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Pentax K-5 II DSLR Review

The Pentax K-5 II updates the Pentax K-5 - find out how it performs in our review by John Riley.

Posted: 19/11/2012 - 14:58


Pentax K 5 II (4)

This is the first half of nearly identical twins from Pentax. The K-5 II is an updated version of the highly regarded K-5. The K-5 IIs, its sibling without anti-aliasing filter, will be reviewed soon. On the face of it, we have here an identical camera to the original K-5, so we need to explore what improvements have been made, whether or not the upgrade would be sufficient for existing K-5 users and whether or not this new model will tempt new purchasers into the Pentax system. The K-5 was an Editor's Choice, so the new model has much to live up to and exceed, if it can.

Pentax K-5 II Features

Pentax K 5 II (16)

The K-5 II is an APS-C DSLR with a Sony sensor, well tried and tested, using 16.28MP. It utilises the well established Pentax K mount, opening up the possibility of using almost any Pentax lens ever made. Via adapters, this backwards compatibility can extend back to even the 1950s Asahiflex lenses and of course the ubiquitous M42 screw mount lenses of the Spotmatic era, albeit with some limitations. Looking more to the present, there is a wide range of current Pentax AF lenses, with new offerings on the way to broaden the repertoire even more.

In-body shake reduction (SR) can be used with any lens or accessory and is proven already to bring a 3 stop or more advantage. Weather resistance to body and many lenses means all-weather use. The magnesium alloy shell is rugged and feels solid and dependable, but still within a remarkably compact package. Live View and Movie Mode plus a wide array of image style options round out a very complete and professional specification. An impressive 7fps is also available when needed.

Remarkable low light performance was a feature of the K-5, so we shall see how the K-5 II compares. The upgraded AF module is also an area of interest. Will this be a dramatic or just a subtle improvement of the original K-5?

Pentax K 5 II (10)

Key Features

  • 16.28 megapixel APS-C sensor
  • Pentax KAF2 bayonet mount
  • In-body Shake Reduction
  • Glass Pentaprism with 100% field of view
  • 3 inch LCD monitor with 921,000 dots
  • Live View with Contrast Detection and Phase Matching AF
  • SAFOX X AF module sensitive to -3EV
  • Weather Resistant construction
  • Magnesium alloy shell
  • 7fps maximum frame rate
  • ISO range 100 to 12,800, expandable to 80 to 51,200
  • Full HD Movie Mode
  • 17 Digital filters
  • PEF and DNG RAW formats
  • Premium JPEG Quality level

Pentax K-5 II Handling

Pentax K 5 II (14)

From opening the package it is evident that all the components have been well put together. The quality of finish on all the items, be it the camera, the battery, the charger, is very high. Switches operate firmly and smoothly, with no play. Access doors seal closed with precision. The lens operates without any feeling of sloppiness.

In terms of ergonomics I have used many cameras, but have always come back to Pentax. The old advertising slogan “Simply hold a Pentax” rings as true today as it did when the Spotmatic was released in 1964. Controls are comfortable and well placed, and overall it is an efficient product that feels good in the hands.

Pentax K 5 II (13)

The one small design feature that has been left unchanged but could do with improvement is the card access door. This is quite cramped and can be awkward, making removal of the SD card potentially tricky. However, it does get easier with practice, but a little more room would be a considerable improvement. This is really the only niggle in what is basically an excellent ergonomic design.

The menu system is logical and works just fine. It is easy to use and has consistent and reliable logic throughout. The display is clear and if we should be in any doubt an explanation of any particular setting is displayed on screen.

Pentax K 5 II (17)

Battery life, using the same Dli90 battery as the K-5, is quoted at approx. 740 images with 50% flash usage and 980 with no flash. 440 minutes of movie playback is also quoted. These figures are using the CIPA standard at under 23C. In this test after two intensive days of use, the battery indicator still reads fully charged, so the implication is that battery life will not be a problem.

Shutter response 0.05 secs
Focus / shutter response (wide) 0.65 secs (1.9s in live view)
Focus / shutter response (full-zoom) 0.75 secs (2.4s in live view)
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.5 secs
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.2 secs
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.15 secs
Continuous Shooting 7 fps
Continuous Shooting - Flash 1 fps
Continuous Shooting - RAW 8 fps

Start up of the camera is virtually instantaneous. By the time the finger has moved from the on switch to the shutter release, everything is ready to go. Shutter response is slick and aided by a predictable meter on position and smooth release.

In speed tests the K-5 II easily exceeds the quoted specification. I managed 32 JPEGs before the buffer was filled and 26 RAW images, compared to the quoted 30 and 20 respectively.

Pentax K-5 II Performance

The field test included some atrocious weather, but of course the weather resistance means that we can just carry on and still shoot images with complete freedom. This is one of the major advances in recent DSLR design because of the freedom it brings in rugged conditions.

