Pentax K-5 II

      Photo Review 8.8

      In summary

      Buy this camera if:
      – You’re seeking a capable DSLR with a wealth of creative in-camera adjustments ““ including some innovative filter effects.  
      – You require superior high-ISO performance and a high sensitivity range.
      – You want a wide range of post-capture, image adjustments including in-camera raw file conversion to TIFF or JPEG format.
      – You’d enjoy shooting the occasional HD video clip.  

       Don’t buy this camera if:
       – You’re upgrading from a digicam and want a simple DSLR camera.
       – You don’t have a suite of Pentax-compatible lenses.
       – You want autofocusing while shooting video clips.
       – You’re not interested in in-camera processing to obtain special effects with JPEG files.

      Full review

      Pentax-Ricoh  Imaging has replaced its 2010 Pentax flagship camera, the K-5, with two new models, the K-5 II and K-5 IIs. The only difference between them is that the  K-5 IIs has no anti-aliasing filter, which, should result in sharper images but makes the camera more susceptible to moirø©. We received the K-5 II for our review. Both models come with weather-resistant, dustproof bodies that can withstand low temperatures and are physically identical to the K-5 body.


      The  Pentax K-5 II with the  smc DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6ED AL [IF] DC WR lens used for this review. (Source: Pentax.)

      Little has changed externally, but beneath the surface lie some significant improvements. As we’ve already covered the build and ergonomics of the K-5 in our review of that camera, We will focus this review on the internal changes ““and the functions that haven’t been changed.


      Front, back and top views of the Pentax K-5 II. (Source: Pentax.)  

      Improved Features and Functions
       Although both K-5 II models come with 16.3 megapixel CMOS sensors, which provide the same resolution as the K-5. However, it’s a new chip (probably made by Sony) that features integrated Analog to Digital (AD) conversion circuitry. The PRIME II image processor is the same as the K-5’s.

      Following criticism of the SAFOX X autofocus system in the K-5 (which was addressed via a firmware upgrade), the system in the new cameras has been tweaked and now claims to be faster and more accurate than the system in the Pentax K-5. The AF point array still has 11 sensor points, with nine cross type points in the centre of the screen. It can now operate down to -3EV, a level only matched by Canon’s EOS 6D.

      According to a Pentax press release, the new AF system should provide greater accuracy when working fast lenses at apertures of f/2.8. It also boasts more sophisticated focus tracking, that enables the camera to keep the subject in focus when it moves off the original focus point.

      Another significant improvement is to the monitor, which now has a resin layer between the LCD array and the covering glass. The 3-inch screen has the same resolution as the K-5’s (921 000 dots) and it’s inset into the rear panel.

      By filling in the air gap, it prevents light from being reflected and dispersed, eliminating ghost images and   maintaining brightness, contrast and colour reproduction in outdoor lighting. The LCD cover is made of tempered glass to minimise the risk of scratches and abrasions.

      Unchanged Features
      The weather-sealed magnesium alloy body is unchanged and the camera retains the high  quality glass pentaprism viewfinder, which covers the full field of view of the sensor and provides a magnification of 0.92x with a 50mm f/1.4 lens at infinity. It boasts a generous eye relief of 21.7 mm and accepts interchangeable focusing screens. Dioptre adjustment of   -2.5 to +1.5   is available.

      Shutter speeds are unchanged, with the fastest setting at 1/8000 second, which is ideal for sports photography. The shutter is rated for 100,000 cycles, which is par for the course with consumer DSLRs.

      Pentax’s body-integrated Shake Reduction (SR) stabilisation is included with a claim of at least three f-stops of shake correction that works with any lens or accessory fitted to the camera.   Both cameras support an ISO range of 80-51200, and claim  improved noise performance across the range and customisable high ISO noise reduction.

      Native support is provided for both Pentax PEF (the default) and Adobe DNG 14-bit raw files. You can assign One push File Format to the customisable RAW/Fx button for instant switching between different file formats on a shot-by-shot basis.

      Other functions that can be assigned to this button include exposure bracketing, digital preview, electronic level, composition assist and GPS (when the optional GPS unit is in use). In-camera raw development allows you to convert raw images into JPEG or TIFF format, while pressing the AE-L button during playback lets you retrieve raw data from JPEG files that are still present in the buffer memory.

      Both cameras come with a plenty of in-camera image processing options, including nine custom image tone settings and 18 digital filters. They also offer SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card compatibility and support for Wi-Fi cards.

