Pentax K-S2 Review
|Full model name:||Pentax K-S2|
(23.5mm x 15.6mm)
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 51,200|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 51,200|
|Shutter:||1/6000 - 30 seconds|
|Max Aperture:||4.0 (kit lens)|
4.8 x 3.6 x 2.6 in.
(122 x 91 x 65 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Pentax K-S2 specifications|
Pentax is sometimes seen as a conservative brand, but the Pentax K-S2 changes all that with features never seen before in the company's DSLRs: A tilt/swivel screen, in-camera Wi-Fi and a retracting kit lens. And that's not all. The K-S2 retains great specs from earlier mid-range Pentax DSLRs like a glass pentaprism viewfinder, twin control dials and weather sealing. Rivals would have you pay enthusiast-grade pricing for all this, but is there a catch? Find out in our in-depth Pentax K-S2 review!Pros
Very compact for a weather-sealed DSLR; Good ergonomics and great viewfinder; Excellent image quality; Decent performance for its class; Articulated screen is great for difficult compositions; Offers features not found in other Pentax DSLRsCons
18-50mm kit lens is fiddly and prone to jamming when retracted; Wi-Fi is slow and unintuitive; Slow startup; Limited movie mode; Poor battery life for a DSLR; Priced too close to its enthusiast-grade siblingPrice and availability
The Pentax K-S2 is available body-only, or in a kit with one or two lenses. The single-lens kit includes the new smc Pentax-DA L 18-50mm F4-5.6 DC WR RE lens, an interesting weather-sealed, extending optic that's just 1.6 inches deep when retracted. The twin-lens kit adds a weather-sealed smc Pentax-DA L 50-200mm F4.5-5.6 ED WR lens. Available since March 2015, the body-only version has a list price of US$700. The single-lens kit version is US$800, and the twin-lens kit is US$900, making the premium for each lens just US$100 list. The body-only version is available in one of three color schemes: black, white, or graphite grey with an orange accent on the base plate. Single-lens kits are available in Black, White, Black and Pink, Black and Orange, White and Lime, Forest Green, Stone Gray, or Desert Beige color combinations; the Black and White variants can also feature on optional go-faster "racing stripe". Twin-lens kits are available only in Black, White, or Black and Orange.Imaging Resource rating
4.0 out of 5.0
Pentax K-S2 Review
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 02/09/2015
03/17/2015: First shots posted
03/30/2015: Real-world sample photos gallery posted
05/15/2015: Field Test Part I: Small town drama or big city glitter: This tiny DSLR handles it with gusto
07/27/2015: Field Test Part II: It's time for fairground fun as the sun goes down
07/30/2015: Image quality and print quality comparisons added
07/31/2015: Conclusion added
Special update: The Pentax K-S2 was awarded a Camera of Distinction for great value in the Best Entry Level DSLR category of our 2015 Camera of the Year awards!
Take a look at the single-lens reflex digital camera market, and you could be forgiven for thinking that there's a hard line between the wants and needs of consumer and enthusiast photographers. That's not really the case, though -- there are plenty of enthusiast-grade features that consumer shooters could also find very useful, while even enthusiasts sometimes like to shoot the odd selfie or two. And of course, plenty of families include both enthusiasts and less experienced photographers who want to share one camera.
Ricoh acknowledges that fact with the 20-megapixel Pentax K-S2, a camera that offers much to differentiate it from its consumer and enthusiast DSLR rivals. The K-S2 sits above the earlier K-S1 and K-50 DSLRs in Ricoh's lineup, and beneath the flagship K-3. And with the goal of acting as the sole camera for your family, this 5.5-frames per second shooter mixes both consumer and enthusiast-friendly features.
Perhaps the most obvious enthusiast-grade feature that could prove equally useful to consumers is the ability to shoot almost anywhere, no matter whether it's raining or dusty, and Ricoh answers this with a newly-designed weather-resistant, dustproof body that it says is the world's smallest to offer these important features. The inclusion of weather-sealing is doubly impressive given the presence of a versatile, side-mounted tilt / swivel LCD monitor, which allows for quick-and-easy selfie shooting.
