Review by Mark Degner
The K-5 II and K-5 IIs are the new flagship models of the Pentax K-line, replacing the popular K-5. The K-5 II ($1,099.99) and K-5 IIs ($1,199.99) are essentially identical in all aspects, except that the K-5 IIs does not have an anti-aliasing (AA) filter. This means that the K-5 IIs has greater resolution, but it’s more prone to capturing any moiré that may be present in the subject. This review is based on the K-5 IIs, but other than some differences in image quality the other aspects shouldn’t vary between the two models.
The K-5 IIs is relatively lightweight (760 g with battery), extremely well built, and comfortable to hold. It’s ergonomically designed and the buttons and controls are well placed for ease of use. The menus are straightforward and logically organized and I found I had no difficulty navigating through them. One of its best features is that it’s weather-proof, with 77 rubber seals around all the compartment doors, buttons and dials, giving it a higher degree of dust and weather resistance than most of the other cameras in its class. The camera has a magnesium alloy shell over a stainless-steel chassis, and combined with the rubber seals makes the K-5 IIs a rugged camera that should be able to handle most of the conditions the average outdoor photographer will encounter.
The 16.28 MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor (23.7 x 15.7 mm – 4,928 x 3,264 pixels) in the K-5 IIs (and K-5 II) is another one of its best features. The K-5 IIs has a base ISO range of 100-12,800 in either 1, ½ or 1/3 stops and the ISO range can be expanded to 80–51,200. The K-5 11s produces excellent image quality up to ISO 1600 and very good images up to ISO 3200. At ISOs higher than 3200 noise is progressively more noticeable. Images have good detail and dynamic range and it performs very well in low light. Using the higher quality Pentax DA* lenses will definitely improve image quality, and as well they have weather seals, making them perfect companions for the K-5 IIs.
The K-5 IIs has a single memory card slot and uses both SD and SDHC memory cards on which it can record 14-bit RAW images (PEF or DNG), 8-bit JPEGs in four different qualities (premium, best, better or good), or RAW+JPEG formats. The K-5 IIs incorporates the Pentax Real Image Engine II (PRIME II) image-processing engine that gives the images good colour rendition and can be user adjusted. The default JPEG settings produced overall pleasing results, although if you’re planning on primarily shooting JPEGs then you should make sure you take the time to optimize your JPEG settings to get the best results.
The K-5 IIs has a SAFOX X TTL phase-difference 11-point auto focus system. Relative to some other cameras its auto focus is not as fast but it is accurate, and it’s a definite improvement over the K-5. I would like to see more auto focus points, but the system works very well. Combined with the ability to shoot up to seven images per second, and capture up to 30 JPEG images in a single burst, it’s a good choice for action and wildlife photography.
The large 3.0” LCD monitor has a 921,000-dot resolution that is fairly bright with a wide viewing angle and good colour rendition. Live View is active via a button on the back of the camera and gives 100 percent coverage. It has a number of display modes and can be used with both manual and auto focus (three modes). Another nice feature of the K 5-IIs is that it has a 100 percent viewfinder, which really helps with getting good compositions.
The K-5 IIs is capable of producing full 1080p HD (1920×1080, 16:9), but only at 25fps, you can’t shoot at any other frame rate, which may be limiting to some photographers. In addition there’s no dedicated movie button (have to move the mode dial) and no auto focus during movie shooting. Despite these limitations, I found the video that the K-5 IIs produced were very pleasing.
Not only can you use Pentax’s current line of lenses on the K-5 IIs, but also a large number of older style lenses; albeit not all camera functions may work with some older lenses. I really like Pentax’s decision to build their Shake Reduction (SR) system into the camera rather than the lenses so that you can have SR with any lens you’re using, and it means the lenses can be smaller and lighter. The SR works really well, allowing you to use between 2 to 3 stops slower shutter speed when handholding. Since the SR system is a sensor-shift system, where the sensor is movable, Pentax has taken advantage of that sensor mobility and has developed a Composition Adjust feature. This allows the photographer to fine-tune their composition by moving the sensor up and down and left or right (24 steps or approx. 1.5 mm on the sensor) in each axis without moving the camera. There’s also a separate Horizontal Correction feature that will automatically move the sensor to match the horizon, even when handholding the camera. These are two really useful and innovative features.
If you are into shooting HDR (high dynamic range) images you will like the fact that you can easily set the camera to automatically bracket up to five exposures up to ± 2 EV in either 1/3 or ½ stop intervals. In addition you can set the camera to take all the exposures with one push of the shutter.
Both the K-5 IIs and the K-5 II are highly customizable and have lots of other features, which I don’t have the space to discuss, making them very versatile cameras. Although they have a few shortcomings, I was impressed with the K-5 IIs from the moment I picked it up. It’s a pleasure to use and produces excellent images. Its quality build and long list of features, combined with its reasonable price, makes the K-5 IIs (or K5 II) a camera that I would recommend to current Pentax users wanting to upgrade or to photographers who are considering moving up to their first DSLR system. Deciding which model is right for you might be your toughest decision.