Exposure is very similar to the original K-5 and my preference is to permanently set -0.3EV compensation. This gives perfect results, especially when using centre weighted metering. Matrix metering is equally consistent, offering a slightly lighter end result, but many photographers may prefer to take control of the decision making themselves. Spot metering is also accurate and very useful for especially spot-lit subjects.

Exposure compensation can be used where necessary and is conveniently accessed by a dedicated button. Generally, the amount of correction needed is quite modest using all the provided metering patterns. There is no tendency to over-expose and lose the highlights, in part due to accurate metering and in part due to a wide dynamic range.

Focusing is possibly marginally faster than the K-5, but there seems to be very little in it. What does seem remarkable is that focus can now be achieved in virtual darkness, even when the subject is dark itself. These are conditions where manual focusing would be beyond most eyes, so it is quite an achievement. In brighter light, focusing is fast and accurate. In LV mode, there also seems to have been an improvement in focusing speed.

Some shots may benefit from Distortion Correction and Lateral Chromatic Aberration Correction. Provided this sort of feature does not become an excuse for short cuts in lens design, both these are to be welcomed. They work well. Architectural subjects can be rendered with straight edges. Colour fringing can be impressively removed from, for example, branches silhouetted against a bright sky.

Noise is exceptionally well controlled and for most purposes I would be happy with images shot up to ISO1600 with no caveat whatsoever. From ISO3200 onwards we see steady deterioration, but to be fair even at ISO51200 we can expect an image in virtually no light at all. To be shooting street images at night and find the kit lens can deliver with shutter speeds of maybe 1/100s is absolutely worthwhile to have. At the highest ISO values there will be noise and soft images, but film could not compete with the quality obtainable and there are few DSLRS that can deliver the same performance of this Pentax.

AWB (Auto White Balance) generally proves to be very reliable. In overcast conditions it may tend towards a coolness that can be corrected by switching to the most suitable preset. Generally, I would use Daylight setting outdoors, but for warmer colour still Cloudy and even Shade work very well. Incandescent and Fluorescent presets are excellent. There is even a choice between fixed values and approximate values that the camera will then adjust over a limited range.

Resolution and image quality in general are beyond reproach, something already well established with the K-5. The K-5 II maintains this standard and amongst APS-C DSLRs this is about as good as we have.

There is a choice of lenses supplied with the K-5 II and here we have the SMC Pentax-DA 15-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 AL WR. The lens is well finished in high quality plastics and is weather sealed. This is a simplified weather resistance but it has been proven to be highly effective in resisting the ingress of water.

The lens performs exceptionally well for an inexpensive kit zoom, delivering very sharp, colourful and flare free images at medium apertures. Wide open and fully closed down the lens is still perfectly usable, but sharpness does suffer, as expected. There is the usual barrel distortion at wide angles, moving to pincushion distortion at the longer end. The in-camera distortion correction handles this well and is useful for any shots where straight edges are desirable. Using this feature does, however, take up processing time and slow down the picture taking process.

Purple / green fringing is well controlled but does become visible in extreme situations. This can be corrected in-camera, with impressive results.

Flare resistance is excellent, but of course can be induced when the sun is in frame or just out of frame. Use of the supplied hood is recommended at all times and flare is rarely a problem. All in all, an excellent standard zoom.

There are a large selection of digital filters available and exploring these would be a review in itself. All have creative possibilities and it is worth looking into the menus and trying things out. We can start simply with picture styles, and for everyday using Natural produces the most realistic colours. The default is Bright and although it has been used for this test I would normally revert to Natural. This is a matter of personal taste, not right or wrong. Digital filter options include Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Extract Colour, Soft, Starburst and Fish-eye.

HDR in camera is a convenient way to try this technique without purchasing stand alone programs, although the effect available is limited. The various options have adjustable parameters themselves, so the range of options is vast.

Video - Movie mode works well, with a mono microphone built in and a jack provided for a stereo mike. Quality seems good and the microphone does not seem to pick up too much camera noise. Panning is smooth and the zooming action of the lens is also smooth enough to prevent any glitches in the picture.

Value for Money

New introductions usually arrive at a high price that settles down after a while. This is the price we pay for being an early adopter of new technology. In this case, both the K-5 II and the K-5 IIs seem to have been brought in at quite a competitive price level from the start. This is exceptionally good value.

However, for existing Pentax users who own the K-5 the value in an upgrade is far less clear. There is an improvement in some areas of performance, as noted, but these are not major steps for what is basically already a superb camera.

