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Pentax K-5 In-depth Review

December 2010 | By Barney Britton, Lars Rehm
Buy on From $816.04

Review based on a production Pentax K-5 with firmware 1.0.1

In terms of operation and design the new K5 is all but identical to the K-7. For this reason, to gain a '360' view of the K-5's body design and operation we therefore recommend you not only read this review, but also the relevant sections in our full review of the Pentax K-7.

When the K10D was launched in September 2006 it was Pentax's first foray into the 'enthusiast' DSLR market, competing at the time with rivals such as the Canon EOS 30D and the Nikon D200. Four years later in 2010 the enthusiast sector of the market is as competitive as ever and the K-5, Pentax' latest offering to the 'serious amateur photographer', will have to fight for consumers' attention with the likes of the Canon 7D, Nikon D7000 and D300S, and the Olympus E-5. At a launch RRP of $1600 (body only) the K-5 is currently at a similar price point as its main competitors but we would expect the street price to go down sooner rather than later.

At first sight the K-5 is virtually indistinguishable from the K-7 (in some markets the K-7 will remain in the Pentax line alongside the K-5). Apart from an additional 'Fx' (which stands for 'flex') label on the customizable RAW button and a subtle redesign of the AF switch on its rear there are no readily significant differences between the K-5 and its predecessor the K-7. However, there is more novelty to be found under the hood - the K-5's most notable new component is a 16.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, which is probably closely related to the sensors inside the Nikon D7000 and Sony SLT-A55. The new sensor brings with it a higher maximum sensitivity (ISO 51200 in expanded mode, the highest on any APS-C camera to date), faster continuous shooting (7.0 fps vs the K-7's 5.2fps) and a 1080p full HD video mode (the K-7 offered a rather non-standard 1536 x 1024 pixels maximum video resolution).

Other improvements include an upgraded SAFOX IX+ AF system, inherited from the recently unveiled medium-format 645D, which features color-detection, wider coverage of the AF points and improved speed. Also new is a dual-axis electronic horizon (now with pitch as well as roll indication) and a few extra digital filters and custom image modes. Despite the changes, however, existing K-7 users will no doubt require very little adjustment time if they decide to upgrade to the new model.

The K-5 has exactly the same dimensions as its predecessor, the K-7. Its magnesium alloy and stainless steel body is chunkier than Pentax's new upper entry-level DSLR the K-r (pictured here on the left) but still relatively compact for a camera in its class.

Key Features

Although it might appear to be a near-clone of the K-7, the K-5 offers some significant improvements in specification. Here is a rundown of the key features:

  • 16.3Mp CMOS sensor
  • ISO sensitivity span of 80-51,200 (equivalent)
  • 1080p HD movie mode
  • Limited in-camera movie editing functionality
  • Socket for external microphone input
  • Triple-axis sensor-based shake reduction (horizontal, vertical and rotational correction)
  • New SAFOX IX+ 11-point AF system (improved over the K-7)
  • Support for older Pentax lenses with manual aperture rings
  • Magnesium alloy body shell
  • Improved handheld HDR function (JPEG mode only)
  • Continuous shooting up to 7fps
  • 100% viewfinder coverage (0.92x magnification)
  • Choice of PEF or DNG RAW files
  • 3in, 921k pixel LCD screen

Model line history

Effective pixels
Continuous shooting
Movie mode LCD monitor
K10D Sep 2006 10.2 mp 3.0 fps n/a 2.5" 210K pixels
K20D Jan 2008 14.6 mp 3.0 fps n/a 2.7" 230K pixels
K-7 May 2009 14.6 mp 5.2 fps 1536 x 1024 30fps 3.0" 920K pixels + Live View
K-5 Sep 2010 16.3 mp 7.0 fps 1080p 25fps 3.0" 921K pixels + Live View

Pentax K-5 compared to K-7 and K-r

The table below shows the specification differences between the K-5's predecessor, the K-7, and the recently released K-r. Apart from the new sensor, the differences between the K-5 and the older K-7 are quite subtle. It is clear that Pentax has opted for selective improvements rather than a complete overhaul.




Image sensor
14.6Mp CMOS
16.3Mp CMOS 12.4Mp CMOS
Imaging engine
Prime II
Prime II Prime II
100-3200 (6400 with expansion)
100-12800 (51200 with expansion) 200-12800 (100 and 25600 with expansion)
Continuous shooting speed
5.2 fps (40 frames)
7.0 fps (40 frames) 6.0 fps (25 frames)
11-points (selectable)
11-points (selectable)
11-points (selectable)
77-segment 16-segment
Coverage: 100%
Magnification: 0.92x
Coverage: 100%
Magnification: 0.92x
Coverage: 96%
Magnification: 0.85x
LCD screen 3.0 in, 920k pixels 3.0 in, 921k pixels 3.0 in, 921k pixels
1536 x 1024 30fps
1080p 25 fps 720p 24fps
Mono internal or stereo external
Mono internal or stereo external Mono internal
HDMI output
Yes No
IR simple No No Yes
Cross process mode No Yes Yes
Night Scene HDR No Yes Yes
Movie custom images modes No Yes Yes
Battery Rechargeable Lithium Ion battery Rechargeable Lithium Ion battery Rechargeable battery or four AA batteries (with adapter)
Cold resistant to -10deg
Yes No
Weather resistant
Yes No
Weight (body only)


670g 544g

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

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Total comments: 5

Brilliant camera with stunning noise control, this is my own test of every ISO level:


When compared in RAW with the k-5II and the k-5IIs, the k-5 is clearly back-focusing. Compare the three cameras and center on the queen of hearts and look at the wall behind it. And also compare the left top checker test pattern in the test scene.

Comment edited 25 seconds after posting

What I find so disingenuous (and irritating) about these otherwise wonderful reviews is dpr's clear bias toward Canon and Nikon. The exact same specs can be found on a Pentax, but what we'll get is a measured, sometimes even tepid nod, while with the Canon/Nikon, there will be an enthusiastic thumbs up for the same feature. The Pentax line (as the most obvious example) is held to a different standard, it seems.

Take the Pentax K5 review, for example, which is called a "serious amateur's" camera and yet is compared to its "direct competition," the Canon 7D and Nikon D300s, cameras that are for "keen enthusiasts, professionals and aspiring-professionals..." and "semi-pros" respectively. Apparently Pentax "serious amateurs" are equal to Canon and Nikon "pros and semi-pros." We always knew that, of course, but still... try to be a little more objective in your reviews and a little less biased, one way or the other.


S0 true, and so aggrevating.. Always has been, though!!


Dear sir,

How is it possible that the Pentax K 5 has a higher resolution than the Pentax K5 II/IIS?

Brant van der Goot

Total comments: 5