We are right on the verge of new cameras from Nikon (D7000), Canon (EOS 60D) and Olympus (E5), all of which slot into the APS-C sensor "enthusiast" category. Which is to say that they are good enough to take any picture you want, if you have the skill to use them to their utmost. Same as the last generation of cameras, then.
Will A New Camera Make Me A Better Photographer? That's the title of a different post, one which I haven't written yet. But in this article I want to briefly consider what we can expect in the latest Pentax flagship body, the K-5. It's to be officially announced within 24 hours, but thanks to the leak of the German language spec sheet (on a Dutch site) the information has gone viral. I mention the fictitious article title just so you might keep it all in perspective!
In order to understand the K-5 you need to know something about the K-7, the smallest weather-sealed APS-C camera body you can buy. This camera has excellent specs and is fun to use, with a quiet shutter and ergonomics that are second to none. My own experience with the K-7 is minimal but what I have tried confirms its place at the top of the Pentax line. The K-5 is a higher spec body with exactly the same form factor. This means it takes the same batteries, grip and so on. This is great news for anyone running multiple bodies and who need to optimise backwards compatibility. I certainly hope Pentax continues with this way of thinking into the future. Don't change the buttons or accessories please!
From this we can expect a form factor of about 130.5 x 96.5 x 72.5 mm with a complete weight (card and battery) of 750g. I will quickly list the other features of the K-7 that remain unchanged. For more info you can find full reviews all over the net, where the notices have been glowing.
* 1/8000s to 30s shutter speed
* Pentaprism 100% with 0.92x magnification
* Natural-Bright-Matte III focusing screen for improved manual focusing
* built-in AF assist light
* quiet shutter
* focal plane marker
* in-body Shake Reduction
* 3" LCD with 921K pixels
* exposure compensation +/-5 EV
* distortion and CA corrections (for JPG)
* focus correction for multiple lenses
* continuous shooting under LV with contrast detection AF
* 77 zone multi-pattern metering
* cold resistant to -10 degrees Celsius
* dust reduction
* auto pixel-mapping
* small sensor shift to correct perspective
* electronic level in viewfinder
* SD card slot
* 99 shot intervalometer
* shutter release cable port
* stereo mic in
* HDMI out
* HDR mode
* TAv, hyper-program and extended shooting modes
* flash sync 1/180s
* 11 point auto-focus
And now for the improvements in the K-5, with K-7 specs in square brackets:
* 16.3 MP sensor [14.6 MP]
* 14-bit RAW files [12-bit]
* ISO 80-51200 in extended mode [100-3200]
* 1920x1080 @25fps video [1536x1024]
* SAFOX IX+ auto-focus engine [SAFOX VIII+]
* 7.8 FPS for 8 frames in RAW [5.2 FPS for 15 frames in RAW]
The incremental addition of megapixels is incidental, as is the designation change for the auto-focus, unless this results in a notable improvement in practice. Some will be glad for the machine-gun rate increase, but the compromise is that half the number of frames can be gathered this way. Speculation is rife as to whether that is a mistake on the spec sheet.
It is certainly nice that we have proper full HD video recording now, as opposed to the in-between spec of the K-7 -- though it did 720p just fine. There are those who loath video on their SLR, but it's a feature that is here to stay.
The big news, then, is the sensitivity boost, a four stop increase. If Pentax have managed to keep the image quality in line with their previous ISO champion, the K-x, then this model will beat all other APS-C cameras on the market in low-light photography. We can only wait and see what real testing and real images show us.
Oh yes, I should list some of the rumoured features that appear to not be present:
* dual SD card slots
* 1/250 flash sync
* full manual controls in video
I suppose that give Pentax something to offer us in the next product cycle, no?