K5IIs initial impression: impressive

Started Feb 14, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Chris Mak Senior Member • Posts: 1,755
K5IIs initial impression: impressive

Almost a year after choosing Pentax because of the K5, I decided I wanted to see and experience first hand whether the upgraded version, K5IIs is worth it. I came from an Olympus E5 With very light AA-filter, and among the things that I noticed, was the effect of the medium strong AA-filter in the k5. Now, having used zuiko SHG lenses, and initially using the k5 with the DA ltd 35mm macro, you could say that I'm used to high resolution lenses.

Anyway, I loved the k5 where form factor, build, IQ, DR, color depth, tonality were concerned, so I decided to invest further in Pentax, and I stumbled upon the lenses that Cosina makes for Zeiss, and that were also made (not anymore) in Pentax mount. Through my favorite camera store I managed to order a quartet of these magnificent lenses, 25, 35, 50 and 85mm. Manual focus though, but a modified Canon Ee-s screen made it possible to use these lenses comfortably. All this time I had in the back of my mind: I wish I could get the K5 with a light (à la Olympus E5) AA-filter. I should mention that I have little affinity with AA-filters: when I had the Olympus E3 (heavy AA-filter) I was hoping the same, and the E5 fulfilled that wish.

Then the K5IIs was announced, not just a light AA-filter, but no AA-filter at all! Oops. Pentax had some guts! Not too exiting all round, that update, but I care mainly about image quality, not so much about hi tech. I didn't get the K5IIs immediately, it took a long time to arrive where I live, and I got a Sigma 500mm/4.5 in the mean time, because my second reason for joining Pentax: the lens roadmap featured the DA560mm/5.6 + a 1.4 TC, seemed a dead end due to the pricing of the DA560mm, and no release from the 1.4TC in sight. I bought a used Sigma and Sigma 1.4 TC. Quite satisfied but the AF on the K5...mmmh, not too bad, but inconsistent, and not too fast.

So I got the K5IIs after all, when it seemed based on user reviews, that AF was also better in good light with all kinds of lenses, and moiré was scarce to be found in images from the k5IIs. Well, after only a short time with the k5IIs, I've sold my k5. It is a very impressive camera that gets noticeably more out of my Zeiss lenses than the k5. And since these lenses are manual focus, it cannot be attributed to better AF. The difference is not so much a sharp appearance, because the Zeiss lenses looked pretty sharp on the K5 already. I'm simply seeing incredible detail, and have quickly stopped experimenting with (capture) sharpening, either deblurring or photoshop smart sharpen, it has nothing to add to the detail at 100%, but mainly makes for a harsher appearance. I didn't know these Zeiss lenses where thát good. Perhaps I'll eventually apply some (very) mild sharpening again, but for now: Raw without any capture sharpening and PP without any output sharpening, and the result is: lots of detail and nothing of the harsh appearance that sharpening introduces.

Second remarkable discovery: these Zeiss lenses are bokeh kings, beautiful OOF transitions, and with the K5IIs I can see much clearer which is the in-focus area, and which the out-of-focus area, and also the transition. The Zeiss 85mm is 1.4, and the bokeh looks much better with the K5IIs than with the K5. Partly due to no sharpening at all, I guess, because you end up sharpening the OOF areas with the K5, making them less smooth and out of focus. But also there is a larger sense of depth and subjects don't "stick out" so clearly (from the OOF background) with the K5IIs, but flow into and out of the focus plain. I'm really véry impressed with the combination of the Zeiss lenses and the k5IIs. Only issue with these (old design) lenses, is the amount of longitudinal CA (color fringing) in the OOF areas. But colors are stunning.

Colors are better than with the k5 for the Zeiss lenses, which have quite a bit of pop and saturated colors.More natural, especially at iso 400/800. Amazing how well the k5IIs does at these settings, of course the k5 was already very good, but I used to avoid iso 400/800 if not necessary. I think I will be shooting a lot at iso 400/800 with the k5IIs, incredibly nice kind of noise ( would you believe it!). There are less color extremes with the K5IIs, especially in reds, so overall very nice. (I shoot RAW exclusively, and use COv7)

With the Sigma lens, I'm getting more detail and sharper shots as well, and here the improved auto focus may play a part. In operation AF certainly feels more certain, K5 was slower and more indecisive. And AF fine tuning, which I needed for this lens on the K5, is no longer necessary, I can read the small letters on the traffic sign all across the block with the 1.4 TC on. So the potential for sharp and detailed birding is there, but it is still difficult to get many keepers due to variable accuracy.

All in all, the K5IIs is thé camera for me. No need for Full Frame myself with this camera. It is just véry, véry good i.m.o. My feeling is I'll be using this camera a long time. Moiré? Capture one has a moiré removal tool, but I haven't seen any yet, or perhaps I'm missing it, in which case it is irrelevant for me, and it is. What could be better in a Pentax K3? I don't use flash, so that aside: auto focus points! Birding, especially small birds, can be a real ordeal due to the large AF points, make the size of the points smaller, and increase them in number. And there is something with the auto focus system that I don't get to grips with: when I have álmost achieved focus on a bird, and I want to "fine focus" because it doesn't look 100% spot on through the view finder, the focus direction may just arbitrarily reverse and the lens goes out of focus completely. I have a hard time "telling" the AF what I want it to do, I get the feeling that the AF sees my attempt to "fine-focus" as an indication it should focus on something completely different, or search for that. Apart from a complete redesign of the AF system, I cannot think of anything. FF? Sure, Pentax would make a smashing FF body, I'm sure. But I doubt I would buy it myself, even though the Zeiss lenses (ánd Sigma) are FF. APSC is wonderful: no dealing with vignetting or soft corners, sufficiently shallow D.O.F for me with fast lenses, sufficient reach with a hand-holdable set-up. A small and compact all-round body that is affordable. These lenses will last a lifetime, so a one time investment, but bodies don't last forever, so it's nice if they are affordable.

Amazing camera!


 Chris Mak's gear list:Chris Mak's gear list
Pentax K-3 Sony Alpha 7R II Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2/28 Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2/35 Carl Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/85 +3 more
Olympus E-3 Olympus E-5 Pentax K-5
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