Pentax K-3 - First Look



Pentax today introduced the Pentax K-3, a rugged, high-resolution APS-sensor DSLR with several technological firsts. Designed for photography enthusiasts with previous picture-taking experience, the camera promises near pro level performance and image quality improvements.

The Pentax K-3 can be pre-ordered from Adorama now. It is available body only for $1,296.95, in a kit with the Pentax W/DA 18-135mm WR Lens for $1,646.95, or in a limited silver edition for $1,596.95. Orders will be shipped on a first-come, first-served basis. Credit cards will not be charged until orders ship.

The Pentax K-3 has a new 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor and the world's first selectable anti-aliasing filter (more about that soon). Autofocus is achieved via 27 AF sensors with an impressive range of -3 to +18 EV; in other words, this camera should be able to focus in near-darkness. Pentax is also introducing a proprietary FLU wireless SDHC technology that will allow users to operate all of the camera's controls from their smart phone or tablet. The camera's body is magnesium alloy and it is water-sealed, and offers dual SD card slots.

Key features:

  • 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Selectable anti-aliasing filter
  • SAFOX11 AF engine; 27 AF sensors includes 25 cross sensors and 3 sensors dedicated to low-light focusing
  • Optional FLU wireless control
  • ISO range 80-51,200
  • 1080/60p HD video in H.264 format
  • Body-based Shake Reduction
  • Dual SD Card Slots
  • Pentaprism Optical Viewfinder with 100% coverage
  • Built-in electronic level
  • Weather sealed
  • Multi-pattern white balance
  • JPEG, Pentax PEF and Adobe DNG 14-bit RAW files
  • HDMI Port
  • HDR Image Capture

Let's take a closer look at this new camera's most important features.

24MP sensor: The Pentax K-3 features 24MP, APS-C-sized CMOS sensor, providing a 1.5x crop factor. It is coupled with a newly developed PRIME III imaging engine with what Pentax describes as high-efficiency noise and image processing capacities and an anti-aliasing filter-less design.

Selectable Anti-Aliasing Filter: The K-3's most significant innovation is a first-ever Selectable Anti-Aliasing filter, giving the user the ability to easily toggle anti-aliasing functionality on or off, for supreme resolution and zero limitations. THere is no physical filter; instead, using the same technology that powers the camera's sensor-based Shake Reduction technology, when the anti-aliasing simulator is turned on, microscopic vibrations are applied to the image sensor unit at the subpixel level during image exposure, generating the same level of moiré-reduction effect as an optical anti-aliasing filter. The image is then computationally fine-tuned to remove any aliasing artifacts.

Since there's no filter to cut down light during this process, the effective light sensitivity of the sensor is greater. The downside? Anti-aliasing simulation is most effective with a shutter speed of 1/1000 second or slower.

Wireless capabilities: The K-3 has two SC card ports, and one of them is intended for an optional 16GB FLU card, designed by Ricoh exclusively for use with the Pentax K-3. Using this card's unique wireless capabilities, , the photographer can remotely change any camera settings such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO, shift the AF focus point, release the camera shutter, check Liveview image and more via a wireless device. Users can also download images to mobile devises and PC. Eye-fi Wireless and standard SDX Memory cards are also compatible.

Class-leading burst rate: At 8.3 FPS burst rate, the Pentax K-3 is very well-suited for extreme action capture and demanding high performance shooting. A maximum 1/8000 second shutter speed freezes even the fastest action without subject movement blur, and is rated for 200,000 cycles.  The K-3 continuously records as many as 22 images in the RAW format or 60 images in the JPEG format in a single sequence.

Pentax has employed several innovative technologies to boost the camera's performance, including a high-speed, high-accuracy control mechanism that regulates the shutter, mirror and diaphragm independently; a damper mechanism that effectively minimizes mirror shock; and a high-speed data transmission system incorporated in the PRIME III imaging engine.

SAFOX11 Autofocus Module: The newly designed SAFOX11 autofocus module maximizes 27 AF sensors and a vast light sensitivity range of –3EV to +18EV.  The new focus module includes 25 cross sensors and three AF sensors dedicated to low light focusing.

Real Time Scene Analysis with 86,000 pixel sensor: The new Real Time Scene Analysis System features an 86,000 pixel RGB light-metering sensor and improved algorithms that further enhance accuracy of exposure, white balance and autofocusing.

H.264 video: The Pentax K-3 captures HD movie capture in the H.264 format (60p/50p/30p/24p), also including the ability to switch from still image to video recording with the flip of a dedicated switch. Equipped with a headphone terminal and stereo microphone terminal for external microphone connection. The user can also adjust the audio recording level manually and monitor sound levels during recording.

Fully weather sealed: As with most advanced Pentax cameras introduced recently, the K-3 boasts a rugged all-weather design. With 92 special seals, the K-3 boasts a fully weather and cold proof design to resist water, fog, snow, sand, and dust, for top performance in extreme field conditions as well as in the studio.

Multi-pattern white balance: When shooting scenes that include multiple light sources, such as sunlight and shade or flash, light sources are recognized automatically and the image is separated into different areas. White balance is adjusted separately in each area according to the different light sources to achieve optimal color reproduction.

Conclusion and Recommendation

The tradition of Pentax innovation not only continues under Ricoh, but it seems to have been ratcheted up several notches with the K-3, a very intelligently designed DSLR. I'm looking forward to getting a production edition in hand for a full review in the near future, and am especially interested in putting the FLU wireless technology through its paces, but based on my conversations with Pentax and a brief time handling a preproduction model, I think this camera has the potential to be an instant classic.

The Pentax K-3 can be pre-ordered from Adorama now. It is available body only for $1,296.95, in a kit with the Pentax W/DA 18-135mm WR Lens for $1,646.95, or in a limited silver edition for $1,596.95.


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