Monday, May 10, 2021

Pentax K3 Mk III Review Series 2

Pentax K3 Mk III Review Series 2
May 2021, Carl Garrard

Ricoh's Pentax K3 Mk III is an impressive, gargantuan effort. Especially so considering that the world has been in crazy lock down mode for well over a year now. Despite that, Ricoh has been hard at work behind the scenes. From its engineers to the I.T department, to its marketing department and i's production facilities, Ricoh was on a mission to bring the K3 Mk III to the world. The depth of the effort that went into this camera's release is more apparent the more I spend time reading about it. I don't recall ever seeing so many pro photographers chiming in about a Pentax camera so soon after its release, whether that's the photographers on Ricoh's special website, or all of the others I'm seeing on the net. I'm quickly getting the impression here that the K3 Mk III represents more than just a new DSLR release, it also represents photographers who appreciate a DSLR's unique capabilities and heritage. Ricoh pushed back, and said no to conformity, and I for one, and all for it. I decided that with as much effort that Ricoh made to bring this camera to us, so too will be the effort that I make to review it properly. Feel free to skip past the Open Mic section if you don't want to hear my thoughts on the market reception of the K3 Mk III thus far.
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Introduction: Open Mic, Market Reception

Photographers just like myself, aren't ready to give up DSLR's no matter how much of a push there is by multiple manufacturers to produce more cost effective mirrorless platforms. DSLR's and Mirrorless both have their place in the market. Mirrorless systems have advantages and so do DSLR systems. It is as simple as that. There is no winner, and both systems need to stay available to us all.
When I look down at the K3 Mk III in my hand, I think about how big of a deal this camera release is. Unfortunately the marketing shops/click bait hucksters that call themselves camera review sites these days, are  missing out on the bigger picture. They act so surprised that a DSLR has been introduced to the market. They are already pushing out misleading click bait headlines such as one that says nobody will ever buy the K3 Mk III, another that says this is the last DSLR, pure rubbish and a waste of a readers time. They do not represent your interests, it's best to ignore them.
Anything to get attention these days? I can't help but notice how quickly these so call photography sites sell themselves out. That sounds harsh, I know, but it's true.
Like minded photographers know that there is so much more to photography than what oozes out of these sites though. This camera release is about so much more than the next best thing announced for sale. It's about something much more important than that, it's about us, still photographers. It's equally  about having a choice. 
It's why medium format systems, rangefinders, mirrorless, smartphones, compact fixed lens cameras, and dslr's all exist. It's about having the choice to find and use the tool that you choose is best. For whatever reason. Whether that be pure pleasure, or the most capable tool for the job. This push to eliminate DSLR's and replace them with mirrorless is pure marketing business strategy b.s., nothing more, nothing less.
From pro's to beginners alike, we are not divided tribes. We are not in camps, or cliques. That mindset is flawed, it is harmful, and regardless is really just an illusion. Fact is, we are all photographers if one must categorize. One and the same. And the future of the camera market rests squarely on all of our shoulders. 
We the people have the power to dictate what we want to buy, it's not the other way around. And many of us (I'd say a majority) still want DSLR's, just like the Pentax K3 Mk III. The irony in it all, is that those same sites which pushed DSLR's reign and advantages for years, are now basically mute or negative about them. They act as if they have all forgotten the inherent advantages or pleasures of the design. They haven't forgotten, they will just push whatever camera companies want them too. 
To them I say- grow a backbone. Stop being hucksters and peddlers for these camera companies. Be photographers. Support all designs, they all have their place.
So with all of that aside, it's beyond refreshing to see that Ricoh understands us, hasn't tucked its tail,  succumbed to pressure, or joined the "popular" crowd. The current state that the camera market is in leaves a big hole in the market, it is their once in a lifetime golden opportunity to capitalize on.  
Seize it Ricoh!
My impression of this camera so far, is that every person who actually uses the K3 Mk III will have a much different perspective than what they may read. A much more honest and personal one. But do yourself a favor and try one out before you reach any conclusion. If you let your curiosity get the better of you and try one out yourself, and I'm willing to bet you're going to love this camera.
Lastly, of the countless new cameras that have arrived in my office since 2007, the K3 Mk III is on a very short list of the most exciting cameras I've ever decided to review. That is saying something because I've nearly seen them all. I'm thoroughly enjoying this camera, and will do my best to share my experiences with you as accurately and informatively as possible. The APS-C DSLR that Pentax fans hoped Ricoh could make has arrived. 
We all knew they could do it, eventually.

