Pentax K-3 Review

November 26, 2013 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The flagship Pentax K-3 is a new semi-professional DSLR camera. Key features of the K-3 include a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor with an anti-aliasing simulator rather than an optical anti-aliasing filter, 27-point Safox XI AF module that remains operational down to -3EV, 86,000 pixel RGB light-metering sensor, ISO range of 100-51,200, Full HD 1080p video at 60fps, 8.3fps continuous shooting, High Dynamic Range mode, and a range of in-built digital filter effects. The K-3 offers a dustproof, weather-resistant and cold-resistant construction, a shutter designed for 200,000 releases, top shutter speed of 1/8000th second, an optical viewfinder with the largest and brightness subject image in its class, a 3.2-inch LCD monitor with 920k dots, built-in dust removal and shake-reduction systems, Dual SD card slots and a USB 3.0 port.

The Pentax K-3 is available in black, body only for £1099.99 / $1299.95, in a kit with the 18-55mm WR lens for £1169.99, with the DA L 18-55mm WR and DA L 50-200mm WR lenses for £1349.99, or with the 18-135mm WR zoom for £1419.99 / $1649.95. The K-3 Silver Limited Edition (2,000 units worldwide) will cost £1399.99 / $1599.95 body-only. Optional accessories include a battery grip, FLU card for wireless LAN connection to a compatible smartphone, and a camera strap.

Ease of Use

The Pentax K-3 is outwardly very similar to the cheaper K-5 II camera, sharing a lot of the same external design. It's fractionally bigger - 100(H) x 131.5(W) x 77.5(D) - and heavier - 715g without the battery or memory card fitted, but you don't pay too much of a size or weight penalty for choosing the more full-featured K-3.

You can instantly tell that the K-3 is a serious camera as soon as you pick it up for the first time. This is mainly due to the K-3's stainless-steel alloy frame and lightweight magnesium-steel alloy body, which is a world away from Pentax's much smaller and lighter entry-level DSLR cameras. The K-3 is dust, cold and water resistant, thanks to a system of 92 special seals used throughout the design, and it can operate at temperatures as low as -10°C. This shows itself most obviously via the battery compartment and the memory card slot. The former is opened via a small rotating latch, which is reassuring but a little fiddly to use if you're in a hurry.

The K-3 features a shutter unit which provides a fast top shutter speed of 1/8000th second and an incredible 200,000 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-3 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 smc PENTAX-DA 18-135mm WR F3.5-5.6 ED AL (IF) DC WR lens that we were sent for review along with the K-3 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-3, although it's a rather slow lens at both ends of the focal length (f3.5-5.6).

As it's aimed at the experienced digital SLR owner, the K-3 is a complex camera in terms of functionality and the number of external controls that it offers, with over 30 in total and a lot of them having more than one function. Despite the presence of so many buttons and switches, the Pentax K-3 doesn't feel too cluttered or intimidating, although it will certainly take some time to adapt to for people moving up from a cheaper, simpler DSLR.

Departing from the recent trend of ultra-compact SLR models, the K-3 is definitely designed for "normal" hands. The camera has a deep, contoured handgrip on the right-hand side, coated in a rubberized compound to aid grip, that enabled us to use three fingers to hold it and a right forefinger to operate the shutter button. There is a generous contoured area on the rear where your right thumb sits, with the rest of the body finished in a textured matt black. The shutter release action on the Pentax K-3 is very quiet, which makes the K-3 well suited to more candid photography.

On the front of the Pentax K-3 is a RAW / FX button, which instantly sets the image quality to whichever RAW format is selected in the menu system (either Pentax's PEF format or Adobe DNG), 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, Digital Preview, Electronic Level or Composition Adjustment. Located underneath is the Autofocus Mode button, with three available modes (AF-S, AF-A and AF-C), and underneath a switch for changing between manual and auto focusing. Above is a small button for opening the pop-up flash, which extends quite high above the lens to help minimise red-eye.

Pentax K-3 Pentax K-3
Front Rear

On the bottom of the K-3 is the weather-sealed battery compartment, housing the same rechargeable 1860mAh D-LI90P lithium-ion battery as used by the K-7, K-5 II and K-5 cameras. The K-3 managed around 700 shots using the supplied rechargeable Li-ion battery before being depleted. 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-3 is a weather-sealed SD / SDHC / SDXC dual memory card compartment that's compatible with SDXC UHS-1 speed cards. If you use an optional FLU memory card in the K-3, you can release the K-3's shutter, check the live-view image, and browse and download the images recorded on the card using a smartphone. Note that the FLU card is currently limited to 16Gb in size. Located below is the remote cable release connector. On the left-hand side is a large vertical flap covering the DC In, USB 3.0 and HDMI connectors. The HDMI port allows you to connect the K-3 to a high-def TV set, but only if you purchase an optional HDMI mini-cable. Above this is a small Mic port for connecting an external microphone, protected by a round rubber seal.

