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Pentax K-3 Camera Review

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I “need” another camera system like I need another hole in the head, as the saying goes. Pentax has always fascinated me. I dabbled a little into that world prior with the Pentax Q and the Ricoh GRII/GRIII (still have this little pocketable gem). Never really delved into the DSLR cameras though.


Always heard good things, though about weather sealing, ruggedness, the way their sensor output handles greens and blues.

I was wandering about my local camera store and behold! I see in their used cabinet a gaggle of Pentax DSLRs. They had the K-3, K-5 and a K-30. Out of those, with my limited knowledge and prior research, I chose the K-3. It was a good price and included the vertical/battery grip.


I decided to pick it up. I checked the lens selection and there was not a lot to choose from. Eye balling the 18-135/3.5-5.6 – I decided to give that lens some life on the K-3. Another review will be coming about that lens in the future, this review will concentrate specifically on the K-3 only.



Tech Stuff
Right off the bat, the camera body has a solid feel in the hand. Without the grip, it is almost too small…reminding me of the time that I was considering a Nikon D7000 series camera as an ASP-C backup to the D500.


Most of the major dials are where you would expect them to be so getting used to the basic shooting ergonomics was adopted fast.

The viewfinder is good, much bigger than I had anticipated for an APS-C camera.


Dials. This is very similar to many other DSLRs. Main and sub command dials fall naturally under index and thumb. Setting them up like the way I shoot my Nikon’s makes the transition to it easy! The power switch is around the shutter release and is easy to find.

As an interesting difference, the depth of field activation is the third 4th position on the power switch. Never saw that before.

There is also a mode dial lock switch. This switch in the off position allows for the mode dial to me moved freely. In lock position, the mode dial can be moved, but it would take you pressing down the button on the top of the mode dial itself. Kind of the best of both worlds in control scheme.


Shutter Release – The shutter release has a positive feel between activating the auto focus and actuating the shutter. It is pretty standard feeling.


Rear LCD – Bright and fully usable even in bright sunlight. You have to use the Info button on the camera body to switch between the different LCD views and turning it off completely. I’m used to having to dive into the menus to change those settings. I kinda like it, but not sure if that is because it is different and I hate going into menus for stuff like that. At the end of the day, let’s just say it’s different – not better or worse than other makers offerings.



Again – much like that on other DSLRs with top LCDs – You get a lot of great exposure and shooting information and it is backlit.



The viewfinder is large and bright and not what I was expecting from and APS-C camera from this time. Usually they are small and dark in all but the brightest of light. Actually a very good experience all-around for its 95% coverage.


Weather Sealing

Pentax weather sealing is legendary and I have no doubt that the K-3 lives up to that. As always, you make the decision for yourself on how you wish to treat your gear and if shooting in inclement weather is the right one for you.



Lens Line Up
You have access to the full lineup of K mount lenses I’ve just started dipping my toes into the mount, so I don’t have the full knowledge yet of what all can be used (the manual for the K-3 describes all the compatible k-mount glass). I hear that there are a lot of manual focus k-mount lenses that can be used as well as a lot of the modern ones. Will need to dig into the manual and sources on the internet to see what “trouble” I can get myself into. 🙂






Overall System Performance
Once the camera is powered on, everything runs smooth and snappy. There is a weird delay from the power switch going from off to on. Seems a little longer than I would have anticipated from a DSLR. However, the battery is ample and this is one of those cameras that you can just leave switched on when out shooting. Really a non-issue, but something to be aware of if you are someone that prefers to have the camera powered off in between shooting sessions.





Single Point

27 auto focus points (auto – camera chooses the best focus point for you), and it can be blocked down to a grouping of nine ( the group can be shifted around the viewfinder as needed and the camera picks the best point within the grouping) or one (you can move the autofocus point around where you want it), then there is spot (uses only the center AF point and it cannot be moved.


I had some struggles early on with the AF and I didn’t think it was accurate. Turns out there were a few missed focus shots, but mainly my perception was due to a combination of inexperience with the AF system, the lens not being as sharp as I was wanting (speaking specifically about the Pentax 18-135mm) and a combination of JPG settings in camera.


Once I got those items squared away and tempered my expectations to reality, my conclusion on the auto focus is that it works, but not as well as what I have been used to with my Nikon’s and with mirrorless cameras.


It will be adequate for general photography, but I don’t think that I would want to rely on it for difficult subjects.



Having used some of the best auto focus on APS-C (Nikon D500), my initial thoughts were that this may very well be a futile and frustrating exercise.

I tried using the continuous auto focus when shooting some insect shots and it just felt clunky and imprecise – I didn’t trust it.


Manual Focus

I will use it rarely. There is a focus confirmation dot on the bottom of the finder.





Battery and Battery Life
I believe I read in the manual that the CIPA rating is 720 shots for the D-LI90 battery in the K-3. Pretty good and you’ll probably get way more than that out of it in the course of a days shooting. I’ve personally experienced excellent battery life in all day shooting excursions.



