Pentax K-5 II Review
|Full model name:||Pentax K-5 II|
(23.7mm x 15.6mm)
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 12,800|
|Extended ISO:||80 - 51,200|
|Shutter:||1/8000 - 30 seconds|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
5.2 x 3.8 x 2.9 in.
(131 x 97 x 73 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Pentax K-5 II specifications|
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K-5 II Summary
Pentax's flagship enthusiast DSLR might not differ radically from its predecessor, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Pentax K-5 II replaces a camera that was very well-received, and makes a worthwhile improvement in low-light autofocus. It also switches to a more attractive and durable LCD monitor. Unfortunately, the movie mode is still very dated, and the new autofocus system is a little slower than the one it replaces. Still, the K-5 II packs in a lot of features into a solid, weather-sealed, and very customizable body.Pros
Compact yet control-rich body packs in the features; Updated autofocus system focuses in near-darkness; Fully weather-sealed; Sharp, detailed images with very good dynamic range; In-body image stabilization; Dual-axis level with horizon correction.Cons
Can seem intimidating at first; Fewer autofocus points than competitors; Doesn't take advantage of high-speed UHS-I flash cards; Movie feature set is very dated and file sizes huge.Price and availability
Available since October 2012, the Pentax K-5 II currently carries list pricing of around US$1,100 body-only, a full US$500 less than the price at which its predecessor originally launched, and US$100 below its own launch price. As it did with the earlier camera, Pentax also offers two kit versions bundling weather-sealed lenses. The 18-55mm kit now lists at around US$1,250, while the 18-135mm kit lists for US$1,450. In all cases, street pricing is even more affordable. As of this writing, you can pick up the K-5 II body-only for under US$1,000, and the 18-55mm kit for about US$1,150. The 18-135mm kit, meanwhile, can be had for US$1,350.Imaging Resource rating
4.5 out of 5.0
Pentax K-5 II Review
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 09/10/2012
Review posted 06/04/2013
For the third straight generation, Pentax Ricoh Imaging has retained almost exactly the same body for its new Pentax K-5 II digital SLR. That's not surprising: we weren't alone in heaping praise on the ergonomics it shares with the earlier K-7 and K-5 models. What is rather surprising, though, is just how much else the K-5 II shares with its immediate predecessor. The two cameras are as near-indistinguishable under the skin as they are on the outside, with only a couple of key differences.
What's new? One of these changes aims to answer a common criticism of the company's recent SLRs. In the process, it vaults the company to the top of the tables in terms of low-light autofocusing capabilities -- on paper at least. Along with the refreshed autofocus system, Pentax has also gifted the K-5 II with an updated LCD display whose tougher surface better-matches the rest of the K-5's rugged, weather-sealed body. Better still, the new display provides a clearer image when shooting outdoors, with glare presenting less of an issue.
The Pentax K-5 II also bests its predecessor by a significant margin in terms of launch pricing, although it still a few hundred dollars above current street pricing for that camera. And it retains everything else that made its predecessor so popular, albeit accompanied by a few things we find ourselves wishing the company had changed.
...and what's not? Back in late 2010, the Pentax K-5's image quality was unrivaled among APS-C SLRs, thanks in no small part to the Sony image sensor at the heart of the design. That same sensor now appears in several competitors, but the K-5 is still right around the top of the pack in terms of dynamic range and sensitivity / noise performance. With the sensor and processor unchanged, the K-5 II provides that same great image quality and wide sensitivity range as its predecessor. It also retain the same swift seven frames-per-second burst shooting, and useful features such as in-body stabilization with the rare ability to correct for rotation. Unfortunately, it also retains a movie mode that rather lags the field, with inefficient Motion JPEG storage, no full-time autofocus, and no control over shutter speed.
Good things come in pairs. Unusually, there's also a second version of the camera, sold as the Pentax K-5 IIs. This differs in precisely one way: it lacks the anti-aliasing filter found over the image sensor in the K-5 II. That change allows slightly higher per-pixel resolution, but the extra sharpness comes at the expense of increased moiré in subjects with repeating patterns at the correct frequency. (Think things like hair, feathers, fabric, fences, grilles, brick walls, and so on.) Since it's technically a different camera, we've reviewed the Pentax K-5 IIs separately, but essentially everything in this review is applicable to that camera too, with the exception of sharpness and the likelihood of moiré / aliasing. In other words, if you're interested in that camera, you'll want to first read this review, and then head on over to our Pentax K-5 IIs review for the rest of the story.
Walkaround. Cover the logo with a fingertip, and from the front there's simply no way to tell the Pentax K-5 II apart from its predecessor. That's no bad thing: the K-5 had great ergonomics, and was absolutely packed with external controls that mean less time hunting for options in the menu system. A small red window in the base of the comfortably-profiled handgrip marks the location of the front infrared remote receiver, with a second placed on the rear of the body. As you'd expect from a camera aimed at enthusiasts, the K-5 II also has a twin-dial layout. Just to the right of the front dial and shutter button is a small green AF assist lamp. Also worth noting from this view are the flash release button, PC sync terminal, Raw / Fx button, and focus mode lever that cascade down the left side of the body behind the lens mount.
There's no change on the top of the K-5 II either. All the controls are positioned as they were, including the locking Mode dial with its central release button, sitting above the lever used to select the camera's metering mode. The large, backlit top-deck LCD info panel makes it easy to confirm settings without wasting power--or ruining your night vision--by running the main LCD panel.
