Pentax K-3 II

Wouldn’t it be great if you could continue shooting even when the heavens open? If so, the K-3 II could be for you as it has 92 seals to keep the elements out. Interestingly, the Mk II isn’t a replacement to the now two-year old K-3. Instead, it sits alongside it, offering different features and a slightly higher price tag. The K-3 II looks remarkably similar to its sibling, however one big change is that it has no pop-up flash. This has been replaced by a GPS unit and can be used for star-filled night shots up to 5mins in duration or to geotag your images. It also has sensor-based image stabilisation, so let’s find out how it fares...

Pentax K-3 II

Pentax K-3 II

Features & Build
The large number of weather-seals protect the bounty of state-of-the-art features within the K-3 II. The 24Mp APS-C sensor has no Anti Alias filter so should provide extra sharpness. Its resolution is similar to Nikon’s D5500 and Canon’s 750D, capturing RAWs and JPEGs at 6016x4000px, and it can shoot in the universally friendly DNG RAW format. But, it’s the built-in Shake Reduction system that makes the Mk II stand out from the crowd, with a 4.5 stop advantage.

Pentax has multi-purposed the motors that stabilise the sensor for even more features. They can vibrate to act as an AA simulator, rotate the sensor to track stars when used with the integrated GPS unit and pave the way for a brand new Pixel Shift Resolution mode. Despite its name though, this mode does not increase the resolution. When set up on a tripod, the K-3 II can take four separate shots, each one pixel apart, and stitch them together to give more accurate colours. A standard RAW was 34MB, but this was increased to 127MB when using this mode.

Borrowing the same Prime III image processor found in the £6,799 645Z medium format camera, the Mk II should be pretty quick off its feet. An ISO range of 100-51,200 is featured and the shutter speed spans from 1/8000-30secs, with the burst rate topping out at 8.3fps.

Look at the Mk II from above and you’ll find the Mode dial with all the usual MASP exposure choices plus a few extra modes including Sv (an ISO priority mode) and three customisable User modes. The Mode dial spins freely but a pin lock can be engaged via a small lever.

Move to the right and you’ll find the hotshoe above what looks suspiciously like a pop-up flash. While this was indeed a flash in the Mk I, it’s been sealed shut with the new GPS unit in its place. A new Astrotracer feature uses the GPS to track stars for several minutes – this would cause star trails to appear in cameras without this ability. You can also use the GPS to Geotag your shots, adding location metadata to the image. A top plate LCD sits adjacent to this, and displays core exposure info. 

On the back sits the large, 3.2in LCD screen. It boasts a wide viewing angle, AR coating and Air-gapless technology to cut down reflections in bright sun.
Compose with it and you’ll be able to make use of its Safox 11 autofocus sensor module. There are 27 AF points to choose from, with the central 25 being the faster phase-detect type.

Performance & Handling
The K-3 II has a stainless steel chassis and magnesium alloy body, so it feels like it could take a real beating. Reinforcing the build are its all weather credentials, which will keep out heavy rain. It sports a rather angular grip however, and is quite heavy with a body weight of 785g. This makes it a little uncomfortable to use for prolonged periods.
The studded rings on the 18-55mm WR lens give plenty to hold on to and look a little reminiscent of older film cameras. The kit lens is fully weather-sealed to match the body and features a zoom ring as well as a focusing ring for fast manual focusing. You can quickly change between AF and MF with a large switch on the body although this required a firm click to stop it getting stuck between modes.

The autofocus is carried out by the motor built in to the body. The attached 18-55mm AL WR kit lens was quick to focus but produced a drill-like whir which would be enough to scare off a skittish subject.

When compared to the slick interfaces found on its competitors, the Pentax K-3 II’s menu system feels a little clunky and, at times, unintuitive. This is partly due to a high number of buttons on the outside which take time to locate. Some of these, such as the RAW/FX,
GPS and Meter mode buttons, would be more logically situated if they were nested into the quick Info sub-menu.

A small red dot widely signifies the movie record function, and while this is the case with the K-3 II, it’s only when the Capture Mode selector is flicked to Movie mode. In the Stills mode the same button engages Live View instead, which was a little confusing. That said, dual Command dials and a dedicated ISO button near the shutter release made it easy to tweak exposure parameters.

The K-3 II gave a steady performance when it came to writing files to the card. A single JPEG took 0.7sec but a RAW took a whole second longer at 1.7secs. Shooting at 8.3fps in the burst mode the K-3 II was able to shoot 60 JPEGs before slowing, and took 7.5secs to write them. In the same mode, 23 RAWs were taken, and these took 17secs to clear the buffer.

Value for money
The K-3 II has an RRP of £849 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR lens or £769 body only. This puts it close to Nikon’s older D7100 which has a street price of £748 body-only or £849 with the 18-105mm VR kit lens. Canon’s 70D costs £760 with the 18-55mm IS STM kit lens. Both competitors are out-specced by the K-3 II’s GPS, sensor-shift stabilisation, 25 cross-type AF points and weather-sealing, but they do offer a friendlier interface which makes it easier to adjust your shooting setup.

Pentax has really pulled out all the stops with the K-3 II. It really is loaded with some fantastic technology. The stabilised sensor, 25 cross-type AF points, weather-sealing, 8.3fps burst mode, headphone and mic ports are not to be sniffed at, but a touchscreen would have made it a little more user-friendly and its grip was a bit uncomfortable over long periods of use. This gave a solid four star rating for its Features & Build.

We awarded just three stars for Performance as its AF was considerably louder than its rivals, the write-to-card times were run-of-the-mill and the interface was a little hard to navigate. That said, if you’re not deterred by the menu system, you’ll be rewarded with good quality images. The K-3 II offers a lot and is certainly one to consider if you shoot day and night in all weathers.


  • Body price: £709 (As of July 2016)
  • Resolution: 24Mp (6016x4000px)
  • Format: JPEG & RAW (DNG or PEF)
  • Sensor: APS-C
  • ISO: 100-51,200
  • Shutter: 30-1/8,000sec & Bulb mode
  • AF system: TTL phase detection
  • Focusing modes: Manual Focus, Single AF, Continuous AF and Auto select AF
  • Metering: Multi-segment, centre-weighted and spot metering
  • Burst: 8.3fps
  • Monitor: 3.2in, 1037k dot LCD with Air Gapless technology
  • Viewfinder: OVF 100%
  • Pop-up flash: No Hotshoe: Yes
  • Video: Full HD 1920x1080 @ 30/25p
  • Write speeds: 1.7secs RAW, 0.7sec JPEG
  • Storage: SD, SDHC and SDXC
  • Weight: 785g (body only)
  • Dimensions: (WxHxD) 102.5x131.5x77.5mm
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This review was first published in the October 2015 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.