Review Series Part II: Autofocusing Speed and Accuracy

*My comments in this section of the review primarily revolve around my use of the 60-250mm f/4 SDM, 70-210mm f/4 SDM, 55-300mm PLM lenses. However, I also used several other lenses with micro motor and screw drive focusing for general testing out of sheer curiosity of  any improved benefits.*
The K3 Mark III is remarkable because it is the first APS-C camera with Pentax branding that can finally court even serious action photographers. As you will see, it has done so convincingly. This part of the review series is the most important one because I believe action photographers to be the more demanding of a camera's performance and image quality than the others. Like many others I have always hoped Pentax would make a camera like this, and they finally have. Since there's less competition in the DSLR space than ever before, now was the right time.

The AF System
Worth note is the new Safox 13 AF system. What caught my attention is the design of the RGB metering sensor, which provides the majority of information to the camera. Nikon's D500 has been the best action APS-C DSLR ever for the money.  Inside, it has a once state of the art 180K RGB sensor that really pushed PDAF tracking performance to a new level. 
Together with the Prime V processor, the metering/PDAF sensor are the brains behind the quick AF decisions the K3 Mk III makes

Pentax's K3 Mk III on the other hand, has a 307K RGBIR metering sensor, setting a new standard at this price range. There is a lot more detailed information (and color/IR range) being relayed to the AF system than of the D500's 180K sensor. In fact that is even better than Nikon's once top of the line professional D5 DSLR that cost over $5,000.00 five years ago. That said, the metering sensor is only half of the news. 

The sensitivity of its AF system is now capable down to -4ev (with f/2.8 or faster lenses in three center columns), very similar to again the D500 which practically seems to see in the dark. My tests showed it to compare similarly to the D500 in low light AF with f/2.8 lenses. It too is tenacious and practically focuses in the dark. As a matter of fact, I turned off its AF assist lamp permanently, the first time I've ever done so using a Pentax DSLR (and I'm a big fan of dedicated AF assist lamps too!). 
No issues to mention focusing in low light, and it is accurate with multiple lenses, even those that aren't f/2.8 or faster focus very competently with no aid from an AF assist lamp. Just like older Pentax DSLR's it will sometimes hunt (if necessary) to lock focus when other brands would just give up. Fortunately hunting is kept to a minimum here, it's fast and confident in low light, in fact impressively so.
Of it's 101 total AF points, 41 are user selectable. The majority of those 41 points reside 25 highly sensitive double cross type AF points in the center of the array. The rest of the AF points around the main 41 are supportive points that work in the background with help from deep learning tech for subject recognition and autofocus tracking. The array now covers nearly the entire width of the view in the finder, which supports live action illuminated AF point tracking for your subjects. 
Testing the AF System
Testing more thoroughly, I've found the K3 Mk III to tenaciously track fast moving subjects, in varying, wide ranging light with multiple lenses. I can see the active AF points moving around at a blistering pace. It's impressive what is inside this camera, it's capability. But a DSLR is part of a team effort. The camera and lens team. And to get the most out of the K3 Mk III you need a well matched lens.
Good  news is all lenses will seem to benefit from the K3 Mk III. Even the older micro motor and body driven lenses. The K3 Mk III has more information, more torque, and much more brain power to work with here, which translates into faster and more accurate AF decisions across the entire lens spectrum.  
Yes, you heard right, it's faster with screw driven lenses as well, such as my trusty Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. Sort of sounds turbo charged in comparison to other K mount DSLRS.
The AF system is a such big deal because Pentax cameras have never really been a first choice for action in the community/or by pros. In fact, I found myself feeling a little strange pursuing birds, cars, cyclists with a Pentax camera. I'm just not used to having that kind of photography available to me with a Pentax DSLR. But it became clear to me immediately that all photographers now have another serious action photography choice.
Ricoh's Pentax K3 Mk III is a big deal.