The only real difference from the K-5's body is found on the rear panel, and even here you'll need to be paying attention to spot it. Give up? The main LCD panel is now recessed just slightly, where that on the K-5 was flush-mounted. (The Pentax logo has to move onto the body itself to accommodate this change.) The polycarbonate cover over the LCD panel from the standard version of the K-5 has been replaced with tempered glass for the K-5 II, which make it more resistant to scratches. Pentax has also switched to a new LCD panel that has the same size and resolution as in the earlier camera, but now has no air gap between the panel and the cover glass. That translates to better visibility under strong ambient light, with less glare and better contrast. It's also richer and more saturated than that in the K-5.
The other main difference between the Pentax K-5 II and its predecessor is found beneath the surface: there's a brand-new SAFOX X phase-detection autofocus sensor assembly, replacing the SAFOX IX+ sensor from the K-5. It's still fairly closely-related to the earlier design, as the number and type of focus points is unchanged: there are still eleven points, of which nine are cross-types sensitive to both horizontal and vertical detail.
So how does SAFOX X best the earlier SAFOX IX+? Pentax tells us that as of launch, the new sensor assembly provides best-in-class low-light sensitivity, with a working range of -3 to +18 EV at ISO 100. By way of comparison, the earlier K-5 offered a working range of -1 to +18 EV. In use, we found the K-5 II's autofocus system exceptionally sensitive, able to focus without the assist lamp in near-darkness. (Essentially, if we could see the subject through the viewfinder, we could most likely focus on it.) Of course, low-light focusing performance is only one metric, and even with its new sensor, the Pentax K-5 still lags some competitors. The Nikon D7000, for example, offers a much more generous 39 autofocus points, versus Pentax's 11--although admittedly, none of the extra points are cross types.
All things considered, the Pentax K-5 II is a relatively modest update, but it's easy to argue that's no bad thing. Even with a much higher launch price, the Pentax K-5 seems to have been something of a hit for the company, and the Pentax K-5 II retains everything that made its predecessor popular at a significantly lower list price, while including a couple of worthwhile tweaks. But how much difference have those tweaks made in the real world? Read on...
Pentax K-5 II Field Test
by Mike Tomkins
On taking the Pentax K-5 II out of its box, I was greeted by a familiar friend. For the third generation, Pentax retained the same physical design, and that was great news for me -- I own both the earlier Pentax K-7 and K-5, and so I was right at home with the K-5 II.
Everything was as I expected it, and even the menu system was near-identical to that in my K-5. If you're considering upgrading from the K-7, you'll find a few more changes as described in our K-5 review -- a slightly taller mode dial, an easier-to flick focus mode selector dial, a better-organized menu system, and a few subtle tweaks to operation here and there, but you'll get used to them quickly, and all are positive improvements.
Compared to its immediate predecessor, the changes were much more slight, but the new autofocus system in particular was certainly noticeable. It was definitely better in low light -- remarkably so. I could accurately lock focus without using the assist lamp beyond the point where I could even see my subject in the viewfinder, and I've got pretty good night vision. Pentax says that the K-5 II can autofocus under moonlight, and they're not exaggerating in the least.
In fact, shooting in Hong Kong -- the neon city -- it was difficult to find anywhere dark enough to even challenge the K-5 II. It was when shooting back home in rural East Tennessee that the amazing low-light AF really became apparent, and proving the point, I shut myself in a room that was completely dark, save for the light coming through a quarter-inch gap in the slightly-cracked door from an adjacent room that itself wasn't terribly brightly lit. With the AF assist lamp disabled the K-5 II still had absolutely no problems focusing on picture frames on the wall.
Hong Kong is sometimes called the City of Lights, and it was hard to find anywhere dark enough to give the K-5 II's improved autofocus a workout. I did put its high ISO chops to the test, though, and just like my closely-related Pentax K-5 body, it performed admirably. The ISO 12,800 shot here is a bit noisy, but the raw file cleans up nicely in Lightroom.
Realistically, low-light autofocus on the K-5 II has reached the point where it is no longer an issue -- if you can't autofocus on your subject, you're almost certainly going to need to be in live view mode just to see what you're trying to frame, and with the camera on a tripod to get a usable shot.
The K-5 II has also been gifted with an expanded area AF function, one of only two changes I could find in the entire menu system. I saw the same feature previously on the Pentax K-30, and I'm thrilled that they included it on the K-5 II. (But I really wish Pentax would give this option to K-5 owners as well -- the camera's hardware is clearly capable of supporting the function, and it would be a nice way of saying thanks for their loyalty -- it's very unlikely most K-5 owners will be upgrading to the K-5 II anyway.)
Expanded area AF is available only in continuous AF.C servo mode, and when enabled, looks at the autofocus distance data of AF points surrounding the one you've manually selected. If the distance for an adjacent point is similar to that of your manually-selected point, the K-5 II will let the focus point briefly roam to the adjacent point, on the assumption that it's likely part of the same subject.
It's usually a valid assumption to make -- most of the time you've simply slipped your selected point off the subject momentarily -- and so the function makes a noticeable improvement to autofocus.
Although the K-5 II's autofocus system now has a diffraction lens like that in the K-30, used to reduce chromatic aberration and thereby improve focus accuracy, I can't say I noticed any difference in that respect compared to my K-5. I already found that camera to be pretty accurate in my day-to-day usage, once adjusted for my lenses.
The K-5 IIs might've been sharper, but there's still plenty of detail in shots from the Pentax K-5 II with a good lens. Here, I used my 21mm f/3.2 AL Limited, and just a little unsharp mask is all that's needed for the fine detail in the lobster's shell to really pop -- even when viewed at 1:1.
