Pentax K-3 Mark III First Shots: Sample images from Ricoh’s long-awaited flagship APS-C DSLR

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posted Wednesday, May 19, 2021 at 8:30 AM EDT

Editor's Note: 05/22/2021: Upon closer inspection, we've determined that the initial series of sample images were slightly front-focused. We've decided to take down the K-3 III sample images for the time being and will update the samples page with a new First Shots series as soon as possible. Thanks to the readers for helping us spot the issue!

 
 

We imagine Pentaxians eagerly awaiting an update to the flagship Pentax K-3-series of crop-sensor DSLRs were beginning to get a little worried, wondering if a successor to 2015's K-3 Mark II would ever come to light. Fortunately, we began to see teasers and discussion of a Mark III model back in October of last year, and then finally, the full unveiling of the Pentax K-3 Mark III took place in March of this year. Fans of Pentax's rugged and feature-packed yet compact K-3-series APS-C DSLR can breathe a sigh of relief; the new version is here!

Like its predecessors, the K-3 III maintains that classic DSLR shape and design, along with Pentax's characteristic durability and weather-sealed construction. The new K-3 III offers several updates and improvements both inside and out compared to the previous model. The optical viewfinder -- a characteristic feature of a DSLR camera -- gets special attention with the K-3 Mark III, as it offers a large and clear optical viewfinder with a 1.05x magnification. According to Pentax, the K-3 III's OVF should offer a similar user experience to a full-frame DSLR. Under the hood, the new K-3 model gains an all-new 25.7-megapixel BSI APC-S CMOS sensor and a new PRIME V image processor plus a new "Accelerator Unit II." Despite the crop-sensor, the K-3 Mark III offers an incredibly expansive native ISO range. No expanded ISOs here. The K-3 III offers a base ISO of 100 and a high ISO of 1,600,000. Yes. 1,600,000. 

 
 

We just got our hands on a review sample of Ricoh's new Pentax K-3 Mark III DSLR, and as always, the first stop was a trip to our testing lab for First Shots. Our First Shots series of standardized sample images offer a chance to see how a camera's image quality performs across its full ISO range -- and in the case of the K-3 III, it's quite a range, indeed! Much like most of our First Shots series, we have two series, one using the camera's default in-camera noise reduction processing and then another with it completely disabled or set to its lowest setting. In the case of the K-3 III, it can be disabled, so please check the "NR0" series to see JPEGs with no noise reduction. (As always, we also have unedited RAW files to download, as well.)

Additionally, the K-3 Mark III keeps Pentax's clever Pixel-Shift Resolution shooting mode that we saw in the previous model, which takes four images in quick succession. Following each shot, the camera's sensor moves in one-pixel increments. The camera then combines the information into a composite, and while it's not higher-resolution in terms of the megapixel count, it offers the ability to have images with greater detail and improved color rendering. We also noticed here with the K-3 III that with PSR mode (and even with in-camera NR disabled), the higher ISO image quality is noticeably improved in some respects -- extreme ISOs, such as ISO 102400, and even ISO 1,600,000 are much more "usable" than the standard JPEGs at that ISO.

 
ISO 102400
Standard JPEG (Noise Reduction Off) on left vs. Pixel Shift Resolution JPEG (Noise Reduction Off) on right

Jump over to our Pentax K-3 III Samples Page for our full array of First Shots images. And of course, if you want to compare the First Shots from the K-3 III against nearly any other camera we've reviewed over the years, head over to our Comparometer tool.

Stay tuned! More to come with our Pentax K-3 III review!

Pentax K-3 Mark III Sample Images