GadgetsLab: Pentax K-5 IIs

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Sensor: 16.3MP 23.7 x 15.7mm APS-C CMOS

Lens used during test: SMC Pentax DA 18-55MM F3.5-5.6 AL II

Physical Dimensions: 5.2in x 3.8in x 2.9in (W x H x D)

Weight: 739.92g

Approx. battery life: 980 shots

Memory used: SD, SDHC, SDXC

What’s Hot:

• Able to produce high-quality, detailed images

• Solid, durable, rugged build

• Fast and accurate AF system

• Good color reproduction in LCD monitor and OVF

What’s Not:

• Not too different from K-5

• Exposure meter tends to overexpose

• Lengthy processing time for multi-shot HDR images


The K-5 IIs is not too different from the K-5, but it is a winner in terms of image quality and the speed and accuracy of the new AF system.

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Looks like Pentax has heard of the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  The second generation K-5 essentially retains everything you would find in its predecessor. Inside the Mark II model is the same 16.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor found in the previous generation, plus the same sensitivity range (ISO 100-12800, expandable to up to ISO 80-51200), interface, and overall look. Although there are small differences, the key dissimilarity between the first and second generation models is the 11-point SAFOX X TTL autofocus (AF) system, which Pentax claims greatly improves the speed and the accuracy of the one found in the K-5. 

The second generation of the K-5 comes in two variants—the K-5 II and the K-5 IIs. The devices are exactly identical, except for the K-5 IIs’ lack of an anti-aliasing filter, thus resulting in sharper, more detailed images. Typically, the absence of an AA filter makes digital images more detailed, but causes moire—the strange waves, rings of color or maze-like patterns you see instead of parallel lines when you zoom in on the image. However, Pentax claims that the careful construction of the K-5 IIs is meant to control the camera settings, lens selection and shooting conditions to prevent moire.

The K-5 IIs naturally mimics the button layout of the K-5 since it makes use of the same chassis. It has two fully programmable E-dials: one positioned at the forefinger area of the grip, and the other on the back of the body. At the lower left of the lens mount, you will also find a handy switch that makes it easier for you to switch focusing methods, whether it’s manual, single-shot AF, or continuous AF. The mode dial sits at the left edge of the top of the body. Underneath the mode dial is the metering switch, which I find it a bit too stiff. The thumb lever on the said dial is also too short, which makes it even more difficult to maneuver.

On the back is the 3-inch TFT color LCD monitor that’s a step up from that of the K-5 as its resolution has been boosted to 921,000 dots. Directly above it is the optical viewfinder (OVF) with 100% field of view.

The build quality had me sold. The body of the K-5 IIs is heavy and bulky, but it just looks and feels robust. Like its predecessor, its magnesium alloy body is protected by 77 weather seals that keep it functional and in tip-top shape despite the cold, the dust, and the rain. Pentax claims that the K-5 IIs can even operate at temperatures as low as -10oC.

There are eleven capture modes found in the camera. The typical manual, automatic and semi-automatic modes are present, but most notably, there is a shutter speed and aperture priority mode that simply adjusts your ISO based on your exposure parameters. Also present is a user configuration mode, which lets you store five custom presets. There is also a Bulb mode, a Flash Sync Speed mode, and a dedicated Movie mode.

I was happy with the 100% field of view of the OVF as it enabled me to compose shots more precisely. The LCD monitor fared suitably as well. Its angle cannot be shifted, but I was still able to see it clearly at odd angles and under harsh sunlight. This is primarily because the colors onscreen are displayed so vividly, and Pentax explains that this is so because they have eliminated the gap between the LCD screen and the screen cover. I was glad to know that the richness in color of the images onscreen wasn’t induced by amplification in the monitor. When I printed out some of the photos out and when I viewed them on a bigger screen, I got basically the same results that I saw on the camera’s LCD monitor—though some of them turned up a wee bit darker—so it turned out to be fairly accurate.

As mentioned earlier, the K-5 IIs features a new and improved AF system, whose speed and accuracy was rather impressive. The camera locks in on a subject and shoots almost instantly after hitting the shutter release button, even in low-light conditions. The K-5 IIs can do burst shooting at a frame rate of 7fps, and I’m delighted to say that the continuous AF works reasonably well with it. AF during live view is also commendable.

Built into the camera is a shake reduction (SR) that significantly reduces camera shake no matter what lens or accessory is screwed onto the body. The camera also features a multi-shot high dynamic range (HDR) mode. It produces balanced output, but it does take a significant amount of time to process the final image—20 seconds on the average, to be exact.

Its 77-segment metering system generally performs well, but the system is tends to over expose at times even if you’re spot-on the center of the meter.

Technicalities aside, the K-5 IIs excels in the most important thing in digital photography—image quality. The most notable observation is that the K-5 IIs is able to shoot at extremely low-lit conditions with much less noise than expected when the sensitivity is cranked up to a level higher than ISO 3200. Even in the shadow areas, noise levels are kept at a minimal. Even if noise is already visible at ISO 12800, the entirety of the photo isn’t hideous to look at.

Dynamic range in high-contrast scenes is good. I did experience some purple fringing, but the flaw was only present in a handful of photos and is barely noticeable unless you zoom in. Moire never turned up as a problem, either.

The K-5 IIs is also able to produce vibrant, well-saturated colors even in dull lighting. Night shots look good as well. Another thing that’s great about the images shot using the K-5 IIs is the rich amount of detail. I tried printing some of the images on letter-sized paper, and I was generally pleased with the results.

The K-5 IIs is robust, rugged, efficient, fast—even in low-light conditions—and is able to produce excellent-quality photos with very minimal noise. Those who are looking to switch brands or upgrade from a semi-pro Pentax model, the K-5 IIs is a device that warrants a spot on your list. If you currently own a K-5, however, I wouldn’t recommend going for the upgrade because the K-5 IIs is only marginally better in some areas, but carries a bigger cost—the body-only configuration costs PHP 62,990. But if you’re willing to throw in some greens for a faster AF system and better output, go ahead and splurge. After all, your output is what matters, and the K-5 IIs doesn’t fall short in delivering high-quality, detailed photographs.

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First published in Gadgets Magazine, April 2013

Words by Racine Anne Castro