Pentax K-3 II Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins | Posted: 04/30/2015

Sensor

Just like its predecessor, the Pentax K-3 II is based around a 24.35-megapixel CMOS image sensor with Bayer RGBG filter array. Dimensions are 23.5 x 15.6mm, and total resolution is 24.71 megapixels. Maximum image size is 6,016 x 4,000 pixels.

Like the K-3 before it, the Pentax K-3 II doesn't include an optical low-pass filter. It does, however, feature an on-demand mechanical antialiasing function. More on that in a moment. (Or read Dave Etchells' "Geek's Guide to On-Demand Low-Pass Filtering" from our Pentax K-3 review for the full story; the feature is unchanged from that camera.)

Processor

Also retained unchanged from the Pentax K-3 is Ricoh's PRIME III image processor. (That's a contraction of "Pentax Real IMage Engine", if you're curious.)

Compared to the earlier PRIME II chip, the PRIME III processor has improved noise processing, and delivers cleaner images. It also provides for improved performance, as we'll see in a moment. Another nice feature is that it can handle H.264 video compressionrather than the inefficient Motion JPEG compression of Pentax DSLRs prior to the K-3.

Sensitivity

Like the K-3 before it, the Pentax K-3 II has an overall sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 51,200 equivalents, lacking the ISO 80 position of the K-5. The entire range is available without needing to enable ISO expansion as in some competing cameras, and step sizes of 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV are available.

There's also an Auto ISO sensitivity function, whose upper limit can be manually set anywhere up to ISO 51,200 equivalent. And as in past cameras, you can configure the Pentax K-3 to raise sensitivity more or less quickly than the default.

Performance

The Pentax K-3 II's sensor, processor, mirror / shutter / diaphragm assembly, and mirror damping together allow super-swift shooting to a manufacturer-rated 8.3 frames per second.

The Pentax K-3 II wouldn't be expected to differ significantly in performance from the earlier K-3, sharing as it does that camera's imaging pipeline. However, interestingly our in-house testing discovered that it was around one frame per second faster in burst mode than was the K-3, which was a rather surprising result. (And this occurred regardless of file type.) With a measured 8.1-8.2 frames per second, it now comes much closer to the manufacturer rating of 8.3 frames per second. The manufacturer-rated burst depth of around 60 JPEG or 23 raw frames also pairs nicely with the in-house test figures of 50+ JPEG or 22-23 raw frames.

There are also two reduced-speed burst shooting rates available: either 3.0 or 4.5 fps. That should prove handy for situations where you don't need the full 8.3 fps, but you're still shooting faster than you'd want to by rapidly pressing the shutter button. (Although we'd still like to see the ability to manually dial in your own chosen shutter speed for reduced-rate capture.)

As you'd expect, the lower-speed burst modes have even greater burst depths. At 4.5 frames per second, Ricoh claims a depth of 100 JPEG or 32 raw images. Drop the speed to 3.0 fps, and the company predicts a depth of 200 JPEG or 52 raw images.

Shake reduction

Ricoh says that the Pentax K-3 II's Shake Reduction system will provide a full stop greater corrective action than that in the previous K-3. The platter-mounted sensor (1) and magnetic coils (2) are unchanged. The improvement comes, instead, from a more precise gyro sensor.

And finally, we come to the first area in which the Pentax K-3 II is predicted to best its predecessor: image stabilization. As in the K-3, the K-3 II uses a three-axis Shake Reduction stabilization system, which can correct for vertical and horizontal motion, as well as for rotation around the central axis of the lens.

However, a new high-precision gyro sensor means that Ricoh can provide a 4.5-stop correction to CIPA testing standards, where the earlier K-3 had a 3.5-stop corrective range, and the K-5 / K-5 IIs yielded a 3-stop range. (You may have seen higher numbers stated for the K-5 series cameras, but these were to Pentax's own testing standards, rather than the more strenuous CIPA standard test which the company now uses.)