The Pentax K-3 follows conventional DSLR design in having a shooting mode dial on the top-left 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 no scene modes on this camera, signaling its intent as a serious photographic tool.

You'll instantly notice that the K-3 has a couple of unusual shooting modes that you won't have seen before on any other camera. 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 the 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. At the base of the shooting mode dial is a switch which locks and unlocks the dial.

On the right-hand side of the top of the K-3 is the small shutter button, surrounded by the on/off switch. This has a third setting, which by default activates the traditional Depth of Field Preview function, stopping down the lens so that you can see the effect of your chosen aperture. 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 and ISO buttons - these commonly-used functions are ideally located for easy access.

Pentax have retained a traditional top LCD panel which displays quite a comprehensive amount of information about the current camera settings, including the shooting mode, current aperture or shutter speed, flash mode, battery level, number of remaining frames and drive mode. A similar amount of settings are also displayed in the viewfinder. In addition, when you turn the K-3 on or change the shooting mode, a graphical overview of how that mode operates is briefly displayed on the rear LCD screen. The Pentax K-3 does a very good job of providing easily understood information about the settings that it's using.

Pentax K-3 Pentax K-3


The Pentax K-3 has a traditional eye-level optical TTL viewfinder which offers an impressive 100% scene coverage and 0.95x magnification. 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. It also features a Natural-Bright-Matte III focusing screen to improve focusing accuracy during manual-focus operation. The in-finder status LCD runs horizontally along the bottom and it shows most of the camera's key settings.

On the rear of the K-3 is a the large 3.2 inch LCD screen. The K-3's LCD screen has a very high resolution of 1,037K dots, wide viewing angle and it's gapless design helps it to remains visible outdoors in all but the brightest of conditions, making it one of the best LCD screens that we've seen on a DSLR. The brightness, saturation and colour temperature of the screen can be modified if you think it doesn't match that of your calibrated computer monitor. 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 via the LCD screen very simple.

Located above the LCD screen and to the left of the viewfinder are the self-explanatory Play and Delete buttons, the latter doubling up as the Metering mode button. To the right of the viewfinder is the LV button which turns on the K-3's Live View mode (see below for more details). Alongside this is the rear e-dial, mainly used for changing the aperture, a new AF button which can be used instead of half-pressing the shutter button to set autofocus, and the AE-L button, handily placed for locking the exposure.

Underneath is 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-3 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-3 has a new switch for changing between stills and movie recording, with the camera automatically switching to Live View for the latter shooting mode. The K-3 can record 1080 HD footage, recording high-definition video at 1920 x 1280 pixels at 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p or 1280 x 720 pixels at 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p in the Motion JPEG (MOV) format. An innovative interval movie mode captures a series of 4K-resolution movie clips (3840 x 2160 pixels) at a fixed interval. The maximum size of a single video clip is either 4 gigabytes or 25 minutes. There's a built-in microphone for stereo recording, a socket for connecting an external stereo microphone and a headphone terminal. You can adjust the audio recording level manually and monitor sound levels during microphone recording. It also has an HDMI port for playback on a HD TV, using the industry-standard HDMI mini-out connection, but note that you'll need to purchase a suitable cable separately. You can also still connect the K-3 to a standard TV set via NTSC/PAL.

Importantly you can now autofocus during movie recording, bringing the K-3 in-line with its main rivals. Unfortunately you can't set the aperture from the camera during recording, only before, so you will want to use lenses that have an aperture ring if possible. The K-3 can be set to Auto Aperture Control, which removes the flexibility of being able to set the aperture yourself but at least enables the camera to change it during recording to suit the subject matter. The shutter speed cannot be set by the user in movie mode either, so you will have to rely on the camera's auto-exposure system while filming.

To engage Live View for stills, you have to set this switch to the Camera icon, then press the red LV button. You can use the Live View mode to hold the K-3 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 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 OK button to help you fine-tune the focus (you can also use the OK button to magnify the subject by up to 10x when Auto Focus is on).

Pentax K-3 Pentax K-3
Top Pop-up Flash

Most of the main camera settings are displayed in Live View, including a helpful electronic level that helps to keep your horizons straight, although a histogram is still 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. Live View is fine for use with stationary subjects, but forget it if you want to track a moving subject. The AF system in Live View mode takes a couple of seconds to lock onto the subject, making it much better suited to subjects that don't move. The Face Recognition AF mode works quite well, as promised quickly identifying up to 16 people in the frame, but again it takes a couple of seconds to lock onto a non-moving subject. More impressively Live View can be used in the continuous shooting mode with no restrictions on the 8.3fps rate, as the K-3 sets the mirror to the lock-up position.

A traditional 4-way navigation pad is split into separate buttons, providing instant access to the drive mode/self-timer, custom image, flash and white balance settings, with the OK button confirming actions. The Menu button underneath accesses all of the 90+ different menu options that the camera offers, reflecting the fact that this a complex and very 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, Camera, Movie, Playback, Set-Up and Custom Setting, 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.

