One of the things we love about Pentax is that this company wears a love for photography on its proverbial sleeve. A recent video introduction to its new flagship Pentax K-3 Mark III DSLR starts with a simple affirmation of the core Pentax principles, citing a devotion to the photographic process and the user experience that goes beyond a sheer sales pitch. It is something to be valued, and this devotion is evident in Pentax cameras, including its latest DSLR model, which on the inside is a substantial redesign of the previous K-3 Mark II, introduced in 2015. Now that Pentax has its full-frame DSLR, this new model is built with APS-C shooters specifically in mind and its impressive specs and features bear that out, down to the details. The K-3 Mark III is available in silver and black models and also as a kit, including the D-BG8 battery grip, a leather strap, and a second battery.
Let’s start with the 25.7MP BSI CMOS sensor and new shutter mechanism that can shoot up to 12 frames per second, and the newly designed optical viewfinder that provides a full-frame angle of view. The K-3 Mark III’s back-illuminated high-resolution sensor is paired with Pentax’s well-established anti-aliasing optical system and the PRIME V image processor for sharper images and a high sensitivity of ISO 1600000. Consider those specs for fast action and wildlife photography!
Image Stabilization, Autofocus, and Artificial Intelligence
Pentax has updated its in-body 5-axis image-stabilization system to 5.5-equivalent shutter-step compensation and added a Panning mode to capture slow-moving subjects more efficiently. Having its shake-reduction system in the camera body provides stabilization for any K-mount lens. The K-3 Mark III also includes the Pixel-Shift Resolution System, which creates super-high-resolution images by synthesizing four images into a single composite image. This system obtains all color data in each pixel and delivers images with more truthful colors and much finer details. This camera also features a newly developed SAFOX 13 phase-matching AF sensor module for less focus hunting and precise autofocus operations. With 101 focus sensors, including 25 cross-type sensors positioned in the middle of the frame, focus is achieved quickly, even in less-than-optimal lighting conditions.
Adding to the benefits for wildlife and action photographers, the K-3 Mark III offers the PENTAX Real-time Scene Analysis System, supported by the latest Deep Learning artificial intelligence technology. This system instantly detects the subject’s face and eyes and makes real-time analysis of their movement, optimizing exposure settings and improving autofocusing.
While developing this camera, Pentax has made clear that a redesign of the optical viewfinder is fundamental to this new model and is a key to improving the overall APS-C shooting experience. The K-3 Mark III provides an OVF with a nearly 100-percent field of view, a viewing angle as wide as that of a full-frame camera, and 1.05x magnification. A newly developed, high-refraction glass prism assures improved magnification, and by using distortion-correcting optical elements and optimizing the lens coatings, it delivers a distortion-free, “true-to-life” image, with brightness improved by nearly 10 percent over the Mark II’s viewfinder. The viewfinder eyepiece is designed to protrude away from the LCD monitor screen and, positioned at the bottom of the eyepiece is a sensor, which turns the LCD monitor off the moment the photographer looks into the viewfinder.
For the first time in a Pentax K-mount camera, the K-3 Mark III incorporates a touchscreen LCD monitor, providing intuitive operation of menu selection and image zooming during playback. The high-definition, 3.2" LCD monitor with approximately 1,620,000 pixels features gapless construction, in which a special resin material is injected between LCD layers and a protective tempered-glass cover, reducing reflections and improving visibility during outdoor shooting. Also, its Night Vision LCD Display function offers speedy adjustment of the monitor’s brightness level.
Smooth Shutter and High-Speed Continuous Shooting
As mentioned, the new Pentax K-3 Mark III is designed to improve the overall APS-C photography experience and, to that goal, the camera offers a newly developed mirror-driving mechanism for faster and more accurate control of the mirror and shutter mechanisms. This development, combined with the high-speed data transmission of the PRIME V imaging engine, enables a maximum speed of 12 images per second in the AF.S mode, or 11 images per second in the AF.C mode.
Other features that benefit photographers needing fast control of their settings are the Hyper Operation System, with a new Advanced mode for more flexible exposure control; the dedicated Smart Function button, for speedy selection of various functions without the need of switching on-screen menus; and the Button Customization function for 10 different control buttons. Of course, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN) are built in for connection with mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and remote-control functions.
The K-3 Mark III captures 4K-resolution video (3840 x 2160 pixels; 30p/24p frame rate) or Full HD movie clips (1920 x 1080 pixels; 60p/30p/24p frame rate) in the H-264 recording format. The LCD’s touchscreen functionality enables easy and silent settings adjustment, and a stereo microphone input and headphone jack input are provided, as is manual control of audio levels.
Compact and Rugged
Pentax DSLRs have consistently proved to be among the “toughest,” best weather-sealed cameras available and the latest K-3 is no exception—its top, bottom, front, and rear panels are all made of lightweight magnesium alloy, coupled with dustproof, weather-resistant construction and seals applied to crucial parts of the camera body. The camera is designed to be extremely durable even in harsh environmental conditions, including cold-resistant performance to a temperature of -10°C and a dependable shutter unit—verified in an endurance test of 300,000 shutter-release actions.
The camera’s compact form factor also adheres to the Pentax mission of a dependable user experience, with an ergonomic grip and easily accessed buttons and dials. Dual SD-card slots and compatibility with the lengthy list of new and vintage K-mount lenses are just two other advantages of this new flagship APS-C DSLR, which clearly represents the Pentax commitment to the DSLR and the APS-C format.
Use the Comments section below to let us know if this camera meets the expectations of the many Pentax photographers who have eagerly awaited its release, and any other thoughts you have on APS-C DSLRs for wildlife and action photography.