Pentax K-70 Review

August 30, 2016 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Pentax K-70 is a new mid-range 24.24-megapixel DSLR camera. Key features include a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor with an anti-aliasing simulator rather than an optical anti-aliasing filter, a vari-angle LCD screen, 11-point SAFOX X Hybrid AF system, weather-resistant construction, ISO range of 100-102400, Full HD 1080p video at 30, 25 and 24fps, 6fps continuous shooting, Pixel Shift Resolution System, AA (anti-aliasing) filter simulator, High Dynamic Range mode, and a range of in-built digital filter effects. The K-70 also offers a shutter designed for 100,000 releases, top shutter speed of 1/6000th second, optical viewfinder with nearly 100% frame coverage, 77-segment matrix meter, dust removal and shake-reduction systems, built-in wi-fi connectivity, 14-bit RAW files, and a timer exposure mode. The Pentax K-70 is available in black and is priced at £559.99 / $699.95 for the body only, or £799.99 / $899.95 with the SMC DA 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 ED AL (IF) DC WR lens.

Ease of Use

The Pentax K-70's is externally similar to its 3-year-old predecessor, the K-50, although the more "curvy" styling of that camera has been replaced with a squarer edged look. The Pentax K-70 is similar in size - 93(H) x 125.5(W) x 74(D) - and slightly heavier - 628g without the battery or memory card fitted. Despite its all-plastic construction the K-70 feels pretty solid, and it's also dust, cold and water resistant, thanks to a system of special seals used throughout the design, meaning that it can operate at . This shows itself most obviously via the battery compartment and the memory card slot.

The SMC DA 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 ED AL (IF) DC WR kit lens is better built and more weather-proof than the kits lenses of its rivals. The smc PENTAX-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6AL WR lens features a simplified weather-resistant construction designed to minimise the intrusion of water and moisture into the lens barrel. There's also a special coating which repels dust, water and grease and makes it easy to wipe off fingerprints and cosmetics. Consequently it feels well-matched to the K-70, although it's a rather slow lens at both ends of the focal length (f3.5-5.6).

The K-70 features a shutter unit which provides a fast top shutter speed of 1/6000th second and a 100,000 shutter release life-span, a figure more commonly associated with much more expensive professional SLR cameras. Rather than an optical anti-aliasing filter in the camera, the K-70 has an innovative anti-aliasing simulator instead, which can be turned off (default setting) or on to either the Type1 or Type2 setting, which adjusts the level of the effect.

The Pentax K-70 is quite a complex camera in terms of functionality and the number of external controls that it offers, with 19 in total and a lot of them having more than one function. Despite the presence of so many buttons and switches, the Pentax K-70 doesn't feel too cluttered or intimidating, although it will certainly take some time to adapt to for people moving up from a simpler entry-level SLR.

Departing from the recent trend of ultra-compact SLR models, the Pentax K-70 is definitely designed for "normal" hands. The camera has an even deeper handgrip than its predecessor on the right-hand side, coated in a rubberized compound to aid grip, that enables you to use three fingers to hold it and a right forefinger to operate the shutter button. There is a new thumb grip on the rear where your right thumb sits, covered in the same coating as the front handgrip. Curiously the left-hand side (viewed from the rear) and the remote control port on the right also have a rubber covering, with the rest of the body finished in a shiny black.

On the front of the camera body is the RAW / Fx1 button, which instantly sets the image quality to the RAW format, useful if you are shooting in JPEG and want to quickly switch to RAW mode for a particular image. This button can also be customised to optionally control either Exposure Bracketing, Optical Preview, Digital Preview, Composition Adjustment or AF Active Area. Located underneath is the Autofocus Mode switch, with two available modes, and above a small button for opening the pop-up flash, which extends quite high above the lens to help minimise red-eye.