Choosing the Right Lens is Essential
For action/bird in flight photography, I seek the most reliable lens with the best optical quality I can walk around with while remaining reasonably comfortable. Although the lens lineup is limited in comparison to other brands, there are still quite a few fast focusing options to choose from. 
First choices I'd recommend are the following lenses for the K3 Mk III if action is your primary motive. They are in order of price, lowest to highest, with the two starred lenses being my personal picks.
  • Pentax 55-300mm HD WR PLM RE*
  • Pentax 70-200mm f/2.8 DC AW
  • Pentax 60-250mm f/4 SDM AW*
  • Pentax 150-450mm DC AW
Secondary choices would be:
  • Pentax 55-300mm HD WR
  • Pentax 50-150mm f/2.8 SDM AW 
  • Pentax 70-210mm f/4 SDM WR
  • Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM (if you can find one)
Pentax 70-210mm f/4 SDM
This lens is the same lens as the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 (rebranded by Ricoh with a better exterior and lens coatings). Interestingly when "interviewing" action lens candidates for my Nikon D500, I had the exact same issues with this lens. Completely identical. Therefore it is easy to conclude that the lens is the issue here, not the camera. I passed on it then, and I'll pass on it now.

No fault of the Pentax K3 Mk III, the 70-210mm f/4 exhibited nervous continuous AF, I call it micro flutter. No matter how still or fast moving the subject, it would continue to make micro adjustments when completely unnecessary (even when holding the camera completely still, half pressing the shutter release).

You can get sharp images with the 70-210 f/4, but it's a better lens for the full frame K1 series in my opinion, not really suited for the most demanding action photography. Your hit rate in CAF mode will be pretty dismal if you care about nailing focus.

Looking down at the focus distance scale window while tracking a still subject (camera also completely still), you can see it nervously moving back and forth, as if it has its own mind on what to focus on separate from the camera. It's as if the two seem to be arguing with each other on where to focus.
I tried every variation of continuous AF setting in the K3 Mk III, and it only seemed to focus consistently with spot AF in AF-S mode (75% or greater keeper rate). Yes you can get some sharp action images with this lens, and yes it focuses really fast. But all is for not if the focus keeper rate is undesirable, and I got 30% at best. 
I shot a sequence of about 11 images in CAF mode of this Raven. Only two were acceptable in terms of nailing focus. The others were close, but  not close enough. CAF micro flutter.
I did the same type of testing on my D500, with the same results. When the Tamron managed to focus dead on, the image quality and detail was excellent. But for an action lens, I demand the most reliable continuous autofocus even at the expense of some overall speed if necessary.
Reinforcing my conclusion, I did not exhibit this kind of nervous CAF micro flutter with any other lens I used for testing on the K3 Mk III. 
I've included some samples using this lens regardless, but ultimately this is not my first choice for an action lens (great for everything else though!). Action subjects are highly demanding on equipment and will expose weaknesses to the AF system (or lens in this case) immediately. For example, I went through several lens candidates before I settled on the best paired lens for my D500. I only wish that same lens was available for the K3 Mk III, but unfortunately, it is not (the Sigma 100-400mm DC Contemporary).

The 70-210mmf/4 is more suited for other kinds of photography, namely still life where it really shines best, or used with spot AF and single frame advance. Continuous AF is not recommended currently (maybe that could change with a lens FW update?)

