Pentax K-5 II

High-Speed DSLR

Many people talk about the battle of the brands for digital photography, but Pentax loyalists know that their contenders are in it for the long fight. After some serious R&D, and what seems to be some technology help from the recent Pentax/Ricoh integration (April 2012), the updated Pentax K-5 II is ready to make its mark.

As a first impression, this tough, compact (5.2×3.8×2.9″) DSLR is rock-solid, with a rugged, stainless-steel chassis covered by a magnesium alloy. It also has a weather-sealed, coldproof design that makes it resistant to moisture, dust, and more. After a long shoot, its weight-for-size isn't overwhelming or tiresome, but it's heavy enough with the DA 18-55mm WR zoom lens (model tested) for some shakiness to occur if you're not careful.

The metering and exposure accuracy were immediate standout improvements in every lighting situation. From morning mist at sunrise to intense LED spotlights in a live concert venue, the K-5 II delivered well-balanced images that have excellent density and low-to-mid noise levels at every ISO.

From all of the features, there are a couple of standout surprises: First, the excellent image quality, natural contrast, and saturation from the less-used, fully automatic shooting and Program modes. A high-resolution, 16.3-megapixel CMOS sensor with integrated AD conversion circuitry and advanced autofocus system captures great image detail.

The second surprise is truly stunning, widescreen HD video quality at 1080p resolution and 25 fps that has a slightly increased contrast level. This also includes sound via a built-in microphone or external 3.5mm stereo microphone jack and an HDMI port to output high-definition images, video, and sound to HDTVs.

Some other features include an 11-point SAFOX X autofocus system that offers a wide EV focus range that's ideal for focusing in low conditions. Improved HDR image capture features more blending options and better pixel registration for easier operation without a tripod. And, there's a wide range of in-camera image processing and special effects filters.

The price for the K-5 II is $1,199.95 (body only). There are, however, plenty of options for body and lens combination packages at the sub-$2,000 price, for example the $1,349.95 kit with the DA 18-55 WR or $1,549.95 with the DA 18-135mm WR zoom lens.

When comparing the Pentax K-5 II kit at $1,549.95 with its closest competitors—the Nikon D7000 (18-105mm lens, 16.2 megapixels, 6 fps, up to 25,600 ISO) at about $1,500, or the Canon EOS 60D (18-200mm lens, 18 megapixels, 5.3 fps continuous shooting, up to 6400 ISO, expandable to 12,800) at approximately $1,400—the Pentax comes out ahead with a speedy 7 fps continuous shooting and an ISO range of 80-51,200.

The K-5 II also has some convenient RAW imaging functionality, allowing retrieval of RAW data from JPEG. The LCD preview was certainly bright, it didn't have the clarity of Canon's displays. This is actually important to help determine image clarity on the fly when shooting in the field.

Overall, this update to the Pentax K-5 family is a long-awaited one. It addresses many of the necessary changes that make this K-5 II generation a serious contender in the DSLR arena.

Company: Pentax Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation
Price: $1,199.95 (body only)
Rating: 4
Hot:  Autofocus under extreme conditions; continuous shooting; video
Not:  LCD clarity