Really my main complaint is simply that I'd like to see more focus points and better continuous autofocus tracking -- Pentax trails its rivals in these area. Our lab tests did suggest that the K-5 II's autofocus performance is a little lower than that of our review K-5, but I didn't notice any difference in the real world. (It's possible that the K-5 itself has gotten slower with the firmware updates that have been released since our review, and I'm simply used to that.) Overall, though, I'm already quite happy with autofocus on my K-5, and the K-5 II is a noticeable improvement in low light.
The K-5 II's new display is also a handy improvement. I must admit that I wasn't expecting a huge difference from the gapless design beyond reduced glare, but the panel is also significantly brighter, a little more color-neutral (the K-5's looks slightly warm, by comparison, although that's at default settings -- you can adjust it), and colors seemed richer and more saturated. The gapless design does definitely cut down on glare, which is good news -- and it also makes the remaining reflections a bit less obtrusive since you only get one image, not the double-image reflection you get with a gapped design. There's also a new contrast setting for the LCD, which could be handy if you find the default contrast doesn't reflect your final images. (Personally, I just left this at the default.)
Pentax says the new cover glass over the panel is more scratch-resistant, and while I certainly didn't attempt to scratch it, it didn't show even the lightest buff mark after a significant time with the camera. My K-5's polycarbonate cover, by contrast, does show some very, very fine microscratches -- and that's despite my treating it very carefully. (When not in use, it's stored in a water-tight, padded hard-case. Growing up in a very humid environment taught me to treat my cameras with respect, even if they are weather sealed.) I do typically use the shoulder strap around my neck, though, so the LCD likely got those light marks from bumping against buttons and zippers as I walk. I can't say it with certainty, but it seems likely there would be fewer -- if any -- scratches on the K-5 II's display.
A less obvious difference between the Pentax K-5 II and its predecessor can be found in their choice of kit lenses. As well as the existing 18-55mm weather-resistant kit lens, you can now opt for an 18-135mm WR optic used to take this image and the one following below. More examples are in the gallery.
There's another difference between the Pentax K-5 II and the earlier K-5 that's easy to overlook, but could be of quite some importance if you're new to the system, and plan to build up your stock of K-mount glass only gradually. (Not all of us can afford to shell out for a new camera body and a bunch of new lenses, all in one go.)
The K-5 was available body-only, or with a weather-resistant smc Pentax-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL WR lens. An 18-55mm optic is pretty much the standard kit lens for a consumer-oriented SLR, although the inclusion of weather sealing is a nice touch. For more reach, though, Pentax now also offers a travel zoom kit, bundling the smc Pentax-DA 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 ED AL [IF] DC WR. (You can see our review of the travel zoom on our sister site, SLRgear, if you click the link. We haven't reviewed 18-55mm WR lens, but we understand that it's optically identical to the non-weather sealed 18-55mm AL II lens, which we have reviewed.)
Although I happen to own both WR kit lenses myself, I only took the 18-135mm to Hong Kong, along with two primes -- the smc PENTAX-DA 21mm F3.2 AL Limited and smc PENTAX-DA 40mm F2.8 Limited. I left the 18-55mm lens behind simply because it duplicates the coverage of the 18-135mm lens, I was running out of room in my carry-on bags, and I don't check camera gear in the hold for obvious reasons.
With that said, even though I brought the 18-135mm lens along for the trip, on most days I left it at home, taking only a couple of primes with me. That's not my typical behavior -- I'm usually more of a zoom shooter than a prime shooter, but I was doing a lot of walking, and the primes made for a much more portable package. (Plus spending most of my time on Hong Kong streets, I was usually pretty close to my subjects anyway, and wide-angle was the order of the day.)
The other reason I mostly shot the primes, though, is that they simply offer better image quality. That's not to say the kit lenses are bad. At the time of our review four years ago, we felt the non-WR variant of the 18-55mm lens turned in a better performance than you'd expect for the price, and while the standard of kit zooms has improved in the last few years, it's still a reasonably good consumer optic. The newer 18-135mm WR can get pretty soft in the corners and has high chromatic aberration, but given its reach and affordable price tag, it's not too hard to forgive those flaws. (It also helps that it has very quiet autofocus, thanks to its DC motor.)
Neither is in the class of the primes, though, and if you want to make the most of the Pentax K-5 II's image quality, I recommend going for some higher-quality glass. If you prefer zooms and don't mind some added heft, look to the DA *-series optics. You'll need two lenses to cover the reach of the 18-135mm, and both are notably larger and heavier than that lens alone, but not unduly so. Thankfully, you can buy the K-5 II body by itself, if you want to take this route. If you're not making large prints, though, and you're looking to the K-5 II more for features like its weather sealing and solid construction than resolution,the 18-55mm or 18-135mm could be worth picking up in a kit.
One other near-insignificant difference I noticed as I updated both cameras to their most recent firmware side by side: updating on the K-5 II was significantly faster. (It was also a three-step process, rather than a two-step one.)
Those differences might very well be specific to the firmware updates, though, and not to the camera. In fact that seems likely, given that the processor is the same. And other than those differences, I didn't really notice much to tell the K-5 II apart from my K-5.
But honestly, I'm glad not to have seen too much difference to the physical design, and in terms of the underlying electronics I think it's not a bad call either. My K-5 fits me like a glove, and two years on I'm still very happy with it. It has excellent ergonomics, it's compact, it has pretty good performance for its cost, and more importantly it's fast enough to handle shooting my hyperactive four year old.