Pentax 60-250mm f/4 to the Rescue
The Pentax 60-250mmf/4 is older but performs beautifully on the K3 Mk III. Balance and handling is near perfect for hand held BIF or other action work. It ticks off all the major boxes in my book and is very affordable in great condition used.

Overall I think this is my favorite lens for action on the K3 Mk III. It may be larger than the PLM with slightly less coverage, and might not even focus as fast, but its top notch optical quality, smooth tracking, and fast f/4 aperture make up for it. There is no doubt if I'm going light/compact, the 55-300mm PLM is my first choice hands down. 
Now this is more like it. I shot a sequence of a dozen images of this Cormorant, and 10/12 were acceptable sharpness. I was left to choose the best overall image in terms of position/exposure/compostion etc. These birds fly fast and beat their wings quickly (like a mallard). He is not soaring, he's inbetween beats, the K3 Mk III's frame rate gave me plenty of options!

But when weight isn't the ultimate consideration, I prefer to use a lens with the best balance of optical quality/convenience/AF speed/handling. With a range of 90-375mm equivalent, a constant f/4 aperture (with sharp images wide open), fast, smooth, and reliable SDM focusing, it's a no brainer for hiking/walk around action/bird in flight pro level photography.  
A big plus: It balances really well on the K3 Mk III and the build/handling is top rate. I prefer to shoot telephoto lenses that are a bit heavier (but not too heavy), it helps to stabilize shots at longer focal lengths.  Handling too is a pet peeve of mine that when done proper, can make an impact on your keeper rate and sheer enjoyment of use during an event. In fact, I wish I had this lens for my Nikon system, it's a real treat! 
Even with a busy background the 60-250 f/4 and K3 Mk III combo wasn't fooled. I was lucky enough to get two circling passes with this Cormorant, this shot was taken on his first pass at more distance away.

SDM lenses historically have not been the fastest focusing. But why is that, what was the missing link? 
Answer (in part): A fast focusing DSLR like the K3 Mk III!  
Every lens that I attached to the Pentax K3 Mk III focuses faster on this body. Even the micro motor lenses focus a touch faster. Example,  the Sigma 18-200mm DC "C" lens is a noticeably quicker focusing on my K3 Mk III than it is on my K5IIs /K3 bodies. The motor isn't being driven faster, but it certainly locks onto targets faster than other Pentax bodies. It's about the decisioning.
The 60-250mm f/4 is no exception here, and benefits by being a balanced combo with the K3 Mk III. The combo is decisive, smooth, reliable, and stable.

Although I didn't get many opportunities of Mallards in flight, I was able to get a 6 shot sequence of this guy, and picked the best of the bunch, 6/6 were sharp enough to pass my pickiness test. I was quite some distance away from this guy (it is cropped), but the camera/lens combo is a reliable tracking duo. Just as good as my D500 and Sigma 100-400mm C combo. And with much less practice and tweaking!

When shooting bursts and tracking action subjects at 6-11 fps, the desire is for the focus to stay locked on a moving subject as long as possible- and to do so with little to no out of focus images through the duration of the event. Lock and track, enthusiastically. Having the most choices later on in post for keeper photographs is always the goal.  A properly matched body and lens combo, like the K3 Mk III and 60-250mm f/4 SDM will ultimately help you to attain your goal.
Although this is almost a bird in flight, this shot shows how superior the focus tracking is with the 60-250f/4 K3 Mk III combination. Focus is prioritized perfectly. I had a split second to pull my camera up from my hip and focus. I ended up getting two perfectly focused shots of him with outstretched wings on the water. Very impressive.

Decision making by the body during autofocus is one of the greatest influences on overall AF performance. It doesn't matter how fast a lens focuses, if the body can't make up its mind on what to focus on, your subject will not get into/stay in focus quickly.  The 60-250mm f/4 SDM is seemingly turbo charged and very accurate on my K3 Mk III compared to my other Pentax DSLR's. Hunting is next to nil, continuous tracking is fast to lock,  smooth, stable, and reliable during capture. Reliability is the takeaway here. 

