Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pentax K-5 Pre-Announcement

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?



robin said...

Pricing now available as embargo is lifted. You read it here first!

K-5 body only: €1249
K-5 with new 18-135mm: €1699

K-5 body only: €1459
K-5 with new 18-135mm: €1949

That shop does not store URLs, so you'll have to navigate to the correct page. They are also notoriously over-priced, but this might indicate list pricing for us.

And yes, there is a new lens, the DA 18-135mm F3.5-5.6ED AL [IF] WR DC, which is weather-sealed with integrated focus motor.

robin said...

Other snippets:
* The shutter is rated to 100,000 releases.
* The battery is tested to 1100 images (!)

robin said...

Now out is the first video of the K-5 in action. Even if you can't speak Italian you can hear the nice soft shutter sound and see what the top LCD looks like. Also demo of the new two-dimensional electronic level (which Pentax calls three dimensional - lol) courtesy the 645D model.

robin said...

It seems that all I reported here is true. Full official spec on the US site is now available.

robin said...

You'll want to check out this translation of a Spanish site to see how the K-5 performs in rapid auto-focus mode. It seems to be a definitive improvement over the K-7, while maintaining the same nice quiet shutter sound.

The K-5 has now has different AF-S and AF-C customisation settings. In short, you can choose to prioritise focus accuracy or shot rate.

Another goodie: Five different user settings can now be named and stored. I imagine that once you turn the mode dial to User you can select them from the back panel.

Preliminary results also show high ISO noise to be at least equal to (and likely better) than the K-x, which is nothing less than what we would expect of the flagship body.

Robbie Corrigan said...

Looking at this and i've ventured far beyond the normal CBA that afflicts us when we see new gear. For pub / gig work in available light this looks superb. There is a Korean site that shows it in full on machine gun mode, looks very impressive. Love the focus control in live view mode.

robin said...

18 months down the line and we now know the K-5 turned out to be has been the sensor champ of the format, with specs even better than the Nikon D700 in several key areas, like dynamic range. It's basically the best bang for a buck... unless you have a lot more bucks.

Anonymous said...

I own a K-5 and it is brilliant. I have no complaints. The ability to use some of the old prime lenses is a treat. I have recently purchased a sigma manual focus 400mm lens and a pentax-m 50mm F1.7 lens. I bought the kit containing the 18-55mm lens and the 50-200mm lens. They aren't brilliant lenses, however they give some pleasing results. I am still pushing its abilities and think the in-body image stabilisation is brilliant and a must for the older lenses.

One other thing I have purchased for the camera O-GPS1 unit. I'm still waiting for it to arrive. The main reason I have bought this unit is that I am interested in astrophotography and this can enable the camera to track the stars during the exposure time. I am looking forward to experimenting with this feature. Another accessory is the K-7 grip, I love this and use it most of the time. My last point about this camera is that it is built like a tank and I never feel nervous about it getting damaged.

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