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Pentax have never been that popular compared to canon/nikon, but what they offer is something different and unique, they're not trying to beat canon/nikon they're trying to carve their own niche.
If you want to read stats and talk about noise then DP review if where you should go, but if you want to read about how it feels to own a pentax, and why they exist compared to canon/nikon then read on.
I see pentax as the leica of the SLR world, small (the smallest SLR on the market) with very high quality prime lenses.
Pentax cameras have great viewfinders, much bigger than competing canon/nikons of this size and price.
The k5 has a silent shutter- a dampened mirror box that provides a very quiet shooting experience that until the 5d3 has not been emulated by canikon.
In body IS, this is amazing- while not as effective as in lens IS, it means that all your wide angle lenses are stabilised, and even your 50 year old manual focus 50mm is stabilised.
The weather sealing on a pentax is best in class, much better than the canon/nikon equivalent, I trust my pentax to keep on shooting.
Another advantage is availability of great quality, cheap K mount lenses. Every canon camera can take these lenses with an adaptor, but when you use them natively on this pentax you don't have to stop down before the shot is taken!
Nikon has a similar advantage but their old lenses still carry a price premium, old pentax lenses are cheap cheap cheap, where as their newer pro zooms like the 50-135 2.8 are expensive- don't buy pentax to shoot professionally, buy pentax to shoot with old glass, or the wonderful limited primes (expensive but very nice).
The downsides: owning a pentax comes with a price premium (just like a leica), accessories are just rarer and lenses much more costly. Also there is no upgrade path to full frame.
Video mode isn't anywhere near as good with the pentax, it's quite clunky, and feels like a bit of an after thought.
My main gripe with pentax is their menu system, I never really got it, changing AF points takes way too many button presses, and I prefer to shoot the camera like I did with film, with a manual lens, iso 400 and changing shutter speed and apperture to get the correct exposure- the pentax is a camera for photographers, and purveyors or finely crafted lenses.
If you are in the market for an APS-C camera, and you don't fancy full frame, and you don't want/need the complex AF of the 7d, then the k5 has it's own charm and comes highly recommended.
But if you want to do flash photography, or shoot with fast zooms, then maybe canon or nikon is a better option for you.
I recently purchased the K-5 from a DSLR manufactuer that I originally never heard of. While Pentax isn't a huge name in the world of DSLRs, it can certainly produce affordable ones. However, the looks and functionality wouldn't be better than my Canon EOS 550D. More in-depth paragraphs follow.
Quality and Build
The Pentax K-5's body is very similar to the existing Pentax K-7 body. The body is made from a magnesium allow, which lets it battle against reasonable amounts of water and dust. In my hand, it felt lighter than the specifications stated so should I carry this for long amounts of time, it wouldn't be too much of a pain. Unfortunately, the grip and thumb-rest wasn't too well, since Pentax decided that instead of going the extra step, there would be only enough room for users to get enough grip. I didn't like the button placement either, especially since the menu button sat towards the bottom. Despite my critisism towards the button placements, a few things are conveniently placed such as the mode dial. I wouldn't rate the build anymore than 3.5/5, although that may be due to my Canon EOS range favouritism.
The K-5 has a few improvements over the K-7 in terms of burst speed, increasing the 5.2fps to 7fps. The K-5 offers full-HD 1080p recording (at 25fps) while also offering the standard 720p and VGA options. Unfortunately, audio recording is only mono using the pre-installed microphone, although a socket remains for external stereo recording. Live view comes with the movie recording with three auto-focus options through face-detection or contrast-detection. Live view system is convenient and provides a better use than manual adjustment.
The K-5 also provides an option for keeping horizons straight.
The K-5 has an increase in pixels than the K-7. RAW output is recommended, though JPEG output is satisfactory. As the ISO setting increases, more "noise" is introduced into the image and there is less image quality. The maximum ISO setting is 51,200.
The Pentax K-5 is an enjoyable camera to use but the shape of the camera and its controls could've been designed better. Where build was lost, it was made up with the features. The menu is also easy to use.
With the camera's low value, I rate the features 4/5, build quality 3/5 and value 3/5.
I have owned a Pentax K-5 for around a year now and am very happy with it. I use it for family, landscape, wildlife and occasionally more artistic photography with Pentax 16-45 and Pentax 55-300 lenses, and it delivers good image quality with excellent low light performance.
Areas where the camera is lacking include the autofocus - which on all but the premium SDM lens range with ultrasonic motors (Pentax DA* range of lenses) is loud and quite slow, as it is screw driven. This can make wildlife photography tricky, and makes sports photography very hard, with fast movements hard to track.
The video mode is also not as advanced as rivals from Canon, Nikon and Sony at a similar price - and lacks manual and autofocus in video.
The sensor in this camera is great, however, really good performance at high ISO and the testing website DxO labs gave it the highest rating for this size of sensor (APS-C) ever. The camera has customisable modes and having two customisable dials is also very useful when shooting in the more advanced modes. I haven't used the fully auto mode much but do use automatic metering sometimes and the camera rarely makes a mistake, even in tricky or unusual lighting.
Overall a great camera, well priced and with a competitive range of lenses and accessories.
K-5 is the latest camera from Pentax that was positioned on top of K-7 and many feature improvements that make it noteworthy.
One area that is not much changed by the Pentax is the design. Outer body is very similar to the K-7. You have to look carefully to find out the difference. The body is made from a mixture of magnesium and wrapped so that dust and water resistant on the parts that are vulnerable.
