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Pentax K3 II
24MP APS-C, 8.3 FPS, GPS, no flash
© KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Sample Images   Introduction   Specifications

Performance   Usage   Recommendations

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Pentax K3 II

Pentax K3 II (2 SD card slots, internal stabilization, 27.6 oz./781g with battery and card, about $997) and Pentax 50mm f/1.8 DA. enlarge. I got mine at B&H; I'd also get it at Adorama or at Amazon.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Camera boxes are not sealed, so never buy at retail or any source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, store demo, damaged, returned or used product. My approved sources ship from remote automated warehouses where no salespeople or lookie-loos can ever get their greasy fingers on your new lens or drop it before you do. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.


July 2015   Pentax reviews   all reviews


Pentax K3 II

Pentax K3 II. enlarge.


Pentax K3 II

Pentax K3 II. enlarge.


Sample Images     (Pixel-shift samples later in review)    top

Sample Images   Introduction   Specifications

Performance   Usage   Recommendations

Pentax K3 II and 50/1.8 DA sample image

Palm,25 June 2015. Pentax K3 II, SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.8 DA, f/5.6 at 1/500 at ISO 200, Perfectly Clear V2. Full resolution.


Pentax K3 II and 50/1.8 DA sample image

Corte Madera, 25 June 2015. Pentax K3 II, SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.8 DA, f/7.1 at 1/640 at ISO 200. Camera-original © LARGE basic JPG.


Pentax K3 II and 50/1.8 DA sample image

Palm under clouds, 02 July 2015. Pentax K3 II, SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.8 DA, f/7.1 at 1/200 at ISO 200. Camera-original © LARGE basic JPG.


Introduction         top

Sample Images   Introduction   Specifications

Performance   Usage   Recommendations

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

The Pentax K3 II is a sturdy little camera, but sadly Pentax took out the built-in flash and put a GPS there instead. Without a built-in flash, image quality will suffer, especially outdoors since you won't have any fill-flash (critical to good outdoor people pictures) unless you bring a separate shoe-mount flash. Boo.

It has two SD card slots and some weather sealing.

It has built-in image stabilization, called Shake Reduction, for which it says SR on the front.

As all cameras should have, it has three programmable User settings on its mode dial.


Clever Features

"Pixel-shift resolution" automatically moves the sensor using the image stabilization system and makes four successive exposures to increase the apparent resolution. It really works, but only works on a tripod and only works with subjects that don't move.

There's an "AstroTracer" feature which moves the sensor slowly during time exposures to eliminate star trails, if you want to. It's like a micro clock drive!

The Program mode is weird, often forgetting about apertures bigger than f/2.8 in dim light, and there is a unique menu option to select different program schemes (combinations of shutter and aperture settings).

There is an automatic Horizon Correction option. It magically Dutches (rotates) the sensor over ±1,º or ±2º with image stabilization off, to correct it.

The K3 II offers the option to set the white balance it will use when you're using flash. You can program the camera to use whatever white balance you want when it detects you're using flash. If you gel your flash to match tungsten, you can program the camera to go to tungsten (or other) white balances when you have your flash on.

Better than better SLRs, the K3 II will change the rotation of playback images as you rotate the camera.



No flash!


Specifications         top

Sample Images   Introduction   Specifications

Performance   Usage   Recommendations


Lens Compatibility

Pentax K3 II

Pentax K3 II. enlarge.

The K3 II uses the immortal Pentax K mount.

It has a built-in motor for autofocus, so it works with all Pentax autofocus lenses.

With Pentax' classic manual-focus SMC Pentax-A lenses, set the aperture ring to A and you'll get manual and automatic exposure, and the LEDs on the finder blip instantly as you get focus! There's also one green hexagon at the bottom of the finder that stays lit for Focus OK.

And beat this, Nikon and Canon: with all the old manual focus SMC Pentax-A lenses, they work in all auto and manual exposure modes! Nikon got lazy and never has bothered to put in the technology to get Program and Shutter-priority modes to work with their autofocus cameras, and none of Canon's manual FD lenses work on anything from Canon today. Ha!

With older manual-focus SMC Pentax-M lenses the finder will blink "F - -" and the K3 II won't fire or show focus confirmation — unless you set menu option C4: 26, "Use Aperture Ring," to "2: enable. Now with manual lenses lacking an A setting, even adapted screw-mount lenses, you can use the lenses wide open in Av mode or at any selected aperture in M mode. In M mode you have to press a button to stop down the lens for an exposure reading before actually taking the photo.




24 MP (6,016 x 4,000 pixels).

15.6 x 23.5mm (1.534x crop factor).

ISO: Auto, 100 ~ 51,200.

