Body and Design

The K-5 is visually almost indistinguishable from the K-7. The body shape, construction quality and control layout are all identical which is not a bad thing. When we reviewed the Pentax K-7 we were impressed by the reassuring solidity of its magnesium-alloy body and the same is true of the new model. Despite its relatively small dimensions, the K5's excellent build quality and well thought-out user interface means that it feels like a professional tool and in terms of build and ergonomics it is up there with the very best in its class.

Ever since the very early days of the Spotmatic and the classic MX and K1000 SLRs, Pentax has excelled at miniaturization without compromising specification or handling. With the K-5, the company has managed to pack more functionality into a small body shell than ever before, and even the most banana-fingered of the dpreview staff have very few complaints about how the K-5 handles. If you want to find out more about the camera's control layout and operation please take a look at our Pentax K-7 review.

Side by side

The K-5 is noticeably smaller than competitive cameras like the Canon EOS 60D and Nikon D7000 (and smaller again than the EOS 7D and Nikon D300S), and its modest proportions and angular design lend it a somewhat 'retro' appearance. This impression vanishes as soon as the K-5 is picked up though, and as we said in our recent review of the D7000, the K-5 is one of our favorite current DSLRs to hold and use.

In your hand

For a relatively small camera, the K-5 is solid and well constructed, and has a reassuring weight. We really liked the way the K-7 handled, and the K-5 is virtually identical, both in terms of ergonomics and design. All of the major controls fall readily to hand, and we especially like the positioning of the ISO button just behind the shutter release and the physical switch for AF pattern on the rear of the camera. The rear control dial is well-placed too - easy to reach with the thumb of your right hand, but not directly underneath the thumbgrip, where it might get rotated by accident.

Viewfinder specs and view

One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in the usability of an SLR - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving a process it is.

Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'. The K5 offers 0.92x magnification and 100% coverage which makes this a very pleasant viewfinder to frame your pictures with.

Interestingly, the viewfinder of the K-5 is some way off being completely neutral in color - it has a distinctly warm color rendition. This is far from unpleasant, and might in fact go completely unnoticed in normal shooting, but it does make the scene in front of the camera look slightly warmer than it actually is. This is worth remembering when shooting on particularly dull days.

The Pentax K-5 viewfinder size is more or less on par with other cameras in the enthusiast bracket. It is marginally smaller than the Nikon D7000's but quite significantly larger than viewfinders in the entry level class which is represented by the Pentax K-r in this diagram.

Viewfinder crop

Most cameras at this level crop the frame slightly when you look through the viewfinder - in other words you get slightly more in the final picture than you see through the viewfinder. The K-5, in contrast, offers a 100% view (approx) of the scene to be captured.

Pentax K-5: 100% viewfinder.