In addition to the Info button that we've already mentioned, the Pentax K-3 has a new Autofocus Area button which allows you to quickly set the AF point to one of the 27 available. Impressively 25 of these are cross-type sensors positioned in the middle, with the centre sensor and two sensors just above and below it designed to detect the light flux of an F2.8 lens. In Playback mode this allows you to toggle between the dual SD cards.

The Pentax K-3 features a built-in Shake Reduction system. Turn it on via the main menu option and the K-3 automatically compensates for camera shake, which is a slight blurring of the image that typically occurs at slow shutter speeds, providing approximately 3 shutter steps of compensation. As this system is built-into the camera body, it works with almost any lens that you attach to the K-3, 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)). The K-3 displays a blur icon in the viewfinder to warn you that camera-shake may occur, regardless of whether or not Shake Reduction is on.

If you've had a bad experience with DSLRs and dust in the past, then the K-3 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.

The Pentax K-3's High Dynamic Range (HDR) Capture option takes three images with different exposures, with 3 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. Similar to Nikon's D-lighting, Sony's DRO, and Olympus' Shadow Adjustment Technology, Pentax's D-Range allows you to correct the highlights (On or Off) and/or the shadows (3 different levels) before taking a JPEG or RAW image. Although this option is always at your disposal, remember that it is meant to be used in strong, contrasty lighting at base ISO. The Pentax K-3 also has a multi-exposure mode that allows you to combine between two and 2,000(!) different JPEG or RAW images into a single photo and a Cross Processing mode with four built-in effects and custom options that replicates the traditional effect of cross-processing film.

Pentax K-3 Pentax K-3
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

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 saturation, hue, high/low key, contrast and sharpness for each of the ten options”. The Pentax K-3 additionally offers eight 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-3 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 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 lens. You can use a focusing target to test if the lens focuses correctly, and if it doesn't alter it slightly using the AF 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-3, you can calibrate all of your lenses in the comfort of your own home.

The start-up time of the Pentax K-3, from turning the camera on to being ready to take a photo, is very quick for at around 1 second. Focusing is much quicker than the older K-5 model even in low-light thanks to the newly developed, highly sensitive SAFOX X AF module and an upgraded AF algorithm. The auto-focus performance of previous Pentax DSLRs has always suffered slightly in comparison with their rivals, but we're pleased to report that the near-instant focusing of the K-3 should finally dispel those criticisms. Indeed, Pentax claims that the K-3 has the largest working range of any DSLR on the market (-3 EV to +18 EV) and this was certainly borne out in practice, even with the slow 18-55mm kit lens. Note that the 18-55mm lens has an annoyingly loud focusing mechanism though. The powerful AF Assist lamp can be used even if the built-in flash isn't raised.

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-3 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 8.3 shots per second for up to 60 JPEGS or 23 RAW files an impressive performance given the large 24 megapixel files that this camera produces. The K-3 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.

Once you have captured a photo, the Pentax K-3 has a good range of options for playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view 12 thumbnails, zoom in and out up to a magnification of 16x, and see very detailed information about each image by pressing the Info button. You can also delete, rotate, resize, protect and crop an an image, view a slideshow and set various printing options. There is an extensive range of 19 digital effects available which can be applied to JPEGs plus a Custom option to create your own unique effect. The camera shows you a preview of what the effect will look like when applied, and the effect is applied to a copy of your image, thus preserving the original intact.

The Index option creates an index print from up to 36 images. Save as Manual WB sets the camera's Manual White Balance setting to the colour balance of the current image and Save Cross Processing saves that specific setting as a favourite. Color Moire Correction reduces colour moire and RAW Development converts a RAW file into a JPEG or TIFF with various conversion parameters available. Movie Edit lets you divide or extract segments from your movies. Importantly the Pentax K-3 offers both a brightness and RGB histogram after taking a photo which is a great help in evaluating the exposure, plus any areas that are over-exposed flash on and off in the LCD preview to show you want you should be compensating for with your next attempt. If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive but relatively easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Thankfully Pentax have chosen to supply it in printed format, rather than as a PDF on a CD, so you can also carry it with you for easy reference.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 24 megapixel Best JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 12Mb.

The Pentax K-3 produced photos of excellent quality. Noise is well controlled by the Pentax K-3, starting to appear at ISO 1600 and becoming more easily detectable at the faster settings of ISO 3200 and 6400 when viewing images at 100% magnification on screen (particularly in the RAW files). The fastest settings of 12800, 25600 and especially 512000 look much better on paper than in reality. Colour saturation is commendably maintained throughout the ISO range.

The 24 megapixel JPEG images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpening setting and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera setting. Image stabilisation via the camera body is a great feature that works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. An added bonus is that it works with any lens that you attach to the K-3.

The night photograph was excellent, with the maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds and Bulb mode allowing you to capture enough light in all situations. The built-in pop-up flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and adequate overall exposure.

