Pentax K-3 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Unusually compact for an enthusiast DSLR
  • Great ergonomics; movie, focus and metering controls improved
  • Weather-sealed and freezeproof; many weather-sealed lenses and accessories to choose from
  • Kit lens offers greater range than most
  • Unique on-demand low-pass filtering
  • In-body stabilization with every lens
  • Flexible and effective built-in lens corrections
  • Very high resolution ; excellent per-pixel sharpness (with AA Filter Simulation set to off)
  • Broad sensitivity range
  • Very good high-ISO performance, competitive with peers
  • Very good dynamic range
  • Very good continuous mode speeds with excellent buffer depths
  • Very flexible noise reduction options
  • Fast phase-detect AF system works noticeably better than predecessor in low light
  • More autofocus points and better tracking; most AF points are cross types
  • Large (for APS-C camera), bright and accurate pentaprism viewfinder
  • Improved LCD screen and more logical menu layout
  • Optional Mode dial lock
  • HDR images can be saved as raw, split back into separate source images
  • Dual, faster UHS-I card slots; supports two raw formats (DNG and PEF)
  • Good built-in flash range and fast flash recycling
  • Remote control / live view via Flucard
  • Very fast USB 3.0 connectivity, if your computer and OS support it
  • H.264 movie capture and autofocus during movies (but slow, and no continuous AF)
  • Headphone jack for levels monitoring
  • Pentax's smaller market share means less third-party support
  • AE-lock button is small, hard to reach
  • New battery grip isn't compatible with earlier models
  • Below average battery life for a DSLR (but still better than most mirrorless cameras)
  • Lags manufacturer-claimed burst rate by quite some way
  • Default saturation quite high (can always be dialed down, though)
  • Slightly below average hue accuracy
  • Very warm Auto white balance indoors
  • Chroma noise reduction a little heavy-handed, even when turned down
  • Slow buffer clearing
  • Purple fringing on highlights
  • Exposure bracketing and AA bracketing can't be combined
  • Third party software doesn't (yet) recognize HDR raw files
  • Popup menu when changing display modes is annoying and unnecessary
  • Mode dial position ignored in Movie mode; have to set mode in menu
  • Menus, while clear, look quite dated compared to rivals
  • Only three User modes, down from five
  • Firmware is slightly buggy; occasional lock-ups and repeated exposures in bracketing


Inside and out, new is the name of the game for Ricoh's flagship APS-C DSLR, the Pentax K-3. The weather-sealed, magnesium alloy body is brand-new, and so is the high-res 24.3-megapixel image sensor, paired to a speedy new PRIME III image processor that's capable of 8.3 frames-per-second burst shooting. There's also a much finer-grained metering sensor, and the K-3 brings the first major overhaul of Pentax's phase-detect autofocus system in a decade. Pentax has also gifted the K-3 with dual high-speed SD card slots, swift USB 3.0 transfer, an overhauled movie mode complete with levels monitoring, and even -- via an optional accessory -- support for wireless live view shooting.

The most exciting new feature, though, is the Pentax K-3's impressively-clever on-demand optical low-pass filtering system. In the quest for ultimate resolution, Pentax's rivals have simply removed the low-pass filter altogether, unleashing finer details at the risk of moiré and aliasing artifacts. The Pentax K-3 gives you the best of both worlds, instead. It forgoes the low-pass filter for maximum detail when shooting subjects like portraits or landscapes, but cleverly uses the camera's Shake Reduction system to emulate a low-pass filter for moiré-prone subjects like fabric, bricks or mesh.

This innovative use of an existing technology, coupled with so many new features and Pentax's famous full weather sealing combine to make this flagship DSLR an enthusiast shooter's dream. That's not to say it's perfect, however -- but then no camera is. In particular, battery life has been greatly curtailed since its predecessor, which is something of a shame. While it still matches or bests most mirrorless cameras in this respect, you'll get fewer shots on a charge than you would from many DSLRs. And Pentax's burst shooting rate claim was quite a bit higher than what we managed in the lab, although there's no question that the K-3 is still a very swift camera.

Still, with so many great upgrades to a design we already loved, it's hard to quibble too much about these details. The Pentax K-3 is a true, no-excuses premium DSLR, that stands toe-to-toe with anything on the market, while besting many on features and capability. And its switchable antialiasing filter technology is absolutely unique. There's no question that the Pentax K-3 deserves a coveted spot on our Dave's Pick list -- this is clearly one of the very best APS-C DSLRs that money can buy!


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