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Pentax K-5 Review

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For grins and giggles, the local camera store still had the Pentax K-5, so I decided to take in a little trade and snag it to, comparing it against the K-3 we got just a few months ago.


It was a decent price and included the battery grip.

A lot of this review will echo the K-3 review, as they are not that far off.


Images processed for this review were done to my desires on how I wanted them to look. Some are straight out of camera JPG, others are RAW processed in Lightroom and some were also processed to monochrome in post as well.



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 buttons are in the same place as the K-3, but a few are different, like the movie/still switch not being on the K-5. The K-3 does have a switch in the back to choose between single point, select and auto select focus points. The K-3 has that function mapped to a button on the side just above the AF/MF selector lever.


Selecting to use the d-pad to move AF points is different as well. On the K-3, there is a dedicated button on the back bottom right to select the focus point or use the functions mapped to the d-pad buttons. The K-3 uses the center “OK” button on the d-pad as the device to change the above mentioned features.


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 to other camera makers power switches, the depth of field activation is the third position on the power switch, same as on the K-3.


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. Basically the same setup as the K-3.



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.





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

11 auto focus points (auto – camera chooses the best focus point for you).


I had some struggles early on with the AF (firmware version 1.12) and I didn’t think it was accurate. It was accurate most of the time, but it did have a lot more false positives – so it is crucial to double check what you see in the viewfinder looks reasonable. Where things changes was when I updated the firmware to version 1.16. This firmware definitely helped the auto focus. It is much more accurate and more confident when locking onto subjects.


Being used to the K-3 and tempering my expectations to reality, my conclusion on the auto focus is that it works and with the firmware update is much closer to the performance of the K-3 than I expected it to be. These older Pentax DSLRs are not as precise, accurate or quick as Nikon’s DSLRs of similar vintage nor against modern mirrorless cameras. Tt does lag a little behind the K-3 as well, but not by a lot. It has that hesitancy and the final micro adjustments at the end of the focusing cycle that we’ve experienced with the K-3.


It will be adequate for general photography, but I don’t think that I would want to rely on it for difficult subjects or mission critical work. I’ll need to test it and the K-3 out for some street photography as well and see how it does tracking 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 using flash and 980 shots without flash for the D-LI90 battery in the K-5. 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. This is the same, roughly as the battery life expectancy on the K-3.




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. Reminder that the lenses used are the 21/32/70 Limited primes.




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-5 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.


16mp sensor used in the K-5 seems relatively capable for its age. Without any exposure aids, it does struggle with blowing out highlights in bright sunlight and high contrast scenes. 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 – but that is to be expected. No surprise – keep in mind that technology moves along quite rapidly in the camera world, especially in sensors.


Initial testing was shooting with the highlight and shadow correction turned off. Subsequent testing was done with it turned on/low respectively.


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






Final Thoughts
Pentax’s K-5 is another fun experiment and a secondary 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.


Given the choice between the K-5 and the K-3, I’d still be picking the K-3. Even though they are not really that much different, it is noticeable and you might as well get the 24mp sensor, the better IQ and better highlight/shadow correction.


Most likely, I’ll be keeping the Pentax K-3 for a while – but I may not keep it for the long term. The K-5 falls in the same category. I do like having 2 bodies to run 2 different primes.


I’d still recommend the Pentax as a system, 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. Again, a more modern K-3 or the KP if you are wanting APS-C.


Now – please also keep in mind that the K-5 is succeeded by 2 other upgrades in the Mark II and Mark IIs (lacks the AA filter for sharper images). I’ve no experience with the newer models but did consider the Mark IIs – but found none locally. A lot of my issues with some of the performance may be addressed with those cameras.


Feel free to share your Pentax experiences with me in the comments section below!


Final Thought: Barely Recommended, with caveats.






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See my content here:

http://www.visualohio.com | BESTLIGHTPHOTO BLOG | 500px Profile & Pics


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

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Excellent review.


I used to own the Mark IIs version.   It is better/sharper than the earlier version that you reviewed.


Because most everyone knows the Mark IIs version is the best, you rarely see that version being sold used on Ebay, and when it is, it commands a higher price.


I agree with your final conclusion, given a choice between the K5 (any version) and the K3, the K3 is the better choice.

Edited by blurmagic
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  • 3 weeks later...
  • Editor

The weather here lately has been rather blah...so did a little visual push-up in the house last night - K-5, 70/2.4 Limited - 2 dogs


1 - SOOC Monochrome JPG (grain added in post)



2 - RAW processed in Lightroom



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See my content here:

http://www.visualohio.com | BESTLIGHTPHOTO BLOG | 500px Profile & Pics


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

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