And even better, it's extremely customizable. Little features of the K-5 that would have annoyed me -- like the arrow keys defaulting to their alternate options instead of focus point adjustment -- can easily be changed to suit my preference, not that of the manufacturer.
Given how closely they're related, those sentiments apply to the K-5 II in equal measure. Are there things I'd like to have seen Pentax change for its new APS-C flagship? Sure: key among them for me being tethered shooting, and a more robust movie feature set. In that area, in particular, the K-5 II is now looking decidedly long-in-the-tooth. With that said, there's nothing significant enough to sway me towards buying another model, though.
Again, raw saves the day. Here, I didn't want to disturb these gentlemen's game of Chinese Chess with flash, but their shady nook was far-removed from the harsh sunlight beyond. A few seconds in Photoshop gave a more balanced -- yet still fairly natural look, restoring much of the detail in the iconic Star Ferry behind. (Hover to see the out-of-camera image.)
Pentax's weather sealing is a great feature whose importance really cannot be overestimated. Although I was extremely fortunate on my Hong Kong trip to find only one rainy afternoon -- a feat I'm still not quite sure how I managed -- I've found myself taking advantage of the K-7 and K-5's weather sealing far more than I thought I would when I bought them. (As my son gets older and starts wanting to participate in team sports, I'd imagine I'll do so even more frequently.)
I was very happy with the image quality of the Pentax K-5 II, and that's not surprising. It's basically the same camera as my much-loved Pentax K-5, but with better low-light autofocus, an updated LCD panel, and two minor firmware tweaks. Less change is more, in this case. Very zen.
And best of all, the K-5 II -- just like my K-5 -- produces really great images. (Well, OK: technically great. This photographer is not ashamed to admit there's still plenty he can learn to improve his works.) When shooting in JPEG mode in particular, the K-5 II provides lots of control over the look of images, and the tradeoff between noise and detail.
Personally, I tend to use JPEG only for throwaway shots anyway, but it's nice to know I can get the look I'm after on those occasions where I run out of card space and have to forgo raw shooting for a while. And I love the User modes, which let me save settings I know I'll want to recall later. I've got a preset for JPEG shooting which I call Ebay mode, and another called Geoffrey mode for shooting my son, who's invariably blurred with the default program line, requiring me to shoot with Sports line. Jumping to those modes when I need them is a snap.
When I'm shooting in raw, I love the ability to output DNG files that save me converting everything I shoot -- I'm not a big fan of proprietary formats. My images come straight out of camera and into Lightroom, and most of the time they need very little adjustment. (I typically spend more time in the digital darkroom fine-tuning my own framing with the crop tool than I spend doing anything else to each image.)
The K-5 II was so like my K-5 in terms of image quality that shooting the same scenes with both cameras side by side, I honestly couldn't tell difference between the two. Its handling too is identical, and in terms of operation it's nearly indistinguishable, simply having improved in low-light AF and been gifted with a more pleasant LCD that makes me want to shoot in live view mode a little more frequently. I came back from my Hong Kong trip with lots of shots I was thrilled with, and some real keepers. That, at the end of the day, is the mark of a good camera, for me.
Keeper photos are the mark of a good camera. This shot's a keeper even without any editing. A few little tweaks, and I'll be putting it on my wall. If you're ready to upgrade to a new enthusiast SLR, the Pentax K-5 II is equally well worth putting in your camera bag.
Pentax K-5 II Technical Info
by Mike Tomkins
Sensor. For the second straight generation and the fourth camera model in a row, Pentax has based its K-5 II digital SLR around the same 16.28 effective megapixel, APS-C sized (23.7 x 15.7mm), RGB CMOS image sensor, with a total resolution of 16.93 megapixels. That's no surprise -- the chip's been widely acknowledged as a great performer, with reasonably high resolution, and great dynamic range / noise characteristics.
The Pentax K-5 II offers a maximum image resolution of 4,928 x 3,264 pixels. Three lower-resolution options are also available: 3,936 x 2,624, 3,072 x 2,048, and 1,728 x 1,152 pixels.
Processor. Output from the Pentax K-5 II's image sensor is processed by the same PRIME II (PENTAX Real Image Engine II) imaging engine that's been at the heart of every Pentax DSLR except the K-30, going all the way back to 2009's Pentax K-7. The design is a little long-in-the-tooth now, but it still does a respectable job, and sticking with it for another generation rather than switching to the newer PRIME M processor from the K-30 and K-01 has helped Pentax to keep the cost down.
Sensitivity. The Pentax K-5 II provides a pretty generous standard sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 12,800 equivalents, adjustable in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps. Its expanded range goes even further, covering everything from an ISO 80-equivalent minimum to a maximum of ISO 51,200 equivalent. If you're shooting in Bulb mode, though, the maximum sensitivity cap is just ISO 1,600 equivalent.
An interesting feature held over from the earlier Pentax K-5 is that noise reduction settings can be specified on a per-ISO basis for full-stop ISO sensitivities. (The intermediate 1/2 stop or 1/3 stop sensitivities, if enabled, share a setting with the full-stop sensitivity immediately below them.) This level of user control over the tradeoff between noise levels and subject detail across the sensitivity range is rare indeed, and a powerful tool for JPEG shooters.