      Movie recording settings are unchanged from the K-5, with Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) at 25 frames/second, HD and VGA resolutions, the latter at 25 and 30 frames/second. The comparatively inefficient AVI Motion JPEG format continues to be used and soundtracks are recorded monaurally via the built-in microphone. A 3.5mm jack for a stereo microphone is available for connecting an external microphone if you want stereo soundtracks.

      The D-LI90 battery is the same as the K-5’s and so is the CIPA power consumption rating. Battery life can be classed as good, with approximately 740 shots/charge with 50% flash usage and 980 shots/charge with no flash. Roughly 440 minutes of movie playback is also claimed.

      Playback settings are the same as the K-5’s and include the ability to add up to 20 filter effects to a single image. In-camera raw file development allows users to convert raw files to TIFF or JPEG format. Batch processing is supported and users can adjust a wide range of image parameters, including image size/quality, white balance, sensitivity, Custom Image setting and colour space and apply high ISO noise reduction, distortion correction and shadow correction.

      The software disk is the same as the K-5’s and contains Pentax’s Digital Camera Utility 4, which combines a browser with a raw file conversion tool based on Silkypix Developer Studio. If you use the DNG raw file format the raw files from the K-5 can be opened in most popular file conversion applications, including Adobe Camera Raw. And you don’t need the latest Adobe software to support the DNG files.

      Sensor and Image Processing
      With the same sensor resolution as the K-5, the image sizes produced by the K-5 II cameras is identical. Image formats are essentially the same as in the K-7 and users can choose between the Pentax proprietary PEF and ‘open’ DNG raw file formats or access four JPEG sizes, each with four compression ratios. Typical image sizes and compression ratios are shown in the table below.

      Image size


      Premium (1:2.8)

      Best (1:4.5)

      Better (1:8)

      Good (1:16)

      4928 x 3264








      3936 x 2624






      3072 x 2048






      1728 x 1152






      The PRIME (Pentax Real Image Engine) II imaging engine is unchanged since the K-5 and is the same image processor as used in the medium format 645D. Not unexpectedly, the K-5 II’s continuous shooting speeds are also the same, with a top speed   of seven frames/second and a low speed mode that records at 1.6 fps. The buffer memory can accommodate up to 30 JPEG or 20 RAW with the high-speed mode, while in the low speed mode you can record JPEGs continuously until the card is full.

      Video recording capabilities are the same as the K-5’s with the five options shown in the table below, which also provides typical capacities for an 8GB SDHC card.  The comparatively inefficient AVI Motion JPEG format is still being used.



      Frame Rate

      Aspect Ratio




      Full HD

      1920 x 1080

      25 fps


      10 m. 55 s.

      14 m. 21 s.

      20 m. 03 s.


      1280 x 720

      30 fps

      17 m. 35 s.

      26 m. 57 s.

      37 m. 23 s.

      25 fps

      21 m. 04 s.

      32 m. 10 s.

      44 m. 37 s.


      640 x 480

      30 fps


      51 m. 52 s.

      78 m. 18 s.

      106 m. 25 s.

      25 fps

      61 m. 56 s.

      92 m. 13 s.

      125 m. 46 s.

      The K-5 II lacks a dedicated button for starting and ending   movie recording so, as in the K-7, the mode dial must be set to the movie mode and Live View capture must be used. Recording starts and stops when the shutter button is pressed.

      The default shooting mode is Program AE but the arrow pad accesses a Movie Aperture Control function that lets you adjust lens aperture settings with the rear e-dial. White balance and shutter speed settings are fixed at the start of each clip. You can move the focus point on the screen by pressing and holding the OK button on the arrow pad then tabbing with the directional buttons.

      The same sub-menu lets you toggle between recording with and without sound. A microphone jack allows external microphones to be fitted.   Movie stabilisation is also available. All of the Custom Image settings are available in movie mode and users can take advantage of the following digital filters: Cross Processing, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Extract Colour and Colour.

      The Kit Lens
      The K-5 II was supplied with the smc DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6ED AL [IF] DC WR lens, which was also available when the K-5 was released. Offering a 7.5x zoom ratio, it will appeal to photographers who want a general-purpose lens that encompasses everything from a moderate wide-angle to a moderate tele setting (27.5-207mm in 35mm format).

      Purchased separately, this lens sells for a bit less than AU$700 or between US$460 and US$530 if purchased online. Buying it with the camera body will, therefore, save you roughly AU$150 or US$110.

      The build quality of this lens is a good match for the K-5 II body. It’s weather resistant with a mostly metal barrel and tough plastic cladding and weighs only 405 grams. Two inner barrels extend as the zoom ring is turned, adding 50 mm to its overall length of 76 mm.