K-5 is one of the many cameras that have electronic guidelines to ensure a straight horizon. That feature also strengthen existing features in the K-7, it can make the sensors help the composition. The sensor can be moved up, down, left, right, or even can be rotated to fit a straight line.
Function in the menu arranged in order from least important. Pantex choose the display shows the name of the roll with a fully functional name rather than using abbreviations. Unfortunately, many words that make some arrangement difficult to access. Examples are buttons below the dial mode that is used to change the light metering mode was placed for quick access to manual settings. This peculiarity makes simple function is more difficult than usual.
K-7 has a video feature that is unusual and not standard. K-5 fixed it with 1080p HD video capabilities as well as VGA quality at 25 and 30 fps. Mono audio recordings can be made via a microphone located in front. There are special sockets for an external microphone for stereo recording.
Where there is video footage, there is a live view feature. There are three ways to auto focus in live view, through face detection, standard, and detection of contrast.
With a higher resolution than the K-7, Pentax users seem to be interested in this new sensor. At low ISO, picture detail and clean, just need a little sharpening for best results. The resulting JPEG is satisfactory but a cleaner image and details can be obtained with noise reduction and sharpening of RAW files.
Interesting feature in the K-5 is at every ISO you can set the level of noise reduction. One option to make noise reduction feature strength increases with increasing ISO.
The problem that always makes headache is the accuracy of SLR users automatic white balance system in the lamplight or artificial light. K-5 proved beyond a doubt, the accuracy of automatic white balance under artificial light is very accurate, even when the light comes from a combination of tungsten and fluorescent. The downside is when the light neutral. Problems occur when warm picture should be corrected. Fortunately Enhancement Color Temperature can fix this problem.
K-5 is a nice camera to use and have a good specification. It's hard to imagine there are other ways to present the controls and menus better like this. But his best quality is the way these cameras help photographers in the face of an unexpected disruption, especially when finding the correct focus and white balance correct.
The body feels good and offers a fast function. By not changing a lot of K-7, but make it better, Pentax succeeded in presenting a competitor for the Nikon D700 and Canon EOS 60D.
For me coming across a Pentax DSLR is a rare event, the vast majority of people I know used Canon, Nikon and (even a few wild cards opt for Olympus.) Last week was the first chance I've had to actually used a Pentax system out in the field (in this case the K-5 an enthusiasts level camera) as opposed to simply reading their reviews. Being the kind of photographer who likes to try out everything (even if it's just once) I have to thank one of my friends who allowed me to borrow his new camera to give it a run down.
We're both predominantly outdoor photographers, and one of the main highlights of this camera is the vast array of weather-proof and dust-proof seals built into the design, combined with the ability to resist the cold (officially down to a chilli minus ten) means that it offers the chance to capture the best of the British landscape and beyond without having to worry about damage. This however welcome, is a bonus feature often included in Pentax models, the proof as they say is in the photo and while the Pentax doesn't do enough to temp me away from my Canon DSLR it is none the less an impress and powerful camera, but with a few problems
The main features on offer include a 16.3 megapixel CMOS sensor along with a new PRIME image processor to reduce noise, built in image stabilisation, live view, an ISO range of 100-12,800 (expandable to 51,000), Full HD Video recording, SD card slot, an impressive seven frames per second burst rate, and a KAF2 lens mount.
Build quality of the camera is very high, the main body is composed of magnesium alloy and beneath that a stainless steel interior adds to the robustness. Surprising it's not overly heavy (at just over 700g) and is still easy to hold for prolonged periods. I like the top-LCD plate which displays at a glance important information, and the main three inch LCD is quick, and offers a high resolution for composing or reviewing you photos.
It took more than a few attempts to pick up the menus systems and controls of the camera (being more used to Canon DSLR's), but once I got the hang of it I managed to grab some stunning images, again with low-light and low shutter speeds being made easy. The design itself I do have a few issues with, the first being the fact that the LCD screen is very much to the left of the camera meaning it's almost unavoidable not to smudge it with your thumb-print. The buttons on the D-pad seem a bit soft and a too close together making it easy to accidently press the wrong button. Finally the actual design seems to me at least a bit old fashioned, cumbersome, and box light (especially the pop-up flash). None of which is a fatal flaw however it is still worth noting.
Using the auto-focus was a bit disappointing as it is pretty slow (especially when compared to the cameras rapid start up speed) and does struggle to focus at times (macro throwing up the most problems). White balance indoors also threw up a few problems and it seems to be a bit hit and miss to what works when.
The kit lens included with the camera (18-55mm) is (somewhat unusually for a kit lens) great quality and can deliver some stunning images that retain plenty of details in photographs. It excels in difficult low light without giving any of the typical problems, and while the lens isn't the fastest or the quietest when it comes to focusing it is still a brilliant starter lens. It's worth checking out what other lens are available for the camera and at what cost.
Overall the Pentax K5 is more than capable than pleasing; however its abilities seem far outweighed by other cameras in the same price bracket - cameras such as the Canon 60D and Nikon D7000. I feel that the Pentax doesn't offer enough to warrant the cost. If it comes down in price and you really need the low-light or weather proof aspects then the camera might be for you. For me however I have now returned it to my friend and feel that unusually there wasn't a great deal to get excited about. I know that I don't use Pentax cameras on a day to day basic, however in the end while it was a decent enough DSLR, I would recommend looking at cheaper options that offer more.
You can buy this camera from Amazon.co.uk for £954.40 (body only) or £1024.40 (with kit lens).
(I'm a reviewer on Amazon, and some my reviews are copied from there to dooyoo. Please feel free to check out my Amazon profile under my real name of Mr Andrew M Kerr.)