Although the 60-250f/4 takes a bit of time to rack focus from closest to infinity, real world situations don't demand fast end to end focusing like that most of the time. When the lens is already half way focused to infinity, its blisteringly fast to lock birds in flight. It doesn't take much time at all to learn how to get the most out of the lens and the K3 Mk III combination.

Pentax 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE (what a mouthful!)

Pentax's 55-300mm PLM is very compact, weather sealed, fast focusing, has great image quality, it's versatile, and well built. For its price, its unbeatable.

This lens was my top choice for my K70 and K3 DSLR's. This lens has been around, it's tried and true. It's affordable, weather sealed, well built and compact, and has respectable optical performance. And it's the fastest focusing solution that Ricoh makes. For most users who prefer a more compact and budget solution, this is a no brainer choice to pair up with a K3 Mk III.
PLM stands for Pulse Length Modulation, or easily remembered as Pulse Motor. It's super fast, Nikon and Canon use it, and I have lenses for those mounts too. The only weakness is that the type of motor can only move so much weight before it becomes obsolete. It needs to move lightweight rear lens element for focusing.
Man this PLM is sharp (at f/8 haha). Check out the eye and those beak markings on this Double Crested Cormorant!

The PLM (as I will refer to it hereon), is a great all round choice. Yes its max aperture is not as fast as the other two lenses in this review, but that is really its only downfall. It makes up for that (and a dimmer viewfinder) with portability, versatility, and speed. It's not only a great choice for action in good light, but a great walk around lens for multiple subjects including landscape images (if like me, you also like compressed landscape images with telephoto lenses). 
Don't worry, the PLM can do BIF too. I had one pass of a Snowy Egret to work with on this outing. I managed about a 15 frame series. Over half were acceptable sharpness, but I was shooting at 450mm equivalent hand held (and a bit nervous about the one chance opportunity). I see no reason the PLM can't get a 75% or higher hit rate with more practice.

It locks and holds faster than the other two lenses and sequences are nearly just as reliable as the 60-250f/4. For an example below, this is the first and last shots in a 10 shot sequence of my daughter jogging/then walking towards me. Every single shot was sharp, despite the varying speed of my daughter and long focal length etc. While the optical quality may not be as good as that lens, it's still very respectable and at time completely impressive.
Shot 1 of 10, unedited Jpeg 55-300mm PLM

Shot 10 of 10 in a burst series, unedited Jpeg 55-300mm PLM

The PLM in this case does so at blistering speeds and really shows off the K3 Mk III's fast AF system potential. The AF system's potential is what is key here, Ricoh just needs more lenses to take advantage of the system like the PLM so that users have more choice. We can make due with what we have but why make due when you can capitalize on the new camera's performance capability?

Like I said, the PLM is sharp. This is a rather meaty crop as well. The accuracy of the focus is what I really like with this lens, in flight or still, it's dead on (at least for me).

As an all round lens to start with, this is the lens I'd recommend K3 Mk III owners have no matter what lenses they choose. Having a compact, sharp, weather sealed, super quiet, fast focusing lens with an 82-450mm equivalent range is a no brainer. And it's by far the most affordable of the three. I saw no issues with focus tracking using this lens that weren't due to user error (I'm not perfect!).

Also, this would be a lens I'd choose for wildlife videography using the camera's mic. It's so quiet that you can barely make out focus adjustments on audio tracks, I can't say that about the 70-210mm f/4 or 60-250mm f/4 lenses. So if video is your bag, this lens is worth considering for that reason.