Connecting to the Pentax K-70’s built-in Wi-Fi is done via the Wi-Fi/Fx2 button on top of the camera. Once you have the dedicated Image Sync app installed on your device and you’re connected, you can shoot remotely, and very pleasingly, you have pretty much complete control over the camera’s shooting capability. So, you can change aperture, ISO, shutter speed and more - the only thing you won’t be able to change is the focal length of the lens. On the whole it’s a great app to use, and other manufacturers could look to this app for inspiration on how to produce a genuinely useful smartphone remote control app. The other option you have is to download images taken on the camera across to your smartphone or tablet for quick sharing to social networks or email.

Pentax K-70
Front of the Pentax K-70

The K-70 doesn't have a built-in GPS unit. Instead, you can buy the optional O-GPS1 GPS Unit to take advantage of the camera's special built-in Astrotracer function, which calculates the earth's rotation to help that stars are captured without streaking.

Using the in-body SR (shake reduction) mechanism, Pixel Shift Resolution works by shifting the image sensor by a single pixel in four different directions and merging four shots together, so that each photosite on the sensor captures red, green and blue from the colour filter array, rather than just a single colour as on a Bayer sensor. Pentax claims that this creates "super high-definition images" with more accurate colour reproduction, finer detail, elimination of false color aliasing and less noise. Images taken with the Pixel Shift Resolution function turned on can be processed on the camera and also developed using the included utility software. Note that you should use a tripod or other support when using this feature, plus one of the Self-timer, Remote Control, or Mirror Lock-up functions, and also that it can't be used effectively for moving subjects.

On the bottom of the K-70 is the weather-sealed battery compartment, housing the supplied rechargeable D-LI109 battery which only offers a rather mediocre performance of around 480 shots before being depleted. Note that the K-70 no longer accepts AA batteries as well, unlike the previous K-50 model. There's also a metal tripod mount that's perfectly in-line with the centre of the lens mount.

On the right-hand side of the K-70 is the weather-sealed SD / SDXC memory card slot, and located below is new HDMI port and the USB port. Note that the Pentax K-70 no longer has a remote cable release connector, a disappointing omission.

The Pentax K-70 has a shooting mode dial on the top-right of the camera which allows you to select either one of the advanced mode like Aperture-priority, Shutter-Priority and Manual, or the more point-and-shoot Auto and Program modes. There are also a range of 19 scene modes, signaling its intent as a camera that's equally suited to more casual users. You'll instantly notice that the K-70 has a couple of unusual shooting modes that you won't have seen before on any other camera (apart from older Pentax DSLR models). These are the Sensitivity-Priority and Shutter & Aperture-Priority modes, and they are genuinely useful additions.

Sensitivity-Priority automatically selects the best combination of aperture and shutter speed for your chosen ISO speed. The sensitivity can be shifted instantly (in 1/2 or 1/3 steps) by turning the rear control dial. This allows you to quickly select an ISO speed, without having to access the menu system, which is very useful in rapidly changing light conditions. In Shutter & Aperture-Priority mode the camera selects the most appropriate ISO speed for a shutter speed and aperture combination, allowing you to use ISO sensitivity as a third factor in determining the correct exposure. As digital cameras have always offered the unique ability to instantly change the sensitivity, it's surprising that Pentax are still the only manufacturer to allow you to use ISO in this way.

Pentax K-70
Rear of the Pentax K-70

Also on the right hand side of the top of the K-70 is the small shutter button, surrounded by the on/off switch. Located in front of the shutter button is one of the e-dials, predominately used to change the shutter speed, while behind it are the Exposure Compensation button and a rather innocuous looking button with a small green dot that's unique to Pentax DSLRs. It has two uses - firstly, when shooting in Manual mode, a single push of the green button allows you to instantly set the correct exposure for the subject, as calculated by the camera, useful if you need a starting point for your own exposure. Secondly, the K-70 offers a Hyper Program function which instantly switches to either the Shutter-Priority or Aperture-Priority mode from the Program mode, simply by turning either of the control dials on the grip. Pressing the Green button then returns to the Program mode.

