Since Pentax was bought from Hoya by Ricoh, it's seen a bit of an increase in new launches and development.
The K-3 comes just a year after the Pentax K-5 II was launched, which arrived two years after the K-5. Pentax says that the K-3 is not intended to replace the K-5 II, but instead sit alongside it in a higher position as the company's flagship DSLR.
Featuring a Sony designed 24 million-pixel sensor, the K-3 doesn't have an anti-aliasing filter. This is a route which several companies have taken of late, but what makes the K-3 a little different is that it has an optional (as in you can switch it off) anti-aliasing "simulator" to help reduce moire patterning if this is proving to be a problem.
Pentax has a loyal, if relatively small, army of supporters, but with this camera, the company hopes that it will be able to tempt consumers away from the Nikon and Canon standard.
Pentax says that comparatively, it offers more than its closest rivals, though. Along with the new sensor, a newly developed imaging engine – PRIME III – has been introduced to facilitate headline features such as 8.3 fps (by comparison the Canon EOS 70D offers 7fps, while the Nikon D7100 offers 6fps, although this can be boosted to 7fps in crop mode). Sequential shooting can record up to 22 images in raw format at a time, or 60 images in JPEG.
A newly designed SAFOX 11 AF module has been introduced which offers 27 autofocus points, of which 25 are cross type for increased accuracy. Another point of differentiation between the K-3 and its rivals is that the AF module is sensitive down to -3EV, compared to 0/-1EV.
The K-3's optical viewfinder has a 100% field of view, with 0.95x magnification. Meanwhile, the rear screen is a 3.2 inch, 1,037,000 dot device with a protective tempered glass front panel for added durability. Anti-reflection coating is also included.
Wi-Fi is fast becoming an almost required specification of cameras, even at this level. Different manufacturers have different ways to approach this, Nikon uses the Wu-1a wireless adaptor, while Canon has placed Wi-Fi directly into the body of the camera itself. Pentax's solution is to introduce the less than appetising sounding "flu card". Similar to an Eye-Fi card, a flu card allows for transfer of images across to a smartphone or tablets, along with remote control of the camera.
Dual SD card slots are available, one of which could be used for the optional extra flu card.
The Pentax K-3 is weather-sealed. While the Nikon D7100 is also weather-proofed, the majority of current Pentax lenses and accessories (such as battery grips) also have weather sealing, making it a more complete weather proof system.
Build Quality and Handling
One of Pentax's key selling points of this, and other DSLRS in its line-up, is the weatherproofing. The K-3 features the same high quality magnesium shell as found in the K-5 II, and as such has a rugged and solid feel which seems as if it could more than withstand a few knocks and scrapes.
The K-3's grip protrudes pretty far from the body and gives excellent purchase, especially when holding the camera one handed. The covering on the camera also helps and we imagine that the coating will come in especially handy during cold or wet weather.
Design-wise the K-3 is actually very similar to the K5-II with the usual rear and front dials which are used for changing aperture and shutter speed, depending on the mode that you're in. The rear dial alters aperture, while the front dial alters shutter speed in the default settings.
Fans of lots of control buttons will enjoy using the K-3 as there are a high number of physical controls available. For instance, a conveniently placed ISO button can be found near the on/off switch on the top of the camera,
A small switch on the back of the camera enables you to quickly flick between stills and video mode. Once in video mode, a red button can be pressed to start recording. While in stills mode, the red button is used to access the K-3's Live View mode.
There are also buttons on the left hand side of the front of the camera, which is fairly unusual. Here you'll find a raw button, and AF mode. The latter is used to change the AF point selection mode. Once you've changed it to Selectable AF point, you then need to press another button on the back of the camera and use the arrow keys to navigate around the screen.
One of the annoyances of the K-5 II was the way in which metering was altered, that is via a switch which could be accidentally knocked. On the K-3, a simple button is used to make changes.
A mode dial on the left hand side top of the camera is used to switch between the different shooting modes available, including fully manual mode, semi-automatic mode and so on. There is space here for up to three groups of user defined settings, which is useful. Another useful feature is the variable lock around the mode dial, which means that if you prefer, you can have it so a button in the middle of a mode dial must be pushed in before you can change settings, or, you can have it so the dial turns without impediment.
It is obviously difficult to give any indication on image quality and so on at this stage of a review, but we do have fairly high hopes for the Pentax K-3, given the new Sony designed 24 million-pixel sensor. We'll also be keen to test the anti-aliasing simulator, as this could be an excellent combination of fine detail resolution and moire patterning reduction.
It's nice to see Pentax upping the pixel count, bringing it more in line with its direct competitors, such as the Nikon D7100's 24 million pixel sensor. The K-5 II was excellent in low light, with low levels of image noise – we'll be keen to see if an increase in resolution has an impact on that.
Pentax was rightly proud of its SAFOX X autofocusing system, so it stands to reason that the new camera will also perform well with the new SAFOX XI system. Again, we'll be keen to put that through its paces when a full production sample becomes available.
The K-3's high resolution screen has been treated to prevent reflections, and in the indoor conditions we were able to try it in it seemed to perform well, but it will be interesting to see how it deals with bright sunlight.
At this stage, it's difficult to pass too much of a judgement on the K-3, but it is a promising camera, on paper at least.
It's a pretty fierce area of the market, with the excellent Canon EOS 70D and the Nikon D7100 being the stalwarts here, but it's good to have a new contender coming in to offer something a little bit different.
Pentax does offer quite a lot for your money, and, for the moment at least, is very close in price to the Canon EOS 70D. It's quite a bit more expensive than the current street price of the Nikon D7100, but the price could still drop.
It's a shame that Pentax hasn't including Wi-Fi in the body itself, requiring an extra purchase of a Flu Card to get this functionality, but it's nice to see them coming up with some kind of solution.
The jury's out on whether this camera will be enough to tempt serious enthusiasts away from Canon or Nikon – look out for a full review in due course to see how it performs.