Burst speed. In the lab, we found the K-5 II's capture rate had climbed from 6.5 to 6.7 frames per second, edging closer to the advertised 7 frames per second rate. At the same time, though, we found the burst depth had slipped slightly to 28 large/premium JPEGs, or 22 raw / raw+JPEG frames. Both figures are close to -- but not quite as high as -- those achieved by the K-5. (Note that all of our lab figures are set with a difficult-to-compress target image, and so in the real world, burst depths will likely be somewhat higher.)
It seems likely that the subtle increase in speed may well have brought with it the equally-subtle decrease in burst depth. Note that given the hardware is basically identical to that of the K-5, we'd expect that camera to turn in similar figures, if we had the time to retest it. It's quite likely that in the firmware revisions since we tested the earlier camera, Pentax has made optimizations that have increased the camera's burst rate.
For subjects where a little less speed is required, the K-5 II's Continuous Lo mode captures Best-quality JPEG images at a rather sedate 1.6 frames per second for as long as there's available card space. We'd still like to see Pentax offer the ability to select from additional burst shooting rates between these two extremes -- there's simply too much of a gap between the Continuous Hi and Continuous Lo speeds, and as a result, we found we frequently tended to leave the camera set to Continuous Hi mode all the time during burst shooting.
Shake Reduction. Pentax has retained the same in-body, sensor-shift stabilization system that debuted in 2009's K-7 for the new K-5 II. The system, which Pentax brands Shake Reduction, is compatible with all Pentax interchangeable lenses produced to date, and it can correct not only for horizontal and vertical motion, but also for rotation around the axis of the lens barrel. (That capability is no longer unique, however -- Olympus now offers a similar feature in some of its mirrorless cameras.) Two degrees of rotational correction on either side of the central position is possible, and Pentax claims 2.5 to 4 stops of correction is possible.
The drawback to Pentax's Shake Reduction technology is that you can't see its effects as you look through the optical viewfinder, as you can with lens-based stabilization systems. If you want to preview the effect on the LCD, you'll need to shoot in Live View mode.
Dust removal. The Pentax K-5 II also retains Pentax's DR II dust removal system, another feature that debuted on the K-7. The system includes a piezo-ceramic element to vibrate the low-pass filter, and subjectively we've found similar systems to work noticeably better than those that rely on simply shaking the sensor with the stabilization system. A dust alert system can check for the presence of dust on the low-pass filter, at the user's prompting.
Lens mount. On its front panel, the Pentax K-5 II features a KAF2 Lens mount, which is also compatible with KAF3, KAF, and KA mount lenses. Both in-body and in-lens AF mechanisms are supported, as is power zoom with compatible lenses. Pentax K mount lenses can also be attached, as can 35mm screwmount and 645/67 medium format lenses using optional adapters, although there may be restrictions depending on the lens type used.
Lens distortion correction. The Pentax K-5 II can correct for lens distortion and lateral chromatic aberration in-camera when using DA and DFA lenses, as well as with several of the company's FA Limited lenses. When enabled, these corrections do have a significant negative impact on burst shooting speed, but if you shoot in Raw mode you can choose to apply the correction after the fact, and so needn't worry about enabling the corrections pre-capture.
Autofocus. Pentax has also upgraded the K-5 II's autofocus system, which is now branded as SAFOX X. Compared to the previous-generation SAFOX IX+ system used in the K-5, SAFOX X has the same point count and arrangement -- eleven points, of which nine are cross-types sensitive to both horizontal and vertical detail -- but there are two important differences.
Firstly, the SAFOX X sensor incorporates a diffractive lens element that corrects for chromatic aberration, just as seen previously in the Pentax K-30's SAFOX IXi+ module. There's also a brand-new feature, though -- a newly developed sensor chip that is more sensitive than that used previously. This allows focusing in lower-light conditions, and Pentax rates the new SAFOX X sensor module as good for a working range of -3 to +18 EV at ISO 100. By way of comparison, the earlier K-5 offered a working range of -1 to +18 EV.
There's one other change to autofocus, and again it hails from the K-30. Called Expanded Area AF, this option functions only in continuous AF.C servo mode. When enabled, this considers the autofocus distance data of AF points surrounding the manually-selected point, and will let the active focus point roam to any point that has similar distance data to your manually selected point. The assumption is that these points are likely seeing the same subject, and you've simply slipped your selected point off the subject momentarily. It's a good assumption, and one that makes a noticeable improvement to continuous autofocus.
Metering. Automatic exposure is achieved courtesy of the same 77-segment metering sensor that debuted in the K-7. The K-5 II's metering options include Matrix, Center-weighted, and Spot modes, selectable via the switch beneath the Mode dial. A full 5.0EV of exposure compensation is available in either 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps.
Exposure Modes. Exposure modes in the Pentax K-5 II include Green (fully automatic), Manual, Bulb, Shutter- and Aperture-priority, and a Hyper Program mode which allows shutter or aperture to be instantly adjusted around a predetermined Program exposure. There's also Sensitivity Priority, plus Shutter-and-Aperture Priority. In the latter, the user defines both shutter speed and aperture, and the camera selects an appropriate sensitivity. Finally, a User mode allows five different settings groups to be saved for later reuse, and each can be given a unique name as a memory aid.
The K-5 II also allows you to alter the program line the camera uses when determining exposure variables. In a nutshell, this can tell the camera to prioritize for higher shutter speeds, shallow or deep depth-of-field, MTF (best aperture setting for image quality with the currently-attached lens), or to use the default, normal program line.
