Pentax K-5 Review

 
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Pentax K-5 Operation

Like the K-7 before it, operation of the Pentax K-5 digital SLR is reasonably straightforward, but given that it's so packed with features and tuned with the experienced photographer in mind, you'll do better with the Pentax K-5 if you take time to read the manual, and learn every little feature and function. The large Mode dial on top of the camera controls the main operating modes, and has the same selection as the Pentax K-7: Green (Auto), Program, Sensitivity priority, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Shutter and Aperture priority, Manual, Bulb, X-sync (flash), User, and Movie. See the Modes & Menus tab for details on the various exposure modes.

Several of the Pentax K-5's control buttons perform multiple functions, which saves space and time. The e-dials for example, control a variety of settings when turned in combination with a press of a button, and the arrow keys of the Four-way arrow pad access shortcuts to common camera settings as well. The Pentax K-5's LCD menu system is straightforward, with four main menus accessible via a tabbed interface at the top of the screen. Considering the multi-functional controls and variety of menu options, it will probably take most users a little time with the manual to really get the gist of things, but operation becomes intuitive after that.

 

Top Panel Status Display

The Pentax K-5's monochrome LCD status display appears on the camera's top deck just behind the shutter button. There is a backlight, which is automatically activated whenever the K-5 performs exposure metering. (It can be turned-off in a Custom menu.) The LCD panel displays the Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, exposure mode, battery status, EV compensation, drive mode, and the estimated number of images available, varying depending on mode and buttons active.

See the complete list below (illustration courtesy of Pentax).


1
Shutter Speed
8
Flash Exposure Compensation indicator
Countdown of Noise Reduction processing time
9
ISO Sensitivity
2
Aperture
Exposure Compensation value
Displays 'nr' when Noise Reduction is active
10
ISO indicator
3
Multi-exposure indicator
ISO Auto indicator
4
Mirror Lock-up indicator
11
Flash Mode
5
EV Bar
12
Drive Mode
Electronic Level
13
File Format
6
Exposure Compensation indicator
14
Remaining Image Storage Capacity
Exposure Bracketing indicator
USB Connection Mode
7
Battery Level indicator

 

Main LCD

The Pentax K-5's main TFT color LCD monitor is used for status display, accessing menus, image review as well as image preview in Live View mode. This gorgeous LCD is the same high resolution type found on many mid to high-end cameras recently, with approximately 921,000 dots. This equates to an array of approximately 640 x 480 pixels, with each pixel comprising adjacent red, green and blue dots. The K-5's LCD features a wide viewing angle, and its brightness can be adjusted in 15 steps, while color can be tuned in 15 steps on a 2-dimensional Green/Magenta vs Blue/Amber color grid for a total of 225 combinations. You can adjust the color while viewing a captured image in the background, useful when matching it to the color response of your computer monitor. You can also adjust the display color scheme, choosing from six presets, and set the text size, selecting between "Standard" and "Large" fonts. This latter option only affects the height of the currently selected item in any given menu -- the width of characters is fixed, regardless of the text size setting, as is the size of unselected menu items.

Status Display
When you turn on the Pentax K-5, or change exposure modes, the main LCD displays a status screen by default, showing the current record mode settings. The display updates in real-time while adjustments are made, and automatically flips between landscape and portrait mode displays to match the orientation of the camera. It will even right itself when the camera is turned upside down. Like that of the K-7, the Status display can still be disabled altogether, but the option to do so has been relocated from Record Menu 3 to Setup Menu 1.

See the illustration (courtesy of Pentax) and table below for detailed information:

1
Exposure Mode
12
Sensitivity
2
AE Lock
13
Exposure Compensation
3
Interval Shooting
Exposure Bracketing
Multiple Exposure
14
EV Bar
Extended Bracketing
15
Flash Mode
Digital Filter
16
Drive Mode
HDR Capture
17
White Balance
4
Shake Reduction
18
Custom Image
Horizon Correction
19
File Format
5
Focus Mode
20
JPEG Recorded Pixels
6
Metering Mode
21
JPEG Quality
7
Battery Level
22
Flash Exposure Compensation
8
e-dial Guide
23
White Balance Fine-Tuning
9
Shutter Speed
Cross Processing
10
Aperture Value
24
AF Point
11
ISO
25
Remaining Image Storage Capacity
ISO Auto
Green Button Guide

 

Control Panel Display
When the Info button is pressed, the Status screen changes to a Control Panel display, allowing direct access to both commonly adjusted settings and some less commonly adjusted settings without the use of the menu system. The e-dials can be used to make direct adjustments to settings without entering a menu, or the OK button pressed to view all available options for a particular setting. The Control Panel display with disappear automatically after 30 seconds of non-use, reverting back to the Status display above (if enabled), or a blank screen. Like the Status display, the Control Panel display will automatically flip between landscape and portrait mode displays to match the orientation of the camera.

Compared to that from the K-7, the K-5's Control Panel display has been tweaked quite a bit, although the basic functionality is much the same. The function name display at the top of the screen now occupies two lines, with the second line detailing the currently selected option for the highlighted setting. The Program Line is no longer adjustable (or visible) on the Control Panel display itself, and you must enter the ISO Auto Setting's adjustment screen to see or change this variable. In its place are two new items -- Auto AF Point Setting (which allows selection of 5-point or 11-point AF modes), and Cross Processing. Note that this, along with the other items in the panel's third row, can only be adjusted when the camera is set to JPEG shooting mode. One other slight change is that the date and time display is now shown with a different font, and places the day of the week before the date, rather than after it.