And that's not all. The Pentax K-3 II now includes a panning detection function, which determines that you're panning to follow a moving subject and then automatically ceases its attempt to stabilize motion on that axis, but still stabilizes the other axes. This will prove handy for the most typical panning motion in most sports.

Pixel Shift Resolution

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video might be worth a million. The Pixel Shift Resolution system makes perfect sense once you see how it works to get full color information at every pixel.

The really big news in the Pentax K-3 II for still-life shooters and anybody else with static subjects is the brand-new Pixel Shift Resolution function, which we covered in quite some detail on our news page. That being the case, we'll give you the nutshell overview here.

Pixel Shift Resolution has some similarities to -- and some key differences from -- the High Res Mode introduced by Olympus recently in the OM-D E-M5 II compact system camera. Like that system, Ricoh's Pixel Shift Resolution mode combines multiple sequential images with very slight adjustments of the image sensor position to create a single output image of higher quality.

Where Pentax's approach differs is that it takes four shots with full-pixel steps instead of eight shots with half-pixel steps, and it outputs each image at the sensor resolution, rather than at a significantly higher resolution. The downside is that there's likely more scope to improve detail using Olympus' methodology, but the upside is that file sizes can be much smaller the way Ricoh is doing things, and there's less time and processing power expended, too.

And while the output resolution is no different to that of a standard, single-shot image, there's little question that by getting full color information at every pixel, Ricoh can still significantly improve detail. (You only need to look at images from the Foveon X3 sensor-based cameras from Sigma, which actually record full color at every pixel in a single shot, to see that.)

Nor is it just improved detail and a reduced incidence of moiré, false color and jaggies that makes the Pixel Shift Resolution function worthwhile. It also reduces image noise and yields a finer-grained noise structure, since the additive exposures for each pixel can be used to average out luminance noise, and the remaining noise isn't interpolated outwards to surrounding pixels.

The only real shame here is that the function only works for static, tripod-mounted images with an electronic shutter. (But that's just a factor of the way the technology works, and Olympus' rival system has the exact same limitation.) Although as you'll read in our first field test, you can actually work around this to some extent in post-processing, so long as you shoot in raw format and use Pentax's provided software as part of your workflow.

On-demand low-pass filtering

The Pentax K-3 II retains the company's unique Anti-Aliasing Filter Simulator function, which debuted in the previous K-3 model. It's neatly explained in the video above.

When Ricoh launched the original K-3, it debuted a revolutionary new way of combating moiré, false color, and jaggies when needed, yet maximizing sharpness the rest of the time. Instead of the resolution-robbing optical low pass filter used by some cameras, Ricoh achieved the same thing with a very fine motion of the image stabilization system during exposure.

For those who want to know the nuts and bolts, the Anti-Aliasing Filter Simulator function is explained in detail by IR publisher Dave Etchells in our "Geek's Guide to On-Demand Low-Pass Filtering", part of our Pentax K-3 review. If you're already familiar with the system, which has since appeared in the K-S1 and K-S2 cameras, though, you know everything you need to about how it works in the K-3 II: It's functioning is identical to that with a K-3 running the latest firmware.

The importance of the system for your photography can't be overstated. It places control back in your hands, letting you decide what's most important for you on any given shot: maximum image detail, or resistance to objectionable artifacts. However, there are some limits to bear in mind.

First of all, the system reaches its limits at exposures of 1/1,000 second or faster, so you'll find that the strength of its effect is diminished beyond this point, regardless of your choice. Secondly, it won't work with flash exposures, because the brief moment of illumination from your strobe isn't long enough for the required motion to take place. If you want to take advantage of the AA Filter Simulator to avoid artifacts in the studio, you'll need to use hot lights or available light.

But that's still better than the alternative from other manufacturers of a full-time low-pass filter or software techniques to combat moiré. (Which, incidentally, the Pentax K-3 II does also offer in playback mode.)