Body Driven Lens Notes

I've tested the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and the 35mm f/2.8 LTD macro lens on the K3 Mk III (my two favorite Pentax screw driven lenses). Speed of focus is improved over my other Pentax bodies, and you can hear it. Focus acquisition and lock, is also faster than previous bodies (K70/K3/II for example) due to a faster/higher torque body motor and quicker AF decision making by the CPU/AF module. There's a definite improvement and benefit over older Pentax DSLR's here too.

I would not rule out the Pentax 55-300mm f/4-5.8 HD lens for action photography, but I haven't tried using it yet either. For me, I prefer quieter focusing lenses for BIF or action photography, but screw driven lenses are by no means deal breakers. They just seem to alert wildlife more to your presence because of additional noise. In many cases, noise is not an issue, especially with feeding/diving birds, or other action scenarios where camera/lens focusing noise is a non factor.
So if you have your eye on older screw driven Pentax lenses for action, by all means go for it. Try them out and let me know if I've missed any gems out there we could be using on the K3 Mk III. This report really deals with lenses currently for sale that are readily available now.

Autofocus System: Conclusion

In terms of the body, the Pentax K3 Mk III is extremely capable. It's response time to subjects, in a wide range of light, is highly evident and immediate. It's ability to track, and keep, various subjects in focus (in a wide range of light) is also clearly evident. With the right lens, the K3 Mk III has the potential to perform better than my D500, this I know with 100% certainty and confidence.

However, with the available lenses, I feel the true potential of the K3 Mk III is not being leveraged. This body is much more capable than the lenses available now that you can attach. Autofocus performance is a team effort between the body and the lens. To get the best performance, the two pieces must perform equal to each others potential and not be a bottle neck. Right now I feel like Pentax just doesn't have a lens that will let K3 Mk III owners see that full potential realized. However...

As of the day I publish this article, the K3 Mk III is every bit as good as the D500, and in some ways surpasses it. That's a HUGE accomplishment for Ricoh, and one to be celebrated by Pentax users. With the available lenses, I can get performance to match my D500 combo, but just barely. That said I'd like to see more lens options specifically suited for action work to be available for the K3 Mk III ASAP. If Canon and Nikon are choosing to give up DSLRS in the market for action work, Ricoh should seize this opportunity and go for it, right now, not later.
I do see firmware updates for the K3 Mk III happening in the future. As this is truly Pentax's first fast action capable DSLR, Ricoh will undoubtedly get a flood of feedback from action photographers. Hopefully Ricoh can address the micro flutter issue of the 70-210mm f/4 lens with a firmware update to the lens itself (it's not the K3 Mk III that is the issue here). This would give fast action photographer another serious consideration in the lens lineup, and honestly that would be my first choice if the lens performed properly for CAF duties.

Overall, I have to say that I'm highly impressed with the K3Mk III's autofocus system. I am confident other users will be too. Part III of my review series will report on Build, Ergonomics, and Image Quality, stay tuned!

Stay focused.


I highly recommend watching this video from Ricoh that gives you a detailed and informative introduction to the K3 Mk III. It's fascinating to watch!



  1. My K3III just arrived Carl. So far, I agree with you. Nice second part to your review! Jacob

  2. I'm happy that Pentax has finally slain the AF dragon! So many have assumed that would never change, and the D500 is still the gold standard for aps.c bodies. Hooray for r.Pentax in meeting the challenge.

  3. Yep it's a big deal. Thinking way back to the Pre Hoya, then Hoya days, and now this... :) Love it!

  4. Thank you Jacob, was I right? :)

  5. Very positive review Carl- Thank you.

  6. I'd like to comment further on focus tracking in low light. The K3 Mk III is about twice as fast to focus in low light (in CAF mode) as my D500 is. Focus locking from near to far subjects in particular. It's pretty amazing. There is so much more to test so be patient with me while I keep putting the K3 Mk III through its paces.