The Digital Filters quickly produce special effects that would otherwise require you to spend a lot of time in the digital darkroom, while the Custom Images can usefully be tweaked to suit. The D-Range options help make the most out of both the shadows and highlights in a high-contrast scene (and it works for both JPEG and RAW files), while the HDR mode greatly expands the dynamic range of a JPEG by combining three differently exposed images in-camera. The multi exposure mode combines between two and 2,000 different JPEG or RAW images into a single photo, while the new anti-aliasing simulator helps to reduce moire without the need for an actual optical filter.


There are 10 ISO settings available on the Pentax K-3. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting, with JPEG on the left and the RAW equivalent on the right:



ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso1600raw.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso6400.jpg iso6400raw.jpg

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

iso12800.jpg iso12800raw.jpg

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

iso25600.jpg iso25600raw.jpg

ISO 51200 (100% Crop)

ISO 51200 (100% Crop)

iso51200.jpg iso51200raw.jpg

File Quality

The Pentax K-3 has 3 different JPEG file quality settings available, with Best being the highest quality option, and it also supports RAW (Pentax's PEF format and Adobe DNG). Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

Best (12.5Mb) (100% Crop)

Better (5.68Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_best.jpg quality_better.jpg

Good (2.72Mb) (100% Crop)

RAW (29.2Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_good.jpg quality_raw.jpg


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg


The flash modes include Auto, manual (on/off), red eye reduction, slow-speed sync, rear curtain sync, high-speed sync and wireless sync. These shots of a white ceiling were taken at a distance of 1.5 metres.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (27mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (27mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (202.5mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (202.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On setting or the Red-eye Reduction option caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


The Pentax K-3 lets you dial in shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds and has a Bulb mode as well, which is very good news if you are seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 30 seconds at ISO 100. We've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.


Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Shake Reduction

The Pentax K-3 has a Shake Reduction mechanism built into the camera body, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with Shake Reduction turned off, the second with it turned on. Here is a 100% crop of the image to show the results. As you can see, with Shake Reduction turned on, the images are sharper than when it's turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Shake Reduction Off (100% Crop)

Shake Reduction On (100% Crop)

1/2 / 27mm antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg
1/2 / 202.5mm antishake2.jpg antishake2a.jpg


Similar to Nikon's D-lighting, Sony's DRO, and Olympus' Shadow Adjustment Technology, Pentax's D-Range allows you to correct the highlights (On or Off) and/or the shadows (3 different levels) before taking a JPEG or RAW image. Although this option is always at your disposal, remember that it is meant to be used in strong, contrasty lighting at base ISO. Below you can see a comparison between Off and both highlight and shadow correction set to on/full strength; the difference is mainly noticeable in the shadowed areas on the left and right sides of the photo.



drange1.jpg drange2.jpg

HDR Capture

The Pentax K-3's HDR Capture option takes three images with different exposures, and then records a single image that combines the properly exposed parts of each one, expanding its dynamic range. Here is an example which was shot with the five different modes (Off, Auto, 1, 2 and 3). Although the K-3 can microalign images before combining them, allowing hand-held HDR shots to be taken, for best results 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.



hdr_01.jpg hdr_02.jpg
hdr_03.jpg hdr_04.jpg

AA Filter Simulator

Rather than an optical anti-aliasing filter in the camera, the K-3 has an anti-aliasing simulator instead, which can be turned off (default setting) or on to either the Type1 or Type2 setting.


Off (100% Crop)

aa_filter_01.jpg aa_filter_01a.jpg


Type1 (100% Crop)

aa_filter_02.jpg aa_filter_02a.jpg


Type2 (100% Crop)

aa_filter_03.jpg aa_filter_03a.jpg

Custom Images

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 saturation, hue, high/low key, contrast and sharpness for each of the seven options”. They are shown below in the following series, which demonstrates the differences.



custom_image_01.jpg custom_image_02.jpg



custom_image_03.jpg custom_image_04.jpg



custom_image_05.jpg custom_image_06.jpg

Bleach Bypass

Reversal Film
custom_image_07.jpg custom_image_08.jpg


Cross Processing

custom_image_09.jpg custom_image_10.jpg

Digital Filters

The Pentax K-3 offers seven different Digital Filters, which allow you to quickly apply an artistic effect to a photo before taking it (JPEG images only). They are shown below in the following series, which demonstrates the differences. 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.

Extract Colour

Toy Camera

digital_filter_01.jpg digital_filter_02.jpg


High Contrast

digital_filter_03.jpg digital_filter_04.jpg


Invert Color

digital_filter_05.jpg digital_filter_06.jpg

Unicolor Bold

Bold Monochrome

digital_filter_07.jpg digital_filter_08.jpg


The Pentax K-3 has a fantastic multi-exposure mode that allows you to combine between two and 2,000 (!) different JPEG or RAW images into a single photo. Here is an example:



Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Pentax K-3 camera, which were all taken using the 24 megapixel Best JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Pentax K-3 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files in either the PEF or DNG formats. We've provided some Pentax RAW (DNG) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movie & Video

The Pentax K-3 can record HD video in the Motion JPEG (MOV) format. This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1280 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 24 second movie is 63.9Mb in size.