Still Formats: JPG, DNG, raw.

Movie Formats: Up to 1080/59.94p; AVI, MOV, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264.




Magnetic Compass (to record the direction in which camera was pointed and help the AstroTracker).


Three-Axis Accelerometer (to record orientation and to help the AstroTracker).


Stereo Microphone (for movies)



27 zones.




0.95x with 50mm lens.

-2.5 to +1.5 diopters.



86,000 pixels.



1/8,000 ~ 30s.


Flash Sync


Hot shoe and PC (Prontor-Compur) terminal.



3.2" diagonal.

1,027,000 dots.



Two SD slots.

SD, SDHC, SDXC cards OK.



3.5mm Microphone

AV Output

DC Input

HDMI C (Mini)

USB 3.0

X-Sync PC Socket



Pentax D-LI90 battery

Pentax D-LI 90 battery.


Pentax D-LI90 battery

Pentax D-LI 90 battery.


Pentax D-LI90 battery

Pentax D-BC 90 battery charger.

D-LI 90 Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery Pack: 7.2 DC, 1860 mAh, included.

D-BC 90 battery charger, included.

Optional K-AC132 AC Adapter.



Pentax K3 II

Pentax K3 II. enlarge.

Made in Philippines.



14 to 104°F (-10 to 40°C), operating.



5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1."

132.1 x 99.1 x 78.7 mm.



27.550 oz. (781.05g) actual measured weight with card and battery.

28.2 oz. (799.5 g) rated, with card and battery.



Early 2015.


Price, USA

$997, July 2015.Pentax D-LI90 battery

Box, Pentax K3 II.


Performance         top

Sample Images   Introduction   Specifications

Performance   Usage   Recommendations


Pentax K3 II

Pentax K3 II. enlarge.

AF works well, but they have to be kidding: the in-camera motor is so noisy it sounds like the 1980s all over again!

The Auto-Sensor Select mode works well. It finds something and focusses on it.

The 27-sensor array is spotty. It's only a 5x5 matrix in the middle, with two more sensors out by themselves on the far left and far right.

The AF Assist light is an annoying green LED.


Manual Focus

Manual focus is great! The AF area LEDs blip instantly as any of them comes into focus.

There's also a solid green hexagon that stays lit at the bottom of the finder as long as you're in focus.



Pentax copied Nikon's flawed power switch. It's easy to knock on or off because it has no lock.

There's a nice metal flip lever for the plastic battery door.

The Menus are an uglier version of Canon's general layout. The font is fairly primitive.

The mode dial has a lock button. A lever around the mode dial lets you disable the mode dial lock.

The MENU button is on the right so it's easy to set menus with one hand; but the PLAY button is still on the wrong (left) side, requiring a second hand.


Meter and Exposure

The meter works well, but it is fooled by dark backgrounds and may require a -1 compensation setting.

It has a weird program mode that usually won't open larger than f/2.8 unless you fiddle with it.



The images look great; color and tone rendition is much better than I expected, and color and tone are 99% of what the camera does to make a picture.

Auto white balance usually works extremely well.

Nice color and nice dynamic range. This is what makes great pictures, and you can't measure it in a lab. You need an artist's eye, and I'm surprised that the Pentax images look great, unless of course you're in awful light, like this High ISO example:


High ISOs

Ryan at borrellis

Ryan at our favorite pizza place, 30 June 2015. Pentax K3 II, SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.8 DA, f/1.8 at 1/100 at ISO 6,400, Perfectly Clear V2. bigger or Camera-original © JPG.

It's not so hot at high ISOs. It's noisier than other cameras, but that seems to be because it uses less noise reduction, so it's actually the same and gives you the option to keep it as it is (sharper), or run more noise reduction later in your computer to make it similar to others.

No big deal, it was really dark in this pizza place!


Pixel-Shift Resolution

This really works. You activate it in a menu. The Pixel-Shift Resolution mode uses the image stabilization system to move the sensor back and fourth by a couple of pixels to capture a full R, G and B sample for each pixel location.

Even if other DSLRs and LEICAs omit the anti-alias filter, they still have to Bayer-interpolate to make-up for all the pixels they didn't capture, while this clever system captures everything.

If you use a tripod and if the subject doesn't move even a fraction of a pixel over the course of a few seconds, it really does make images as sharp as a full RGB-per-pixel non-Bayer interpolated sensor:

Click any for the camera-original © JPG files.

Normal resolution

Normal. Pentax K3 II, SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.8 DA, f/8 at 1/200 at ISO 100. Camera-original © JPG file.


Pixel-Shift resolution

Shot in Pixel-Shift Resolution mode. Pentax K3 II, SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.8 DA, f/8 at 1/160 at ISO 100. Camera-original © JPG file.