And in a nice touch, when the screen is swiveled to face forwards, the top-deck Wi-Fi button changes its function to act as a secondary shutter button, lighting up to let you know when it's active and significantly improving the ergonomics. (With most cameras, you'd still have to use the regular Shutter button, which would be difficult to reach while holding the camera with the lens aimed towards you.)
The variable-angle LCD isn't the only first for a Pentax APS-C DSLR, either -- so is the presence of in-camera Wi-Fi wireless networking, complete with near-field communications tech for easy pairing with Android devices, and the ability to shoot and see a live-view feed remotely from your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. No longer must Pentaxians rely on third-party Wi-Fi capable SD cards such as the popular Eye-Fi card series or the Pentax-badged FluCard to help you get your photos onto your phone (and from there, onto Facebook and its ilk).
The Pentax K-S2 also features an upgrade from the autofocus systems of the K-S1 and K-50, with an 11-point SAFOX X phase-detection AF sensor that impressed us with its low-light performance when it debuted in the then-flagship Pentax K-5 II back in 2012. And as in the K-50 before it, the K-S2 also features a glass pentaprism viewfinder with near-100% coverage, twin control dials front and rear, and a 1/6,000-second top shutter speed, all features that Ricoh's rivals save for pricier enthusiast-oriented cameras.
The Pentax K-S2 also debuts some other new features, including a more intelligent Auto HDR mode on the Mode dial that tweaks the luminance channel for a more natural feel -- rather than just applying sharpening for the now-rather-cliched crunchy HDR look -- plus a Clarity function that allows much the same thing on single-shot, non-HDR imagery.
Pentax K-S2 Field Test Part I
Small town drama or big city glitter: This tiny DSLR handles it with gusto
For quite a few years now, I've been a big fan of Pentax and its interchangeable-lens cameras. Pentax DSLRs are unusually feature-rich for their price-points, and the Pentax K-S2 is no different. Not only does it offer up a bright, clear glass pentaprism viewfinder instead of its rivals' pentamirrors, and photographer-friendly twin control dials when competitors provide just one, it even includes weather sealing so you can shoot with confidence even when the heavens open up.
And despite all its many features, the K-S2 is exceptionally compact. According to brand-owner Ricoh, it's the smallest weather-resistant DSLR to date! (If weather sealing isn't important to you, and small size is your primary goal, you might also want to consider the Canon SL1, which is the smallest and lightest DSLR we've reviewed. That said, the K-S2 is only 0.2 inches wider and 0.1 inches deeper, despite a much longer list of features).
It's busting at the seams with technology, but how does the Pentax K-S2 handle in the real world?
Pentax K-S2 Field Test Part II
It's time for fairground fun as the sun goes down
In my first field test of the Pentax K-S2, I found plenty to like about this affordable mid-range shooter. From a pentaprism viewfinder, twin control dials and weather sealing to a tilt/swivel LCD and in-camera Wi-Fi, the K-S2 is positively packed with features. That's doubly impressive when you consider that its body is unusually compact by weather-sealed DSLR standards. (And yet it's also very comfortable in-hand.
At the end of that first test, I'd only really found one fly in the ointment: A retracting kit lens whose tiny controls made it fiddly to shoot with, which also tended to stick while extending or retracting, and which was also too easy to slightly retract. In fairness, though, the lens only adds about $50 to the street price, and you can now buy the camera body-only in the US market if you want to forego it in favor of a more satisfying lens.
How does the Pentax K-S2 perform after dark? And what of its Wi-Fi and video features?
Pentax K-S2 Image Quality Comparison
How does Pentax's mid-range DSLR stack up against its rivals?
Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Pentax K-S2 vs. the Pentax K-3, Canon T6i, Nikon D5500, Olympus E-M10 and Sony A6000. The K-S2 doesn't really have a direct predecessor in Ricoh's line, so we've instead compared it to the company's flagship model at this sensor size, as well as the nearest models in Canon and Nikon's DSLR lineups, and its closest mirrorless competitors from Olympus and Sony.
NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera.
Pentax K-S2 Print Quality
What does it look like on paper?
With a 20.2-megapixel sensor, the Pentax K-S2 is the second-highest resolution APS-C DSLR in the Pentax family (under the 24.3-megapixel K-3 series), so it's no surprise the K-S2 does well in the print department. At base ISO and ISO 200, the K-S2 manages really large 24 x 36 prints, though you're pretty much right at the resolution limit of the sensor at that size. As sensitivity rises, the K-S2 does well, with a nice 13 x 19 inch print at ISO 1600. At extremely high sensitivities, the K-S2 struggles with noise and detail issues like most APS-C sensors, with print sizes topping out at 4 x 6 inches at ISO 25,600. However that's very good for an APS-C camera, matching some leading 24-megapixel models.
Pentax K-S2 Walkaround
A tour of the K-S2's brand-new, weather-sealed body
While the Pentax K-S2 takes some visual cues from its siblings -- the square-shouldered look of the flagship K-3, for example -- this is very much its own camera. (And it bears very little resemblance to the model which, in terms of naming, is its nearest sibling, the flashy and somewhat 1990s car stereo-like Pentax K-S1.)
Seen from the front, the Pentax K-S2 is dominated by its KAF2 bayonet lens mount, compatible with a vast selection of K-mount lenses produced over the last few decades. The size of the mount compared to the body itself gives an idea of what a compact camera this is, for one which is fully weather-sealed and dustproof.
Where are all the controls, and how does it feel in hand?
Pentax K-S2 Technical Insights
A look inside the world's smallest weather-sealed DSLR
Sensor. Ricoh has based the Pentax K-S2 digital SLR around a 20.12 megapixel, APS-C sized CMOS image sensor. With dimensions of 23.5 x 15.6mm, it looks to be the same chip used in the entry-level K-S1. It's also the second highest-resolution chip used by Ricoh for its Pentax APS-C DSLR line, bested only by the 24-megapixel sensor of the flagship Pentax K-3.
Just as in that camera (and indeed, most DSLRs these days) there is no optical low-pass filter, which means that per-pixel sharpness should be maximized, but moiré and false color effects could be an issue with certain subjects. However, the presence of Pentax's clever anti-aliasing filter simulation function, first introduced on the K-3 DSLR, means that if you have a problem with moiré or false color you can simply reshoot with the function enabled to avoid the problem.
Total resolution of the K-S2's sensor is 20.42 megapixels, and raw files shot with the camera have a 12-bit depth as in Pentax's other entry-level and mid-range models, rather than the 14-bit depth of flagship models like the K-3.
Want the full story on the Pentax K-S2's features?
Pentax K-S2 Conclusion
A lot of camera for the money, but is its sibling the better deal?
The Pentax K-S2 is a camera without a direct predecessor, but one that builds on the company's heritage of impressively-specified mid-range cameras at an affordable price-tag that's well-below US$1,000. And there's no question about -- you're getting a whole lot of camera for your money. Like some of the company's past models, it gives you features like weather-sealing, twin control dials and a pentaprism viewfinder that rivals save for much pricier enthusiast-grade DSLRs.
But it has to be said that these features aren't what got us excited when the camera was first launched earlier this year. Although Pentax has brought some pretty rare features to the market in their past DSLRs, especially those taking advantage of its in-body stabilization system, it is in some ways a rather conservative company. Features like retracting lenses, wireless networking and articulated screens which have proven popular in rival models haven't been adopted with the same gusto by Pentax -- until now, that is.
Want to know whether we recommend the K-S2, or if there's a better deal out there for you?