      The 42 mm wide zoom ring is mostly clad with a dimpled runner grip and turns smoothly through approximately 90 degrees. There’s no slackness and we found no evidence of zoom creep when the camera was carried with the lens facing downwards.

      The trailing edge of the zoom ring is stamped with focal length marking for the 18mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, 100mm and 135mm positions. As you zoom, the maximum and minimum apertures change, as shown in the table below.

      Focal length








      Max. aperture








      Min. aperture








      The focus ring is located just behind the zoom ring and only 15 mm from the camera body. It’s relatively thin at roughly 10 mm wide but carries a dimpled grip band that makes accurate manual focusing possible. However, no distance scale is provided.

      Internal focusing (IF) means the front element doesn’t rotate, enabling use of angle-critical attachments. The AF drive uses an internal Direct Current (DC) motor to provide quick, quiet autofocus operation and the Pentax Quick Shift focus system allows instant on-the-fly switching from auto to manual focus.

      The lens design includes 13 elements in 11 groups, with one aspherical element to  compensate for spherical aberration. The front element has a Super Protect (SP) coating that repels dust, water, and grease, making the lens easier to clean.

      Imatest showed the review lens came close to meeting expectations for the K-5 II’s sensor at around f/5.6 with the 18mm, 24mm and 35mm focal lengths. However with wider apertures, edge and corner softening were quite obvious.

      From about 70mm central sharpness began to decline and, although stopping down improved edge and corner sharpness slightly, they never matched the sharpness of the shorter focal lengths. Diffraction kicked in at around f/7.1, as shown in the graph of our test results below.


       Lateral chromatic aberration was mainly low, shifting into the ‘moderate’ band for the 18mm and 24mm focal length settings. In the graph of our test results, below, the red line separates ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA , while the green line marks the edge of the ‘moderate’ band.



      Most zoom lenses produce some vignetting (edge and corner darkening) at wide aperture settings and the review lens was no exception. The same holds true for rectilinear distortion, where the review lens showed characteristic barrel distortion at 18mm but barely detectable pincushioning at 135mm. In-camera corrections are available for both aberrations so neither represents a serious problem for photographers.

      Autofocusing was reasonably fast and fairly quiet, although not entirely silent. The lens showed a slight tendency to hunt for focus when moving between close and distant subjects, particularly in dim lighting with low-contrast subjects.

      Bokeh was quite attractive for a consumer lens. Overall, this lens is designed to suit average photographers who want an all-in-one zoom lens and its performance isn’t a match for one of Pentax’s DA* lenses.

      Test shots from the review camera were similar to those from the K-5. The default level of sharpening appeared low (a judgment backed by our Imatest tests), minimising the incidence of sharpening artefacts and providing scope for post-capture adjustments.

      Colour accuracy was generally very good and the colour balance in test shots appeared very close to the observed scene with the default Bright Custom Image setting. The Natural setting reduced overall contrast slightly and delivered more subdued colour rendition.

      Imatest confirmed our subjective assessments but revealed slight boosts in saturation in reds and purples. It also showed a gradual decline in resolution as sensor sensitivity was increased beyond ISO 800.

      Interestingly, the difference between JPEG and raw files remained fairly constant up to ISO 25600 but was reduced slightly at ISO 52100. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.



      Resolution to be slightly below expectations for a 16-megapixel camera with both JPEGs and DNG.RAW files when the latter were converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw with no additional processing. This could be at least partly attributed to the performance of the kit lens, which was the only lens supplied for this review.

      Noise was very well controlled and image files shot at the highest sensitivity settings could be considered usable at small output sizes, provided allowances were made for some softening of details and visible granularity. Up to ISO 3200 noise was barely visible. At ISO 6400, slight granularity could be seen when images were enlarged. Granularity became a little more pronounced at ISO 25600, which was when softening became evident. But it wasn’t until ISO 51200 that noise and softening made images almost unusable.

      Flash performance was similar to the K-5’s and generally very good. The built-in flash provided even illumination of an average-sized room throughout most of the camera’s ISO range, with only the shots taken at ISO 80 showing slight under-exposure and those at ISO 51200 showing slight over-exposure. Exposure balance for the remaining ISO settings was consistently accurate.