See the illustration below (courtesy of Pentax) for detailed callouts of the settings available in the Control Panel display.

1
Function Name
10
Digital Filter
2
ISO Auto Setting
11
HDR Capture
3
Auto AF Point Setting
12
File Format
4
Highlight Correction
13
JPEG Recorded Pixels
5
Shadow Correction
14
JPEG Quality
6
Distortion Correction
15
Shake Reduction
7
Lateral Chromatic Aberration Correction
Horizon Correction
8
Cross Processing
16
Current Date and Time
9
Extended Bracketing
17
Remaining Image Storage Capacity

 

Playback Mode Displays
In Playback mode, the default image display shows the most recently captured image, with a modest information overlay present. Pressing the Info button once pulls up the Pentax K-5's histogram view. Pressing the up or down arrow switches between a luminance histogram overlaid on the full image, and an RGB+Luminance histogram set alongside a smaller thumbnail. Pressing the Info button again brings up a detailed information display, which decreases the image to a thumbnail on the screen. All of the same information is reported here as in the detailed display in record mode, listed above. Pressing the up or down arrow switches to a display of the photographer and copyright information attached to the image, if any. Finally, a third press of the Info button brings the image back fullscreen, with no information. In any display modes where the full image is shown, overexposed areas in the frame can blink red, while underexposed areas can blink yellow, if the Bright / Dark Area option is selected in the Playback menu.

Turning the rear e-dial in Playback mode controls the index display and image enlargement options. The index display is accessed by rolling the rear e-dial one click to the left, and can show 4, 9, 16, 36, or 81 thumbnail images at a time on-screen (the default is 9). To change the number of thumbnails shown on screen, you press the info button, and then use the left or right arrow keys to make the change, before pressing the OK button. Alternatively, you can press the info button a second time to switch to the calendar view. (A third press will return to the thumbnail index view.) Most photographers will simply set and forget the thumbnail or calendar view, but if you want to change the number of thumbnails frequently, the number of button-presses required can get a little bit tedious. Rolling the e-dial one click further left brings you to a folder view, allowing you to quickly switch between folders of images.

Rolling the rear e-dial to the right, meanwhile, steps through folder, index, and full-image views, before enabling the playback zoom feature, which magnifies images as much as 32x. The blinking Bright / Dark Area warning does work while zoomed in, but the K-5 doesn't go quite as far in some prosumer cameras that also allow use of the histogram function during playback zoom. Still, even the highlight / shadow warning is very useful to have when zoomed. You can of course pan around the zoomed image with the arrow keys, and pressing the Info button during playback zoom will enable or disable the information overlay, which includes an indication of the current view's size and position within the overall image.

 

Pressing the Down arrow button in Playback mode while viewing a full image with or without basic overlay will call up the Playback Mode Palette. Here, you can develop Raw files in-camera, perform a variety of image manipulations, create slideshows, print orders and index prints, compare images, edit movies, and store the white balance from a particular image as a preset.

The "Compare Images" function is particularly handy, and lets you view two images side by side to confirm focus, composition, etc. The blinking Bright / Dark Area warning again works in this mode, and you can separately set the zoom level (up to 32x max) and pan position for each image. Once set to your liking, you can then link the two images so that you can change pan and zoom for both simultaneously, making it really easy to compare images shot with somewhat differing composition. We did hit a bug in the current (v1.03) firmware release for the K-5 in this area, although it's pretty easy to avoid. If the Bright / Dark Area warning is enabled and you're using the HDMI video output, the camera appears to blink back and forth between differing images in one or both sides of the comparison window, rather than correctly showing the blinking highlight and shadow warning for either image. To get around this, you need either to disconnect the HDMI cable and compare images on the LCD, or to disable the Bright / Dark Area warning before entering comparison mode. Although the previous K-7 model's comparison functionality is basically identical, current firmware for that camera doesn't seem to have the same bug.

The K-5's in-camera Raw development is quite comprehensive, and allows processing either of a single Raw image, or multiple images. For the latter, you can opt to process the images as-shot. Otherwise, you can tweak the size and compression level for the developed image, as well as the Custom Image mode, white balance, sensitivity (+/- 2 steps), noise reduction (auto, Off, Low, Medium, High), Shadow Correction (Off, Low, Medium, High), Distortion Correction, Lateral Chromatic Aberration Adjustment, and color space.

In-camera editing functionality includes the ability to rotate images in 90-degree increments, crop and resize, and to apply digital filters.These include Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Sketch Filter, Water Color, Pastel, Posterization, Miniature, Base Parameter Adjust, Monochrome, Color, Extract Color, Soft, Starburst, Fish Eye, Slim, HDR, and Custom Filter. Most filter types provide a fair degree of customization over their effect, and the majority are quite similar to their counterparts on the K-7. Exceptions are the new Sketch Filter and Posterization modes, the Water Color filter (which now has an 'Off' position for saturation), the Extract Color filter (which can now extract two colors, rather than one), the Starburst filter (which adds four new effect shapes), and the Miniaturization filter (which now offers seven plane positions, three widths, four angles, and three blur strengths, versus the K-7's three fixed presets.)

 

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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