Body and Controls

There is plenty to like about the body: a good beefy grip (for all that weight), weather sealing, and twin dials. The rear screen serves as the camera's main information display, but a lack of an eye sensor means the screen remains on until the shutter button is half pressed. Switching the screen off isn't a terribly difficult affair, although figuring out how isn't very obvious (TWO presses of the 'INFO' button brings up the rear screen options).

In order for the display to remain off every time the camera is switched on, it needs to be specified in the camera's 'Memory' menu, where the specific settings of the following functions can be saved:

Sensitivity Drive Mode Skin Tone Shooting Info Display
EV Compensation White Balance Digital Filter Playback Info Display
Flash Mode Custom Image HDR Capture Outdoor View Setting
Flash Exposure Compensation Clarity Pixel Shift Resolution Night Vision LCD Display

This is just one example of how extensively customizable the Pentax is. What this series of settings allows one to do is specify exactly how the camera is set up every time they turn it on, and what settings they want to have the camera keep if they switch a setting and then turn the camera off. For example, checking the memory option for the rear screen means it will maintain whatever status it was left on last time the camera was on. It takes a minute to find and learn, but in the end adds to what makes the Pentax such a customizable camera.

Much is shared between the K-70 (left) and the K-S2 (right)

A lot of the K-70 seems to be borrowed and tweaked from the K-S2. While the bright blue LED lighting up the center button from the K-S2 has been removed (thank goodness), the silly LED ring around the power switch signaling the camera is on remains.

If you asked me for my opinion, no, it doesn't look nice. No, it isn't very helpful. No, the switching color between stills and video isn't 'cool', it's cheap, tacky, and detracts from the utilitarian essence that makes a Pentax a Pentax. If any LEDs should be making the jump from Pentax model to Pentax model, it should be the handy LEDs from the K-1 that illuminate crucial parts of the camera for working in the dark, not decorations.

Also, instead of video mode being the second click of the power switch, I prefer the aperture preview being what is toggled, like the 645Z or K-3. I'm a chronic power-offer (to save battery) who sometimes forgets whether or not the camera is on, off, or asleep. More often than not, I will instinctively hit the power switch to turn the camera on as I lift it to my eye, only, in this case, to have the mirror flip up and black out the viewfinder as the camera switches to video mode. I think it's a reflex I built up from using other cameras for many years, and may not be a concern at all for first time buyers, only those either adding a K-70 as a backup complement to a K-3, or switching from other brands.

A look at the right side shows there are some external differences between the K-70 (left) and the K-S2 (right)

Thankfully, there are some key improvements on the K-70 besides the removal of just one chintzy LED from the K-S2. The biggest change and improvement is the grip. It has increased in depth and girth, making it one of the most comfortable in its class, even with the camera's extra weight.

The revised grip makes the camera much more comfortable to hold than the K-S2

Their willingness to increase the size of this area does raise questions as to why they didn't go ahead and fit a larger battery inside to further differentiate from the K-S2, but we will take a better grip over no changes at all.

The battery is Pentax's D-LI 109, shared with the K-S2, and is CIPA rated at 410 shots per charge, which is the lowest in its class.

Auto ISO

The K-70's Auto ISO implementation is pretty good, allowing the user to specify maximum ISO and a rate (Slow, Standard or Fast) that chooses a shutter speed threshold based on the currently selected focal length. Unfortunately, you can't set a specific shutter speed.

Pentax was the first company to recognize the idea of manually specifying aperture and shutter speed, then letting the camera adjust ISO to make up the difference. TAv mode (Shutter and Aperture Priority mode) is a full exposure mode with no unexpected restrictions. And, for the pedants among us, side-steps the semantic contradiction of the camera controlling something in a nominally 'manual' exposure mode.

Control Dial Customization

When it comes the control dials, the K-70 has clear advantage over its rivals just with the existence of two instead of the compromise of one. It gets even better, as the two dials can be set up in a plethora of configurations. You want ISO on your front dial and shutter speed on the rear? Sure! Both dials off? Why not! Here's a look at all the options available, plus the function of the useful 'green button' in the 'E-Dial Programming' menu with their respective modes:

Mode Front Dial Rear Dial
P (Program AE) Tv Av
Av Tv
+/- Program Shift
Program Shift +/-
Sv (Sensitivity Priority AE) ISO
Program Shift ISO
ISO Program Shift
+/- ISO
ISO +/-
Tv (Shutter Priority AE) Tv
Tv +/-
+/- Tv
Av (Aperture Priority AE) Av
+/- Av
Av +/-
TAv (Shutter & Aperture Priority AE) Tv Av
Av Tv
Manual Tv Av
Av Tv

Green Button

If that wasn't enough customization for you, the direction of the dials rotation can also be changed. The signature 'Green Button' is a key player in the camera's set up and, once understood, is a handy feature. In many cases it is a quick 'reset button', snapping all exposure settings back to what the camera has determined is a proper exposure. Alternatively, in other modes it can be set to jump from your manually set ISO to the value that the Auto ISO system would select.

Compared to the D5500 and Rebel T6i, the Pentax is in a class above when it comes to personal configuration. Along with the ways to customize the various modes, there are also 3 custom mode presets on the mode dial that can be saved with features like HDR and PixelShift switched on. It seems then, while other camera manufacturers try to find ways to have their enthusiast-level users work with less, the K-70 offers users more.