Pentax K-3 Review
The K-3 is a fast and responsive camera in-use. From hitting the power switch to being able to take the first shot takes a fraction under a second - a respectable, if not quite immediate, result. In single shot mode there's around a half second pause between being able to take another shot, which again is a the sort of performance you should expect at this level. The Info menu appears almost instantaneously, as does the main menu, so there's very little that makes you feel you're waiting for the camera.
AF System & Performance
Continuous autofocus is one of the main areas of improvement that the K-3 promises over existing Pentax models. Our experiences of it were pretty mixed. There are so many variables inherent in continuous autofocus testing that it's essentially impossible to characterise performance in an entirely repeatable (let alone 'definitive') manner. However, in discussion with Ricoh, we did our best to get a sense for what the K-3 was and wasn't capable of.
We tested continuous focus with a variety of Pentax lenses, having discussed relevant settings with Ricoh. We used some lenses focused using the camera body's built-in motor (70mm Limited and HD 50-300mm), some with ring-type SDM motors (55mm and 50-135mm F2.8), and others with DC micromotors (18-135mm and 20-40mm Limited). Of these, the DC motor-based 18-135mm lens was the fastest to refocus and performed best in our tests.
The K-3 offers seven AF point selection modes when set to continuous autofocus (C-AF). We found its SEL (27 points) mode did a pretty good job of staying on the specified subject, even when it wandered off the originally specified focus point. Adjusting Custom Setting 18 (Hold AF Status) defines how sensitive the camera is to the subject falling off the selected focus point, allowing you to tune the behavior to the type of motion you're shooting. Between these two settings, the camera was able to retain focus lock on a subject moving in the X and Y axes of the image.
What the K-3 struggled with rather more, every time we tested it, was subjects coming towards it (movement in the Z, distance axis), and we weren't ever able to get the camera to pretty successfully track a subject in both the Z and Y axes, i.e. moving around the frame and towards the camera. However, it appears that a side-effect of the 'Hold AF Status' setting not only reduces the system getting distracted by things passing in front of the subject or the subject temporarily moving off the current AF point, but also reduces its willingness to refocus at all, which isn't quite what you want.
Much of the problem with Z-axis tracking appeared to relate to the focus speed of the lenses, with even the fastest lens we used struggling to work at much above walking pace. Subjects moving laterally (and therefore requiring little refocusing) weren't a problem, but even the fastest-focusing of the lenses we used would struggle to get a good number of shots in perfect focus with an approaching subject.
Ultimately, the camera's autofocus performance appears to be limited by the lens, since it appears to be doing a good job of understanding what the correct subject is, but struggling to refocus fast enough to cope with approaching subjects. This means it's quite possible the K-3 performs more effectively with the system's fastest-focusing lenses (the 60-250mm F4 being an oft-cited example). However, having tried to use a cross-section of appropriate lenses, we found that the camera wasn't able to work to its full capability - a limitation we think many users will hit.
Having shot it side-by-side with the Fujifilm X-T1, the K-3 ultimately fell short in comparison. This suggests that, while the K-3 is a potentially very capable camera and a big step forward for Pentax, the availability of lenses means it will rarely match the best of its peers across a broad range of action photography.
There are three different continuous shooting speeds offered on the K-3: low, medium, and high. Pentax claims speeds of 3.0, 4.5, and 8.3 fps, respectively. To put the K-3 to the test, we used one of the fastest cards on the market: the SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-3 SDXC card. The DNG Raw format was used for these tests.
|Frame rate||8.8 fps||8.9 fps||8.7 fps|
|Number of frames||68 shots||23 shots||24 shots|
|Buffer full rate||2.1 fps||2.2 fps||2.3 fps|
|Write complete *||9 secs||12 secs||19 secs|
|* Point at which photos can be taken at full speed|
In what will be a common thread throughout this section, the K-3 exceeds its advertised numbers at high speed. The buffer is clearly quite large, given the number of photos that can be taken, but it takes quite a while for it to clear to the point where you can enter playback mode or start another full-speed burst.
In live view mode, the images displayed on the LCD are not in real-time, which is the case for all three continuous shooting speeds on the K-3 - intead the previously shot image is shown, which needs to be considered if you're hoping to pan or follow a subject.
|Frame rate||4.7 fps||4.6 fps||4.6 fps|
|Number of frames||To card capacity||33 shots||34 shots|
|Buffer full rate||N/A||2.0 fps||1.2 fps|
|Write complete *||5 secs||12 secs||23 secs|
|* Point at which photos can be taken at full speed|
|Frame rate||3.1 fps||3.1 fps||3.1 fps|
|Number of frames||To card capacity||53 shots||39 shots|
|Buffer full rate||N/A||1.3 fps||0.9 fps|
|Write complete *||3 secs||16 secs||22 secs|
|* Point at which photos can be taken at full speed|
The K-3 uses the D-LI90 lithium-ion battery, which is used in several other Pentax-branded ILCs. This battery packs 14Wh of energy, which allows you to take 720 shots per charge (measured with the CIPA standard).