Drive Modes. In addition to its ~seven frames-per-second Continuous Hi and 1.6 fps Continuous Lo modes, the Pentax K-5 II offers the ability to bracket two, three, or five-frames with anywhere up to 2.0 EV between each exposure, set in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps. (For two-frame exposures, you can choose whether the extra frame should be over- or underexposed, with respect to the metered exposure). There's also a mirror lockup function, and a two or 12-second self-timer, with self-timer indicator LEDs provided on both the front and back of the camera.
A variety of remote control modes work with the optional cabled or infrared remote units, and these include standard remote shooting, remote with a three-second delay, and continuous burst remote capture. Additionally, you can set bracketed or mirror lockup exposures to be initiated with the remote control.
Two infrared remote control units are compatible with the K-5 II: the tiny Remote Control F, and the larger, waterproof Remote Control WP. The former has only one button, which trips the shutter (and can optionally perform an AF operation first). The Remote Control WP has an added advantage beyond its waterproofing -- its Zoom button serves as an autofocus button on the K-5 II, effectively decoupling AF and shutter operation. This lets you prep focus when you choose ahead of tripping the shutter release, so you can be confident you've left enough time to complete focusing before you want to trip the shutter.
Shutter. Like that in its predecessors, the Pentax K-5 II's shutter unit is capable of a maximum 1/8,000 second shutter speed, and has a rated lifetime of 100,000 cycles. Minimum shutter speed is 30 seconds, and a Bulb position is also available. Note, though, that Bulb exposures are limited to ISO 1,600 max.
White balance. As well as Automatic and Manual modes, the Pentax K-5 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. Six custom white balance values can be stored in-camera.
Flash. As well as a hot shoe and PC socket for external flash and studio lighting connection, the Pentax K-5 II includes a built-in popup flash. Rated at 13 meters / ISO 100, the onboard flash is unchanged from that introduced with the K-7, and offers 28mm coverage plus red-eye removal capability.
The K-5 II still has X-sync at 1/180 second, offers -2 to +1EV of flash exposure compensation, and can use either first- or second-curtain flash.
In Wireless mode, the built-in flash can control multiple wireless slave flashes, and can be set either to contribute to the exposure, or to act only as a controller. The Pentax wireless flash system offers four control channels, so up to four camera/flash setups can be used in the same area without interfering with each other.
Viewfinder. Pentax has retained the same glass prism-type TTL optical viewfinder seen previously in the K-7, K-5, and K-30 for the new Pentax K-5 II. The finder offers a ~100% field of view and 0.92x magnification, and four interchangeable focusing screens are available, with the default being a Natural-Bright-Matte III screen. The K-5 II's viewfinder offers -2.5 to +1.5 diopter adjustment to cater for eyeglass wearers, and has an eyepoint of 21.7mm from the eyepiece frame, or 24.5mm from the exit pupil.
LCD. Another rare difference between the K-5 II and its immediate predecessor can be found in its 3.0-inch LCD display, which still offers about 921,000 dots of resolution (or roughly 640 x 480 pixels, with each pixel comprised of separate red, green, and blue dots).
The LCD panel is now recessed just slightly, where that on the K-5 was flush-mounted, and its polycarbonate cover has been replaced with more scratch-resistant tempered glass. Pentax has also switched to a new LCD panel that no longer has an air gap between the panel surface and cover glass. The change brings better visibility under strong ambient light, with less glare and better contrast. Comparing both cameras side by side, the K-5 II's display is also richer and more saturated than that in the K-5.
Movie mode. The Pentax K-5 II's Movie mode, more than any other feature of the camera, is now looking decidedly dated -- disappointing, for the company that first introduced aperture-control in a movie-capable camera. (Most likely, the processor in the K-5 II, which is held over from all the way back in the K-7, simply can't provide a more modern feature-set, as we've seen better from more affordable Pentax cameras with newer processors.)
Although you can shoot at resolutions up to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, the capture rate at this maximum resolution is limited to just 25 frames-per-second. You're also stuck with Motion JPEG compression in an AVI container, which while offering good quality, produces absolutely mammoth file sizes. Although there's a maximum clip length of 25 minutes or 4GB, whichever limit is reached first, there's realistically little chance of reaching the time limit without exceeding a 4GB file size even in 720p mode, let alone at 1080p.
1,920 x 1,080
Progressive, 25 frames per second, Motion JPEG
Download Original (160MB AVI)
Worse still for consumers and even some enthusiasts who prefer not to pull focus manually, the K-5 II's movie mode still doesn't offer autofocus during movie recording. It also lacks manual control of movie exposure, offering only a choice of Program or Aperture-priority exposure modes for movie shooting. Nor can the lens aperture be changed during recording in Aperture-priority mode, although this usually causes a significant change in brightness on cameras that do allow a change during capture.
Movie audio is recorded either from an internal monaural microphone, or from an external mic via a 3.5mm stereo jack, and the Pentax K-5 II still offers no manual control over audio levels during recording. Audio capture can be disabled altogether, though.
We'll be adding our detailed Pentax K-5 II video analysis page soon, with insight on how the
camera handles a variety of recording situations, ranging from night-time shooting to
rolling shutter tests. Stay tuned!
Dual-axis level gauge. The Pentax K-5 II sports a dual-axis (side-to-side roll and front-to-back pitch) level sensor, and can display the roll level on both the viewfinder and top panel status displays, as well as the rear LCD panel. The pitch level, however, can only be displayed on the rear panel. Unlike some competing cameras, you can't calibrate the tilt sensors manually.