Product Images

Pentax K-3

Front of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Front of the Pentax K-3 / Pop-Up Flash

Pentax K-3

Front of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Side of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Side of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Side of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Side of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Rear of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Rear of the Pentax K-3 / Image Displayed


Pentax K-3

Rear of the Pentax K-3 / Info Screen

Pentax K-3

Rear of the Pentax K-3 / Info Screen

Pentax K-3

Rear of the Pentax K-3 / Main Menu

Pentax K-3

Rear of the Pentax K-3 / Live View

Pentax K-3

Top of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Bottom of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Side of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Side of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Front of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Front of the Pentax K-3

Pentax K-3

Memory Card Slot

Pentax K-3

Battery Compartment


The Pentax K-3 is the most full-featured prosumer DSLR camera on the market, but not only that, it also delivers great performance, weather-resistant build quality, slick handling and excellent image quality too. The K-3 certainly has what it takes to compete with its main rivals, the Canon EOS 70D and Nikon D7100.

The Pentax K-3 builds on the proven handling of the K-5 II camera. The combination of 100% viewfinder coverage with 0.95x magnification and the large 3.2-inch high-res LCD screen make the K-3 a joy to use in terms of image composition, and the fast 8.3fps continuous shooting rate and snappy AF system, even in low light, make it quick to use. The only real negative point in terms of handling is the rather slow contrast AF system which detracts from the Live View mode.

The K-3's image quality is excellent, producing noise-free images all the way from from ISO 100-800. Noise starts to become apparent at ISO 1600, with a little more noise and smearing of fine detail at the higher settings of 3200 and 6400, while the fastest speeds of 12800-51200 are really only suitable for smaller prints. Colour rendition is commendably accurate all the way through the range, while the new on/off anti-aliasing simulator provides all the benefits of a true optical anti-aliasing filter. Pentax have also finally paid real attention to the video mode - the K-3 is easily the best Pentax DSLR in this regard.

We really can't think of anything bad to say about the new Pentax K-3, other than it deserves a better lens than either the 18-55 or 18-135mm kit lenses to realise its true potential. Pentax may not be as big or have the kudos of Nikon and Canon, but in the new K-3, they definitely have a fantastic semi-pro DSLR camera that's worthy of our highest Essential! award.

5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 5
Value for money 5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Pentax K-3.

Canon EOS 70D

The new Canon EOS 70D is not just another DSLR camera, thanks to its innovative Dual-Pixel CMOS AF system. This new technology aims to deliver much better Live View and Movie shooting than any other DSLR on the market. Read our in-depth Canon EOS 70D review to find out if it delivers on its promise...

Fujifilm X-Pro1

The Fujifilm X-Pro1 is a new premium compact system camera. Building on the popularity of the X100, the retro, rangefinder-styled X-Pro1 offers a brand new sensor that's claimed to rival full-frame DSLRs, an improved hybrid viewfinder, and a new X lens mount with three prime lenses available on launch. Read our Fujifilm X-Pro1 review to find out if it can emulate the runaway success of the X100...

Nikon D7100

The D7100 is a new prosumer DSLR camera from Nikon, succeeding but not replacing the popular D7000 model. The weather-proof D7100 features a 24 megapixel DX image sensor, 51-point autofocus system, 6fps burst shooting and a high-resolution 3.2 inch LCD screen. Read our detailed Nikon D7100 review to find out if it's the right DSLR camera for you...

Olympus OM-D E-M1

The Olympus O-MD E-M1 is a new professional compact system camera. Targeting its DSLR rivals, Olympus are promoting the E-M1 as a smaller and more capable camera. Read our expert Olympus E-M1 review to find out if it really can beat the competition...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 is a new compact system camera that promises to offer both high-quality still images and movies. The exciting GH3 features Full 1080p HD video with bit rates up to 72Mbps, a 16 megapixel sensor, a 3 inch swivelling touchscreen OLED, built-in wi-fi connectivity, a weather-proof body, and an extensive ISO range of 125-25600. Read our Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 review to find out if it's the most complete video/stills camera yet...

Pentax K-5 IIs

The Pentax K-5 IIs DSLR camera features a faster auto-focus system, better LCD screen and a lower price-tag than the original K-5 model, and dispenses with the anti-aliasing filter of the slightly cheaper K-5 II model that was introduced at the same time. Read our Pentax K-5 IIs review to discover if this new DSLR can compete with the competition from Nikon, Canon and Sony.

Samsung NX300

The Samsung NX300 is a new mid-range compact system camera featuring a 20.3 megapixel APS-C sensor, hybrid AF system, 3.3-inch tilting AMOLED touchscreen, 8.6fps continuous shooting, Wi-fi and NFC connectivity, full 1080p video, and an ISO range 100-25,600. Read our in-depth Samsung NX300 review now...