For users new to Pentax the value for money is without any doubt. This is a very fine piece of kit that performs well and reliably. It builds upon an already excellent record, giving us a very competitive price and the double value of an established design with any glitches already ironed out. The K-5 II can hold its head high amongst the alternatives - alternatives include the weather sealed Sony Alpha A77, and non-weather sealed Nikon D5200, both with 24 megapixel sensors.

Pentax K-5 II Verdict

The Pentax K-5 II is a rugged, magnesium alloy bodied, weatherproof, well designed and high quality camera with a kit zoom that is really very good indeed, and provides a package that looks very exciting against its rivals. It is more compact, arguably slicker in operation and provides the highest standards at a relatively low price level. There's not much to dislike, so the K-5 can be totally recommended.

The only caveat that remains is that, while stocks last, the original K-5 still offers most of what the K-5 II can do, and that may well be a better option in terms of cost if the low light AF performance improvement is not an issue. Prospective buyers may be well advised to move quickly on that option, before it is gone and no longer a decision to be made.

Pentax K-5 II Pros

  • Excellent image quality
  • Rugged weather sealed construction
  • Compact body and lenses
  • Fast operation
  • Glass pentaprism viewfinder
  • Backwards lens compatibility
  • Low noise levels
  • Wide selection of built in effects and filters
  • Outstanding colour reproduction
  • DNG RAW format

Pentax K-5 II Cons

  • Not full frame
  • Fewer lenses in range than Nikon and Canon
  • Live view focus and shutter response slow

Features: 5/5
Handling: 5/5
Performance: 5/5
Value: 4.5/5
Overall Verdict: 5/5


Pentax K-5 II Specifications

Manufacturer Pentax
Effective Magnification 1.5x
Image Sensor
Pixels 16.3Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W) 4928
Pixels (H) 3264
Sensor Type CMOS
Sensor Size APS-C
Sensor Size (width) 23.7mm
Sensor Size (height) 15.7mm
Aspect Ratio 3:2
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor 3in
Screen resolution 921,000 dots
Touch Screen No
Focusing modes Autofocus
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest 1/8000sec
Shutter speeds longest 30sec
Bulb mode No Data
Exp modes Program
Program Variable
Metering Centre-weighted - Average
Multi Pattern
ISO sensitivity 80 - 51200
White balance Auto
Exposure Comp +/-5
Magnification No Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting 7fps
Movie mode Yes
Video Resolution 1920x1080 FullHD
1280x720 HD 720p
640x480 VGA
Video FPS 30
Stereo Sound No
Optical Zoom with Video Yes
Other Features
Image Stabilisation Yes
Wi-Fi No
Card Type SD
File Type RAW
Power Source
Battery Type Rechargeable D-LI90P Lithium-ion battery
Battery Life (CIPA rating) 740shots
Box Contents
Box Contents No Data
Weight 680g
Width 131mm
Height 97mm
Depth 72.5mm

Members gallery photos using: PENTAX K-5 II s

Posted 22/11/2012 - 11:36 Link
Hi John
Don't think I've missed it in the above, but if I recall in addition to improved AF, there was also improved visibility on the rear screen compared to the basic K-5 - is this so?
Posted 22/11/2012 - 12:51 Link
Thanks for asking Andy. That particular point wasn't covered in the text. It doesn't seem to make much difference as far as I could see.

I suppose it's logical that if there's no air gap there might be less chance of fogging of the screen in bad weather. Not that I've ever noticed any of that either.
Best regards, John
Posted 22/11/2012 - 15:59 Link
OMG JR mentioned the word Sony and Nikon on Pentax User.
K5iis and a couple of lenses.
Posted 01/12/2012 - 15:27 Link
Not to be picky John but I think you'll find that " The old advertising slogan “Simply hold a Pentax” was actually "Just Hold a Pentax" - something I have been doing and quoting ever since my first SV in 1967, through several other models; right up to my current and brilliant K-5. Great review but good to know that my K-5 should keep me going for a long while yet without the need to contemplate another change.....

K-5, Mz5n, ME & assorted manual and AF lenses ( + my beloved Rolleiflex.....)
Posted 02/12/2012 - 03:28 Link
I still have to decide if this camera with its updates is worth the money over a K-5. Low light performance is the biggest advantage the II has for me. I wonder, given a quality lens, if the K-5 would be good enough though.
Posted 03/12/2012 - 00:04 Link
I don't think "K-5 or K-5 II?" will be an alternative for much longer, so that will answer itself soon enough!

"K-5 II or K-5 IIs?" is a different matter, yet to be addressed.

Not picky at all Elleygreen, good feedback, and thanks for that.
Best regards, John
Posted 04/12/2012 - 13:59 Link
As I indicated in my previous comment Kfrog ( and well supported by John's review of the K-5 II ) the K-5 is superb in its own right and I find its low light performance very good. Now even better value for money than when I purchased mine 18 months ago, I think you should go for it, I am sure you would not be disappointed!

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