for. I know that the K-70 has been out a couple of years now & I haven't seen any failures with it. I'm currently using the DA 55-300mm PLM & older aperture ring lenses on my K-50. I have some other lenses that I can't use until I either fix my K-50 or replace it with a K-70, but I'm also waiting to see if Ricoh announces the next generation flagship this Photokina or we get some more info about it. I would actually prefer to get that camera, but the K-70 does have a lot of camera for the money. Thanks!

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  5. You are welcome, and I'm willing to bet you won't ever have that issue ;) Remember that the PLM's aperture isnt driven mechanically like other lenses are. Either way you're good. I've had so many Pentax DSLR's and I've never seen that failure with them or online till now. Yes the K70 is a lot of camera. My thought was that it would be nice to see the K3 updated with the processor and sensor of the KP, because its even better still than the K70 image quality wise, which is amazing to me. KP is my next review!

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    1. Oh yes. Image quality wise, the KP is amazing. To me, the K-50 & K-3/3II look good to ISO 12800. The K-70 looks better at ISO 12800, but it's still not as good as the KP at ISO 25600. The KP at ISO 25600 seems to look slightly better than the K-50 & K-3/3II at ISO 12800. That's amazing! This is from extensive comparison of RAW files that I have done, but the newer jpeg engines in the K-70 & KP are much better than the previous ones. Sometimes it seems harder to get a better looking high ISO image out of the RAW file than what the out of camera jpeg engine can give you in the K-70 & KP. Looking forward to that next review.

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  6. Great Review Carl G!
    In 2017 after a year of retirement and not knowing what kind of hobby I should get back into, I thought back to my early days with my Pentax SP1000 and knowing I still have it in storage with a couple of lenses I started doing some research.

    To make a long story short a year ago Sept 2017 I joined Pentaxforums and ordered up a K-70 with a 18-135 kit lens, now supplemented with a 55-300 ed WR, my old gear is still in storage but what a great camera (still learning) your review, I think is spot on except I think your comment on the "sounds" from the camera as there is a volume control for these effects.

    Again great review and good job on reviewing the K-70 what I think many photographers, hobby or semi pro would take pride in owning, as do I. (shutter count now @ 3110)

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  7. Hello Norm and welcome! :) Thank you for the comment on the review and I'm glad you are back into photography, great choices in lenses as well.

    As far as the shutter sound, I'm talking about the mechanical sound of the mirror mechanism, shutter, and shutter re-cock all working together harmoniously :)

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    1. OK, I misunderstood, all in all a good review of a great system I am sure there will be many readers making their decisions based on what you have said. I for one agree with everything you have said about the K-70, great system and glad I stuck with Pentax!

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    2. No worries Norm, I always appreciate feedback in any form. If I make an error of any kind I want to know. Thank you so much for your kind words and I'm mostly glad we agree! :)

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    3. Feedback, you asked for it! Although not about your review but about the lay out of the blog. As you sated this is a long review and I think it would help to have a "button" to go to the "comments section".

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    4. Thank you Norm. That is a very good suggestion. I'm constantly looking at ways to improve the layout etc of the site, and leverage all of "Bloggers" tools that Google provides. It may require a whole new layout template to do that, or I could just figure out how to write some custom HTML :) Either way, excellent suggestion and I completely agree with you.

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  8. Great review, almost tempts me to get back into the world of dslrs, which I had resolved never to do. Ricoh/Pentax know how to make cameras that are, well, cameras. Honed to be a photographic tool and not a tech showcase bucket of tricks. Next system will be mirrorless though, partly for compatibility with legacy lenses, though my M42s would fit. Now imagine this cam slimmed down without a mirror box :-) or even a WR fixed lens cam with a version of the DA LTD WR 20-40mm would get my money :-)

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    1. Thank you Alan! And I agree with you about Pentax cameras, well said "not a tech showcase and bucket of tricks" :).

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  9. Awsome review of my so beloved K70 (have it for 1.5 years now). I really like to use it with the few pentax da limited lenses I own. However I also collected a nice selection of old M and K lenses and they to an amazing job on this camera too! (mostly due to the large viewfinder, liveview and quick response on the green button).

    I used camera's of different brands in the past, but none of them had that special look on my images.

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  10. Lodewijk, thank you! I'm glad we agree on the K70. It does make using older glass a pleasant experience and I'm sure Pentax (cough, Ricoh) had that in mind in its design. Thank you for commenting!

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  11. Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all of us you actually realize what you are talking about! Bookmarked. Please also seek advice from my site =). We could have a hyperlink change contract between us! Dslr camera price in pakistan

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