Sony A77

The Sony A77 is the flagship model in the second generation of Sony's SLT camera range. The A77 offers a 24.3 megapixel sensor, 12fps burst shooting, 1080p Full HD movies, high-resolution OLED viewfinder, 3-inch free-angle LCD, 19-point auto-focus with 11 cross-sensors, built-in GPS and an ISO range of 50-16000. Can it really challenge Nikon and Canon in the discerning prosumer market? Read our detailed Sony A77 review to find out...

Sony NEX-7

The Sony NEX-7 is a new compact system camera with a long list of photographer-friendly features. Offering a 24.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, 1080p HD movies, high-res 3 inch tilting screen, 10fps burst shooting, built-in electronic viewfinder and pop-up flash, the NEX-7 seems to be on paper at least a very exciting proposition. Read our full Sony NEX-7 review, complete with sample JPEGs, RAW files, and movies, to find out if this is the ultimate compact system camera...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Pentax K-3 from around the web. »

The Ricoh takeover of Pentax now seems to have firmly bedded in, with a whole new range of revamped HD Limited lenses and, leading the pack, the latest flagship DSLR, the K-3. With a breath-taking array of features on offer, we now look more closely to see if the K-3 delivers the goods, and indeed whether it throws down the gauntlet to the brand leaders and offers some serious competition.
Read the full review » »

The K-3 ($1,299.95 direct, body only)$1,268.99 at Amazon takes a lot of what Pentax cameras are known for—robust weather sealing, excellent control layout, and fantastic high ISO image quality—and couples it with the best-yet Pentax autofocus system and an impressive burst shooting mode. When coupled with a weather-resistant lens it's a go-anywhere 24-megapixel SLR that is capable of capturing outstanding images.
Read the full review » »

Breaking from the 16.2 million-pixel sensor used in the last few Pentax DLSR cameras, the new Pentax K-3 has an impressive 23.35 million pixel APS-C sensor, manufactured by Sony. On paper at least, the K-3 looks like the DSLR that many Pentax users have been waiting to upgrade to.
Read the full review » »

With the K-3, Pentax has the most feature-rich DSLR currently available - again. This DSLR camera boasts built-in stabilization, automatic horizon correction, a dual-axis digital level, class-leading weather-sealing, a large 100% coverage viewfinder, a 3.2" LCD with 1 megapixel, ISO up to 51200, 8.3 FPS continuous shooting, live-view and a wealth of unique photographic controls and image parameters. All this in a sturdy and relatively compact pro body. In addition to its photographic capabilities, the Pentax K-3 records 1080p HD movies with full manual-controls and stereo sound with mini-jacks for stereo audio input and output.
Read the full review »


Camera Type

TTL autofocus, auto-exposure SLR digital-still camera with built-in retractable P-TTL flash


Primary color filter, CMOS

AA Filter Simulator: Moiré reduction using SR unit. OFF/Type1/Type2

Size 23.5 x 15.6 (mm)
Total Pixels Approx. 24.71 megapixels
Effective Pixels Approx. 23.35 megapixels

JPEG: L(24M: 6016x4000) M(14M:4608x3072) S(6M:3072x2048) XS(2M:1920x1280),

RAW: L(24M:6016x4000)


Full HD(1920x1080, 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p)

HD (1280x720, 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p)


ISO AUTO/100 to 51200 (EV steps can be set to 1EV, 1/2EV, or 1/3EV)

Shake Reduction

Sensor-shift shake reduction (SR: Shake Reduction) ; Approx. 3.5EV…TBD

Sensor Cleaning

Image sensor cleaning using ultrasonic vibrations "DR II", Dust Alert function

Mount PENTAX KAF2 bayonet mount (AF coupler, lens information contacts, K-mount with power contacts)
Usable lenses

KAF3, KAF2 (power zoom compatible), KAF, KA mount lens

Focusing System

Type TTL: phase-matching autofocus


Focus Sensor: SAFOX 11, 27 point (25 cross type focus points in the center)

Brightness Range: EV-3 to 18 (ISO 100 / at normal temperature)

AF mode: Single AF (AF.S), Continuous AF (AF.C), Auto select AF (AF.A)

Customization on focus settings possible.

AF Point Selection: Spot, Select, Expanded Area (S, M, L), Zone select, Auto (27 AF points)

AF assist Dedicated LED AF assist light
Type Pentaprism Finder
Field of View Approx. 100%

Approx. 0.95x (50mmF1.4 at infinity)

Focusing screen Interchangeable Natural-Bright-Matte III focusing screen

Eye-Relief Length: Approx. 20.5mm (from the view window), Approx 22.3mm (from the center of lens)

Diopter adjustment Approx. -2.5m to + 1.5m-1
Type Wide viewing angle TFT color LCD with AR coating, Air-gapless glass, 3.2 inch (aspact ratio 3:2)
Resolution Approx. 1037K dots
Playback Brightness, Saturation and Colors adjustable
Type Electronically controlled vertical-run focal plane shutter
Speed 1/8000 to 30 sec., Manual: 1/8000 to 30 sec. (1/3EV steps or 1/2EV steps), Bulb

Sync Speed 1/180 sec.