  7. Carl: I've been following your overview of the new Mk III and was going to order one to replace my aging (but still great) K-5 II and K-30. However, I just watched the dpreview youtube review of the III and heard that noise reduction is baked into High ISO RAW files and cannot be defeated. For obvious reasons, and if this is true, it's a deal breaker for me. I simply don't want my camera to do my thinking for me. Last time I got involved with a camera that embedded NR in RAW files was my Canon 5D II. That experience was not a good one. I've sworn off baked in stuff ever since. Do you know if it's truth or rumor about the Mk III and NR in the RAW files? Thanks. And, as always, nice writing and reporting.

  8. Hi Steve!

    The truth of the matter is that nearly every camera has some level of on chip NR that happens prior to the saved file. Baked raw happens. All makers do it. Yes the K3 MK III does too. But likely whatever camera(s) you are using now, also do.

    There are no camera's that I know of that are immune.

    That said, Adobe doesn't yet have any profiles for the DNG files on the K3 Mk III, its very new, I imagine they will on the next DNG update. What I have seen so far however in the raw files, is smart NR processing. The K3 Mk III has the best IQ I've seen in all APS-C DSLR's so far. Plenty of detail, color, and dynamic range are there well into ISO 12,800, it's quite amazing! Useable files to ISO 51,200.

    I'm holding off on the IQ portion of the review until I have embedded profiles to choose from in Adobe (I use other raw converters but Adobe is still the predominant program for raw conversion). I'm holding off because I want to see what Adobe are going to do to the raw files, even Adobe has embedded "corrections" for almost every camera with raw.

    So its up to you, but I wouldn't pass up the many advantages of the K3 Mk III, since after all its really a level playing field in terms of pre-raw on chip NR. It's an amazing DSLR, Pentax just need more fast focusing lenses available. I wish Sigma would do something about that!

  9. Hi Carl. Thanks for the reply. I'm still on the fence about the Mark III and, in fact, have been considering the K-1 II, which right now is $200 LESS than the new K3. Since I already own and use the Pentax 28-105 full frame lens, the K-1 II does make some sense for me. As far as embedded noise reduction goes, the big pro cameras from Nikon, Canon. Sony etc. have opted to keep the megapixel count down as a way of keeping noise levels under control. I don't believe Nikon's and/or Canon's big bodies embed n/r in their raw files. Sony's A7s series is STILL only 12MP and is still considered a low noise champ.

    1. @Steve June Reducing the megapixel count is not helpful for reducing (image) noise. Single pixel noise will get lower but the overall image noise stays the same, regardless of pixel count. While individual pixels are noisier, there are more of those pixels to average out to an image which is overall as noisy as that of a lower megapixel count camera. I agree with you that RAW manipulation is bad. To some extent all manufacturers do it, but until recently, they did not start smoothing out RAW data before ISO 1600 or so. Sadly, Pentax is the worst offender with their "accelerator unit" which in the K-1 II starts at ISO 640 and in the K-3 III at ISO 100 (which is really bad). I really like that the K-1 has no "accelerator unit" at all. This means the files are noisier out of camera, but better suited for post-processing.

  10. Hey Steve, actually they all imbed some level of NR prior to processing the final file, Canon and Nikon just don't talk about it. Unfortunately raw is an outdated term these days as a result. Raw is still the best format for several reasons of course but all manufacturers are doing some level of pre-processing before the final file is saved in the camera.

    As far as your choice is concerned, my advice would be to focus more on format, ergonomics, and features to determine what you will get. Image quality is tremendously good for most cameras and most brands. :)

    1. @Carl Garrard You are correct in stating that all manufacturers manipulate RAW data to some extent, but up until recently they all took a hands-off approach until ISO 1600 or so (often even higher). Only recently, some started processing RAW images in very low ISO ranges. Sadly, Pentax is the worst offender with the K-1 II starting at ISO 640 and the K-3 III at ISO 100. Their so-called "accelerator unit" applies some heavy-handed corrections which are welcomed by some but hated by purists who know that the less manipulation there is, the better the ability of advanced post-processing to make the most of the data. I really like that the K-1 has no "accelerator unit" at all and I wish Pentax would give users the choice whether they want the processing or not. That would provide the best of both worlds.