Lens mount

The Pentax K-3 II's KAF2 lens mount is a variant of the K-mount that has been used in all Pentax digital SLRs to date, as well as the K-01 mirrorless camera. According to Pentax, the K-mount has the "largest offering of APS-C optimized lenses in the imaging industry".

In all, there are 46 Pentax K-mount lens models currently on the market or scheduled to ship imminently, ignoring variants of existing lenses such as DA-L vs. DA (plastic vs. metal mount), WR vs. non-WR (weather sealed vs. non-weather sealed), and HD vs. non-HD (newer versus older anti-flare coatings). Of these 46, all but six are DA, DA*, DA Limited or D FA-lenses, with the D in their names indicating that they were designed specifically for use on digital cameras rather than film.

And of course, as well as these 46 current optics, you can use older Pentax K-mount glass (some with restrictions), as well as the company's historic 35mm screwmount and 645/67 medium format lenses with an adapter (and again, with restrictions.) You can also mount a wide selection of third-party K-mount lenses from the likes of Sigma, Tamron, and more, and optics from a healthy variety of other mounts with adapters (and limitations).

Dust removal

The Pentax K-3 II retains the same DR II dust removal system as its predecessors.

If you regularly change lenses -- or use consumer-grade glass that sucks air in and blows it back out every time you rack the focus or zoom -- you can expect dust to get inside your camera sooner or later. (Most likely, sooner.)

Ricoh has retained the same DR II dust removal system used in other recent flagship models for the new Pentax K3 II. It uses a piezoelectric element that vibrates at higher frequencies than a sensor shift system can, and in our experience systems like these typically do a better job of shaking free dust that's stuck to the sensor's protective cover glass.

To help you decide when a more detailed cleaning is needed, the K3 II also retains its predecessors' dust alert function, which helps you to locate stubborn dust particles on the sensor for manual cleaning.

Lens correction

Also unchanged -- at least, compared to a K-3 running the latest firmware -- is the Pentax K-3 II's lens correction functionality. This can correct for lens distortion, lateral chromatic aberration, vignetting and diffraction in-camera when using DA and DFA lenses, as well as with some FA Limited lenses.

Metering

The Pentax K-3 II retains its predecessor's 86,000 pixel RGB CCD metering sensor, which replaced the earlier 77-segment metering sensor of models going all the way back to the K-7 in 2009. If you have one of those earlier cameras, it should allow for much more precise metering measurements. And since it's an RGB chip, it can also recognize color information, allowing it to help out with subject identification.

The K-3 II's metering system has a wide working range of -3 to 20 EV with a 50mm f/1.4 lens at ISO 100. Metering modes on offer include Multi-segment, Center-weighted and Spot, and an exposure lock function is available, accessed with the AE-L button at the top right corner of the camera. You can also specify up to +/-5EV of exposure compensation, or bracket 2, 3, or 5 exposures with up to 2EV between exposures. For either compensation or bracketing, you can specify your adjustment in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps.

Autofocus

Another feature that was upgraded in the previous-generation cameras -- and hence retained unchanged in the new model -- is the Pentax K-3's autofocus sensor, which is branded as SAFOX 11. However, there is a difference in the way it's used, which we'll come to in a second.

In total, the SAFOX 11 sensor includes 27 autofocus points, of which the 25 central points in a 5x5 array are all cross-types, sensitive to detail in both the horizontal and vertical axes. Only two points, located in the vertical center at far left and right of the array, are linear points sensitive on just one axis. The centermost sensor as well as the points directly above and below it are precision points, capable of focusing with an f/2.8 aperture. The autofocus sensor has a working range of -3 to +18EV.

So if the sensor is unchanged, what's different? According to Ricoh, it has developed a brand-new, high-speed autofocus algorithm that better tracks subjects moving towards or away from the camera. No indication is given as to the scope of improvement to expect, and in our real-world testing we didn't notice a significant difference, but unfortunately we were unable to test side-by-side with a regular K-3. It's possible that this model actually received the same upgrade in a firmware update, however, so we wouldn't consider this a reason to choose one model over the other.