      Auto white balance adjustment was above average with shots taken under fluorescent lighting showing no evidence of colour casts.   The slight orange cast in shots taken in incandescent lighting was easily correctable with even basic image editors. Both pre-sets came close to neutral colour rendition and there’s plenty of scope for in-camera tweaking of colour balance.
       Without having the two cameras to compare, we can’t make a valid judgment on the K-5 II’s autofocusing speeds, although subjectively they seemed to be quite fast for stills shooting and accurate in the main, even in relatively low light levels and with moving subjects.  Autofocusing slowed noticeably  in the movie mode and, although the camera was able to adjust when the lens was zoomed or subjects moved with respect to the camera, clips were often marred by sections in which noticeable hunting occurred. The dynamic range in recordings was reduced in this mode and contrasty subjects were often recorded with blown-out highlights and blocked-up shadows. Soundtracks were similar to those from the K-5.

      We carried out our timing tests with a 16GB   Kingston 233x SDHC U1 memory card. The review camera took just over a second to power up but shut down almost instantly.

      When the viewfinder was used for framing shots, we measured an average capture lag of 0.25 seconds, which was eliminated with pre-focusing. Average lag times extended to 0.55 seconds in live view mode when the subject was pre-focused and were as long as 1.3 seconds if the lens was seriously defocused when the shutter button was pressed.

      It took 0.8 seconds, on average to process each JPEG file, 3.6 seconds for a DNG.RAW file and  3.8 seconds for a RAW+JPEG pair.

      Shot-to shot times averaged 0.45 seconds with the viewfinder and without flash and 1.2 seconds with. In live view mode, shot-to shot times averaged 1.05 seconds without flash.

      In the high speed continuous shooting mode, the camera recorded 10 images in 1.35 seconds, regardless of the file format selected. It took 6.9 seconds to process a burst of full-resolution JPEGs, 17.4 seconds for a burst of DNG.RAW files and 23.5 seconds for the RAW+JPEG pairs.  

      Buy this camera if:
      – You’re seeking a capable DSLR with a wealth of creative in-camera adjustments ““ including some innovative filter effects.  
      – You require superior high-ISO performance and a high sensitivity range.
      – You want a wide range of post-capture, image adjustments including in-camera raw file conversion to TIFF or JPEG format.
      – You’d enjoy shooting the occasional HD video clip.  

       Don’t buy this camera if:
       – You’re upgrading from a digicam and want a simple DSLR camera.
       – You don’t have a suite of Pentax-compatible lenses.
       – You want autofocusing while shooting video clips.
       – You’re not interested in in-camera processing to obtain special effects with JPEG files.


       Image sensor: 23.7 x 15.7 mm high-sensitivity CMOS sensor with approx. 16.93 million photosites (16.28 megapixels effective)
       Image processor: PRIME II
       A/D processing: 14-bit
       Lens mount: Pentax KAF2 bayonet mount
       Focal length crop factor: 1.5x
       Image formats: Stills ““ PEF.RAW, DNG.RAW, JPEG (Exif 2.3), RAW+JPEG; Movies ““ AVI (Motion JPEG) with monaural sound
       Image Sizes: Stills ““ 4928 x 3264, 3936 x 2624, 3072 x 2048, 1728 x 1152; Movies: 1920 x 1080 at 25 fps, 1280 x 720 and 640 x 480 at 30 or 25 fps
       Image Stabilisation: Sensor-shift Shake Reduction, up to 3EV
       Dust removal: Dust Removal II (sensor vibration, SP Coating and Dust alert function)
       Shutter speed range: 1/8000 to 30 seconds plus Bulb, x-synch at 1/180 sec.
       Exposure Compensation: +/- 5EV in 1/3 EV or 1/2 EV steps
       Exposure bracketing: 2, 3 or 5 frames
       Self-timer: 2 or 12 seconds delay
       Focus system: SAFOX IX+ autofocus system with TTL phase-matching detection; 11 AF points (9 cross type in the centre)
       Focus modes: AF.A (auto), AF.S (single, with focus lock), AF-C (continuous); 5-point or 11-point Auto, Select or Centre
       Exposure metering: TTL open-aperture 77-segment metering with multi-segment, centre-weighted or spot modes
       Shooting modes: Green (Auto), Program (P), Sensitivity-Priority (Sv), Shutter-Priority (Tv), Aperture-Priority (Av), Shutter and Aperture Priority (TAv), Metered Manual (M), Bulb, X, User, Video
       Picture Style/Control settings: Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Muted, Reversal Film, Monochrome, Bleach Bypass, Cross Processing
       Digital filters: Retro, Toy Camera, High-contrast, Extract Colour, Soft, Starburst, Fish-eye, Custom
       Other Shooting Modes: Super-Impose (up to 9 pictures), Interval up to 999 pictures
       Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
       ISO range: Auto, ISO 100 to 12800 (1/3EV, 1/2EV or 1EV steps), extended sensitivity: from ISO 80 to 51200; Bulb mode: up to ISO 1600
       White balance: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Fluorescent light (D, N, W, L), Tungsten light, Flash, CTE, Manual (configuration on monitor, colour temperature from 2 500 to 10 000K, 100K steps)
       Flash: P-TTL auto pop-up flash; GN approx 13 (ISO 100/m); Auto, manual (on/off), red eye reduction, slow-speed sync, rear curtain sync, high-speed sync modes; wireless sync with Pentax dedicated external flash
       Flash exposure adjustment: -2 EV to +1EV
       Sequence shooting: Max. approx. 7.0 fps for up to 30 JPEG or 20 RAW
       Storage Media: SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards
       Viewfinder:  Pentaprism with approx. 100% field of view, approx.   0.92x magnification, 21.7 mm eye relief, interchangeable Natural Bright Matte III focusing screen; -2.5 – +1.5 dioptre adjustment
       LCD monitor: 3-inch TFT colour LCD monitor with AR coating and air gapless glass; approx. 921 000 dots
       Live View modes: Contrast detection AF (with Face Detection), Phase matching AF, Standard and magnified views (AF mode: 2x, 4x, 6x), MF mode (2x, 4x, 6x, 8x, 10x); Grid overlay (4×4, Golden Section, Scale); Bright/Dark area warning, Histogram
       Data LCD: Yes
       Playback functions: Single image or index view (up to 81 images), Image Comparison, Magnification (up to 32x, scroll and quick magnification available), Rotation, Calendar view, Folder view, Histogram (Y histogram, RGB histogram), Slideshow, Bright/Dark area warning, Resize, Cropping, Copyright and detailed Exif information display
       Interface terminals: Mini-HDMI and AV outputs, compatible with NTSC and PAL, USB 2.0 mini-B (Hi-Speed), DC power input, cable release, X-sync socket, stereo mic. input
       Power supply: D-LI90 rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 740 shots with 50% flash, approx. 980 shots without flash
       Dimensions (wxhxd): 131 x 97 x 72.5 mm (body only)
       Weight: 680 grams (body only)

