Unveiled: Pentax K-3 II Digital Camera Sails into the Flagship Position


Succeeding 2013's K-3, Pentax's newest flagship DSLR, the K-3 II, takes some of the technologies first seen in its predecessor to new horizons. While many of the specs remain the same between the new cameras, this new version utilizes the camera's feature set in a breadth of new ways to optimize image quality, shooting in fast-paced conditions, and working in other specific situations, such as at night. Many of these new features have evolved due to Pentax's implementation and enhancement of its in-camera sensor-shift technology, dubbed Shake Reduction, or SR, which physically moves the sensor during exposures to either increase the effective resolution, mimic the effects of an anti-aliasing filter, offset the rotation of the Earth during long exposures, or, simply, minimize the appearance of camera shake.

"While many of the specs remain the same between the new cameras, this new version utilizes the camera's feature set in a breadth of new ways to optimize image quality, shooting in fast-paced conditions, and working in other specific situations, such as at night."

Revolving around a 24.35MP APS-C CMOS sensor and the PRIME III image processor, the K-3 II is capable of shooting 8.3 fps for up to 23 raw files or 60 JPEGS, or 4.5 fps and 3.0 fps rates with an increased number of files that can be recorded per burst. Full HD 1920 x 1080 video can be recorded in multiple frame rates as well, including 60i and 30p, and an external microphone can be used for enhanced audio quality. Additionally, the sensor-and-processor combination also avails a sensitivity range from ISO 100 to 51200 for shooting in a variety of lighting conditions.

From here, the imaging capabilities are refined through the use of the Shake Reduction system, which compensates for up to 4.5 EV of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting. This sensor-shift mechanism can also be used to mimic the effects of an anti-aliasing (AA) filter, since the sensor's design purposefully omits this in order to achieve higher sharpness. However, in instances where moiré is a possibility, such as when photographing tightly grouped patterns or certain fabrics, this effect serves to eliminate distracting colored artifacts for a cleaner appearance. The AA filter simulation can also be bracketed with normal, non-AA filter simulation exposures for working in conditions where the likelihood of moiré is unknown.

A new technology for the K-3 II, Pixel Shift Resolution also makes use of the sensor-shift design to record and composite four sequential exposures in order to achieve higher resolving power, reduced noise, and a more nuanced color palette. In between each of the sequential exposures, the sensor will shift in one-pixel increments and acquire red, green, and blue data independently, rather than one exposure comprising interpolated RGB data. Since no interpolation or de-mosaicing is used with Pixel Shift Resolution, an increase in apparent sharpness and resolution can be seen. This mode is effective for photographing stationary subjects from a tripod, due to the extended exposure duration and precision required for registering the sequential frames. Another new feature helping to increase apparent sharpness, Diffraction Correction offers a two-stop improvement in regard to diffraction caused by shooting with smaller aperture values. The processing power of the PRIME III engine is leveraged here to increase the sharpness during shooting, and can also be used during in-camera raw file development.

Lastly, a new AstroTracer function also benefits from the sensor-shift design, as well as the new inclusion of a GPS module, which is traditionally used for geo-tagging photos for plotting to maps. By combining these two features, the AstroTracer mode can be used to effectively photograph nighttime skies without the appearance of star trails. Using the GPS information, the sensor will shift throughout the long exposure and compensate for the Earth's rotation in order to sharply depict stars without the use of an equatorial mount.

Another means for making long-duration imagery, an intervalometer allows you to record time-lapse sequences and output in 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution in the Motion JPEG format. The timer permits recording up to 2,000 consecutive frames with an interval of 2 seconds to 24 hours between frames, as well as a 2-second to 24-hour timer delay. In-camera frame compositing is possible using Additive, Average, and Bright settings for smoother, more realistic transitions between frames.