As in the K-3, autofocus mode choices include AF-S (single-servo), AF-C (continuous-servo), and automatic selection (AF-A). You can also switch from the default 27-point auto selection, with provision for Spot, Select, small / medium / large expanded area or zone-select modes. For single-servo autofocus, Select allows only a single point to be chosen, rather than the fixed center point of Spot AF. Zone Select is similar, but allows a nine-point area to be selected, with the camera making the final determination of which points to use. Finally, Expanded Area works only in continuous-servo mode, and allows you to select a 3x3 array, a 5x5 array, or the entire AF array. Focus starts from the center point, but will be tracked anywhere within your selected array.

The Pentax K-3 II has a 27-point autofocus sensor, including 25 cross-type points.

As in the K-3, Ricoh has included an autofocus hold setting for use in tracking, which will let you control how quickly the camera will react to a radical change in detected subject distance, such as you might get when shooting through a fence, or if somebody walked between camera and subject. You have four options: either the change will be near-instant with Hold AF Status set to off, or you can choose one of three durations (Low, Medium or High) after which the change in focus will be made.

Ricoh says that the Pentax K-3 II will better track subjects moving towards or away from the camera.

As in earlier flagship models, you can also define whether a focus lock or a full shutter button press should be of greater importance to the Pentax K-3 II. In single-servo mode, you can choose focus priority to have the camera wait to trip the shutter until a focus lock is achieved, or shutter priority to take it as soon as you full press the shutter button. In continuous or AF-A modes, you can opt for focus priority, or frame rate priority (which takes another photo as soon as the shutter has recycled and there is available buffer space to do so).

Ricoh lets you control how quickly the K-3 II will respond to a radical change in subject distance.

Of course, you can focus manually as well. Here, there's little new to note, although if you shoot in live view mode, there's a new focus peaking display to help you ascertain the exact point of focus.

Flash

Perhaps the biggest difference on the exterior of the Pentax K-3 II is its slightly taller pentaprism hump, and if you look closely, you'll find that there's no longer a built-in flash strobe. That's a change which will delight some photographers (who see built-in popup strobes as merely something easy to break should they drop the camera), yet will disappoint others (who see an internal strobe as a belt-and-suspenders option for that time when they forgot to bring a flash, but needed a little extra light on their subject).

If you're a fan of off-camera wireless flash, the deletion of the built-in strobe also means that you'll need an extra external strobe, since there's no longer a built-in strobe with which for the camera body to communicate with off-camera strobes. (Of course, you could also use a wired tether between camera and strobe, using the K-3 II's sync connector or a hot-shoe mounted cable.)

Speaking of which, the standard hot shoe on the top deck also includes both support for a locking pin, and intelligent connections that allow for Pentax's P-TTL flash metering system. And the aforementioned PC sync socket is protected by a small, screw-in cap, although it isn't attached to the camera body, so you'll want to ensure it's snug so as not to lose it. Still, it's nice to have the terminal at all -- many competitors force you to buy a hot shoe to PC terminal adapter, if you want to hook up your studio strobes.

In-camera GPS

The Pentax K-3 II now has a built-in GPS and electronic compass, allowing latitude (1), longitude (2), altitude (3), date / time (4) and heading (6) to be captured automatically. An indication of GPS signal strength (5) is also provided.

The reason for the absence of an in-camera flash is that the Pentax K-3 II now features a built-in GPS receiver and electronic compass. With its body being predominantly crafted from magnesium alloy, there was really nowhere else to put the antenna for the GPS radio except in the top of the pentaprism housing, and that didn't leave room for a popup flash strobe.

The upside here is that the Pentax K-3 II can now geotag your images with their capture location, the direction the camera was pointing, and the extremely accurate time provided by the GPS satellites.