The Pentax K-70 has a traditional eye-level optical TTL viewfinder which offers an impressive 100% scene coverage. Being able to see exactly what will be captured means that you can only blame yourself for poor composition and unwanted details creeping into the frame. The viewfinder is bright and free of any distortions or aberrations, making it suitable for both auto and manual focusing. The in-finder status LCD runs horizontally along the bottom and it shows most of the camera's key settings.

The rear of the camera is dominated by the new vari-angle 3 inch LCD screen, which makes it much easier to record movies and shoot from unusual angles. The K-70's LCD screen has a high resolution of 921K dots, wide viewing angle and it remains visible outdoors in all but the brightest of conditions. The colour temperature of the screen can be modified if you think it doesn't match that of your calibrated computer monitor, but the contrast and gamma cannot be altered.

The rear screen also doubles as a comprehensive status display, which can be called up by pressing the OK or Info buttons in record mode. If you then press the Info button again, you can also change all the settings right on the screen using a combination of the navigation pad and the rear e-dial. This ingenious solution spares you the pain of having to enter the menu, and makes most setting changes very simple.

Located above the LCD screen and to the left of the viewfinder is the shared Live View / Delete button. You can use the Live View mode to hold the K-70 at arm's length or mount the camera on a tripod, with a single press of the LV button on the rear displaying the current scene on the LCD screen. Focusing is achieved by pressing the small AF/AE-L button on the rear of the camera or by half-pressing the shutter-button. Alternatively you can use manual focus in Live View mode, with up to 10x magnification available via the Info button to help you fine-tune the focus (you can also use the Info button to magnify the subject by up to 6x when Auto Focus is on). Most of the main camera settings are displayed in Live View, although a histogram is conspicuous by its absence. You can change the aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO speed and a number of other settings when Live View is activated.

The K-70 is the first ever Pentax DSLR to feature the Hybrid AF system, which employs both a contrast-detection AF sensor and a phase-matching AF sensor on the image sensor's surface. In practice this massively speeds up auto-focusing in live view mode, taking less than a second to lock onto the subject, rather than a couple of seconds. Although we still wouldn't use it to track a fast-moving subject, it's a real improvement and something that we'd hope and expect to see on all future Pentax DSLRs. Impressively .

Pentax K-70
Tilting LCD Screen

The K-70 can record Full 1080p HD movie footage, recording high-definition video at either 1920 x 1280 pixels, 1280 x 720 pixels or 640 x 480 pixel at 30fps, 25fps or 24fps in the MOV format. The maximum size of a single video clip is either 4 gigabytes or 25 minutes. There's a built-in microphone for mono recording. You can connect the K-70 to a standard TV set via NTSC/PAL, and there's now a HDMI port too.

There are some notable drawbacks to the Pentax K-70's video mode. It's still quite difficult to actually start recording one. You have to move the Off/On/Movie switch to the Movie setting, then press the AF-On or half-press shutter button to set the focus, and then press the shutter button to begin recording (with the same button ending the movie). It's not on a par with the one-button system that some rivals offer, and you can't take a still shot during recording either. As with most modern DSLR cameras that offer a video mode, you can autofocus during movie recording, and it benefits from the same speed improvements as the still photo mode. You can also now set the camera to continually autofocus when shooting video, bringing the K-70 in line with newer DSLRs.

To the right of the viewfinder is the rear e-dial, mainly used for changing the aperture, and the AF/AE-L button, handily placed for autofocusing and locking the exposure. Underneath is the traditional 4-way navigation pad which is split into separate buttons, providing instant access to the ISO speed, drive mode/self-timer, white balance and flash settings, with the OK button confirming actions.