Composition correction. Perhaps the most unique feature of recent Pentax flagships is retained for the Pentax K-5 II. When shooting on a tripod, it is possible to fine-tune your framing by manually controlling the position and rotation of the image sensor. With Shake Reduction enabled, a total of two degrees rotation and three millimeters of horizontal or vertical adjustment (one degree and 1.5mm on either side of the centered position) are available. If the sensor is tilted, the available horizontal / vertical adjustment range may be reduced by as much as 1mm on either side of the centered position, potentially restricting the adjustment range to 2mm total on either axis. It's a very handy tool if you shoot on a tripod much, making light work of precision framing.
Self-leveling function. Also thanks to the sensor-shift mechanism and internal roll sensor, the K-5 II offers an electronic level function that actually rotates the sensor to a level position when enabled. The system can correct for errors of one degree in either direction if Shake Reduction is enabled, and if you disable Shake Reduction, you double the level of correction possible to two degrees in either direction.
Connectivity. Interface options in the Pentax K-5 II are unchanged: high definition mini-HDMI (Type C) video output, standard definition NTSC / PAL switchable composite video output, and USB 2.0 high speed data connectivity. There's also an 8.3 volt DC input, a terminal for the wired CS-205 cable release, a PC sync terminal for external flash strobes, a 3.5mm stereo microphone jack for recording movie audio from an external microphone, and a proprietary contact on the camera's base for an optional battery / portrait grip, which accepts the same D-BG4 model that was used with the earlier Pentax K-7 and K-5.
The Pentax K-5 II also includes two infrared remote receivers -- one each on the front and rear of the camera body, allowing for the shutter to be released wirelessly from most angles, using the optional Remote Control F, or the waterproof Remote Control WP (aka O-RC1) remote. The latter allows not only shutter operation, but also provides for autofocus operation via a separate button when used with the K-5.
Unfortunately, the Pentax K-5 II still lacks any official, Pentax-authorized tethered shooting capability, but a third party solution does exist, although it doesn't provide a remote live view feed.
Power. The Pentax K-5 II accepts the exact same D-LI90 lithium ion battery pack as its predecessors. The D-LI90 is a 7.2V pack rated at 1,860 mAh / 14Wh. Battery life is rated at 980 shots without flash usage, 740 shots with 50% flash usage, or 440 minutes of playback on a charge -- unchanged from figures for the K-5 despite the new autofocus sensor and LCD panel. For studio shooting, or while offloading data via USB, the K-5 II can also draw power from Pentax's K-AC50 AC adapter.
Battery grip. The D-BG4 battery grip for the Pentax K-5 II is the same model compatible with the K-5 and K-7, and comes with two trays -- one for six AA batteries, and one for a single D-LI90 battery. The K5's battery grip transfers power through a dedicated, proprietary connection, so you can leave a battery in the camera to double the battery life, and needn't fiddle to remove the battery door, as in some competing designs that use a dummy battery. While this design is nice because you don't have to worry about the cumbersome tower that goes up into the battery compartments of other camera designs, you will have to remove the entire grip to change the K7's internal battery. (Of course, you can leave the internal battery compartment empty, and simply place your battery pack in the portrait grip, so this is of little import in real-world use unless you intend to use both battery bays simultaneously.)
The D-BG4 is weather sealed like the camera body, and duplicates several controls from the camera's main interface, including the shutter release, front and rear e-dials, the AE-Lock, and the AF button. While the duped control size and layout isn't identical to those on the camera body, it's similar enough to retain familiarity. There's also an On/Off switch, which controls not the camera body, but rather the portrait grip's controls. The D-BG4 also includes an insert in which to store the protective caps from the body and grip terminals when in use, and the lithium ion battery tray further includes space to store a spare SD card inside the grip.
Storage. The Pentax K-5 II's single memory card slot supports Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types, but doesn't gain any benefit from high speed UHS I-type cards. Use of Class 6 or higher-speed cards is recommended for video capture, or when shooting high-speed still image bursts. Eye-Fi's Wi-Fi capable Secure Digital cards can also be used, but the K-5 II isn't an Eye-Fi Connected device, and so doesn't provide the ability to adjust card settings, etc. in-camera. Instead, setup must be done first on your computer.
As in its predecessor, the Pentax K-5 II supplements its compressed JPEG file format with 14-bit raw files complying with either the Adobe DNG or Pentax PEF raw formats.
Pentax K-5 II Image Quality Comparisons
Below are crops comparing the Pentax K-5 II, Pentax K-5, Canon 60D, Nikon D7100, Olympus E-M5, and Sony NEX-7.
NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses.
Pentax K-5 II versus Pentax K-5 at ISO 100
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 100
Pentax K-5 at ISO 100
Pentax K-5 II versus Canon 60D at ISO 100
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 100
Canon 60D at ISO 100
Pentax K-5 II versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 100
Pentax K-5 II versus Olympus E-M5 at base ISO
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 100
Olympus E-M5 at ISO 200
Pentax K-5 II versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 100
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 100
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 100
Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1,600, 3,200, and 6,400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1,600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1,600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.
Pentax K-5 II versus Pentax K-5 at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 II versus Canon 60D at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 1,600
Canon 60D at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 II versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 1,600
Nikon D7100 at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 II versus Olympus E-M5 at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 1,600
Olympus E-M5 at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 II versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 1,600
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 1,600
Today's ISO 3,200 is yesterday's ISO 1,600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3,200.