  11. I was glad to find this post link in your 60-250 review at B&H. Nice article! I have been using the MkIII since May 2021. I also own the K-1 Mk I and Mk II. Since receiving my first K-3 Mk III, I have barely used my K-1s. I have found the same in the focus abilities and would add at least one other lens to your list. The DA*300 has served me well for the sports pictures I've done. Mostly football, but there is some baseball, softball and soccer as well. I've also been able to wake my DA*50-135 and it actually performs admirably on the Mk III for action. I have used it for a season of basketball and it has done well. The DA*200 gets the low light action given its 2.8 aperture, but its AF doesn't perform quite as well as the 300 or 50-135. I also use the new 16-50 PLM and it does well with action and all other genres too.

    I currently do not have the 60-250, but it would certainly fill the gap for football paired with the 300. I'm glad to hear it performs well on the Mk III. If you would like to see more of the Mk IIIs results with the lenses I have used you can peruse at

    Thanks for the articles and keep 'em coming.

  12. This is a great and positive review. I wish more reviews like this came out for the mk3. As you say the push for EVF is massive as it's driven by sales. I always wanted Optical and I am glad Pentax are staying with it. After purchasing the K3mk3 I can't recommend it enough. It's good for landscape and other types of photography to but with the usual intuitive, rugged Pentax layout. A classic in the making. If your thinking of getting one, just do it. It basically confirmed why I never switched. The pure enjoyment in using it compared to the Sony and Fuji mirrorless I have tried is hands down more engaging. Old school lives on.

    1. Pentax has the right idea, they are just competing with a very robust used DSLR market right now. It could very well pay off for them in the long run sticking to DSLR's but there are a lot of DSLR shooters out there in many other brands with plenty to choose from ... plus those married to a lens system too, lets not forget them. Eventually though, supply will start to dwindle, people will want new DSLR's instead of the old used rubbish for sale, but it will just take a lot of time to wear down all these old cameras. Pentax has an opportunity, and if I'm being honest, they need to jump on it with a better plan. The higher end bodies are great, but offer mid level bodies with great construction for less outlay. In a time where we have record inflation worldwide, a more budget body with excellent construction could make some serious sales. The K70 for example still being sold, great price, but make something like that with an all metal body and more "fundamentals" driven design points.

  13. Unfortunately, what you write about review sites is true. I know of one exception, but most review sites will only do a half-assed attempt at understanding
    a) what a Pentax is capable of, and
    b) whom the camera is made for.
    There are egregious examples where review sites, for instance, were in favour of lens-based image stabilisation, and only started recognised body-based image stabilisation as the overall better approach when the big companies finally adopted it as well. As long as it was Pentax only, the virtues of body-based image stabilisation weren't worth praising. Same goes for PixelShift. When it was unique to Pentax, it had "no applications". When Sony adopted it, it suddenly became a useful feature (note that Pentax still has the best PixelShift implementation). I could go on and on.

    When reviewing Pentax, certain sites have always room to drop the ball and either never pick it up or too late when nobody cares anymore.

    The truth is that people are different and not everyone is best served with a hybrid stills/video camera that is too compact for bigger hands. For some, a substantial camera with an optical viewfinder is simply the best choice and instead of acknowledging that, many review sites only push the latest and "greatest", suggesting everyone is best served with what the biggest companies are offering at the moment.

    These sites will swear that they are independent from manufacturers and/or big companies in the camera-selling business, but we all know that simply doesn't make sense. One company in the camera- (and other electronics) selling business does not pay their warehouse workers proper wages, but we are told to believe that it finances multiple staff of a costly review site regardless of the profit the latter produces for them by pushing the right products. Yeah, right.

  14. Class A, well said. And yeah we know who they are.