Pentax K-70 Conclusion
Pentax K-70 Conclusion
by Mike Tomkins
If you've been following our site for a while, you'll likely know that I'm a big fan of Ricoh's Pentax brand, and its excellent K-series line of DSLR cameras. The company has produced some really impressive products in the last seven and a half years since it launched the K-7, the first Pentax camera I bought for myself. And with the arrival of the Pentax K-70, it brings some unique features and even some firsts for the Pentax brand at a seriously aggressive pricepoint.
Good handling in a solid, well-built (if perhaps a little heavy) body
One of the strengths of Pentax's DSLRs have been their great ergonomics, and even if it's not quite up to the flagship K-3 and K-3 II in this area, the Pentax K-70 still has very good ergonomics for an entry-level model. Most controls are comfortable and well-positioned, and I never found myself making accidental settings changes with the K-70.
It's perhaps a little heavier than typical of this class, but if you stop to take a look at its feature-set, the reason why becomes immediately apparent. There is a spectacular amount of tech and many worthwhile features in the Pentax K-70, and some of these simply aren't available from any DSLR rival at this pricepoint.
For example, you'll be framing your photos through a bright, clear and exceptionally accurate pentaprism viewfinder crafted from a hefty chunk of glass. The Pentax K-70's rivals offer more limited (and much less bright) pentamirror viewfinders.
There's also comprehensive dust and moisture-resistant sealing throughout the Pentax K-70's design, and that's doubly impressive when you consider that a tilt/swivel LCD monitor is included. Not just that, there are also twin control dials which make changes to the main exposure variables extremely quick and intuitive.
Excellent image quality which can actually best the flagship K-3 II
With that said, there are a couple of areas in which the K-70 still lags its nearest rivals. For example, its autofocus system offers fewer focus points than do similarly-priced cameras like the Canon T6i or Nikon D5500. And its 77-segment metering system, too, is getting rather long in the tooth.
But despite these more dated aspects of its design, the Pentax K-70 impresses in the image quality department. I found its autofocus when shooting through the viewfinder to be pretty swift and accurate, even if it lacks the point density of some rivals. And although its exposure metering wasn't quite as rock solid as that of, say, the flagship Pentax K-3 II, it was still pretty decent in my experience, nailing the correct exposure most of the time and almost never needing more than perhaps a couple of clicks (+/-2/3 EV) of exposure compensation.
Now, if you're planning to shoot a lot of sports or very active subjects, or if top-notch exposure metering is a must, I'd still suggest that you look at the Pentax K-3 or K-3 II instead, as while list pricing is higher, both of these cameras will offer even more bang for the buck. But in an entry-level body -- and bearing in mind the likely subjects of a less experienced photographer -- I think that the Pentax K-70 will prove to be plenty of camera.
In one respect at least -- its high sensitivity image quality -- the Pentax K-70 actually bests its flagship siblings. Crank up the ISO sensitivity, and you'll find you can shoot great images at all the way up to ISO 12,800-equivalent. Perhaps even ISO 25,600-equivalent in a pinch!
And down towards the lower end of the scale, the Pentax K-70's images show great, punchy color that most consumers will appreciate, along with boatloads of fine detail. (More experienced shooters can dial back the defaults for a more natural look, of course.) Enable the K-70's Pixel Shift Resolution function for relatively static scenes like landscapes or still lifes, and you'll be able to get even more detail in your shots, too.
Good performance for its class, but battery life is a weak spot
In most respects, once you power up the Pentax K-70 it's a very responsive camera indeed. It's perhaps a little slow to start up though, and buffer clearing speeds could be a bit quicker, but a generous buffer depth means this isn't really so much of an issue unless you're shooting very lengthy bursts.
And there's more performance on offer here than in either of its nearest Canon or Nikon rivals, with our lab testing bearing out Ricoh's claimed burst performance of six frames per second nicely. Autofocus performance is also better than average for its class, perhaps in part because of its lower-than-average point density.
Really, the main weak spot on the performance front is battery life. Here, Ricoh's Pentax K-70 does lag both the Canon T6i and Nikon D5500, and the latter in particular will manage almost twice as many shots on a charge as does the K-70. But these are pretty small batteries, so just pack a couple of spares or slip them in a pocket, and you'll be good to go once the juice runs out.
Video capture is improved, but still not recommended for more than brief clips
Among the company firsts offered by the Pentax K-70 is full-time movie autofocus. The hybrid system offered up by Ricoh uses an unspecified number of phase-detection AF points on the image sensor itself, and in our testing worked reasonably well in live view mode. It also made movie capture more satisfactory by consumer standards, but the company still has a while to go before we'd recommend its DSLRs for movie use.
Perhaps the main reason for this is that while full-time movie AF is now available, it's still easily confused and has a tendency both to hunt around the point of focus, and occasionally to rack through the focus range in seek of a a focus lock. It's still good enough that many consumers will likely put up with it rather than try to pull focus manually, but it needs to be better still before its ready for prime time.
And in other respects, too many features offered by DSLR or mirrorless camera rivals simply can't be found here. There's no 4K ultra high-def capture, no high framerate video, no clean HDMI output and no way to control audio levels, for example. And as in the company's other recent DSLRs, the K-70 also disables its sensor shift image stabilization system during video capture, substituting for it with a digital system that tends to give your movie clips an unsightly, jello-like wobble.
It's probably best to consider the K-70 a Wi-Fi ready camera, rather than a Wi-Fi equipped one
Perhaps the Pentax K-70's Achilles Heel, though, is its in-camera wireless networking setup. Gone is the NFC radio of the earlier K-S2, so pairing is more of a hassle than it needs to be on Android devices. (iOS users have never gotten to enjoy NFC pairing in the first place, but that's Apple's fault.)