If that's not enough, one can purchase the D-BG5 battery grip, which can hold an additional D-LI90 or six AA batteries. Ricoh includes an external battery charger with the Pentax K-3, though it's very slow, requiring a whopping 6.5 hours to 'fill up' the D-LI90. Faster chargers are available from third parties.
Google is holding a competition that could see your Pixel photos gracing millions of screens.
Nikon's 100th birthday party continues worldwide as a distributor in Italy organized a one-of-a-kind feat: assembling the world's largest 'human camera' from over a thousand volunteers.
Ricoh has dropped the price of its Theta SC 360 spherical camera by to $199, a reduction of roughly $50. The camera features two 12MP sensors and can record Full HD video in addition to stills.
Photojournalist Pete Souza served as the presidential photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. In an interview with fellow photographer Marcia Nighswander, he discusses several of his most noteworthy images.
Photographer Michael Wolf has been documenting the crowded conditions of Tokyo's subway trains since the 1990s. The photos have gone viral regularly in the years since he started the project, and he just published the final edition in the series.
The just-launched OnePlus 5 is getting a minor update that should improve camera function.
A Belgian camera shop is showing off an extremely rare, limited 'Rex Edition' Nikon D500. The cosmetic alterations were provided by a customer's German Shepherd Rex, who got ahold of the camera within a day of its purchase.
Adobe says that many of its users have been relying on SkyBox for VR editing and it therefore made sense to make the plug-ins available to all subscribers through Creative Cloud.
The Pictar grip provides a number of customizable physical controls for your iPhone camera, but at its price point we would like to see better materials and build quality.
Peak Design's 'consider every detail' approach shines in the Everyday Backpack. While expensive, it's one of the best options out there for a photographer who needs to pack a lot of stuff in addition to gear.
If you're thinking of using Canon's sports glass on the Sony a9, think again. The ultra-fast camera slows way down when you attach off-brand glass.
The Polish town of Katowice is not famed as an area of beauty, but as all photographers know, that doesn't mean that beauty can't be found if you look in the right places. Mariusz Pietranek used a drone to look down on the colorful sedimentation tanks at an ironworks.
New York Times video journalist Ben Solomon spent a harrowing three weeks accompanying Iraqi Major Sajjad al-Hour as he and his men fought to retake Mosul from I.S. forces.
The 3D VR camera launched through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 goes on sale beginning June 26.
Noctilucent clouds, a crescent moon and Venus were visible in the pre-dawn sky over Budapest yesterday. Photographer György Soponyai captured NASA's astronomy picture of the day.
Squirming pets won't sit still for photos? A Kickstarter campaign is looking to help.
Find out how Chris Burkard shifted from editorial photography to his true passions: landscapes, conservation and, of course, surfing.
The updated EyeEm app scans your camera roll and picks images that are composed particularly well, have the best quality, or highest chance of selling on EyeEm Market.
It's three years old but still a solid option for a Micro Four Thirds shooter looking for a high-quality, fast, wide-angle prime. Take a look at how we got along with it.
Tamron has announced the longest all-in-one zoom lens currently available, the 18-400mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD. Designed for Canon and Nikon crop-sensor cameras, the lens will be available in July.
When you're ready to step-up to full-frame from an entry-level or midrange camera, the choices can be overwhelming. Find out which models came out on top in our $1200-2000 enthusiast ILC roundup.
Just a guy wearing a VR headset, smashing invisible Goombas in Central Park.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this gorgeous aerial photo of the Martian landscape. And if you look really close, you can actually see the Mars Curiosity rover in the very middle.
The city of Laguna Beach, California has provided some clarification around the kinds of photography permits it offers.
Later this year, a VR180 camera will be Joining Yi's Halo and 360 VR cameras, which will offer stereo 3D capture, yet be as easy to use and compact as a 2D camera.
Caltech researchers have developed an 'optical phased array' chip that uses time delays instead of a lens to focus the incoming light.
Pricing and shipping have finally been revealed for two highly anticipated lenses from Sigma, announced in February.
These macro photos of clouds of paint billowing through clear water might look like high-quality CGI, but they're real photographs. And photographer Alberto Seveso told us how they were made.
Facebook is testing a feature that prevents people from saving, sharing, or even taking a screenshot of your profile picture.
We've reshot the Sony a9 in our studio. The short story: it's sharper! The long story... well you can read it all here.