The overall images should look the same, and they do. Any difference is the sun moving behind clouds. If the lighting is changing, as it always in in nature, this mode won't work well, either.

Here's where we can see the difference. Again, click either for the original files:

Normal resolution

Crop at 100% from Normal image. Pentax K3 II, SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.8 DA, f/8 at 1/200 at ISO 100. Camera-original © JPG file.


Pixel-Shift resolution

Crop at 100% from image shot in Pixel-Shift Resolution mode. Pentax K3 II, SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.8 DA, f/8 at 1/160 at ISO 100. Camera-original © JPG file.

AHA!!! Much sharper than any Bayer-type sensor, which is every other real DSLR and LEICA.

While it's not as sharp as my 50 MP Canon 5DS, the 24MP images made with this feature are sharper than any other 24MP DSLR.

If anything moves, if the light changes or your tripod jitters, the bet's off and you'll get slightly jaggy edges. Look at my original files in your computer and you'll see slight random jaggy edges caused by imperfections in the system, and even the clouds look a little weird because of course they are always moving.

This is a slick feature for rocks and architecture and copying art and documents, but useless for trees, people and nature, or anything hand-held.


Image Stabilization

With a 50mm lens, I get sharp shots down to about 1/8. I don't know if that's much better than I usually do without stabilization.



The K3 II's data handling is much better than average.

Formatted cards are correctly formatted as "K-3 II," hooray!

It's easy to set it to auto-create a new folder every day, for instance, "103_0626" if it's the third folder on the card and today is June 26th.

It's easy to set the file prefixes. I set mine to K32_xxxx.jpg.

Vertical images are flagged, but not actually rotated. This is typical.

Files are tagged as 300 DPI.

Auto-set ISOs read correctly in Phase One Media Pro.


Battery and Power

The battery charger seems to take longer than most, but the battery also seems to last a very long time on a charge.


Usage         top

Sample Images   Introduction   Specifications

Performance   Usage   Recommendations

Flick the power lever past "on" for depth-of-field preview.

Set menu option C4: 23, "Menu Location," to "2: Save menu location," otherwise you'll always be at the first menu item every time you press MENU.

The Pixel-Shift Resolution option is set in a menu. Don't use it unless you're locked-down on a tripod.

My US model came with Flicker Reduction set to 50 Hz; set it to 60 Hz if you're in the Americas.

The battery charger lights solid green while charging.

The top LCD's backlight brightness defaults to very bright. Set it to Low in the menus.

I set U1 to high resolution and high saturation for nature shots.

I set U2 to low resolution and reasonable color for family shots.

I set U3 for sports: fast frame rate, small resolution moderate color.


Recommendations         top

Sample Images   Introduction   Specifications

Performance   Usage   Recommendations

Pentax makes no professional DSLRs and no full-frame DSLRs. It's sort of an orphan brand, now owned by Ricoh. They make a relatively inexpensive near-medium format system, and otherwise don't even make a full-frame DSLR.

Canon and Nikon make better and more refined cameras for the same price if you actually own and use them as I do, however if this Pentax has some clever feature you find more helpful than the better overall basic performance of the pro brands, by all means get one of these.

Glitzy features like Pixel-Shift Resolution take a back seat to basic image rendition and ergonomics, at which Nikon and Canon excel.

If you already own a slew of old SMC Pentax-A manual-focus lenses, you will have to focus manually, but exposure can be fully automatic. You will need to get new lenses if you want to go really wide since this camera has a much smaller sensor than 35mm film, and forget it if you have lenses older than SMC-A since exposure becomes a pain.

This said, the images from this Pentax actually look quite good, better than I see from cameras like the Sony A7. This Pentax has very good color and tone rendition, which is all that really matters. All the features and pixels are just fluff piled on cameras to try to sell more; what really matters is how the pictures look, and I really like how this Pentax renders my world as I wander around and shoot with it.

It is more primitive than the current Nikon and Canon cameras, whose color and tone are also fantastic. If you're already invested in Pentax, by all means get one, but if this is a first DSLR, the Nikon D7100 or D7200 is worlds better in actual use, as are the similar Canon DSLRs like the 70D.

As a photographic artist, what makes a great camera has nothing to do with resolution or features. It has everything to do with how it renders a scene, and how easy it is to get the camera to do whatever we need it to do. Features are just frills, the basic quality of a camera is something that only an accomplished photographer can gauge after using it; you can't measure this in a lab.

If you're more of a talker than shooter, the pixel-shift resolution feature really does work, and I presume this camera would work well for laboratory tests.

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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02 July 2015