And in other respects, the Pentax K-70's Wi-Fi feature set is much like that of the earlier K-S2, right down to all the bugs, quirks and foibles we reported upon in our review of that camera. The freely-available Image Sync app for Android and iOS is poorly rated, slow and incredibly unintuitive, and if anything we had even more trouble getting it to work with the K-70 than we did with the earlier camera.
That's a great shame, but alternatives are available, both in the form of Ricoh's own rebadged Pentax FluCard devices, and rivals like Eye-Fi's Mobi Wi-Fi equipped SD cards. (And it's possible that your mileage may vary from our own experiences when it comes to Wi-Fi, too. Since publishing our field test a couple of weeks back, we've heard from several readers who've told us that they've been able to get Wi-Fi working themselves, after a bit of effort.
But then, for a camera aimed at entry-level, inexperienced photographers, you shouldn't have to struggle to get the feature to work in the first place. It should be quick-and-simple to get things running as soon as you take the camera out of the box.
Don't let Wi-Fi and video concerns dissuade you: This camera is one heck of a value!
With all of that said, don't let our concerns about Wi-Fi and video autofocus color your thoughts about the Pentax K-70 too much, at least not unless these are critical features for you. No camera is really perfect, and especially not at this price point. But in terms of the features which will appeal to traditional still photographers, the Pentax K-70 stands head and shoulders above the crowd.
We've hemmed and hawed for quite some time as to whether to award the Pentax K-70 a Dave's Pick despite its Wi-Fi shortcomings. But while Wi-Fi is important in this connected age, those core features of the K-70 -- pentaprism finder, twin control dials and weather-sealing -- struck us as doubly important to the shooting experience, and they're just not available from Ricoh's DSLR rivals at this pricepoint.
And as noted previously, the Wi-Fi issues can be worked around with optional Wi-Fi equipped SD cards for relatively minimal cost, if getting images onto your phone is important to you. That final point helped make the decision for us: This is a heck of a lot of camera for the money if stills are your main focus, and for that reason the Pentax K-70 just squeaks a Dave's Pick award in spite of our reservations about its Wi-Fi capability.
Pros & Cons
- Punchy, vibrant images straight out of the camera
- Superb image quality with Pixel Shift Resolution enabled
- Excellent high ISO performance for an APS-C sensor
- Very good dynamic range
- Warm Auto white balance in tungsten lighting
- Default sharpening, saturation and contrast may be a bit too high for some (but they can always be turned down)
- Fast autofocus
- Good burst framerate of just over 6fps
- Generous JPEG buffer
- Slow buffer clearing
- A little sluggish to power up for a DSLR
- Full-time movie autofocus for the first time in a Pentax DSLR
- External mic jack caters to off-camera audio capture
- Movie AF is too-easily confused and rather prone to hunting (but for entry-level users, still likely better than pulling focus by yourself)
- Mechanical shake-reduction is disabled for movies, leaving only a jello-prone digital shake reduction function in its stead
- No 4K ultra high-def video capture (except for time-lapse movies)
- No high framerate capture
- No clean HDMI output
- No audio level control or way to monitor levels
- Great bang for the buck
- More traditional, mainstream design than the entry-level K-S series
- Ergonomics are mostly very good
- Able to autofocus in very low light
- Very flexible noise reduction options
- Comprehensive dust / weather-sealing and freezeproofing
- Twin control dials
- Tilt/swivel LCD monitor can point forwards, making it useful for selfie shooting
- On-chip phase detection AF for live view and movies
- On-demand AA filter simulator works well
- AA bracketing helps take the guesswork out of knowing whether you should use AA filter simulation or not
- Horizon Correction can automatically detect and fix subtly-tilted horizons at capture time
- Useful Highlight and Shadow Correction options
- Decent in-camera HDR mode
- One extra user mode for a total of three
- Provides a choice of proprietary PEF or open-standard DNG raw formats
- Built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking support (but see related cons)
- Can freeze star trails in long exposures with optional O-GPS1 GPS receiver accessory
- Night Vision LCD function uses red light only for minimal disruption of your night vision
- Rather heavy by entry-level DSLR standards
- 11-point autofocus system feels rather dated these days
- Likewise, so does the 77-segment metering system
- No touch-screen
- No proximity sensor next to the viewfinder, so you'll need to disable the LCD manually if you find it distracting
- No NFC radio for quick-and-easy pairing with Android devices
- Controls feel a bit cheaper than in flagship models (but not unduly so considering the price)
- Four-way controller buttons are too deeply sculpted for good comfort
- Raw/Fx button is spongy with poor button feel
- Shake Reduction badge can be uncomfortable on the fingertips if you have large hands
- Below average battery life for a DSLR
- Pentax's smaller market share means less third-party support
- Pixel Shift Resolution Motion Correction doesn't work well
- Wi-Fi wireless communication was slow, limited in range and hindered by an extremely buggy, unintuitive app
- Pentax K-mount offers best backwards lens compatibility in the business
- Bright, sharp and accurate lass pentaprism viewfinder, where all entry-level DSLR rivals use dimmer, less attractive pentamirror finders
- Excellent coverage from optical viewfinder despite the entry-level price
- In-body stabilization with every lens, and it now has flagship-class 4.5-stop corrective strength
- First Pentax DSLR with support for electronic aperture control right out of the box
- 18-135mm kit lens is rather soft in the corners wide-open, and prone to vignetting at wide angle / chromatic aberration at telephoto
- Relies on sensor shake instead of a piezoelectric element for dust removal, which is rather ineffectual
- Built-in, popup flash included
- Built-in flash is tall enough to clear larger lenses
- Hot shoe for external strobes
- Built-in flash has somewhat narrow coverage and uneven output