If you thought the Pentax K-7 was packed with features then meet the K-5 which has even more goodies plus, just for good measure, a higher resolution sensor with significantly increased sensitivity. Report by Paul Burrows.

The K-5 is very similar externally to the K-7, but has a new sensor, upgraded processor and quite a few new features.

The standard set of ‘PASM’ exposure modes is expanded to include Sensitivity-Priority AE (Sv) and Shutter & Aperture-Priority AE (TAv).

The top deck info panel provides a comprehensive set of read-outs (including the electronic level indicator) and has built-in illumination.

The K-5 offers an extensive range of filter effects available at-capture or post-capture. The ‘Custom Filter’ feature enables up to eight effects to be combined, including soft focus, shading, distortion and a selection from a total of 18 colours.

The ‘Extended Bracketing’ function allows for auto bracketing over three frames for colour saturation, hue, high/low key adjustment (i.e. image brightness), contrast and sharpness. These parameters can also be combined.

Pentax has been the only D-SLR manufacturer to really leverage the additional JPEG processing capabilities virtually on tap via the imaging ‘engine’ that’s also performing basic duties such as applying the picture modes. This has been the basis of an ever-growing list of filter effects in Pentax D-SLRs which can be applied either at capture or post-capture plus a range of corrective functions which also continues to expand on successive models. All essentially only require the writing of additional software so it’s a bit surprising that rivals only dabble in this area.

Of course, there is the question about just how often some of these effects might be used – and it’s true that a few probably have very limited applications – but having them in-camera has obvious benefits and, as with conventional filters, experimentation can lead to interesting results. Additionally, Pentax is reducing the need for post-camera image processing even to the extent of providing RAW-to- TIFF/JPEG conversion on its latest D-SLRs.

The K-5 is to the K-7 as the entry-level K-r was to the K-x – namely essentially the same camera physically, but with a new and higher resolution sensor plus quite a long list of additional image processing functions. These include not only some new filter effects and picture mode presets, but also a faster continuous shooting speed and a step up in the video recording resolution from HD to Full HD. All of this is the work of the latest PRIME II processor (the initials stand for ‘Pentax Real Image Engine’) which is both more powerful and faster thereby enabling 7.0 fps for still shooting (up from 5.2 fps) and video recording at 1920x1080 pixels and 25 fps. You can get some idea of just how extensive are the K-5’s capabilities by looking at the length of the ‘Additional Digital Features’ entry in the specifications, and you won’t be surprised to learn that the printed instruction manual is all of 375 pages long. It’s worth noting there too, that this manual is one of the better ones, particularly in terms of the indexing which actually makes sense for a change (and actually matches the page numbers).

Seeing In The Dark

Many of the additional image processing functions added to the K-r over the K-x have also made their way into the K-5, including a ‘Cross Processing’ capture mode, Bleach Bypass and Reversal Film picture modes, and new filter effects called Sketch and Posterisation.

The new CMOS-type sensor has a slightly different imaging area to that of the K-7’s – although the focal length magnification factor remains at 1.5x – and a total pixel count of 16.93 million with the effective count being only marginally lower at 16.28 megapixels. This is a small increase over the K-7’s 14.6 MP (effective), but the native sensitivity has increased more significantly to the equivalent of ISO 100 to 12,800 and can be expanded a further two stops up to ISO 25,600 and 51,200. There’s also a small ‘pull’ step down to ISO 80.

The increase in effective resolution results in a slightly bigger maximum image size of 4928x3264 pixels for both JPEG and RAW capture. JPEGs can alternatively be captured in three smaller sizes and there’s a choice of four levels of compression labelled ‘Premium’, ‘Best’, ‘Better’ and ‘Good’. RAW images can be captured as compressed PEFs or uncompressed DNG files. RAW+JPEG capture is possible in whatever two file configurations are already set and there’s a RAW/Fx button on the lens mount which can be set to switch between any combination of capture formats.

RAW files can be converted in-camera into either JPEGs or TIFFs. There’s a total of 11 processing parameters available, including the image size and quality level, the ‘Custom Image’ mode, white balance setting, sensitivity, the lens aberration corrections, shadow correction and the colour space.

Image stabilisation is provided via sensor shift which Pentax calls ‘Shake Reduction’ (SR) and which gives up to four stops of compensation, depending on the lens focal length in use. With older lenses, the focal length can be input manually. Sensor cleaning is performed via ultrasonic vibration of the LPF and can be set to operate automatically when the camera is switched on or manually activated (via the Set Up menu) as required.