It can also record track logs in the KML format used by Google Earth, logging your location at intervals of 5, 10, 15, 30 or 60 seconds, with a duration of up to 9 hours at the minimum interval or 18 hours with a 10-second interval. (Of course, if you take advantage of the full duration, you won't have any battery life left over for shooting photos, which rather defeats the purpose of having the camera in the first place!) Regardless of the interval set, the maximum logging time is 24 hours.

Of course, we live in a world where there are now multiple competing standard for satellite positioning systems, and so when one refers to GPS, it isn't immediately clear which systems the device is compatible with. For the Pentax K-3 II, it's compatible with the United States government's GPS system, but not other systems such as Russia's GLONASS, China's Beidou, Europe's Galileo or India's IRNSS. That doesn't mean it can't get a fix in these regions, though, as GPS has pretty-much global coverage -- it just means that it can't take advantage of the extra satellites from the rival systems to gain a faster, more accurate fix.

What it can do, though, is to improve the quality of its positioning using a number of augmentations to the GPS system. These include the US Federal Aviation Administration's WAAS in North America, the European Union's EGNOS inside Western Europe, India's GAGAN within the Indian subcontinent, and both the MSAS and proposed QZSS systems within Japan. In other regions, the Pentax K-3 II will fall back to relying solely on the base GPS system for its location information.

And AstroTracer, too

Ricoh has effectively built its O-GPS1 GPS Unit into the K-3 II, allowing its unique star-freezing AstroTracer function to be used with no more accessories than a good, sturdy tripod.

Nor is that all. The Pentax K-3 could do something pretty cool with its optional O-GPS1 GPS Unit accessory, and since the K-3 II effectively builds that into the camera, it can now do the same thing with no extra accessories. If you've ever tried to shoot an image of the night sky to reveal the details invisible to the naked eye, you'll certainly appreciate this.

By combining information from the GPS receiver, compass, orientation sensors and lens, the Pentax K-3 II can determine how quickly stars will be moving across the night sky, and in which direction. It can then use the Shake Reduction system to counteract their motion, allowing for much longer exposures than would normally be possible without causing star trails to form.

The result is that you can get better results as an astrophotographer, without the need for any accessory beyond a good, sturdy tripod. The actual exposure time you'll be able to achieve will depend on the focal length of the lens you're using, and of course you won't be able to include foreground subjects without blurring them instead, but this function -- dubbed AstroTracer -- really is unique, and is likely going to sell quite a few photographers on the K-3 II.

Viewfinder

Ricoh has also retained the viewfinder used in the K-3 for the followup Pentax K-3 II. Like that of earlier models dating back to the K-7, it's pentaprism-based, and has a manufacturer-rated 100% coverage. Magnification is said to be 0.95x, and the viewfinder accepts interchangeable focusing screens. The bundled screen is an MF-60 Frame Matte type. Also unchanged is the dioptric adjustment range of -2.5 to +1.5m-1, which provides around 20 click detents.

Monitor

The Pentax K-3 II's rear-panel LCD monitor, too, is retained from the K-3. It has a 3.2-inch diagonal, a 3:2 aspect ratio, and a total dot count of around 1037k dots. And helping combate glare and low contrast, the monitor has a gapless design.

Info LCD

For quick at-a-glance checks of basic setup, battery life and shots remaining, there's still a monochrome info display on the top deck. For nighttime viewing, it has a green backlight which illuminates when you adjust any control. If you don't want to disturb your night vision, the backlight can be disabled.

Exposure modes

The Pentax K-3 II offers the same selection of exposure modes as did the K-3. As well as Green (fully automatic), Program (with program shift), Shutter priority (Tv), Aperture priority (Av), Manual, and Bulb, there are a couple of Pentax exclusives: Sensitivity priority (Sv), and Shutter-and-Aperture priority (TAv). In these latter two modes, you can either dial in a sensitivity and let the camera select aperture and shutter speed, or dial in the aperture and shutter speed, then let the camera select the sensitivity. There's also a Flash X-Sync mode, which locks the shutter speed at 1/180 second.