The Menu button accesses all of the 80+ different menu options that the camera offers, reflecting the fact that this is quite a complex and customisable DSLR. Thankfully you will only have to set about half of the settings once and can then forget about them. The menu system has a fairly logical tabbed system with five main tabs, Record, Movie, Playback, Setup and Custom, each divided into several sub-pages, and it's easily readable with a bright display and a large font size making it perfectly visible even in low light.

The Pentax K-70 features a built-in Shake Reduction system. Turn it on via the main menu option and the K-70 automatically compensates for camera shake, which is a slight blurring of the image that typically occurs at slow shutter speeds, providing . As this system is built into the camera body, it works with almost any lens that you attach to the K-70, providing a significant cost advantage over DSLRs from Canon and Nikon, which use a lens-based image stabilisation system (compatible lenses are the PENTAX K-, KA-, KAF-, KAF2- and KAF3-mount lenses; screw-mounted lenses (with an adapter); and 645- and 67-system lenses (with an adapter)).

If you've had a bad experience with DSLRs and dust in the past, then the K-70 offers a Dust Removal mechanism. This automatically shifts the low-pass filter located in front of the CMOS image sensor at very high speed, shaking the dust off the low-pass filter. If you do still notice any dust, there's a neat feature called Dust Alert which is designed to show exactly where the dust is on the image sensor. A vertically and laterally correct image of the sensor shot at f/16 is shown on the LCD screen, indicate exactly where any stubborn dust particles may be lurking. While this feature won't prevent dust from getting onto the sensor, it does provide a quick and easy way of checking for it. In addition Dust Removal can be set to activate whenever the camera is turned on, and you can also use the built-in Sensor Cleaning function to lift the mirror and clean the image sensor with a blower brush or third-party cleaning solution.

Pentax K-70
The Pentax K-70 In-hand

The Pentax K-70's High Dynamic Range (HDR) Capture option (only available for JPEGs) takes three images with different exposures, with 4 different strengths on offer, and then records a single image that combines the properly exposed parts of each one, expanding its dynamic range. It's important to always use a tripod to prevent camera shake from blurring the HDR image, and it doesn't work very well for moving subjects.

Pentax's Custom Images, similar to Nikon's Picture Styles and Canon's Picture Controls, are preset combinations of different sharpness, contrast, saturation and colour tone settings. You can change the . The Pentax K-70 additionally offers 9 different Digital Filters, which allow you to quickly apply an artistic effect to a photo before taking it (JPEG images only). Note that applying the Digital Filters slows the camera down somewhat, as it has to process the image for a few seconds after it's taken. The K-70 can also be set to automatically compensate for both distortion and lateral chromatic aberration of any DA- and DFA-series lenses.,>

The rather innocuous-sounding AF Fine Adjustment custom function will be of particular interest to current Pentax owners. If you have a collection of older Pentax lenses and you've never been quite sure how accurate they focus when mounted on a DSLR, this is the function for you. Essentially it allows you to alter the focus of each Fine Adjustment option, then test again until perfect focus is achieved. With most other DSLR systems you'd have to send the camera and lens off for calibration (and maybe even have to pay for it), but with the K-70, you can calibrate all of your lenses in the comfort of your own home.

The start-up time of the Pentax K-70, from turning the camera on to being ready to take a photo, is very quick at around 1 second. Focusing is also quick and consistent in good light with the standard 18-135mm kit lens, and the camera happily achieves focus indoors and in low-light situations. The powerful AF Assist lamp can be used even if the built-in flash isn't raised, and there's a very handy peaking function that's great for manual focus users which now works for video as well as stills.

It takes about 1 second to store a JPEG image at the highest quality setting with no discernible lockup between taking shots, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card. For RAW images the Pentax K-70 takes about 2 seconds to store an image and again there is no lockup between shots. In the continuous shooting mode you can hold down the shutter button and take 6 shots per second for up to 40 JPEG or 10 RAW files. The camera does lock up for a few seconds once the maximum number of shots is reached, although you can continue to shoot continuously, just at a much slower rate.