      RRP:AU$1249, US$1200 (body only); AU$1799, US$1550 (as reviewed with DA 18-135mm lens
       Distributor: C.R. Kennedy & Company; (03) 9823 1555;



       JPEG image files







      Raw image files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw.







       Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


       Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      30-second exposure at ISO 80; 18mm focal length, f/4.5.


      6-second exposure at ISO 6400; 18mm focal length, f/16.


      3-second exposure at ISO 12800; 18mm focal length, f/16.


      2.5-second exposure at ISO 25600; 18mm focal length, f/22.


      1.6-second exposure at ISO 51200; 18mm focal length, f/22.


      Crop from the above image,enlarged to 100%.


      Flash exposure at ISO 80; 135mm focal length, 1/180 second at f/5.6.


      Flash exposure at ISO 6400; 135mm focal length, 1/180 second at f/5.6.


      Flash exposure at ISO 12800; 135mm focal length, 1/180 second at f/5.6.


      Flash exposure at ISO 25600; 135mm focal length, 1/180 second at f/5.6.


      Flash exposure at ISO 51200; 135mm focal length, 1/180 second at f/5.6.


      18mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/7.1.


      135mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/7.1.


      Vignetting at 18mm f/3.5.


      Vignetting at 135mm f/5.6.


      Rectilinear distortion at 18mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 135mm.


      Strong backlighting; 18mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/400 second at f/5.6.


      Crop from the above image, enlarged to 100%, showing coloured fringing.


      Stabilisation test; 135mm focal length; ISO 1600, 1/10 second at f/8.


      Bokeh at 135mm; ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/5.6.


      60mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/4.5.


      Low light shot in Sv mode; 135mm focal length; ISO 512,000, 1/10 second at f/25.


      Stage performance shot at ISO 6400; 135mm focal length, 1/80 second at f/8.


       Still frame from 1920 x 1080-pixel video clip recorded at 25 fps.


      Still frame from 1280 x 720-pixel video clip recorded at 30 fps.


      Still frame from 1280 x 720-pixel video clip recorded at 25 fps.


      Still frame from VGA video clip recorded at 30 fps.


       Still frame from VGA video clip recorded at 25 fps.


      RRP:AU$1249, US$1200 (body only); AU$1799, US$1550 (as reviewed with DA 18-135mm lens)

      • Build: 9.0
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Autofocusing: 8.8
      • Still image quality JPEG: 8.5
      • Still image quality RAW: 8.5
      • Video quality: 8.5