There are also three separate User modes (U1, U2 and U3), allowing you to quickly recall settings groups you'd saved for particular shooting situations. And you can opt for various program lines when using automatic or semi-automatic exposure. As well as the default program line, you can bias the camera in favor of higher shutter speeds, a shallow or deep depth of field, or towards the MTF sweet spot of the lens.

Drive modes

Drive mode options in the Pentax K-3 II include continuous (high, medium, or low), self-timer (two or 12 second), remote control (instant, three second, or continuous), bracketing, mirror lockup, HDR, and multiple exposure. (More on these last two in the creative section below.) The bracketing mode allows 2, 3, or 5 shots with up to 2EV between exposures.

Shutter

The Pentax K-3 II's shutter speed range is unchanged from that of other recent flagships, and the shutter mechanism itself is the same one featured in the K-3. It has a rated lifetime of 200,000 cycles, and is pretty quiet for an APS-C DSLR. Available shutter speeds range from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps, plus bulb.

White balance

The Pentax K-3 II's white balance system is unchanged from that in the K-3, including its interesting Multi Auto WB mode, which aims to neutralize color casts from multiple different light sources in the same scene. As well as Automatic and Manual modes, the K-3 II provides ten white balance presets (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Daylight Color Fluorescent, Daylight White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Tungsten, Flash, and Color Temperature Enhancement). This last option is used to retain and enhance the lighting tone - for example, to enhance a sunset.

White balance can also be measured from a neutral target, or a specific color temperature can be dialed in manually, using either Kelvin or Mired values. Three custom white balance values of each type can be stored in-camera. And finally, you can adjust white balance within a +/- 7-step range on both amber-blue and green-magenta axes.

Creative

Even by enthusiast DSLR standards, the Pentax K-3 II has a healthy selection of creative options. We've already briefly mentioned a couple: HDR mode and multiple-exposure shooting.

HDR mode captures multiple images, then microaligns them in camera and blends them to create a single image with greater dynamic range. You have a choice of automatic blending, or one of three effect strengths. These range from fairly natural to a bolder, crunchier feel. (And since the images are microaligned, the mode can be used handheld.) And unusually, the mode even allows you to output a raw image, although most third-party software is unlikely to recognize that there are multiple shots in the file. (But you can split the HDR raw into three non-HDR raws using Ricoh's Silkypix-based bundled software, allowing you to tweak the results in your own HDR app.)

Multiple exposure mode also allows you to save your result as a single raw image merged from multiple exposures. There are three methods of merging the source images: additive, average or bright mode. The first two are self-explanatory, while the third takes the brightest pixel at any given location in the source images, and uses that in the final image. You can merge up to 2,000 frames, allowing for some pretty cool effects.

There's also a time-lapse function, which allows shots at 2-second to 24-hour intervals. Again, you can capture as many as 2,000 shots in a series.

Custom image and digital filter effects in the Pentax K-3 II are unchanged from its predecessor. Custom image modes include Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Radiant, Muted, Bleach Bypass, Reversal Film, Monochrome and Cross Processing. Digital filters include Extract Color, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Shading, Invert Color, Unicolor Bold and Bold Monochrome.

And of course, there's the new Pixel Shift Resolution function which we covered previously.

Copyright tagging

Like the flagship models which precede it, the Pentax K-3 II can optionally embed copyright data into its raw and JPEG image files. You can enter both a photographer and copyright holder name from the camera body, and the headers of images will be tagged with both. It's not a permanent tag, and so you can't rely on it to protect your images from copyright theft, but it does make it so that you can easily identify who shot a particular image in your library.

Dual-axis level gauge

Also unchanged is the Pentax K-3 II's dual-axis level gauge function. This detects both side-to-side roll, and front-to-back pitch. Roll is displayed in the viewfinder, and on both top / rear LCDs. Pitch can be displayed only on the rear LCD. There's still no way to calibrate the level gauge yourself -- a retun to the service depot is needed if the tilt sensor loses its calibration.