In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) – SR (Shake Reduction)
Pentax calls the IBIS in their DSLRs Shake Reduction (SR). In use, it seemed to work well, even out to 135mm (~202mm field of view). Longer focal lengths found on the Pentax 55-300, may prove to be less effective, but in our use it did a good job.




For me, the size of a camera is important. There is a point of diminishing returns on size. You can only go so small before the controls are hard to reach and the camera is difficult to hold.


Feel in The Hand

The K-3 feels solid. Grip is comfortable without the extension but may be a little small for some peoples hands. I do teeter on the verge of the camera being a bit too small as my pinkie does rest right on the bottom edge of the grip.


During extended use, there are some quirks.


First, if using a standard neck strap and the camera rests with its back LCD facing your body, it is possible for the ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation to get changed around without you realizing it. Luckily, I was shooting in RAW+JPG, so the white balance changes did not affect me, but the jpg were very difficult to try and recover.


Some other items that I’m not sure I like in the handling is changing between ISO and Auto ISO. Without digging into the manuals, its not intuitive that the ISO button must be pushed and then the green button on the back pressed to cycle the option.


Having the focus point change be shared between various options like jpg profiles, white balance, etc and activated / switched between the 2 modes by a button…just not very smooth and clean.



Image Quality
Keep into perspective the age of the camera now based on the options we have at the time of the review here. This sensor is capable of providing decent sharpness and details.


24mp sensor used in the K-3 seems relatively capable. It does seem to lag a little behind the current sensors of the day (2022/2023) in dynamic range and in noise at higher ISO. No surprise – keep in mind that technology moves along quite rapidly in the camera world, especially in sensors.


Please look at the images you see here in this review and use them to make judgements for yourself.






Final Thoughts
Pentax’s K-3 is a fun experiment and first dive into the world of K mount. I can see with its handling quirks and the pokey AF why it may not be someone’s first option as a do everything camera. For portraits, general photography – if the price is right – it might make sense for you. Another thing to consider is if you already have a catalog of k-mount lenses, manual focus, film, etc – the digital k-mount might make sense.


For me, if I had to pick between this and the Minolta Maxxum 7D, I’m still picking the Minolta. May seem strange, but all the issues I described earlier in handling, the Minolta does not suffer from. Also, even though the Minolta lags behind in high ISO capability and megapixels (6mp CCD), it does rather well for itself in the dynamic range department. With modern post processing, you can easily upscale a 6mp image to an equivalent 24mp with very little penalty.


Most likely, I’ll be keeping the Pentax K-3 for a while – but I may not keep it for the long term. There may be some lenses that change my mind – perhaps the Limited primes or the DA* lenses would turn me around. However – as it sits today, it is a fun diversion but not a system that makes me want to consider jumping ship and using Pentax as a daily driver over another brand already in the stable.

For those reasons, I’d still recommend the Pentax, but with a lot of consideration on what is already out there. You may find that the quirks that give me hesitation may not be an issue for you.


Now – please also keep in mind that the K-3 is succeeded by 2 other upgrades in the Mark II and Mark III (also the Mark III Monochrome). I’ve no experience with the newer models. A lot of my issues with some of the performance may be addressed with those cameras.


Feel free to educate me on the topic in the thread section below!


Final Thought: Recommended, with caveats.











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I shoot Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, Pentax and Leica.  Probably not enough!  LOL

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I just bought a used K3 for $50 USD.  Got it so cheap because the guy had "blacked out" all of the buttons and lables, AND the exposure meter did not work in the viewfinder (but it did work in Live-View).  Anyway, I've cleaned it up and am enjoying using it with my adapted Zeiss ZF 35mm f/1.4 lens.

Edited by blurmagic
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Indeed, a bargain.


I buy most of my gear used AND broken.   I either fix it, or I find workarounds.   I've got many lenses that: don't auto-focus,  only shoot macro,  have terrible scratches that can only be shot wide open, have stuck apertures so I can only shoot them at one aperture setting, or are manual focus but are permanently locked at one distance.


While these lenses are severely limited, I paid very little for them and despite their shortcomings they are still able to make images that are identical to those taken with perfect lenses.

Edited by blurmagic
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I've been having a problem recording video for certain lifestyle aspects of my real estate production business when using my Lumix G9 cameras. The auto focus on those cameras is not great for tracking subjects when you are moving towards the subject. Constant drifting in and out of focus which renders the footage barely usable. I recently was gifted a mint condition Olympus E-M1 by a member of FZ who has become a good friend (and client) and I decided to use this camera specifically for those quick little videos. Wow, what a great camera the OG E-M1 is. It doesn't miss a beat when focusing on my videos and the stills are still pretty amazing. 


Newer isn't always better. Keep on shooting those older cameras. 🙂 

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On 05/11/2023 at 02:39, Dallas said:

Newer isn't always better. Keep on shooting those older cameras. 🙂 


Yes, I couldn't agree more. 😁

From this:

to this:



resulting in this:



Which brings the enjoyment back into photography and makes it truly hands-on again.




Edited by Alan7140
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