Exposure system

TTL open aperture metering using 86K pixel RGB sensor, Multi-segment, center-weighted and spot metering

Exposure Modes

Green mode, Program, Sensitivity Priority, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Shutter & Aperture Priority, Manual, Bulb, Flash X-sync Speed, USER1, USER2, USER3

Metering Range EV-3 to 20 (ISO100 at 50mm F1.4)
Auto Exposure Lock Button type (timer type: two times the meter operating time set in Custom Setting); 
Continuous as long as the shutter button is halfway pressed

Type TTL: phase-matching autofocus±5EV (1/2EV steps or 1/3EV steps can be selected)

Type Built-in P-TTL flash with pop-up, GN: approx. 13 (ISO100/m)

Flash Mode:

Auto Flash Discharge(Greem mode), Flash On, Red-eye Reduction, Slow-speed Sync, Trailing Curtain Sync. Manual Flash Discharge (Full-1/128)

High-Speed Sync and Wireless Sync are also available with PENTAX dedicated external flash.

Angle of View Coverage equivalent to angle of view of 28mm lens (35mm format equivalent)
Exposure Compensation -2.0 to + 1.0EV
Exposure Parameters

Drive modes:

Mode Selection:

Still Image : Single frame, Continuous (H, M, L), Self-timer (12s, 2s), Remote Control (immediately, 3 sec., continuous), Exposure Bracketing (2, 3 or 5 frames/ Possible to use with Self-timer or Remote Control ), Mirror-up (Possible to use with Remote Control), Interval shooting, Inteval Composite

Movie : Remote Control, Interval Movie Record

Continuous Shooting: Max. approx. 8.3 fps, JPEG ( L: xxx at Continuous H): up to approx. 60 frames, RAW: up to approx. 23 frames

Multi-Exposure: Composite Mode(Additive/Average/Bright), Number of Shots(2 to 2000 images)

Interval Shooting:

Still Image / Interval : 2s. to 24h., Number of shots : 2 : 2000 images,
Start Interval : Now/Set Time

Movie / Recorded size:4K/FullHD/HD Interval:2s. to 1h., Recording 99h.,
Start Interval:Now/Set Time

Capture Setting:

Custom Image: Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Radiant, Muted, Bleach Bypass, Reversal Film, Monochrome, Cross Processing

Cross Processing: Randum, Preset 1-3, Favorite 1-3

Noise Reduction: Slow Shutter Speed NR, High-ISO NR

Dynamic Range compensation: Highlight Correction, Shadow Correction

Lens Correction: Distortion Correction, Lateral Chromatic Aberration Correction, Peripheral Illumin. Corr.

Digital Filter: Extract Color, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Shading, Invert Color, Unicolor Bold, Bold Monochrome

HDR: Auto, HDR1, HDR2, HDR3, Exposure Bracket Value adjustable, Automatic composition correction function

Horizon Correction: SR On: correction up to 1 degrees, SR Off: correction up to 2 degrees

Composition Adjustment: Adjustment range of ±1.5mm up, down, left or light (1mm when rotated); rotating range of 1 dehree

Electronic Level: Displayed in viewfinder and LCD panel (horizontal direction only); displayed on LCD monitor (horizontal direction and vertical direction)

White Balance

Type: Method using a combination of the CMOS image sensor and the light source detection sensor

AUTO WB, Multi Auto WB, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Fluorescent Light (D:Daylight Color, N:Daylight White, W:Cool White, L:Warm White), Tungsten Light, Flash, CTE, Manual WB (up to 3 settings), Color Temperature Configuration (up to 3 settings), Copying the white balance setting of a captured image

Fine Adjustment: Adjustable ±7 steps on A-B axis or G-M axis

Largest magnification: Approx. 0,1X with focus mode Macro, Focal Length 4.3mm, Focusing distance 0.03m


File Format: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (MOV)

Motion JPEG(AVI) for Interval Movie Record

Recorded Pixels: Full HD(1920x1080, 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p)

HD (1280x720, 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p)

Sound: Built-in monaural microphone, external microphone (Streo recording compatible)
Recording Sound Level adjustable

Recording Time: Up to 25 minutes; automatically stops recording if the internal temperature of the camera becomes high.