Pentax K-5 II versus Pentax K-5 at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 II versus Canon 60D at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 3,200
Canon 60D at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 II versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 3,200
Nikon D7100 at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 II versus Olympus E-M5 at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 3,200
Olympus E-M5 at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 II versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 3,200
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 3,200
Detail: Pentax K-5 II versus Pentax K-5 , Canon 60D, Nikon D7100, Olympus E-M5, and Sony NEX-7
Compared to Pentax K-5 IIs
Pentax K-5 II versus Pentax K-5 IIs at ISO 100
Pentax K-5 II versus Pentax K-5 IIs at ISO 1,600
|High Contrast Detail|
Pentax K-5 II at ISO 100
Pentax K-5 IIs at ISO 100
|Pentax K-5 II at ISO 1,600||Pentax K-5 IIs at ISO 1,600|
Pentax K-5 II Print Quality
Excellent print quality up to 24 x 36 inches at ISO 80/100/200; ISO 1600 capable of a good 11 x 14 inch print; ISO 12,800 still able to deliver a good 4 x 6. (Note: the K-5 II creates noticeable oversaturation in some colors of our test images.)
ISO 400 prints lose only a minor amount of detail in a few areas like the mosaic tiles, but are quite sharp at 20 x 30 inches.
ISO 800 images still look decent at 20 x 30, but show marginal loss in contrast in our difficult target red leaf swatch and some apparent noise in the shadowy areas of our target. To be safe we'll call 16 x 20 good at this ISO.
ISO 1,600 prints at 11 x 14 lose all contrast detail in our target red swatch, but are otherwise quite good.
ISO 3,200 makes a nice 8 x 10 inch print, again losing all detail in our red swatch but good in all other areas.
ISO 6,400 prints a nice 5 x 7, with only minor grain in the shadows.
ISO 12,800 prints a nice 4 x 6, which still is a good size for this ISO.
ISO 25,600/51,200 prints are not usable at any size and are best avoided.
The Pentax K-5 II with its 16.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor yields a nice range of printed images across most of the ISO spectrum, producing comparable print sizes to most of its competitors in this sensor size and price range. Note however that at all sizes and ISO ranges our target magenta fabric swatch has a noticeable boost in saturation, and is tinted slightly more towards purple than the actual swatch color. Other colors are oversaturated as well.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 Mark II studio printer, and on the Pixma MP610 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II review for details on that model.)
In the Box
- Pentax K-5 II digital camera
- SMC Pentax DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL WR or SMC Pentax-DA 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 ED AL [IF] DC WR lens (if bought as a kit)
- Lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack D-LI90
- Battery charger kit K-BC90
- Body cap
- Front and rear lens caps (for kits)
- Lens hood (for kits)
- Eyecup FR
- Finder cap for ME
- PC socket cap
- Hotshoe cover FK
- Focusing screen MF-60 Frame Matte (aka Natural-Bright-Matte III)
- USB data cable I-USB7
- Audio/video cable I-AVC7
- Shoulder strap O-ST132
- Software CD-ROM S-SW132
- One-year limited warranty
- Protective case
- Extra battery pack for extended outings
- Large capacity, high-speed SDHC/SDXC memory card. 8-16GB or larger makes sense if you plan on shooting lots of HD video. Look for a speed grade of at least Class 6 for video capture.
- Additional lenses
- External flash
- Additional focusing screens
Pentax K-5 II Conclusion
For the last couple of generations of Pentax's K-series flagships, as soon as I've returned the review camera, I've gone out and bought one for myself. For a change, I won't be doing that with the K-5 II -- the changes Pentax has made since the K-5 just aren't significant enough to justify an immediate upgrade for the typical K-5 owner. (If low-light shooting is your bread and butter, though, the K-5 II might be worth your consideration.)
The fact that I'm not upgrading is no knock on the Pentax K-5 II, though. The fact is that after two years, I'm still very satisfied with my K-5. Its successor takes basically everything I still love about that camera, and implements a couple of key changes that make it noticeably better in specific areas. The autofocus system's ability to focus in very low ambient light feels near-magical -- if I could see a subject through the viewfinder, I was almost certainly able to focus on it -- and the new LCD monitor is also a little easier on the eye.
If you own the K-7 or an earlier flagship, the K-5 II represents a very worthwhile upgrade, and it's really a no-brainer purchase unless you can find a K-5 body for significantly less. For those currently shooting with an entry-level or mid-range Pentax DSLR, or perhaps even a compact camera, the Pentax K-5 II may prove intimidating at first, but it will offer you much more room to grow. And if you're considering jumping ship from another system, the K-5 II offers a lot of bang for the buck, so long as maximum resolution, AF sophistication, tethered shooting, and advanced movie capabilities aren't your primary goals. (And admittedly, third-party accessories are also a little less common for Pentax than for some of its more popular rivals.)
If you're considering picking up the K-5, you're faced with a decision -- but it's one that may resolve itself very easily. For the first time in a Pentax camera, you can opt to buy the Pentax K-5 II without an anti-aliasing filter, essentially trading off the risk of moiré for increased resolution. In other respects, the Pentax K-5 IIs is identical to the K-5 II, but given the important differences in image quality brought on by the removal of the AA filter, we've reviewed it separately. If you understand the tradeoff and it still has appeal for you, click here and find out if it's the camera for you.
For the typical advanced amateur or enthusiast who's happier to live with an antialiasing filter so they don't need to worry about moiré, the Pentax K-5 II presents a very attractive option, even if in many respects its design is now a couple of years old. If you're looking for an enthusiast-grade DSLR, the K-5 II definitely merits a place both on your short list, and on our Dave's Pick list.
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