Pentax K-3 II vs K-3 Differences Comparison

April 23, 2015

Pentax K-3 II what's new

In this article we’ll take a look at the Pentax K-3 II new features and see hot it compared to the older mode, the K-3 (K3). Pentax K-3 received very high review ratings on many leading camera review websites. Ricoh continuously working in improving the Pentax K range by adding more innovative features that will make those cameras appeal to more and more enthusiast photographers.

First let’s start with a short introduction to the K-3 II key features and then compare it to its predecessor, the K-3.

Pentax K-3 II

The Pentax K-3 II was announced on April 22th 2015, approximately  a year an a half after the K-3. According to the press release build on the performance standard of its predecessor. It still maintains the same: Prime III image processor, sensor resolution, ISO range, 3.2″ fixed 1037K dot LCD display, 0.95x viewfinder, shutter speed and burst speed. So there isn’t any change in the sheer performance capability of the camera. I’ll dive into more details in the comparison section, but first let’s talk more about the K-3 II.

On the outside, the K-3 II looks identical to the K-3. The most interested changes are underneath the metal chassis and magnesium alloy casing.

Pixel Shift Resolution – The K-3 II is the first camera in the Pentax like to have a Pixel Shift Resolution feature.  What this technology does is it uses the in-body shake reduction (SR) mechanism not just to compensate for camera movements, but also to capture a higher resolution images. It does that by moving the sensor in single pixel increment, and capturing 4 separate image. Those images are combines to a single ultra high resolution image.

This also allows the camera to capture all the RGB color data for each individual pixel that is represented in the final image output.  The result is an image that shows more accurate colors, sharper details, higher dynamic range and better color reproduction. This is what photographers have been waiting for years. Sigma did it with its Foveon sensor, but its technology had its limitations, especially when shooting under low-light conditions.

The K-3 II doesn’t expand the image size, but results in a full color resolution image and able to correct many of the Bayer Sensor cons. The fact that the camera can sample the same pixel four times leads to an improved low-light performance as well. The sensor doesn’t have an anti-aliasing filter, that further enhance its detail resolvement power. The ‘Pixel Shift Resolution’ technology also helps reducing moiré image defects. There is an ‘AA Filter Simulator’ option in the menus, allowing the camera to mimic the effect of the AA filter by applying microscopic vibrations to the sensor.  You can’t use this mode when shooting in ‘Pixel Shift Resolution’.

The one downside of this technology is that the subject has to be static. The camera needs to capture all four images, and moving subjects will likely to appear blurred in the final image.

In my opinion this technology is better than the Foveom because you get a higher resolution image, improved sensitivity and better color reproduction overall. That being said, you’ll need to make sure that the camera is set on a stable platform to prevent any movements effecting the image. With the Foveon based cameras you don’t have any of those restrictions capturing a full-color image.  So it entirely depends what you intend to shoot. The K-3 II new ‘Pixel Shift Resolution’ technology will be a best fit to landscape, studio, portraits and architecture shots among others.

Here’s a video demonstration that shows how the AA filter simulator works.

Among the other featuresare: a build-int GPS with Electronic compass, Improved AF tracking performance and SAFOX 11 27-point AF system (–3EV to +18EV light sensitivity range), weather-sealing and cold proof body (water-resistant fog, snow, sand and dust resistance), 8.3 fps burst, improved IBIS with up to 4.3EV steps, in-camera diffraction correction, 1080i60/30p video recording, 86,000-pixel RGB metering sensor with Real-Time Scene Analysis System,  built-in GPS with ASTROTRACER, Compass and Log functions and more.

The Astrotracer feature tracks and photographs astronomical bodies. It takes advantage of the GPS and the accelerometer sensor to synchronize the CMOS sensor with the movement of the stars. This way you can get a long-exposure image that shows the stars as single points in the sky instead of star trails. Sometimes star trailing effect is what you wish, but with the Pentax K-3 II you can decide which effect you want to get in the final image.

The Pentax K-3 II extends upon an already very popular camera, the K-3. It is designed from the ground up to answer the high demands of enthusiast and professional photographers. You get a very durable and highly weather-sealed camera, with a built-in vibration reduction mechanism (up to 4.5 steps!), built-in GPS, advanced AF system, the Pixel-Shift Resolution technology and much more –  this K-3 II is a beast!

I am disappointed that the new K-3 II uses the same sensor as its predecessor. I was expecting a new sensor with a performance that can match the Fujifilm X-A1.  That being said, the X-A1 has 16MP resolution ,whether the K-3 II has 24MP resolution, which kind of explains the inferior high ISO performance.

So how much all this pleasure costs you? — The Pentax K-3 II will be available in May 2015 for a suggested retail price $1099.95 (body only) according to press release. So it costs approx. $400 more than the K-3. You probably needs to ask yourself whether those added features worth the extra price. In my opinion they do, but this is because I mostly shoot static subjects.

K-3 II vs K-3

The K-3 II has the following added features:

  • Improved Built-in Image Stabilization mechanism (4.5 stops, up from 3.5 stops)
  • Built-in GPS and Electronic compass
  • Improved AF Tracking performance
  • ‘Pixel Shift Resolution’ technology to improve image quality when shooting static subjects (full color image)
  • Slightly higher effective resolution (23.35MP vs 24.35MP)
  • Omission of the built-in flash (vs pop-up 13.00m of the K-3)
  • Improved battery life (720 vs 560 shots)
  • New High-speed AF algorithm
  • New high-precision Gyro sensor
  • Panning detection
  • Automatic horizon correction
  • Auto level compensation
  • Latest version of Digital Camera Utility 5 software

All in all, the Pentax K-3 II will appeal to those who will take advantage of its new features. Other than that, many photographers might prefer waiting for a more significant upgrade. It’s significantly more expensive than its predecessor, so you should think twice before buying the new model, and even a few times more before upgrading.

I’m not sure if I would upgrade to the K3 II if I had the K-3. I mostly shoot static subjects, so the full-color image feature really appeals to me. I also liked the fact that they improved the IBIS effectiveness, which makes the K-3 II a better low-light performer. This can give you an extra full stop advantage, which means that you can shoot at a lower ISO sensitivity – resulting in a less image noise.

This is still a K-3 camera, but Mark II. If you are still not convinced but the new features, you probably want to wait until Pentax releases a more complete model or wait for the full-frame camera which is already in development.

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