Horizon correction

Ricoh goes a step further than most DSLRs, which simply show the degree of side-to-side roll, though. The Pentax K-3 II can automatically correct for up to two degrees of roll in either direction if Shake Reduction is disabled, or one degree if it's enabled. If you're driven to distraction by tilted horizons, it's a great feature to have.

Composition correction

Horizon correction takes advantage of Pentax's sensor-shift system, and so to does composition correction. This is handy when you're shooting on a tripod, and want to make very slight adjustments to composition. You can move the sensor left, right, up, or down, and rotate it by up to a couple of degrees, fine-tuning your composition to perfection.

Movie capture

The Pentax K-3 II's Movie mode is much the same as that in its predecessor, but if you're using an earlier Pentax DSLR, it's a big step forwards. The reason: There's no more dated, inefficient Motion JPEG compression, with the Pentax K-3 II instead using MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 compression in a .MOV container. (OK, that's not entirely true -- interval movies, which we'll come to in a second, are still shot with Motion JPEG compression. All real-time movies are shot with H.264 compression, though.)

The Pentax K-3 II captures movies at up to Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel; 1080p/i) resolutions, with a generous selection of frame rates. These include interlaced 60i / 50i or progressive-scan 30p / 25p / 24p at Full HD resolution. At the lower 720p resolution, you'll find the same selection, except that the interlaced frame rates are replaced with progressive scan 60p / 50p rates.

Movies can be shot with Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority or fully Manual exposure. Sound comes courtesy of a built-in, monaural microphone by default, or you can connect an off-camera microphone courtesy of a standard 3.5mm stereo mic port. There's also a 3.5mm stereo headphone port, which means that you can monitor audio levels before and during capture. And the K-3 II provides levels display before and during capture, completely with a peak hold function, and separate display of left / right channels.

Unlike models prior to the K-3, the Pentax K-3 II also allows autofocus during movie capture. It's not the fastest and it only provides single operation, rather than full-time autofocus. Still, it means you don't have to pull focus manually or set your shoot up so as to keep your subject within depth of field.

There's still a 25-minute clip length limit in the Pentax K-3 II, and so if you need to have longer continuous shooting, you'll need to look for another solution.

And we mentioned that the Pentax K-3 II supports interval movie capture. This works much as it did in the K-3, and shoots at up to 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160 pixels). If your clips are lengthy, you can expect some seriously colossal file sizes -- around 3GB per minute -- at this resolution, thanks to the Motion JPEG / AVI compression. That said, the ability to shoot ultra high-def time-lapse video is nevertheless pretty cool.

Weather-sealing / cold-proofing

The Pentax K-3 II is sealed against dust and water, and freezeproof to 14°F / -10°C.

Pentax's flagship DSLRs have a reputation as among the best-sealed in the business, and the Pentax K-3 II's body is no less comprehensively dustproof and weatherproof, thanks to seals at all controls and body seams. The number of seals is still listed as 92 in total, despite the deletion of the popup flash strobe. The K-3 II is also still freezeproof to 14°F / -10°C, and works reliably in temperatures up to 104°F / 40°C.

And it's not just the body that's weatherproof, either. Regardless of whether you're shopping for consumer or enthusiast-grade gear, weather-sealed options are now available to you. The optional portrait / battery grip is sealed to the same standard as the camera body. Likewise all DA* lenses, and several affordable WR lenses covering everything from 18mm to 300mm are also available for all-weather shooting.

Add in Pentax's weather-resistant strobes and even a weather-sealed infrared remote, and there isn't a link in the chain that can't be used in dust and rain. If you plan to shoot in inclement conditions, rest assured: this is truly part of a take-anywhere system.

