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The Pentax DSLR System

Since Pentax is now owned by Ricoh Imaging, their latest DSLRs benefit from technologies developed by both companies. After decades of making 35-mm SLRs, the first digital model, the 6-MP Pentax *ist, was released in 2003. Numerous new, improved models have been released since then, all employing an APS-C size (15.7 x 23.7 mm) sensor that produces a 1.5x crop factor with any lens. (There are also larger Pentax 645 DSLRs with huge sensors.) All of the cameras have maintained compatibility with Pentax manual focus lenses; their high-tech features operate only when AF lenses are used but the level of compatibility with older lenses is still surprisingly great.

Pentax-DSLR-System The Pentax DSLR System

Pentax DSLR System

Pentax markets six DSLRs, including two distinct K-5 II models plus two special models of the 24.3-MP K-3 (including the Limited and Prestige K-3 with different styling); most feature a 16 or 16.3-MP sensor while the K-S1 is a 20-MP camera. All are equipped with a sensorshift stabilizer, a pentaprism (not a penta-mirror) for 100% scene coverage, and a large, high-resolution LCD. All except the K-500 and the 20-MP K-S1 feature weather proofing to withstand rain, snow, dust and cold.

The flagship K-3 offers some significant benefits, including a 3.2” LCD, exceptional speed, more effective Shake Reduction, extra features, and even better autofocus and metering systems. Featuring entirely new style controls, including an oversized, backlit mode dial with 4-way controller on the back, the K-S1 is equipped with a set of LEDs on the power switch, the OK button and the handgrip; they flash as modes are changed or the self timer is used. Both can provide Wi-Fi connectivity to smart devices with an optional Pentax SD FluCard.

The K-5 IIs omits the low-pass filter over the sensor in order to minimize the blurring that such a filter causes. Hence, it provides maximum resolution with incredible per-pixel sharpness. Any moiré pattern (which occurs infrequently) can be removed later, with imaging software. The K-3 and the K-S1 offer a low-pass filter simulator, on-demand; the user can decide whether to activate it or not.

The latest Pentax DSLRs, especially the 5-K II, the K-S1 and the K-3, are loaded with high-tech features for serious photography, but also many amenities for novices. Here’s a brief overview.


These engines are optimized for HD video capture and smooth live view. Other features include in-camera photo modification and Raw processing, High Dynamic Range mode and many digital special-effect filters. The PRIME engines also allows for fast continuous drive; that’s 7 fps with the K-5 II and 8.3 fps with the K-3.


Most Pentax DSLRs offer intelligent 77-segment light metering, while the K-3 employs a new 8600-pixel RGB meter. Dynamic range expansion and a multi-frame HDR mode is available for increased highlight and shadow detail. LCD Most models are equipped with a 3” 921,000-dot LCD while the K-3 benefits from a 3.2” LCD with 1.037-milliondot resolution. The LCD in the K-5 II and the K-3 are air-gap-free to reduce glare and a loss of brightness.


Most of the cameras employ an AF module with 11-point AF and many AF options, including effective tracking AF for action photography. The K-3 employs a more sophisticated system with even more AF modes. The K-5 II and the K-3 provide even better AF in dark locations when using an f/2.8 or faster lens.


The built-in flash can trigger remote flash units (of certain models) so there’s no need for an extra cost controller accessory.


Full 1080p video capture is available, usually with mono sound, but stereo with the K-S1. The K-5 II and the K-3 accept an external stereo mic; the K-3 also has a jack for external headphones and it offers even more Movie mode options.


Pentax markets over 35 AF lenses, some with a fast, silent ultrasonic (SDM) AF motor and low dispersion and or aspherical elements. The numerous old K-mount manual focus Pentax lenses can also be used with their DSLRs. Other accessories include flash units, the FluCard, a GPS receiver, battery grips and viewing screens for certain cameras and remote controllers.

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