Complementing the imaging capabilities of the K-3 II, an enhanced SAFOX11 autofocus system is used and employs 27 phase-detection points—25 of which are cross-type; the three central points are dedicated to enhanced low-light sensitivity. The AF-C, or continuous AF mode, has been improved by working in collaboration with the 86k-pixel RGB metering sensor for faster, more accurate subject tracking, especially when the subject is moving perpendicular to the sensor. The AF-S mode, or single-shot AF, has also been improved for faster performance and reduced redundant movement or hunting.

Rounding out the impressive feature-set is a robust physical design featuring a magnesium-alloy shell and stainless-steel chassis. The K-3 II is fully weather resistant, cold proof to temperatures as low as 14°F, and features 92 independent seals for dust and moisture protection. Common to Pentax DSLRs, the optical pentaprism viewfinder offers 100% frame coverage along with a 0.95x magnification, and the large 3.2" 1.03m-dot rear LCD provides a bright, clear means for live view shooting, image review, and menu navigation. Among some of the other construction highlights: dual SD card slots, USB 3.0 interface, and a durable shutter mechanism that has been tested to 200,000 actuations.

Lens Mount Pentax K
Image Sensor APS-C CMOS
Effective Pixels 24.35MP
Total Pixels 24.71MP
Maximum Resolution 6016 x 4000
Aspect Ratio 3:2
Still Image File Format JPEG, PEF, DNG
Storage Media SD, SDHC, SDXC
Card Slot 2x SD card slots
Viewfinder Type Optical pentaprism
Frame Coverage 100%
Magnification 0.95x
Diopter Adjustment -2.5 to +1.5m
Shutter Type Electronically controlled, vertical-run, focal plane shutter
Shutter Speed 1/8000 to 30 sec., bulb
Flash Sync Speed 1/180 sec.
Drive Modes Single, Continuous (H,M,L), Self-Timer (12s, 2s), Remote (0s, 3s, continuous), Exp. Bracketing (standard, timer, remote), Mirror up (standard, remote), HDR Capture (3 shots at 1EV, 2EV, or 3EV, 3 blend settings plus Auto, pixel alignment)
Top Continuous Shooting Rate 8.3 fps for 60 JPEG or 23 raw frames
Self-Timer 12 or 2 sec. delay
Exposure Metering System TTL open aperture metering using 86k-pixel RGB sensor
Metering Method Multi-segment, center weighted, and spot
Metering Range -3 to 20 EV
Exposure Modes Green, Hyper Program (P), Sensitivity Priority (Sv), Shutter Priority (Tv), Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter & Aperture Priority (TAv), Metered Manual, Bulb, XSpeed, User
Exposure Compensation +/- 5 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 steps
Exposure Bracketing +/- 2 EV for 2, 3, or 5 frames in 1/3 or 1/2 steps
ISO Sensitivity Auto, ISO 100-51200
Autofocus System SAFOX 11 TTL phase-matching
Number of Focus Points 27, including 25 cross-type points
Focus Modes AF Single, AF Continuous, Manual
Built-In Flash No
Flash Control P-TTL, high speed sync, and wireless with Pentax dedicated flash
External Flash Interface Hot shoe and X-sync socket
White Balance Modes Auto WB, Multi Auto WB, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Fluorescent Light (D: Daylight Color, N: Daylight White, W: Cool White, L: Warm White), Tungsten Light, Flash, CTE, Manual WB, Color Temperature
Movie Recording Full HD 1920 x 1080; 60i, 50i, 30p, 25p, 24p
HD 1280 x 720; 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p
File Format MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264)
External Microphone Input Yes; 3.5mm
Headphone Jack No
Maximum Recording Time 25 min.
Monitor 3.2" 1.03m-dot LCD
Interface USB 3.0, HDMI C, AV out, DC in, external microphone, X-sync socket
Wi-Fi No
Power Source D-LI90(E) rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Battery Life Approx. 720 shots
Operating Environment 14 to 104°F / -10 to 40°C
Dimensions 5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1" / 132.1 x 99.1 x 78.7mm
Weight 1.8 lb / 799.5 g with battery and memory card