Connectivity

Like the K-3 before it, the Pentax K-3 II offers something rather rare in the camera world: a USB 3.0 Micro B connector, in place of the USB 2.0 connectors found on most cameras. Otherwise known as SuperSpeed USB, USB 3.0 is theoretically 10x faster than USB 2.0 (aka Hi-Speed USB) -- and it's backwards compatible, so if it's not yet supported by your PC or Mac, you can still get USB 2.0 rates with a standard cable.

Acknowledging that standard-def is now a thing of the past for most of us, the Pentax K-3 II offers only a high-definition Type-D Micro HDMI output. We've already mentioned much of the K-3 II's remaining connectivity, which includes 3.5mm stereo mic and headset jacks, an intelligent hot shoe, PC sync terminal, front and rear infrared receivers, and a connector for the same optionally-available D-BG5 portrait / battery grip as used by the K-3. There's also an 8.3V DC input, which works with the K-AC132 AC adapter kit.

Power

The Pentax K-3 II retains the same D-LI90 battery as its predecessors, and battery life is unchanged from the K-3, although you might think there had been an improvement if you just glanced at the spec sheet. The reason: The K-3 II no longer includes a built-in flash strobe, and so while the CIPA-standard test for the K-3 has 50% flash usage, there's no flash used for the K-3 II's test figures.

Hence while the 720 shots on a charge of the K-3 might seem an improvement, it's actually identical to that of the K-3 with the flash disabled. Playback time is 370 minutes, also unchanged.

Battery grip

You can still supplement battery life by using the optional D-BG5 portrait grip, an accessory that's shared only with the K-3, and which replaced the D-BG4 grip that dated back to the original K-7. Much like that grip, you can add second D-LI90 for double the battery life (1,440 shots on a charge to CIPA standards), or alternatively you can supplement the in-body battery with six standard AA cells. (Battery life here would depend on the AA battery type.)

Either grip battery option is catered for with removable battery trays, and if you're shooting with the D-LI90 battery tray, it also includes space to store a spare Secure Digital card.

Storage

Speaking of storage, the Pentax K-3 II still writes its images in JPEG or 14-bit PEF/DNG raw formats. And just as in the K-3, there are dual card slots which the camera can write to in several different ways. You can either write to the cards sequentially, first filling one and then the other, or write to both slots simultaneously for a backup, or write raw images to one slot, and JPEG images to the other slot.

The K-3 II supports both the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC cards, and the higher-speed UHS-I cards. With the latter, it will not only handle SDR50 / DDR50 cards with a bus speed of 50MB/second, but also SDR104 cards with a bus speed of 104MB/second.

It also supports two differing wireless flash card formats: either the well-known Eye-Fi cards, or the lesser-known Trek Flucards, for which a Pentax-specific 16GB card is available.

Remote control

The latter provides not only for file transfer, but also for remote control. When shooting with a Pentax Flucard, you can receive a remote live view feed, select the autofocus point remotely, and trip the shutter remotely. You can also adjust other settings such as ISO sensitivity, aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation. And you can transfer reduced-size or full-size images -- but not raw files -- via standard Wi-Fi to your PC or smart device. All devices control the camera via a web browser, with no app needed.

We'd still like to see an official tethered shooting solution -- if for no other reason than that we want to see apps like Adobe's Lightroom and Phase One's Capture One supporting tethered shooting with the Pentax K-3 II -- the presence of any remote control solution is still good news, as prior to the K-3 it had been years since the last Pentax model with official remote shooting support.

Software

The K-3 II digital SLR ships with Pentax's Digital Camera Utility 5 software. It's still Silkypix-based, just like previous versions.

Accessories

Available accessories include the Pentax D-BG5 portrait / battery grip, which is dust / weather sealed, accepts a second D-LI90 battery pack or six AA cells, and provides duplicate shutter-release, AE-lock, AF, ISO, exposure-compensation and green buttons, as well as a preview lever and dual electronic dials. Pentax also offers an own-branded O-FC1 16GB Flucard Wi-Fi SD card, and a 50cm long, 4cm wide O-ST1401 camera strap in red or black.

 

Buy the Pentax K-3 II



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