Custom Images: Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Radiant, Muted, Bleach Bypass, Reversal Film, Monochrome, Cross Processing

Cross Processing: Randum, Preset 1-3, Favorite 1-3

Digital Filter: Extract Color, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Shading, Invert Color, Unicolor Bold, Bold Monochrome

HDR: *availble only for Inteval Movie Auto, HDR1, HDR2, HDR3, Exposure Bracket Value adjustable

Digital Filter Base Parameter Adj, Extract Color, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Shading, Invert Color, Unicolor Bold, Bold Monochrome, Tone Expansion, Sketch, Water Color, Pastel, Posterization, Miniature, Soft, Starburst, Fish-eye, Slim

Playback View:

Single frame, multi-image display (6,12, 20, 35, 80 segmentation), display magnification (up to 16, 100% display and quick magnification available), rotating, histogram (Y histogram, RGB histogram), bright rea warning, Auto Image Roation, detailed inf, Copyright Information (Photographyer, Copyright holder), Folder Display, Calendar Filmstrip Display, Slide Show


Delete single image, delete all, select & delete, delete folder, delete instant review image

RAW Development:

RAW file select :Select Single Image, Select Multiple Images, Select a folder RAW Development Parameter: File Format (JPEG/TIFF), Aspect ratio, JPEG recorded pixels, JPEG Quality, Color Space, Distortion Correction, Lateral Chromatic Aberration Correction, Peripheral Illumin. Corr. Color Fringe Correction, Digital filter, HDR, White Balance, Custom Image, Sensitivity, High-ISO NR, Shadow Correction, GPS(Latitude, Longitude, Altitude, Time)


Color Moiré Correction, Resize, Cropping (Aspect ratio and Slant adjustment available), Index, Movie Edit (Divide or delete selected frames), Capturing a JPEG still picture from a movie, Saving RAW data in buffer memory, Image Copy, Eye-Fi Image Transfer


Storage Medium: SD, SDHC and SDXC Memory Card (Conforms to USH-1 standards), Eye-Fi card,
FLU card

Dual SD slot: Sequential Use, Save to Both, Separate RAW/JPG, Image copy between slots possible

File Format

RAW (PEF/DNG), JPEG (Exif 2.30), DCF2.0 compliant

Recorded Pixels JPEG: L(24M: 6016x4000) M(14M:4608x3072) S(6M:3072x2048) XS(2M:1920x1280),
RAW: L(24M:6016x4000)

Quality Level RAW (14bit): PEF, DNG, JPEG:*(Best),**(Better),***(Good), RAW + JPEG
simultaneous capturing available

Color Space: sRGB, AdobeRGB

File Name "IMGP****" or User assingned file name
File name numbering: Sequential, Reset
Special Features

Playback View:

Single frame, multi-image display (6,12, 20, 35, 80 segmentation), display magnification (up to 16, 100% display and quick magnification available), rotating, histogram (Y histogram, RGB histogram), bright rea warning, Auto Image Roation, detailed inf, Copyright Information (Photographyer, Copyright holder), Folder Display, Calendar Filmstrip Display, Slide Show

USER Mode: Up to 3 settings can be saved

Custom Functions: 27 items

Mode Memory: 11 items

Custom Button: RAW/Fx Button (One Push File Format, Exposure Bracketing, Optical Preview, Digital Preview, Shake Redction,LCD Panel Illumination, AF button (Enable AF, Cancel AF)

Various settings for the action of the e-dials in each exposure mode can also be saved

Text Size: Standard, Large

World Time: World Time settings for 75 cities (28 time zones)

AF fine Adjustment: ±10 step, Uniform adjustment, Individual adjustment (up to 20 can be saved)

Copyright Information: Names of "Photographer" and "Copyright Holder" are embedded to the image file. Revision history can be checked using the provided software.


Depends on market


Connection Port: USB3.0 (micro B), external power supply terminal, external release controller terminal, X-synch socket, HDMI output terminal (Type D), stereo miscrophone input terminal, Headphone terminal

USB Connection: MSC/PTP

Source Battery Type: Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery D-LI90P
AC Adapter: AC Adapter Kit K-AC132 (Optional)

Battery Life:

Number of recordable images: (with 50% flash usage): approx. 560 images,
(without flash usage): approx: 720 images

Playback time: Approx. 370 minutes

* With a fully-recharged Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery. Tested in compliance with CIPA
standard. Actual results may vary depending on the shooting condition.








Approx. 800g (Including dedicated battery and 1x SD Memory Card), Approx. 715g (body only)

Kit Content

Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery D-LI90

Battery Charger D-BC90

AC plug cord

Strap O-ST132

ME Viewfi nder Cap

Software (CD-ROM) S-SW140

Eyecup Fs

Hot shoe cover FK

Body mount cover

Battery Grip terminal cover

Sync sock 2p cap


Lithium-Ion battery D-LI90

Battery Charger kit K-BC90E

AC Adapter K-AC132E

Weather resistant grip D-BG5

SLR case

SLR backpack

Weatherproof remote control O-RC1

Cable switch CS-205

Ring fl ash AF 160FC

Flash AF 200FG

Flash AF 360FGZ II

Flash AF 540FGZ II

O-ICK1 sensor cleaning kit

O-GPS1 GPS unit

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